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The Manager of Byproduct Processing Factory or Factory Number 10

Xuan (Su) Tuan Anh Ho

The greatest respectfulness and dutifulness of a man to his parents is to be an honor to his family; to make people admire his family. That is what he was taught by his father. That is what he tried to achieve his entire life.

He was born on December 20th 1946, the day when HoChí Minh asked people all over Viet Nam to participate in the "Empty House, Empty Garden" campaign. People would leave the city for the forest and build military bases to fight against the French. On that day, his uncle started but the rest of his family still stayed in Huế. His uncle took three buffaloes for ploughing to the forest. But the French soldiers caught his uncle at Văn Thánh. Two buffaloes were killed. Three days later, people in Huế headed to Kim Phụng Mountain, at Chong Chóng Village, the assigned place. With the family and Huế people, his uncle-in-law carried a three-day baby to the forest; it was him.

After the campaign, people went back homes but it was not the same. His father became the favorite mahout of the king, Bảo Đại. His father often drove and went hunting with the king. However, his father's salary was low. Therefore, his young uncle and aunt had to carry firewood from home to the center of Huế on foot to sell. It was fifteen kilometers. Before his young uncle and aunt went back home, they had to go to Đông Ba Market to buy a little rice and fish paste for the hungry family.

He spent his primary school years at his village's school. In the first grade; he studied with a tough female teacher. Once, he did not do well on his mathematics exercises; his teacher punished him by standing him naked in the rain in front of his classmates. His teacher also told his father about his mistake as an extra punishment. At home, his father did not punish him but told him: "Son, the greatest respectfulness and dutifulness of a man to his parents is to be an honor to his family; to make people admire his family."

From 1945 to 1954, Việt Nam fought France. In 1954, Việt Nam won the Điện Biên Phủ campaign in Điện Biên Phủ province (North Việt Nam). Over 100,000 French and Vietnamese died. After that campaign the French left. Later, Việt Nam was divided into two countries, North Việt Nam and South Việt Nam. North Việt Nam, which was led by Hồ Chí Minh, came to be a communist country and was supported by USSR. South Việt Nam became a capitalist country which was supported by the United States of America. Both North Việt Nam and South Việt Nam wanted to unify. Therefore, these two countries fought with each other.

After primary school, he moved to the center of Huế with his father. He spent his secondary and high school year at Hàm Nghi School. Long ago, Hàm Nghi was known as Quốc Tử Giám School which was only for the sons of the officers of the king. At school, he had to wear a uniform. He wore a white old ironed shirt, dark blue old ironed trousers. His hair was combed neatly. He always took a bath before going to school. He carried a medium briefcase. He always had a pen and a small notebook in his pocket. He planed on when he would have done an important thing such as getting Advance French Language degree. Then, he would prepare for it in an appropriate time. He usually studied himself, quietly, till eleven pm and got up at five am to prepare for class. At this time, his father moved to building contractor. His father opened a furniture shop which sold wardrobes, tables, etc. in the center of Huế. His family was better and better.

During his high school year, many of his friends, whoever failed, had to join the army. Most of them died in battles. He, however, was a good student so he was not forced to join the army. In 1968, he graduated high school with an excellent degree. He hoped his parents would be happy. In spring 1968, North Việt Nam opened the campaign "Mậu Thân Spring" on Huế. North Việt Nam attacked South Việt Nam. Many people died on the streets. He wrote a poem. North Việt Nam captured Huế. He wrote another poem. Later, however, South Việt Nam got Huế back.

After high school, he studied at the University of Huế. Many of his friends in college asked him for assistance including his future wife. Even his professors asked him for assistance. In biology class, his professor asked him to prepare illustrations, equipments, etc. before lectures. In physics and mathematics classes, he did most of exercises before lectures. He solved and explained difficult exercises to his classmates like a teacher. He was always in the top five best students at his college. He got a scholarship from the government every year. He, however, not only studied well but worked for the Student Association of Huế, which was led by a Buddhist monk. This association helped the poor and the sick. He came to their house, gave them food, cloths and medicine. He loved to see their smiles. He also taught poor kids in his village at his home. During this time, many of his friends, whoever failed, had to join the army because the government needed as many soldiers as possible to fight against North Việt Nam. South Việt Nam was going to lose.

He got married on April 28th 1975. The wedding was held at Giác Hoa pagoda, in Gò Vấp district, Sài Gòn. There were his uncle, his brother, his brother-in-law and a Buddhist nun who pronounced them as man and wife and that was all. When the wedding was happening, soldiers of North Việt Nam were attacking on Sài Gòn streets, outside the pagoda. On April 30th 1975, Sài Gòn was defeated, North Việt Nam won. Việt Nam was unified and became a communist country.

After 1975, private capitalistic properties of the old South Việt Nam were turned into national properties. He and his wife moved to Nha Trang, the most beautiful beach city in Việt Nam. They lived at 94 Thủ Khoa Huân Street, near a bus station and an airport. The government gave them this house for free. The house was built of concrete. The roof was made from corrugated iron. And the floor was dust. There were two rooms in the house, two beds, and a wardrobe. At that time, he was the vice principal of Diên Thuỷ Secondary School. He rode a bicycle to school every day. It was eleven kilometers. He had lunch at school. Lunch was the lunch box which his wife prepared. There was boiled corn in the lunch box. Nothing else. After school, he rode back to have dinner with his wife. Dinner was rice with vegetable and soy sauce. However, he was happy. His wife, Nguyễn Thị Cúc, taught at the Nha Trang Secondary Girl School. It was near her house. Although both he and Cúc went to work, they were poor. Their salary was low and was not able to buy enough food. He got fifty five Đồng per month. Cúc got fifty Đồng per month. The entire amount could buy only twenty kilograms of rice. The government supplied them with: 5.2 meters of dressmaking per year; coupons to buy firewood, water, milk, meat, fish, rice, etc. but all were limited. This was the subsidization policy of the government. Furthermore, the U.S.A. embargoed Việt Nam. Việt Nam could not import or export to many countries in the world. To survive, Cúc sold all of the coupons except firewood, fish, and rice coupons to get money to buy medicine. At this time, he was very happy whenever he got a state-own compote*.

On March 19th 1976, his first baby was born. He named his baby Hồ Xuân Thiện. Thiện meant to do good thing. He also gave his baby a nickname to use at home. It was Cà Rốt (carrot). When Cúc gave birth, there was only him with her. It was the first time she gave birth. She did not have any experience. It was a hard time for her. In addition, her baby's head was bigger than usual. Doctors asked him and Cúc to use medical equipment to pull their baby out. They did not agree. They were afraid that Cà Rốt would not be healthy and intelligent. Cúc was in pain from six in the evening until six in the morning the next day. When Cà Rốt came out, he and Cúc were very happy. He hoped his parents would be happy because Cà Rốt was a boy.

On June 3rd 1980, his second son was born. This time, he named this son Hồ Xuân Thịnh. Thịnh meant richness. He gave his second son a nickname as well. It was Su Hào (kohlrabi). This time, Cúc gave birth so much easier than last time. It took no time. She just went to the hospital and gave birth after she felt pain from watching "The Girl by the Window" at Tân Tiến cinema. When Cà Rốt was four years old, he and Cúc could not feed two children at the same time. Salary of teachers was low. He decided to send Cà Rốt to An Giang with his family-in-law.

An Giang was a province in the South-West of Việt Nam. An Giang was in the Mekong Delta. An Giang was famous for rice and fish. Soil was fertile which was very good to plant rice. There were many rivers and canals in An Giang. It was very convenient for raising fish. An Giang was border with Cambodia which was good for trading.

In 1981, he sold the house in Nha Trang and moved to An Giang. He wanted his family to live together. Arriving to Long Xuyên town, An Giang province, he bought a house near An Giang College. Most of the people in the hamlet where he lived were officers. He bought this house with a cheap price. The old owner was an officer and got this house for free from the government after the war, and then sold it with cheap price to get money soon for a personal reason. The house was not big but the yards were big. There were two yards, front and back. There were many trees around such as rose apple, mango, and coconut. The roof of the house was made from coconut leaves. The walls and doors were made from corrugated iron. And the floor was dust. There were three rooms in the house. Two bed rooms and a kitchen. There was a cook stove made from clay, some pots and bowls made from clay as well in the kitchen. Whenever there was a rain, people in the house had to move continuously because of rain drops from the roof.

He and Cúc continued to teach for two years. Then they quit because salary for teachers here was even lower than the time they were in Nha Trang. They could not feed their hungry sons. Trying to find a chance, he opened a clothes shop at Long Xuyên Market with his brother-in-law. But the clothes shop was closed soon. No one wanted to buy cloth when they did not have money to buy food.

On December 12th 1985, his third son was born. He named this son Hồ Xuân Tuấn Anh. Tuấn Anh meant intelligence and handsome. He gave this son an informal name as well as the others. It was Su Su (chayote) or just Su. He and Cúc were afraid of taking care of so many children. She decided to sterilize to prevent more births. One year later, the government canceled the subsidization policy. He tried many different jobs.

He repaired clocks at Long Xuyên Market with his father-in-law in the morning and afternoon. He repaired all kinds of clock although no one ever taught him. In the evening, he drove a pedicab to earn extra money.

"Xe lôi*."

"Where do you want to go to, miss?"

"What did you say?"

"Where do you want to go?"

"Your accent? You are not from An Giang, aren't you?"

"I am from Huế."

"Xe lôi, xe lôi."

It was hard for him to find a passenger. Sometimes, he drove his family around Long Xuyên at night. If he happened to have a passenger, he would leave his family to take the passengers then pick his family up later.

Those jobs did not help him. He moved to processing Cá Linh** fat. Cá Linh was as big as a finger. White. There were a lot of Cá Linh in rice fields during the flooding season. He bought Cá Linh fat, and then processed it into grease. Every day, he processed Cá Linh fat with Su Hào. Product he got was solideon (name of the grease.) He sold solideon to a concrete factory to get empty cement sacks in return. He took those sacks home, cleaned it by smashing them with a wood stick. He cleaned sacks at An Giang College in the evening because there were not many people there. Whenever he went out to do that, Su would beg him to come along. Su told him that Su wanted to help him. Actually, Su would go out with whoever went out. He took a bike, put empty sacks on the bike then walked it to An Giang College. Su followed the bike and his back; played with his shadow. When he got clean sacks, he cut them into pieces to make wrapping paper. Then, Cà Rốt would carry those by a big bicycle compared to his small body. The bicycle was for adult. Cà Rốt was just fourteen and malnourished. Cà Rốt sold those to goods sellers in Long Xuyên Market. He worked at this job for a short time then he quit. This job did not satisfy him.

Later, he bought and sold waste materials such as broken fans, steel, scrap, etc. Days when he got a lot of waste materials, there would be a mountain of material for Su to collect to make his great-space-ship so Su could visit the moon. The father produced thumbtacks to sell as well. There was a machine to make thumbtacks in the backyard. Broken thumbtacks were all over the backyard. In those days, Su was his father's great soldier. The backyard was a battle to Su with cannon and bullets. Those jobs, however, did not help the father.

He did research on Cá Basa* fat. He happened to know that processed Basa fat could be used as lard. Actually, processed Basa fat was better than lard. He knew that from his friends who usually drank coffee with him each morning at the coffee shop near An Giang College. These men discussed with each other what they could do to earn money. They shared the ideas. He decided to give it a try because other men did not succeed in processing Basa fat. He bought a little Basa fat in the market. Cut it into small pieces. Put it into test tubes. Boil them under different conditions. One boiled in a short time and it was still fishy. One boiled in a long time and it was burnt. He used many natural chemicals to process with Basa fat. He sometimes did research through nights. He did research in the kitchen but Cúc did not like it. He did research in the bed room but Cúc did not like it as well. Then, he did research in the yard. His research equipment was Cúc's broken spoons and bowls. His failed products accumulated a lot under his sons' bed (Su Su, Su Hào and Cà Rốt sleep together in one bed.) In these days, Su was a researcher as well. He put salt and sugar into a test tube, and then boiled it above an oil lamb. "Poc". Test tube broke. Su cried. His father had to soothe him. Finally, the father found a way to process Basa fat to use as lard. He, however, did not have large amount of raw Basa fish fat to process and sell.

He was still poor although he tried his best. The embargo was not cancelled. He used up the money from selling the house in Nha Trang. He missed his homeland. In 1990, he went back to Huế to look for another chance. Cúc, alone in Long Xuyên, tried to survive. During this time, Cúc and her sons did not have enough food. They had to borrow, sometimes, a bowl of rice, a handful of salt, etc. from their neighbors. At this time, Cúc sold cheap clothes at Long Xuyên Market. She sold several man shorts, some towels, and some bras. All these clothes were worth ten kilograms of rice. But those clothes were not hers. A person gave those clothes to her, a reseller, after got them from a state-own factory. She had to pay back the money to that person after sold those clothes. After paying back, she got a little profit to buy rice, vegetables for her hungry sons. Before she went to work, she washed clothes and prepared breakfast and lunch for her sons. Breakfast and lunch were the rice which was compressed at the night before to a bowl so that the rice would be warm for a long time. Sometimes, she gave her sons a little money then they would run out and buy sugar cane. They were very happy when they could have a sugar cane, more than anything else.

In 1991, he came back. He got a job at an import and export fisheries company, which imported and exported seafood, catfish. He processed Basa fat for the company because the company could not export Basa fat. However, this amount of Basa fat was not a dozen or a hundred kilograms like before. It was tons of Basa fat. He got a headache. He took all Basa fat home; processed Basa fat in two big pans. Each pan was two meters in diameter. He hired five people to process Basa fat all day. But he could not process all the Basa fat in one day. He had to build three concrete containers in the backyard to store the excess fat. In those days, his house was full of noise, people, sweat, fat, hotness, filthiness, fishiness, etc.. Smoke from two big ovens killed trees around the home. His neighbors complained three times a week. Twenty-liter-fish-fat cans were piled like a mountain in his house. After a month, the company sold Basa heads and bones to him. He, then, sold to retail sellers. There were tons of Basa heads and bones as well. He and Cúc had to go to work before their sons woke up and came home after their sons had dinner. Su usually waited for his parents at the boiling pans near the gate after dinner. Su could know his parents were around the home by the sound from his father's moped. Whenever Su heard that sound, he opened the gate and greeted them or booed them.

Although he worked so hard and did so well, he was just an unwanted-but-special worker of the company. He was the only one who could process Basa fish for the company but he was not an a-hundred-percent An Giang citizen. In three years, he and Cúc asked for retiring for several times but the company did not agree. The company needed them.

In 1994, the U.S.A. canceled the embargo on Việt Nam. Things were better. The company needed talented people to work for them. He and Cúc got more work. In six years, He processed thousands tons of Basa fat. He invented the way to process Basa bones and skins into Basa powder as well. He ground the bones and skins into powder then centrifuged it to take off the water. After that, he dried it by a machine. This fish powder was rich in protein. It was used to feed livestock, fish, etc. In 1998, every day he always got more than forty tons of Basa fat, heads and bones to process. He worked very hard.

In 2000, the company privatized. He was elected to be the manager of the Byproduct Processing Factory or Factory Number 10 and member of board of directors as well. Now, in 2004, he is going to be the manager of the modern Factory Number 9. He has invested in five floating-houses which raise fish in nets under water. However, the thing people most admire him for all of his sons are students of famous university and two out of his three sons are studying abroad, one at Oxford University and one at Webster University which is impressive for a family in Việt Nam. Now people admire him. He is an honor to his family. He is Hồ Xuân Thiên.

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