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.
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
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.
"Where do you want
to go to, miss?"
"What did you say?"
"Where do you want
"Your accent? You are not from An Giang,
"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