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Fifty Years of My Life (1939 - 1990)
A Memoir by Jeff R. Noordermeer

Dinner at the South Vietnamese Embassy

One day Mr. Chau and Kim asked us to come for dinner at the South Vietnamese Embassy. There were about twenty guests invited. The menu was as always the best Mr. Chau presented, with the touch of a French and Vietnamese background. We were all sitting around a large table. As the food platters were passed around I was told to take one of their hard boiled eggs which was one of their special delicatessen. As we started to eat and I cut the top off my egg, to my surprise I noticed a full grown chic inside. I looked around the table and my Vietnamese friends were eating the egg like it was a piece of cake. They kept telling me, "eat it Mr. Jeff, it's very good for you". I have eaten foreign dishes, but I couldn't swallow that egg.

Every Vietnamese who was associated with the South Vietnamese Embassy was benefiting from that war in their country. I have been at many Vietnamese officials homes in the Washington area. They were paid well, and lived well. I felt sorry for the Vietnamese people who came to Washington with many American families and worked in their houses as domestic help. They only came here for the money so that they could easily help their families financially. There were many men I met in the South Vietnam Embassy who worked here, and had a wife and children in Vietnam. Many of them had lived in North Vietnam and came to South Vietnam because they didn't like the communist system. I spoke with so many of them who like the way of American living and the way this Government operated. I felt very sorry for the working class when South Vietnam fell in the hands of the communists. Many of our good friends were forced to join a communist government which they had fled from. Somehow I always felt we let them down, as so many of them had faith in the American government that they could make their lives in South Vietnam, without communism. I made many friends in the South Vietnam Embassy. I never had been to Vietnam, but the way they treated Lu Lu and me, you couldn't help loving those people. They know, and I know, that at that time the government they had was very corrupted. From the President down to all his associates they were making themselves rich from all the American war-aid they were getting. It seems to me whenever those Asian high government officials were getting a taste of the Western materialistic things, they never had enough. The ordinary Vietnamese family doesn't need much to make them happy. I just noticed that by associating with them in the Washington area. So long as they have food, and can have a lot of their friends around, they are very happy people. With the little bit of money they were getting, they even shared some. Whenever Lu Lu and I visited Mr. Chau and Kim in the Embassy on Sunday nights I would always take their friends home in my car. One day I had a large repair bill on my car and Mr. Chau and his friends had found out about it. Without me knowing about it, they had collected some money among their friends to share in my car repair bill. When they gave it to me they said, because I was always ready to take them everywhere, whenever they asked me. It really showed to me what kind of good hearts those people had.

Many Vietnamese people were not Ho Chi Minh sympathizers. Ho Chi Minh in his younger years had a taste of Western living, and he took his Western communist revolution ideas back to Vietnam, and forced them to Vietnamese people to accept. This was not fair, as the revolution Ho Chi Minh taught, didn't belong in the Vietnamese cultural structure of life. This has always been the biggest mistake of most Western nations, that they couldn't accept very easily the cultures of different parts of the world. Had we accepted the traditional ways of the South Vietnamese life style, many of my good friends Lu Lu and I met in the South Vietnamese Embassy, would be still living in a city which once was called Saigon instead of Ho Chi Minh City.

Through friends you make other friends. One Vietnamese lady Lu Lu and I always met on weekends in the South Vietnamese Embassy worked as domestic help for an American lady. One weekend her boss wasn't home and she asked Lu Lu and me to come to her house where she was giving a dinner party for all her friends. Her boss that weekend had gone with her little son to Ocean City. It just happened that the weather became very cold, and the lady with her little son came home. When she walked into the living room she introduced herself as Mrs. Joanne Robinson and her little son Randy. The living room was filled with Vietnamese. Lu Lu was sitting between all the Vietnamese, and Joanne without knowing, thought that Lu Lu was also Vietnamese until she noticed Lu Lu's shoulder bag which was from Burma and is called a Shan-bag. Most every Burmese lady you meet carries a Shan-bag, and they are only seen in Burma. All of the other neighboring Asian countries have no Shan-bags. The reason they call them Shan-bags is because they are made in the Shan-state, which is located in the North Eastern part of Burma. The people who live there are called Shans, and is another minority group of people Burma has. Joanne, who had lived in Burma and other Asian countries, was very familiar with the cultures. She asked Lu Lu, not knowing that she was from Burma, where she got the Shan-bag. Lu Lu answered, "From my country". Of course, when Joanne found out that Lu Lu was from Burma, that broke the ice, as Joanne had lived in Burma for three years. We became very good friends, and Joanne invited us to all of her house parties where we met many of her good friends, who invited Lu Lu and me to their house parties again. Through all of this we became so much involved with many people in the Washington area.

Joanne was very intellectual and has helped me many times whenever I was stuck with a project at work. She was very good in setting up a report which I sometimes needed for my work. I was always proud that I met her and have her as a good friend. She helped me so many times, that she is part of the reason that I was successful in my job. That's what good friends can do for you in life.

Meeting all those people and making so many friends made our home an international gathering. We had many dinner parties, as Lu Lu always had something going on. Lu Lu is a gourmet cook, and whenever she would ask her friends for a dinner party, they would never say no. She always make special Burmese dishes with all kinds of food, and invited so many friends in our efficiency apartment that there wasn't a chair left to sit on. But that made no difference to Lu Lu, so long as her friends were happy and enjoyed her food.

CONTINUED: Racial attitudes in Washington
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© Copyright  - Antonio Zamora

- Foreword
- Old Rotterdam
- World War II
- After the War
- Coming to America
- Washington, D.C.
- Southeast Asia
- Philosophy of Life

- Book Index