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December 07, 1975 - Image 5

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1975-12-07

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Sunday, December 7, 1975


Page Five

Saigon to nn rbor: Madame Cao builds a new li


At th exclusive Cercle Spor-
tif Saigonair in France, Ma-


ladder of success in Sai-

dame Cao played badminton, One hand, made heavy by a
tennis and pingpong and swam. rock-shaped green ring is lifted,
Until the final days of the almost a kind of unconscious
war, pretty Vietnamese girls signal as she begins to tell her
took the sun on deck chairs story:
while champagne was served "I left that day in April at
alongside the green-lined pool. the last minute. We thought up
Madame Cao was educated at to the last minute that we
the International University in couldn't lose. It was very sud-
Saigon and speaks fluent French den and I had lots of money
in addition to careful English in the bank that I had to leave
which is much better than she behind. As soon as we boarded
believes it to be. She adheres the boat, the Vietcong began
rigidly to her timed 15 minute to ambush us. They were shoot-
breaks and so came to work ing and we were all praying.
two hours early - at 8 a.m.- I am not a Catholic but all I
recently to describe those first could think about was Mary. I
days of exile - to "turn back prayed to her to save us - I
the film" - as she terms it, don't know why. Other boats
through a French interpreter., had lots of victims, but we
She has the beautifully boned were all safe. It was a miracle.
face and the graceful gestures We were hesitant to leave but
of a ballerina, and both mask we didn't want to stay either.
the horror of her story from her That night we couldn't sleep.
listeners. Wide cheekbones cut We were in panic and agony.
her round, pale face into an- W l ace agnbrig
ges with all the expressiveness w e ied! e e n
of a Cubist portrait. She pauses dening how our relatives were.
and looks ont the window, andd g
only a single plane of her face, My children couldn't sleep
a pencilled eyebrow, and the either. I tried to keep them
green-shadowed arc of an eve- below, but they said, 'Let us
lid can he seen. Then she trns lonelttie at r ho
back into view and her full face land.' They were crying, too.
- beautiful - comes into view, Finally, around 3 a.m., the
framed by the drons of pearls children went to sleep.
that hang from her ears. At 7 a m. we heard on the
She has the kind of tiny waist radio that (interim president
that Sothern belles once Duong Van) Minh had ceded
squeezed into shape with steel South Vietnam: so we left.".
stays. When not in uniform, The Caos' boat headed for
she wears exotic print clothing the ocean surrounded by small
that seems to float over her escort ships. She remembers,
slim body. She is self-con- "When we saw the ocean, we
scions and vain shaking her felt we were finally safe. But
head insistently when told she then a helicopter appeared to
looks ten years vo'meer than aim for their boat and it was
her 44 years. She quietly keens too dark to tell if it was "ours

news: "I heard the Vietcong
had a victory celebration. I
knew then that all was lost and
I couldn't go back to Vietnam,"
Madame Cao is quick to
praise the Americans as if her,
listeners expect that praise:j
"They were kind. They gave us
bread and rice and medicine.
Th~t 1AIh'o rrtir

own is grown. Mr. Alpha has'
compassion for the adjustment
Madame Cao must make. He
was washing pots at the age of
12. "That's the way of this coun-
try," he says with a shrug in
his voice. He and his wife
stand by for "protection, help,
and consolation."

i ney tnougnt of everything, When Madame Cao talks
A refugee camp in Indian- about working in the "pantry,"
town Gap, Pennsylvania was as she calls the kitchen in Eng-
their first home in America. lish, she lapses into her dream-
The chances came to leave like mood. She has neverrdone
the camp and start life with an this work before. It is tiring
American sponsor but the Caos and she does not have much
remained; Mr. Cao did not energy for activities after work.
want to leave. He could think, She takes her work dead-serf-
only of returning to Saigon ous. But though she presses
where he had been personnel her delicate hand to her breast
chief of communications. When and says it is her duty to work
the fourth opportunity was ex- in the kitchen, the words seem
tended, Madame Cao took her rehearsed.

Madame Cao has begun hunt-'
ing Ann Arbor for an apart-
ment and is discouraged by the
city's high rents and poor hous-
ing. When she moves into an,
apartment there will be another
sad goodby - from the Alphas.
Although Madame Cao talks
;freely about her past, she does;
not like to comment on Ameri-
can politics. She says she owes
a debt to the Americans and
appears uncomfortable when1
asked to be critical. She finds
American women freer than
their Vietnamese sisters, who
she says are not treated well.
THERE WAS ONE question
that snapped Madame Cao'
up straight in her chair. Had
she heard that former South
Vietnamese vice president
Nguyen Cao Ky had been con-
sidered briefly for a speaking

engagement at the University?;
In her eagerness she misunder-
stood the question to think that
Ky was scheduled. When and
where? she wanted to know.'
When it was explained that he'
had been considered and re-
jected, she relaxed in her chair
and expressed her disappoint-
ment. She was not fond of the
man and termed his ideas
"strange" but he was a sym-
bol nevertheless. Then she be-
came angry and said she'd"
heard that Ky was planning tol
take a menial job. That she
could not bear - where was the
hope for her if Ky stepped out-
side his class?
Homesickness floods Madame
Cao with memories. She was
reminded of her own French
cooking in Saigon when the
dorm recently served a French

style dinner.
But she does not consider re-
turning to Vietnam. She speaks
plainly, "I hate the Vietcong."
She reads Parisian newspapers
regularly and is sure the Viet-
cong live in her house. Her
father and brother are still
there: they have not been
heard from.
Then she fingers the maroon:
print pantsuit she will change
for the dull uniform; she could'
never wear that in Saigon now,
she says.
watch and reluctantly rises
to leave. She likes to look at
those glossy pictures of herself
smiling in glamorous cities. Her

smooth face had no lines then.
She apologizes for forgetting to
bring her membership card
from Le Cercle Sportlf and puts
her pictures back in a white
paper bag.
It's almost 10 a.m. now -
time to prepare the kitchen
for lunch.
Epilogue: Last week Ma-
dame Cao had word that her
husband has decided to stay
,in Americasand return to his
family. She did not speak di-
rectly to her husband but said
hn now wants to help support
his family. She said she
was happy that he is ready
to assume his "duty."

children and left her husband
for Milan, Michigan. He waits,
at Indiantown Gap to go back.'
The (Taos were married 23t
years. Mrs. Cao cannot talk
abot him.t
rpHE CAOS NOW live with
Emil and Margaret Alpha, a1
couple in their 60's. Mr. Alpha,1
a chef at Washtenaw Commun-
itv College, doesn't think of ,
himself as grand noble. He ex-
plains his motive in helping thec
Alnhas simply, "Our ancestors;
were all refugees." The Alphas!
love Madame Cao and her chil-t
siren and consider them another
family to raise now that theirr

Perhanc what- mane Mntinmp

ra DJaps Jw1a'mea. uame,
Cao leave the camp while her
husband remained is that other
dream that has hold of her -'
the American Dream. To her,
there is still gold dust on our
streets. She pronounces Ann
Arbor "magnificent" along
with Big Macs, Briarwood, and
lottery tickets. If she wins the
lottery, she can go to Cali-
fornia where there are a "good
climate and lots of Vietnamese
people." She would like her
oldest daughter, who is 21, to
be a banker.
"I just think of ways I can
make money," Madame Cao
says. She wants those comforts
that made life in Saigon so love-
ly. "Modern life means free-
dom. When I come home from
work, I'm tired. I need the
comforts," she says.

Volunteer Section Leaders
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'Looking for several dynamic, well grounded
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Some of the quest speakers will include: JULIAN BOND,
Call the Geography Dept. for an

of the semester) -75c
5:30-6:30-DELI (Last of the
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a ll at H I L L E L-1429 Hill
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reneating that she has "aged or theirs." The Caos cried and
fve s" since the ordeal of prayed, and Madame Cao re-en
BUT ALL OF this fragility of Theboat was ours" - Amen-
appearance and breathless-'ican, she says. They spent thef
ness oif m anner belies a tough, night on the ocean and found s p i t c t d w m n w o w n h e e t l e n t e f r t'
sophisticted wo me whowent the sevent flet the i rst CO if d
right to the top of a male-domi- of May. Again the radio had ISAKN H
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Voted one of the ten best films of all time in a survey by Sight and
Sound, this fine Japanese film is nevertheless almost unknown in the
U.S. Mizoguchi weaves a haunting tale of man's ambitions dissolving
into effervescent fantasy. Suitable, if ironic, viewing on Pearl Harbor


7:00 and 9:05

Admission $1.25

A Janus Films Release
Akira Kurosawa's first film in color
Dodes 60&e
("The sound of the trolley")
DODES KA-DEN (The Sound of the Trolley) depicts the interwoven
lives of slum dwellers who, by their sense of humor and imagination,
manage to survive and brighten their mean surroundings. An affirma-
tion of life and an assertion that man can topple adversity with dreams,
DODES KE-DEN'S finesse and sensitivity make it a true work of cine-
matic art. Yoshitaka Zushi, Junazburo Ban. Japanese; Subtitled.

* ~ ~ - NI

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