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Before Saigon: Jim Lou

by Admin and Richard Turner, Contributing Editor
© SaigonKidsAmericanCommunitySchool.Com

Jim Lou

Jim Lou (1960-65)

I was born in Paris France in 1951. My father, who was from Shanghai China, was in medical school at the Sorbonne. My mother, who was half Vietnamese and half Chinese, also attended the Sorbonne. My father did his internship in South Dakota. My mother and I were to join him there. The plan was for my mother and I to follow my father from one medical opportunity to another, mostly in the Midwest.

Meanwhile, my parents were having marital problems. In 1960, they decided to separate. My mother took me and my second sister back with her to South Viet Nam to her mother, who was Vietnamese. I remember taking a train from Kansas City to Minneapolis to Seattle where we boarded a ship going to the Philippines and then on to Hong Kong, where we met by my mother’s brother. After spending several days in Hong Kong, we boarded a plane to Saigon. We were met at Tan Son Nhut by my mother’s family. I was totally unprepared for life in Cholon. I spoke minimal Mandarin Chinese and virtually no Vietnamese, which made communicating with my grandmother quite an experience. Because I had been educated in the United States, it was decided that I would be enrolled in the American Community School. I was to be in the 5th grade. Since the school year started July 5th, I was already behind. I remember going into this big building that had several “arms”. I was led to a classroom and then introduced to my teacher and my classmates.

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