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Who is Perseus?

Slayer of Gorgons

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The Hoa People

I was born in Singapore but my parents are natives of South Vietnam. We are members of the “Hoa people”—the Chinese-Vietnamese diaspora that formed the first wave of immigrants who fled the chaos of 19th century China up till its occupation by the Japanese in World War 2.

My mother and father were born in Cholon, Saigon which was a prosperous Chinese enclave in 1950's – 60's Vietnam. The story of their displacement by communism would end differently for the families on both sides of the young couple but the consequences are still felt by me to this day.

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The Lu Family

My grandfather—on my mother's side—was a pauper from Guangdong, China who, despite having no formal education, taught himself to read and write French and Vietnamese. His good looks, entrepreneurial talents and work ethic changed his fortune.

Monsieur Lu would eventually own a four story building where he operated his paper factory on the first two floors and housed his growing family on the third and fourth floor. The rooftop of the building was crowned with a fountain and a garden of fruit trees and porcelain benches which he commissioned for his six daughters.

He had worked his way up from an itinerant street vendor peddling brown paper bags for loose change to being chauffeured around to luncheons and hosting dinner parties for clients. 

Monsieur Lu's hard-won prosperity and future seemed uncertain by the late 1960s. Bombings, kidnappings and murders by communist insurgents were becoming routine in Saigon. Though apolitical, my grandfather had a foreboding about the outcome of the war when the conflict dragged into it's third year despite the build up of American troops. 

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Singapore & Fall of Saigon

Mr. Lu began to move his family and assets abroad as the 60s were coming to a close and the war was reaching its peak. Singapore, a former British colony—with its peculiar mix of conservative, authoritarian, central planning yet low tax, free market government—was the ideal place to rebuild his business.

It was not a clean break from Vietnam however. After his building and factory was “nationalized” by the communists, my grandfather would spend the next decade negotiating—sometimes ransoming—the release of former employees and business acquaintances who were detained for the bribes they might fetch from their connection to a wealthy exile.

Grandpa Lu would never see Vietnam again. But his newfound prosperity in Singapore would fund the release and repatriation of his former countrymen to the U.S., France and Australia. 

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The Hoang Family

My grandparents—on my father's side—are originally from Chaosan, China before relocating to Vietnam. 

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