We just got home from a two-and-half week trip to Southeast Asia, catching an awful cold after we landed in San Franciso. That’s why I’ve been a little silent. The combination of jet lag and congestion/coughing/sore throat has not been fun to deal with, though we count our blessings that we rarely get sick.
The trip gave me lots to think about because we visited Singapore, Penang (Malaysia), and Saigon and Phu Quoc island in Vietnam. I met up with friends, ate a ton and had a terrific time. I’ll write about some of the stuff I experienced in the future but right now, a poignant incident sticks out in my mind.
While on Phu Quoc island, we took a drive to a small fishing town. Famished, my friend Cuong was looking for a banh beo (steamed rice pancake) vendor he’d spotted, and his pursuit of the vendor led us to a residential area. Seemingly out of nowhere, a man came up to me and said in Vietnamese, “Would you please help me with something?” He was so earnest (not a nut job) that I replied, “Of course.” I had no idea what he wanted but felt like I needed to hear his story.
He invited me into his very modest home (imagine a long single-car garage kind of space) and pulled up some plastic chairs, inviting me to sit down. The he explained his situation.
His name is Minh Hung Vo and he’s been looking for his missing sister, Thu Thi Vo, since the early 1990s. The last contact he had with her was through a letter sent in the above envelope. (I didn’t spot a router or computer in the home so it’s not like the family could Google the missing relative.) The return address is: Thu Thi Covey, 942 Beech Street, #202, San Diego, CA 92101.
In Saigon during the late 1960s, she met and eventually married a US military man and took his surname, Covey. They had a child and he brought her and the baby to the United States. After the fall of Saigon in 1975, she continued to write to her brother, sending photos of her home in San Diego and of her new baby named Karen. However, after 1991 she stopped writing. He has no idea what happened to her.
Minh Hung knows that his sister’s first marriage didn’t last and she eventually married a man named Jerry Allen Carman. I’m not sure of the spelling as Minh Hung wasn’t either. So Thu Thi Vo may be known as Thu Thi Covey or Thu Thi Carman.
Would I help Minh Hung find his sister? She’d be in her seventies now; he is sixty years old. He’d moved to Phu Quoc and she may not have known that and could not find his address to write. Or perhaps she passed away, he said rhetorically. Any information I could get for him would be much appreciated.
I tried looking up the various names online but couldn’t make any headway. Minh Hung has asked other people who passed through his town but no one has been able to help.
I realize that this is a total shot in the dark, but if you have leads, send them along. I snapped photos of the envelope and all the photos that Minh Hung had of his sister. And if we can find Thu Thi, I have her brother’s address in Vietnam. In fact, I have friends on Phu Quoc who will drive to Minh Hung’s town to deliver the good news. Thanks!
If you have experience with this kind of matter, please share your thoughts.
For an update on what happened, see this post on February 13, 2014.