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Rejected by his family, penniless French Viet kieu finds succor from poor strangers

Daniel Jean Claude Buzit sits in front of the motorbike repair shop that belongs to Truong Van Hung, a My Tho native who gave the French Vietnamese man shelter and food after he was kicked out of his half brother's house.

By all accounts, Daniel Jean Claude Buzit has had a sad life for most of his 53 years.

The French Vietnamese citizen's latest trip to his homeland, where he spent the first 16 years of his life, seems to encapsulate the bad luck that seems to dog him wherever he goes.

Residents of My Tho Town's Ward 5 in the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang are still talking about him, having gotten to know him better during the several months he was penniless and homeless after being kicked out of his temporary home by his half brother and sister people he had helped with occasional monetary contributions from France.

On March 15, Daniel flew back to France after spending more than four months in the town, profusely thanking a few My Tho natives, telling them he wished to see them again someday.

Unforgettable trip

Daniel returned to Vietnam from France last October to visit his family in My Tho.

Daniel is the son of a Frenchman, who served the French army during the war in Vietnam, and a Vietnamese woman. The couple had three children: Daniel, his elder sister and younger brother.

After the war ended in 1954 with the defeat of the French colonialists, his father worked for a beer company in My Tho for a few years before leaving Vietnam.

The father went alone because his wife refused to accompany him with their children to France.

Daniel's mother remarried in Vietnam.

In 1975, when Daniel turned 16, his father took him to France.

Daniel found work as a painter at a factory. His hard work and limited salary did not allow him to visit his motherland frequently.

He occasionally sent money he had saved to his brother and sister in Vietnam to help them restore their house.

In 2005, Daniel married to a Vietnamese woman from the Mekong Delta province of Tra Vinh. However, after arriving in France, the woman was disappointed to learn that he was not a rich man. Without his knowledge, she borrowed money from Daniel's Vietnamese neighbors to buy an air ticket back to Vietnam.

His arrival in Vietnam on October 3, 2011 was based on his doctor's advice to take a vacation in a warmer climate, which is better for the meningitis that he suffers from.

He stayed in the house of his brother and half brother in My Tho's Ward 4.

In early November, he lodged a complaint with the local police saying he had lost 2,000 euros and VND3 million in cash while sleeping on the evening of November 2, 2011. Suspecting his half brother, he said the thief had taken all the cash from his wallet but left his personal papers untouched.

After he filed the complaint, his half brother kicked him out of the house. His sister also refused to let him stay in her house. Meanwhile, local police failed to find the culprit.

Daniel leased an apartment in My Tho's Ward 6. The landlady asked him to pay VND6.2 million for rent and food in advance.

After spending three weeks in the apartment, he decided to leave because of bad food and living conditions. He asked the landlady to pay him back VND4.5 million. The landlady gave him just VND1.5 million.

He lodged a complaint once again with the local police, but they could not settle the case. They advised him to lodge a lawsuit with the provincial court.

Homeless beggar

Daniel had nowhere to stay and he was using up the little money he had left on him. He wandered around the town like a homeless person and on some days he had to beg for food.

In his wanderings, he met Truong Hue Minh, a poor My Tho resident. Minh, a single man, took Daniel to his house to live. However, Minh could only provide accommodation for Daniel, so he sought help from his brother Truong Van Hung.

Hung, the owner of a bike repair shop, sympathized with Daniel's plight and invited him to live in their house in Ward 5.

Daniel spent the Tet (Lunar New Year) with the couple. There, he had three meals a day. When he got sick, Hung bought him medicines.

Every day, Daniel sat in the bike repair shop to watch Hung do his job and talk to him. People who visited the shop were at first surprised to see a Western looking man in the shop all the time.

After hearing his story, they were all sympathetic. Many of them gave him money, from VND50,000 to VND100,000.

One of the kind-hearted natives was Chung Van Tu, Hung's friend. Tu works as a street lottery vendor and lives in a rented apartment with his daughter.

One day, he met Daniel at the shop while having his bike repaired. He then voluntarily drove Daniel on his old bike to the headquarters of Tien Giang Province Police Department to get his passport renewed.

Daniel was asked to pay VND275,000 in renewal fees, but on emptying his pockets, he had just VND100,000.

Tu gave Daniel the money.

On February 21, Daniel decided to seek help from the office of the Consulate General of France in Ho Chi Minh City.

Tu voluntarily drove Daniel the 140 kilometers to HCMC. However, they were disappointed to hear from the consulate's employees that there were no policies or funds to support French citizens in such situations.

Daniel returned to Hung's house, upset and discouraged.

Media intervention

A faint light flashed at the end of the tunnel for Daniel a few days later when Quoc Viet, a reporter with local newspaper Ap Bac, spotted him sitting sadly in a corner of the bike shop.

He wrote a story with Daniel's pictures, which was published in the newspaper on February 24.

Thanks to the article, the Tien Giang Department of External Relations sent officers to Hung's house to investigate the case.

The department then helped him finish procedures to return to France.

After reading the article, Daniel's sister felt remorseful. She offered him accommodation, but Daniel insisted on living with the poor My Tho residents who had given him shelter.

The sister brought him food and said she would help him buy an air ticket to France with the 500 euros he had given her before.

She bought him a ticket scheduled on March 14. Unfortunately, the flight was not from HCMC to Paris but to another country.

Daniel did not realize the mistake until he arrived at the Tan Son Nhat International Airport. He had to return to My Tho.

On the evening of March 14, his friends collected VND10 million for him to change the ticket for a straight flight to Paris.

As he left his homeland on March 15, Daniel said: "If I have spare time and enough money to buy an air ticket, I will return to My Tho to visit those who helped and cared for me during my hard times.

"I will never forget what they have done for me."

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