Often while "Vickie" Than smells the steam rising from the food in her Provo restaurant, her thoughts stray to the scenes and smells in her homeland and the way things used to be.
Far from her hometown south of Saigon, Vietnam, Than is the owner of Cafe Than in Provo, which offers Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine. Than's life has changed much since she was a young girl, and she often reflects on the old days - before communism."Before 1975 you could draw your future in any color," she said. "After 1975, dreams were only black and we lived under communism."
Than remembers as a young girl the sounds of
freedom in her town - children playing in schoolyards and neighbors with happy faces walking down clean streets and nodding hello.
Although they were from the same hometown, Than and her husband, Nghia Truong, met for the first time at the University of Saigon. They were both geology majors. After Truong tried to return some money he borrowed from Than they started dating. They fell in love and married in 1978. That same year they left school and began their plans to leave Vietnam.
"We tried to escape about 10 times but kept getting caught," Than said. She would be put in prison (in later attempts, along with her newborn son), and Truong would be put in a "re-education" camp.
"When you got put in prison you had to buy yourself out," Than said. "Our families did that for us."
The young couple were from wealthy families. And while Than's family continued to encourage her to try again, Truong's family wanted him to become a communist officer with the Khmer Rouge.
"We had to get out of there," she said. "I didn't want my child to grow there under the Communist Party. Children don't care about family relationships - we needed to give him a future."
And so the young parents persisted. On their 10th attempt - with about 50 other people - they sailed in a small boat west to Thailand. After two months they went to Indonesia and from there were sponsored to come to the United States by a sister and brother-in-law living in Salt Lake City.
When they first arrived in Salt Lake City, Than said, "my husband held my hand and said, `We will make a beautiful family here.' "
Three days later Truong got a job washing dishes. Since then he has completed school and works in electronics, while Than owns the restaurant.