Du Duc Hau was a South Vietnamese diplomat in Tokyo in 1970 when he met Dinh Van Ngoc, a fellow Vietnamese who was leading a table tennis delegation through Japan.
Three days ago Ngoc, now living in Paris, stood at Hau's front door in Falls Church as ask to stay there for the weekend.
"It was a complete surprise to see him," said Hau. "I assumed my friend here was dead."
Ngoe, who was given up ping pong for politics, came to the Washington area to represent Vietnamese refugees living in Europe at a three-day conferences sponsored by a group of Vietnamese women who want to improve unity among their nation's refugees, now scattered around the globe.
What drew many of the delegates to the College Park meeting room yesterday was the hope that their united efforts would someday play a role in ousting the current Communist government in Vietnam.
In the meantime, they say they plan to aid refugees still fleeting Vietnam and to set up an office in Washington to spread news about their homeland to the scattered refugee communities around the world.
"Our community overseas has been very fragmented," explained Le Thi Anh, a Washington woman who is one of the conference organizers. "Many groups of men are still very suspicious of one another. That is why we women are laying the groundwork for unity."
Most of the 75 delegates invited to the conference, which continues through Monday at the University of Maryland, were from the professional class or religious hierarchy in Vietnam and most are men.
Many, like Father Dinh Vinh Son, a Catholic priest now in Paris, are refugees for the second time in their lives.
Ton says that he has taken a blood path to return to Vietnam and readily agrees that some of his countrymen find him too zealous.
"I left the North when the Communists took power in '54," he said in French. "I was separated from my people in the North and again in the South. Today I've seen a journalist I knew in Saigon and Mrs. Due Tho (the conference chairwoman) for the first time since I left. It was an emotional day for me."
The refugees had not completely forgotten that their views sometimes differ. Vo Dai Ton, a former South Vietnamese army colonel, heads a group in Australia that actively seeks to establish contacts with anti-Communist groups still in Vietnam.
"Some people tell me that going back home is just a dream," he said. "But I see through their eyes that they have not forgotten the homeland."
"There are contradictions and arguments among the men," he said. "But when these little flowers organized the conference, we put down our disagreements."
Much of yesterday's opening ceremony, held in a room filled with the yellow and red flags of the former Republic of Vietnam, seemed designed to assuage the egoes of those attending.
Nguyn Duc Thu, the distinguished-looking chairwoman, made sure each delegate was introduced and in some cases pulled them out of their chairs for applause.
In their meetings, the refugees hope to write a charter and discuss plans for an overseas information office in Washington.
"We appreciate what other countries have done for us," said Le Quy Ah, who left Vietnam in a tiny boat and was picked up by a Dutch ship. "But we want to see our flag again fly over our homeland."