When the sun sets in Cambodia… (2005)
In honor of Father’s Day, a conversation with Ba.
Sept. 13, 2006
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Deep, navy sky surrounded us. Only the reflection of the moon and a peep of light gleamed from inside the house.
“Ba, do you want the light on?” I asked. To keep the house smelling new (and less likewhat we’re eating), we always grilled and fried all our food outdoors.
“It’s okay,” he replied. Blue flames danced underneath the wok. He poured in the oil to coat the bottom of the pan.
How can you see what you’re cooking? I wondered. But I didn’t say anything, just watched my dad as he worked his magic. His wrist moved the spatula around like a magician’s wand, evenly browning each piece of garlic.
“During the Khmer Rouge… it was just like this. Every night, you do what you can, by the light of the moon. No other light. That’s it,” Ba began.
I envisioned my dad fleeing through the black night of Cambodia, escaping death. No compass. No map. No directions. Only the sun, the moon, and a heart destined for freedom. How did he survive? How on earth did he make it here, alive? Continue reading
Some nights waves of nostalgia hit me. I’ve been thinking about food and the meaning of food quite a bit lately, and it reminded me of an old blog post I wrote, 4 years ago…
March 15, 2012
Scooping out the rice from the rice cooker, the fresh jasmine aroma overwhelmed me with memories of my family…
~ ~ ~
“What did you eat today, koun (daughter)?” Mak asked over the phone. Continue reading
Growing up in America,
oblivious, naive I was…
The Killing Fields–
it’s just a movie, right?
So I imagined.
Grueling 16 hour workdays,
daunting ESL classes,
who has time to grieve?
Oh, the plight of my refugee parents…!
So I ached for them.
Starving in a labor camp,
crying in upset skies, and
imprisoned by the Khmer Rouge,
my parent’s memories, too horrific… Continue reading
all we had. cambodia, 2010.
At first, I didn’t see her. She was her husband’s shadow, following him closely from behind.
His chest heaved, and his neck muscles retracted, as he fought for air.
Please help my husband, her eyes pleaded. She fidgeted beside his bed.
His skin pale, his lips faded to a blue grey. “ហត់ចង់ងប់ (I’m so tired, I could die),” he panted.
We were losing time. Continue reading
kean svay, cambodia. 2006.
Her intense gaze pierced my back.
photo courtesy of http://ethancrowley.com
“Do you know what we call this sky?” Mak asked, glancing up. Her hands clasped the steering wheel.
I peered through the windshield. Low lying storm clouds hovered above us, against a dark gray sky.
“During the Khmer Rouge, we called it, Maig Bee Bak Jet. Upset skies…”
“Why, Mak?” I turned towards the driver seat to look at my mom.
She bit her lip, paused for a moment. Then, her eyes began to water.
“Because during the Khmer Rouge, only when the sky looked like this- with dark clouds like it’s going to rain, that is the only time when I was free to cry.”
Her grief unleashed quiet, painful tears from the corner of her eyes.
Behind cell walls…
“You ‘re a high ranking officer, aren’t you?!”
By morning, guards returned. “I couldn’t sleep last night…”
“Me too, that stench…”