In the Dark


When the sun sets in Cambodia… (2005)

In honor of Father’s Day, a conversation with Ba.

Sept. 13, 2006

~ ~ ~

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


I Miss Sweet Potatoes

Reaching over, the parents handed steaming hot, half peeled sweet potatoes to their children. One for each.  Their kids, actually, growing teenagers, grabbed the sweet potatoes with huge smiles and bit into them, steam hitting their faces.

“Wah! I really miss sweet potatoes!” I declared, watching that TV scene. It reminded me so much of my family. “Did you ever eat sweet potatoes with your parents growing up?” I nudged my husband.

“Huh? No,” he continued reading. He didn’t bother looking up from his book, sitting beside me as I watched a Kdrama.

“Ahhh… but I love sweet potatoes,” I sighed.

Growing up, Continue reading

We Don’t Say “I Love You”

IMG_7560Some 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

Overcoming Obstacles, The Great Wall

There are some things in life that seem impossible.

For me, walking up the stairs of the Great Wall, was one of those things.

As a child, I didn’t know I had asthma.  After exercise, my lungs caught on fire, my breaths labored, and my chest ached.  It wasn’t until a near death experience that I realized how restrictive asthma could be.  I honestly thought I would never be strong enough, lung capacity wise, to visit the Great Wall.

But impossible dreams became reality.  Over a year ago, we planned a family trip to Asia, and stopped by Beijing en route to Hong Kong. After exploring Gui Jie (簋街) and Tianamen Square, we were ready to embrace the Great Wall.

Long, yellow willow branches swayed in the breeze, like the glory of a woman’s hair. Driving to the Mutianyu section, Chinese pop songs played on the radio. But in my heart, I was glimpsing the serenity of China’s countryside and listening to the serenade of violins. Clusters of Chinese villages lined the road, protected by a bordering village wall. What were the Northeastern Chinese lives like, before the rise of big cities? Had their ancestors used their own blistered hands to lay down the stones of the wall? Did they gain a new hope of protection and security? And for the current residents, were their lives now completely centered around tourism? 

Finally, we arrived.

We climbed a few steps and found ourselves facing a ski lift (they call it a cable car, but it looks like a ski lift).  We had specifically chosen this section of the wall because it was less strenuous of a climb compared to other sections, riding up via ski lift in lieu of hiking.

My sister-in-law’s eyes widened, in panic.

But it was too late to turn back; the chair swooped her and Dad up and they soared into the mountains. Continue reading

Knees to the Earth

My feet paced up and down the hall. My mind a whirlwind.

It’s been 2 hours already.  Is Ba ok? 

~ ~ ~

 July 30, 2005 

“Hurry, let’s go,” the surgical team rushed, preparing the patient to return to the catheterization lab (cath lab)

A woman hovered against the isolation glass, looking on through her dried tears.  She watched in anxiety as the patient was about to be rolled away.  Would she see him again, alive? No one knew.  Her face crumbled, her chest heaved, and hot streams flowed down.  She sobbed fear into her hands.

The heart surgeon led the way.  Her lips sealed tight together; she didn’t say a word.

But I could read it on her face…  Continue reading

Music from the Mortar

Clunk clunk clunk.  The sharp sound of a clay pestle striking against the mortar startled me.

Nearly every Saturday morning, the sounds of my parents laboring in the kitchen awoke me from my slumber. Still in bed, I wondered, what were Mak and Ba cooking today? Continue reading