My uncle and my father were teaching at a primary school at a temple near Sai-Wa known as Champa Temple. My uncle, my father and their friends enjoyed playing volleyball tremendously. My cousin, now lives in Long Beach, CA, once told me that his dad, my uncle, was playing at a tournament; and his opponents were making fun of him the moment he had walked in the court because he was the oldest in his team. They said jokingly that the old man would never last longer than a game. My uncle proved them wrong and continued to the finish and won the tournament.
My father was not much a volleyball player, I had been told. He was artistic. He designed and made the entrance sign for Champa Temple and many others in the area. Most of the signs lasted until the late 1980s. He was quick wit and smart with words, my uncle said. He's also good at cooking for a large gathering, woodworking, and drawing.
Our family friend once told me that my father also liked to fool around with other people, regardless of who they are. He remembered when my father was living at a temple with monks, he used to hook up a tin can with a string and tie it to the tail of a dog. So when the dog walked around, it makes an annoying sound which prevented the monks from sleeping.
What interests me the most is the story about my father, about my brothers, and about their time. It doesn't matter how many times I listen to the stories, regardless who tells the stories (my mother, my family friends, my cousins), I am always engrossed.
When my uncle was still alive, he told me on the day of March 18, 1970, he heard on the radio that Prince Norodom Sihanouk was ousted from his power. He told his close friends about the announcement. None of them believed him; and they warned him not say such a crazy thing. It could cost him his life! My uncle told them that he didn't make up the story. He really did hear it. Still, his friends didn't buy it. When they found out, they packed for relocation because they sensed that war was coming.
At the time, my parents had seven children - three were boys (I was not one of them yet). My uncle has a big family also. He and my parents decided to relocate to Phnom Penh from Sai-Wa in hope to find sanctury in the capital city. My uncle and my father continue making their living through teaching. My mother was a professional traditional clothes maker - known as "hol". All of my siblings were students.
In January 1973, I was born.
I'm the eigth in the family.
Two years later, Phnom Penh collapsed.
We were moved to Batdomborng (I have no idea why they spell "Battambang"!). I remember a few insignificant moments between 1975 to 1979. I recalled the day that my mother picked some oranges near our house; and she put them in a large jar. She brought them in our house, a raised-up thached house, and hoped to feed her children. We shared that house with two other families. The guy who live with us had asked my mother in a native-Battambang accent, "how many oranges did you pick?". I don't recall my mom ever responsed to him; but I remember clearly that less than an hour later, two armed guards in black uniforms showed up at our door and confiscate the jarful of oranges. My mother then asked the guard for some oranges for her youngest child, Khemaravuth, and the guard handed one orange to her, one that was the size of a chicken egg.
Occassionally, the guards perform a house-to-house search for valuables that the people might hide in their house. My mother buried all of her jewelry under our fire stove. I always watched her when she dig the soil and buried her belongings. The stove was built using four pieces of wooden board nailed together. It's about a foot high and 5 feet in length. After the four pieces of wood nailed together, the rectangular wooden block were filled with wet dirt. When it dried up the stove were built using small pieces of rocks. The guards in black uniforms never found what my mom hide.
One occassion, there was an emergency search. My mother didn't have time to bury a gold necklace that she had. She handed it to me and told me to hide it for her. I took the gold necklace and ran to find a place to hide it. I saw a rice grinder in front of the Mayor's house. I put the necklace under the grinder. I then reported to my mom. My mom scolded me and told me that the Mayor was the person who ordered all searches for valuables.
Fortunately, the necklace was still there when I went back.
I started my elementary education in 1981, finished in 1984 and studied two years in secondary school in my parents' hometown. We fled Cambodia in 1985, resided in Thailand for three years where I continued with my High School education for another three years at Angkor Wat High School. I excelled in Math and the Khmer language.
We arrived in the United States in September 1988.
I went to Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach for six months and continued night classes to earn the G.E.D. in 1990. I received an Associate Degree from Long Beach City College in 1993, Bachelor from Cal State Long Beach in 1997. I moved to Lowell, MASS, in 2000. Lowell is an okay place to live; but since all of my family and friends are in Long Beach, I unfairly think it's sad to live here. I consider moving back to Long Beach in August of 2002.
July 25, 2002.