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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I was awakened by a knock at my front door early one day last week. I peered out my bedroom window. I lifted the window up to speak to my neighbor. It was Mr. Kim from across the street. He said, " I would like to invite you and your husband to my wife's sixtieth birthday party. I will be having about a hundred people over." The celebration was to be held on February 14th which is the day we all know in the western world as St. Valentines day. I knew little about the life of my neighbors other than what I had observed. I had watched them plant mango trees and papayas and hoped that they had better luck with their fruition than I had with mine. I saw a man pull up with a boat in their driveway and weigh and sell freshly caught fish from one of the many water resources I have yet to take advantage of for fear of toxicity. I proceeded to make heart shaped cookies for the special day. The cookies were a small attempt to celebrate the fact that it was Valentines day. I was also concerned about the appropriateness of bearing a gift. I had struggled with the gift factor for a few days. Not knowing where my neighbors were actually from, I wanted to be culturally competent. Valentines Day turned out to be a very special day. I watched from across the street as guest arrived early in the morning. Then at noon I assumed the party was over. I watched as a Buddhist monk in his orange rob made his way to his vehicle. Later that afternoon I laid down in my sons bed for a short rest. His window was open and I heard Mr. Kim's voice. He said, " Everi thing readi now" in his broken English. My son brought the plate of cookies and we found the courage to walk across the street into a true globalization meeting among common people of different religion and culture. I took my shoes off and left then outside the front door. I thought of something a good friend had said to me the week prior that we are meant to walk on our feet(not shoes). As I made my way through the house, the odd nature of having no furnishings shocked my senses and intrigued me at the same time. I crossed over the wooden mats that lined the floor and sat the cookies up on the kitchen counter. I glanced around at the food on the floor. I traveled to the back yard were everyone was gathering and spotted my other neighbors. I whispered to my other neighbor, " They said to call them Mr. and Mrs. Kim, is that what they told you to call them?" Yes, she replied. Then the answer came to me that I had been anxious to know but to scared to ask. Their names they feel are to hard for us to pronounce. They are from Cambodia. I always wondered if my neighbors were Vietnamese, Thia, Chinese. Now I know the answer. I learned that they fled Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge regime. They made their way across the Killing Fields with their three children.

( The Killing Fields were a number of sites in Cambodia where large numbers of people were killed and buried by the totalitarian communist Khmer Rouge regime, during its rule of the country from 1975 to 1979 (see Cambodian genocide).
At least 200,000 people were executed by the Khmer Rouge[1] (while estimates of the total number of deaths resulting from Khmer Rouge policies, including disease and starvation, range from 1.4 to 2.2 million out of a population of around 7 million).[2] In 1979 Vietnam invaded and toppled the Khmer Rouge regime, which was officially called Democratic Kampuchea.) Wikapedia

Leaving one child behind in Vietnam. I watched this grand party ensue. Home made Liquor sat on the tables. Herbs and other items sank to the bottom of the concoction said to have healing properties. Their was enough food to feed an army. I was honored and inspired that my son and I had been given the opportunity to be a part of such a wonderful experience. I saw Mr. Kim today. He was lifting bags of concrete and carrying them into his backyard. My husband put on his shoes and walked across the street.

The chief Khmer Rouge torturer Kaing Guek Eav (known as Duch and ex-commandant of the notorious S-21 prison) went on trial for crimes against humanity on Tuesday February 17, 2009. It is the first case involving a senior Pol Pot cadre three decades after the end of a regime blamed for 1.7 million deaths in Cambodia.


  1. Hi there how are you? I was looking through your blog and found it interesting and wanted to leave you a comment.

    I have an invitation for you to come and visit my art blog here in San Diego Southern California. I started this blog in an attempt at finding a creative way to deal with life on life's terms. I hope you will stop by and become friendly...

    I think that you may enjoy the various labels and music videos I design for my art blog, hope to see you here soon and take care :)

  2. This is a very touching story. I never knew you were such a compelling story teller. Isn't it wonderful when we can slip out of our own lives for the moment, and imagine living the life of someone else, under such hardships, with grave opstacles to overcome. It really makes you appreciate your own life and puts things into perspective. I look forward to reading more.