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KLVH-HBOPHANY5

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When we get... to the border. So... the men had to find some cloth, or some sarong. one of them, they carried my mother. All the way to site 7. Got..and then we got to site 7 and we couldn't enter. Thailand. We were told that the border was closed. The thing that I remember, the most about, the border, living, on the borders, was this.. sanitarist... just, it was... awful. Awful, awful, awful. I mean people went to the bathroom, all around where we lived. I mean, you couldn't stop smelling it. You couldn't stop seeing it. And you lived, right there. And right... it...it was just like we were living in a pothole, of shit. That's, the thing that I remember the most. And we were, stuck. We couldn't go back. We didn't want to go back to Cambodia. We couldn't get in. And we were running out of money. It was there that we met my adopted brother. He now lives in Lynn, Massachusetts. My sister had, um... they had gone into Thailand, and bought, um, clothes, one of which were bras, to bring back. Cause you know, bras, are commodities. Hot item. And so they, had made good, money, with it. And as she was going back and forth, doing her business, um, she saw, Tyn. And Tyn was her love, and he was selling water. at the path, where people were crossing, going back and forth. And he brought, Tanh, home and I remember, I never forget it. Tanh, couldn't say, Tanh and I, are about the same age. Maybe, he's a year...two older. Tanh couldn't say anything. All he did was cry. For hours. Couldn't say anything. Everybody in his family died. Either out of malnutrition, or sickness. And he'd been alone. He was also a little boy. For a long time. And nobody talked to him. And, he made his living by selling water. He would go to a pond or something. He had a bucket. And us people were traveling there, thirsty. And they would buy water from him. So my sister brought him. and Tanh, used to live in our neighborhood. before the Khmer Rouge. In fact, his father, worked for my father. So, we knew his family really well. And so my mother said, "You know. You can't..." "You can't let him stay by himself." So then, he became our part of our family. And later on, we sort of lied to the INS, saying that he's one of ours. Cause we were so afraid, we'd be separated. So, Tanh has our last name. And, that's why we...we met him. And we stayed there, I don't know how long, several months, it seems. And then, there was fighting. Shooting. And all of a sudden, people are screaming, "Get out. Get out. Get out." And again, I was like "Oh my God." "Get out where?" "Where to?" And I remember, I don't know how I end up, in this ditch or this irrigation again. Sort of like to hide, from the, firing squad. And all of a sudden, I realized, that the ditch, was right in the middle, the Khmer Rouge, we could see them. I could see them of one side. And the guerrillas, you know, those independent, I don't know who they were. You know. On the other side. And we were, smack in the middle. And people were screaming at us. And there were, relief workers, you know. I don't know whether they were French or Amer...they were white people. Caucasians. They were like, "Get out. Get out. Get out." And I'm like... We'd we'd be shot. They're screaming so much. And then so... ww...ww..I guess... I would have to get out. So we started running. Everybody running. So we left...every.. of course whatever we had gathered at the camp. Again. We couldn't bring with us. By the time, I stopped, running, I was like, in a, countryside, it was kind of peaceful. It was kind of quiet. And for the first time in my life, even though I've heard so many stories, I saw a dead body. It was all dried up. Under a tree. Moderator: In Thailand? In Thailand. And I remember, just shaking. And then my little brother was with me. We must've been running together. And all of a sudden, I saw blood on him. Blood on the ground. Blood on him. And the first thing that came to my mind, "Oh my God. He got shot." Moderator: Your brother? My little brother, Ty. I was like, "Mom, mom, Ty got shot!" You know. Ty got shot. You know. I said. I screamed. My brother ran back and turn out, that he had, he didn't get shot. Thank God. It must've I don't know, uh Something scraped, him or he must've fallen or something, you know. So he...but I... I was screaming, so my, I was so scared, I thought he got shot. And, after, that I remember, big trucks, like several trucks just came by and these Caucasian people looks like Doctor... I don't know who they were. They sort of like "Get on. Get on." So we again, got on the bus, on the bus. Going somewhere. Where? No idea. People say, "Get on!" We would, we get on. And as it turned out, they took us, to Khao-I-Dang. So again, we got to Khao-I-Dang. Nothing. Cause, we had just, you know, sort of, ran off. So in Khao-I-Dang, we felt somewhat, secure. Because, we saw, that there were like school setting up. And, hospitals, you know. We see nurses. You see a lot of nuns. Just, there's a, definitely relief groups were working in different part of, the, the, the camp. Well, Khao-I-Dang was very interesting, even though we felt saved, We weren't. There were certain time, of that one, year, and three months, that we were there, that the Thai bandits, and the robbers and the raper, ca....you know, they would come through. And I remember, being, just so scared. Because the adults would tell you these really graphic stories about what they would do to the girls. Of course, they probably don't realize that I was sitting around. And during all my life, I feel like, I'm sitting around and people telling stories. Not really...not viciously or intentionally wanting me to hear, but I couldn't help it. And I remember, just living scared, most of my life. And every time, they would come by, you can hear, people screaming. And that's the sound, that really, sort of, stuck in your head. At the same time, I would say that Khao-I-dang was also a place of hope, for me. Because, I felt like, you know, I don't know, if I'm gonna, get a sponsor, to come to the, "First World." You know, Canada, America, France, Germany. But, there was schooling. And you know, there was food, it was rationed. And water was also rationed. But, at least, there was, basic...basic needs were, were, met. And, there, was a, um, an old, school teacher, that survived, the Khmer Rouge. And he was highly educated and he knew English. His English was...impeccable. And he and my family decided to team up to make a little business. At the time, a lot of, English classrooms, were sprouting around. And if you had, a little bit of, money, you can go, and you can hire a teacher, like him. And he was well known. And, so, my, my older sister were doing bookkeeping. and using our place, our little hut, as a classroom. And, I remember, feeling, awesome! Just great! I'd always wanted to go to school. And as you know, we...school, was not, was not allowed. was forbidden during the Khmer Rouge. And here I was, the opportunity to do that, in...right in my own home. And, I... it seems as though, I couldn't, get enough of it. I..I...I, I copied everything. You know. and because I was so small, I was so petite, people don't take me seriously. I was sitting there, just soaking it up. And I, remember, my very first, notebook. I had found some plastic bag, I still have it, in the basement, somewhere. I cleaned it up, sooo nice and I taped it, all over my notebook, so that it wouldn't get wet. And I was sooo afraid to take too much space to write something cause I knew, I only had, I only had one. And I could...I couldn't buy a new one. So, I, would, you know, really tiny write..and I would.. copy... And, looking back at it, sometime, it makes me laugh, because sometime, when I, the teacher was just writing something off to the side, I'd copy it too. Cause, I was so afraid it would be too important to miss. And, after that, I would, scout, around camp, finding other classes. And normally, you'd have to pay. But I didn't have to pay. Because I was so small and people didn't think I was very serious. But, for whatever reason, I thought, that if I could learn English, and if I could master my English, I would get out of this hellhole. And that English was going to be my ticket, to freedom. I sort of knew that, I didn't know how exactly, it was going to work out, So I was just, going to school. And then, I think they had some, Khmer school, going around and I went to that too. But, it wasn't... much later than they really had the school established. And by then, we got called. Well, we were waiting and waiting and waiting it seems as though people were getting called to go to the First World. And my family wasn't. And the truth was, we didn't have anybody here. We had, I think my uncle, and my aunt. But they also said that it wasn't easy. And they were not very optimistic that we could go. And also, I think, it had to do something like, if you were, if, if you have a son, and you have a mother there, you know, you were closer in relation, you get to come. But, aunt, and niece, and nephew, we were not, very high in their priority list. On the government's list. So there we were, just thinking, "Okay" "How we gonna get outta here?" And, at one point, my family gave up, hope. And there was a, f...f...we befriended, we.. we made some friends in the camp. And there was this gentleman, which, I regret, not remembering his name. But, he, really liked me. He was an older gentleman. And he got called to go to Germany. And he was very good friend with my family. And at that point, I remember very, clearly, my mother, had talked to him, about, letting me go with him. Because she figured that if, um, if all of us couldn't get out, at least one of us could. And then, she picked me. I don't know why. And I remember having this, very, very, adult, serious conversation with my sisters, and my brothers, and my mom. And they were saying, you know, "We really think" "This is..." "an incredible opportunity." "And we...we...wouldn't do this..." "if we don't trust" "the other person," "the gentleman." I don't remember his name. He was gonna go to Germany. And I...and but they..respected... they said, that they would respect, my decision, whatever, it was going to be. And, I thought, "Oh my God." "How am I supposed to decide this?" You know? I'm supposed to leave and who knows if I'm going to be able to keep up with my family? I mean, I felt as though, there was so many times during the war, during the Khmer Rouge regime, that I felt like, I'd lose them. And I felt like, we were somewhat safe, and here I am making a decision of, being separated from them. And it was, I remember, just, sooo torn. And not know, what the right answer was. And, luckily, they, sort of, um, tell me the options and the choices, and said, "You know" "You decide." "You already know how we" "feel about it." "We think you should go." "And then, you can," "you know, bring us later." "And we can get reunited." And I thought, "Oh God." "How can I?" "Ohh..." "What's the right answer?" I...I really did wanna go. I didn't wanna be there anymore. You know. I thought, "Oh my God." "This is" "really, really, really hard." And, as I am sitting here, now speaking to you, you, you know what my answer was. I told my family, "No." If we've been together that long, we managed to stay together, through all that hell, then, we're staying. Moderator: And how old were you at that time? Oh, I don't know... um, that was toward the end of our trip in..I don't know. our stay in Khao-I-Dang. I wanna say, 8 or 9, And, I'm so glad I said, "No." Because, there's no telling, none of this, would happen. So I said, "No." As you, as you know by now. And so we left. We stayed and we prayed and we prayed and we prayed. You know. Hoping that, somebody would sponsor us. And finally, we got called. The U.S. government called us. We would have gone, gone anywhere. But the U.S. government called us and said "That you've been accepted." "We found a sponsor for you." "And you're, coming, to America." And that was, a rebirth for my family. That was one, happy day. Amazing day. And, I'm so glad, I said "No," when they asked me to go to Germany. So, that was that. Moderator: And then you came here to? Moderator: Little Rock, Arkansas? Bophanny: I did. I stopped in the Philippines. For about 6 months first. Um, We had a really, I had fond memories of the Philippines. And, its because, I knew I was safe. And I knew, that I was, coming...here. And, I, don't have to deal with all the stuff that I was dealing with. So, I was really happy. Um, so we stayed there, and we made some, wonderful friends. And they were all ESL teachers. I have had such wonderful relationships with ESL teachers. And, I'm not surprised, that I'm ESL teacher now. And some of these people are still friends with my family. today. They had really taken us in and they saw, how much I wanted, I just wanted, sooo much to go to school. And, I remember being used in different classrooms as teacher's assistant, cause I had already learned some English in, Khao-I-Dang. And, I remember, having lots of, laughs, and, they would treat us, to ice cream. and bananas. We had never, never, never, I had never... I do not remember, even before, the invasion of the Khmer Rouge. Did not remember having ice cream. And so, every time, they bought ice cream, and banana for us, I thought, it was, in heaven. And, they, were kind to us. And you know, they befriended us. And, the day, that we were leaving we, told them, where we were going. And they couldn't believe, that we were leav...we were actually we were really scared, when we..we got outside, and it says, "Little Rock." And we couldn't say the rest of the word. You know. And we took it to them and had this paper. And we said, Kar......their name were Karen and Ellen. And we said, and, and Rose. Rose is my teacher. Ellen, was my, mother's teacher. No, Ellen was Ty teacher and and Karen was my mother's teacher. We went to them and we said, cause their...Karen's from New York Rose from Colorado and Ellen, I think, is from New York or New Jersey. And they were all, I think, they were in the Peace Corps, or some sort. And we went to them, we said, "Could you please tell us" "if this place is really in America?" Cause, here, we'd never heard of Little Rock, Arkansas before. I mean. You've heard of New York or Chicago Los Angeles and even Texas. But, Little Rock, Arkansas? They saw the paper, and they saw our sign and they said, "Oh, my God" "Oh, my God...You were really..." "Yes, yes, yes, this place is in America." I was, "Are you sure its in America?" They said, "Yes! It's very American." You know, so, um, They had ask, my family had asked for, a place that is not, highly populated by Asian community. There are a lot of reasons, but I think, one of the reasons, is, my family wanted us to integrate quickly, as fast as possible. And they figured, that, the only way to do that, was to isolate ourselves. And so, they told the immigration officials, "Put us anywhere" "where there aren't a lot of" "Asian community." Well, Little Rock, Arkansas, it was. So, on the day of our, departure, I remember, um, ...we didn't, we didn't have anything. We really had nothing by then. We, had used up everything that we had. And, Ellen, Rose, and, Karen, got together they also didn't have a lot of money. But they had, $8.00 amongst themselves. And they gave us $8.00. They said, this is really, not very much. But here is something. So we had $8.00 when we landed, in Little Rock, Arkansas. And that was the beginning, of our new life here. Moderator: And what was that adjustment period like? I have, fond memories of Little Rock, Arkansas. I also have not so fond memories. But, my, I can only speak for myself, and, I, you know, I was a little kid, I never went to school. Excuse me. So, I knew nothing, about Geography. And, I knew, nothing about American culture. I had no idea. I just assumed that everybody who lives here is White. They're all White. So, the government got us a house, in...downtown.. um, and I woke up we had, I think we had land... our plane landed in the middle of the night. Or it seems like it was in the middle of the night. And we were, exhausted. So, we slept. And we got up they had..they had..they had rented this huge house. And...a they put us in the attic. Because it was the biggest room. cause they were.. their other Cambodian's family was going to come and they were going to give each room to the other family. We had the attic cause, that was, because we were, there were a lot of us. We had a big family. And I remember waking up and looking down the window and I saw, little black children playing on the street and I was... I flipped out. I was horrified. I was like "Mom!" "We didn't go to America" "They took us to Africa." And I was screaming. Cause my older brother and sister, they knew better, they came and sort of hit me in the hand. "Do not..." They, they, they told me this, "These are not African children." "Um, these are African Americans." And I was like "What's that?" You know.

Video Details

Duration: 19 minutes and 55 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: Khmer Legacies
Director: Socheata Poeuv
Views: 77
Posted by: khmer legacies on Apr 30, 2010

Part five of seven.

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