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KLVH-CSOKHOM Interview Part 4

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And then it so happened, at that time, that, that, you know, uh, the world organization, they opened up the camp in Thailand. And... You know, uh, the UN and all that. So I decided to, uh, came to Thai... uh, to Thailand, camp, Kao I Dang. Moderator: So, what was that camp like? That camp, its a lot of people, like, I don't know how many peoples. Like, what? Tens of thousands of people. Maybe. Yeah. They divided into uh, different, districts and, you know?, I stayed, in the camp and uh, and then I start, uh, you know, uh, to do works and, I works a lot at that time. Moderator: What kind of work? I work for, let's see... The first job I got there, I was the uh, chief uh, of, of water distribute, you know. Water distributor. I don't know whats it called, but, So...I took, I, uh, was in charge of a, distribute water to people in the camp. Of my groups. My, uh, uh, yeah, my group. So like, how many, how many people are... I don't remember exactly, how many peop... how many people, in the group. Maybe, like, what? 15 families. Yeah, 15 families or 20 families, somethin like that. So they, you know, they have this, uh, water tank, like ten water tanks, or, something like that. You know? In an area, and then, I was in charge, of distributing, those water to people. Uh, in a group. After that, well, actually, at the same time, because it didn't take much, you know? People, came in the morning to get water and so I'm I was done, right? Distribute water and then, I was done, so I, didn't have anything to do after that. So... then I... had another job. I worked for, the organization, called, a, uh, um.. um... IRC. International Refuge Committee. So I was a translator. Okay. So after I'm done with my, job as the, water distributor, then I, went to work, for the IRC. As a translator. And we, uh... The IRC, what they, did was that, uh... Is the organization, that they were trying to reunite the unaccompanied minors, you know, little childrens that, of course, after the wars, and after the Khmer Rouge and all that, you know, people, little childrens' everywhere. Little children, uh, you know, uh, lost mothers...fathers... They, they were all separated. So this job here, this organization, they re-unite, the families. As much as they can. Its very difficult. You know? Uh, reunite the kids, with the parents and all that. So I was a translator. And um.... yeah, that's in one camp. And then, when I had time also, I uh, uh, taught some English class in the camp. In the groups, so... Moderator: So.... Moderator: Um, at the Thai Camp, Moderator: the refugee camp, um, Moderator: how long were you a translator for the IRC? Uh, let's see... I stayed in that camp for, maybe about a year and a half. Moderator: And that camp was nicer conditions? Moderator: Did you have like a.... Moderator: which camp? Moderator: the.... Sokhom: the Khao I Dang. Yeah. Khao I Dang camp is the first camp, that I stayed. in Thailand. Moderator: in Thailand? As a first one? The first one in Thailand, yeah. Moderator: In Thailand. Okay. Moderator: And so, you went to the... Moderator: you went to another camp? Yeah, and then after that, uh, they uh, well, during the stay in Khao I Dang, I uh, put some applications to a, visa tour in America. And in France or western countries, you know. Uh, many different countries. Moderator: To what like agency or organization? Moderator: Did you do that? No I just got some, you know, application from, I cannot remember now, what it looks like, but, sometime, I just write a letter. And send to, embassy in America or embassy in France or you know. In a Western Country. That's it. Moderator: Okay. Yeah. And then, you know, just apply to, to come to their country. Moderator: So, you did that at that first camp in Thailand? Yeah. Moderator: And then, where did you go after the first camp? And then, uh, I believe the uh, uh, I've got a sponsor then, at that time, after, all these times, you know, by a year and a half. Putting so many, maybe hundreds of applications. And uh... And then, you know, uh, they, thought, of course, I think, what, the uh, uh, Western Country, uh, did was that they, you know, they accept all, all these applications, and then they, tried to find a sponsors for people who apply or people who is uh, relationship, with the, their country. You know? United States, found me, sponsors. You know? Found me, sponsors. And my sponsors, group of a, church member here in Arlington. Uh... its a Presbyterian Church. A group of a, church members and, they got together and they decide to sponsor me and the family that I stayed with, in the camp. Moderator: So, a Cambodian family and you? Moderator: were sponsored? Sokhom: Yeah, and they were, my sort of relative also. They were distant relatives. Moderator: Like cousins or ? Yeah, maybe 2nd cous, 3rd cousin, or, somethin like that. Moderator: Okay. Sokhom: They were distant relatives. Moderator: So, you were sponsored to America? Sokhom: Yeah. Moderator: And oh.... Moderator: So, when did you find out that you were going to America? Well, at the end of that stay, and then, you know, they, will announce it. They put up a list of people who you know, has sponsors, and all that. And, then they, transferred people, from that camp, to another camp. You know? Uh, uh, so they transferred me, and the family that I stayed with, uh, uh, to another camp, called uh, Myroet. Yeah. Its a better camp. Myroet is, close to the, uh, seaside I think. Yeah, close to the seaside. Someplace in Thailand. Yeah, its, sort of a better camp. And uh... Moderator: So, before you came to that camp, Moderator: You knew that you had been sponsored? Yeah. Moderator: Okay. Yeah. Moderator: So what did you do in Myroet? Sokhom: So, I just, stayed there and uh, well, I, found jobs too, you know, I always, wanna work, I didn't want to just, you know, sleep and eat, sleep and eat, its kind of boring. So, in my work, I work for, an organization called uh, Save the Children. Yeah. Save the Children, um, I don't really know much about, their main, uh, you know, their main things, that they do. But they, open up a English schools and all that. So I was uh, teacher. So I got a job as a teacher. Of English. For the, for Save the Children. Moderator: I'm sorry. When did you learn English? Moderator: Like any grade? Primary school? I learned English in uh, ever since, uh, in high school. Moderator: High School? Sokhom: Yeah. But, in high school, you know, in Cambodia, because we, use the French system, education use a French educational system. So, we learned, we studied French more than, English. Like, English, one hour per week, versus French 8 hours per week. Somethin like that. Moderator: So, you know, Sokhom: But, I always, you know... figure out, to, uh, study my, by myself. You know, read the books and study and you know. During, you know, throughout my life I, learn a lot by myself. Even the verbs that are I do right now. A lot of, the verbs that I do here, are, you know, I learn by myself. Moderator: So... Moderator: uh, So, then I learn English and you know, uh, and in a Kao I Dang camp, I of course, I went to a, a, a school of my, a, my old teacher. He open up a school also. I went for a little while. Went to his school, to study, you know, uh from him. Study English for a little while. And, then I uh, quit. Well, when I get that job, I..I could not find time to go to the school anymore. So I, you know, uh, when I got a job as a translator, in the uh, the first camp, that I was in, yeah, thats when I quit the, his school there. Uh, so in the 2nd camp, I uh, got a job as a a English teacher. I taught, uh 3 classes. In the morning from 7 til 12. So you know, its like, the beginning class, the immediate class, and advanced class. We go by the books, and at that times, like, Book 1 class. Book 2 class. Book 3 class. Moderator: So were you teaching kids or adults? Moderator: English? Uh, kids and adults, every....everybody, who ever wanna go to that club. Its free. Moderator: Okay Sokhom: Yeah. Cause I was employed by this, Save the Children, and uh, that's in the morning. I also taught the primary school in the afternoon. So I taught one class. I believe it was uh, grade 5, yeah. Moderator: Okay. Sokhom: And I taught grade 5. In the evening. In the afternoon. So how long, were you at the 2nd camp? Uh let's see. About, 7 months. Moderator: 7 months? Yeah. Moderator: Then, where did you go after that? And then, they, took me, they transferred me to, a little camp. Its sort of like, a little holding center. You know. We stayed there for only, like, couple weeks. That's all. Like holding center. Also in Thailand. Moderator: There's a holding center, until you were sent to America? Right, you know, they were processing paperworks and all that right? So they need, put people in different places and, closer to their work or whatever. You know? Um, So, after that, camp, after couple of weeks in that camp, they transferred us to a the Philippines. Another camp in the Philippines. Moderator: And, what did you do in the Philippines? Moderator: Did you teach English as well? Yeah, I taught English, and also, I was a translator for, the uh, Philippines social workers who worked there. For the refugees. Moderator: And isn't that where you met, Moderator: Mommy? Yeah, um... Moderator: Did you meet Mak? In the Philippines, in the Philippines, you know, the, World Organization or the UN, uh, they, UNHCR. They opened, uh, the English classes, as well as, the uh, what they call uh, uh, Cultural Orientation. Okay. The English class, before they open up the English class, they test the people. They test people and then, you know, put people in different level, according to their tests. To different classes. According to the results of the test. When I got to that camp, and, friend of mine, he, he knew me that, he knew that I know English, so he warned me, he told me that, he asked me that, "Okay, do you want to go," "to America," "soon?" "Or, or you wanna hang around" "you know?" "Here for a little while." I said, "Well, I want to go as well" "as I can." And then he advised me that, he said, "Okay, then you have to" "Do whatever you can to flunk the test." "You have to fail the test." Moderator: Fail the test? Yeah, the, uh, what they call the assessment test. Or some placement test. Yeah. That test, they give you, you know, some, question, and you answer. And, so, knowing that, because he is an example already, he's been there, like, two years. Because, they need him, to assist the Philippines, uh worker there. Yeah. So they stay there like, forever, you know. So he, kind of get tired of it, and then, he told me that, well, that what you need to do. So they give me the test and I just, sometime, just close my eye, and check, check, check. You know. I, I, I failed... myself intentionally. Then, you know, when I failed, they see the results. Yeah, of course, you know. Make it look like, some pass, some fail, or whatever, right? And then, they open up the, what they call ESL class. So they place me, in the class with your mom. Yeah. That how we know each other. Moderator: And, so, Sokhom: Yeah. Moderator: was it.... Sokhom: and then after that, we, progressed after that class, it ended, we progressed to a, cultural orientation class. Where they taught us about, the culture in America, you know? How to uh, walk across the streets, and all that. Go to a doctor, and...all...all...all those stuffs, you know? Moderator: So when do you remember... Moderator: the first time you talked to Mak? Well, we were in a class, I was kind of quiet, kind of like, Sokhom: I was not.... Moderator: Did you approach her? Uh..... we were... we were friends. We were just friends at that time. Yeah, um... So um... yeah, we were just friends at that time. Moderator: So was it love at first sight? Uh no, not really. We were just friends, you know. Moderator: So when did you start having feelings for her? Uh, well, that's, after that, you know, after that, its not, not in that time. After we got to America. Moderator: So, Moderator: Okay, so you... Moderator: were at the camp, in the Philippines for awhile? Sokhom: Yeah. Moderator: And then, Moderator: Um... Moderator: How long were you in the camp? Moderator: The Philippines? I think about 6...7 months also. Moderator: And then they, Moderator: is that when you were sent to America then? Yeah. Moderator: Okay.... Moderator: So, when did you find out? Moderator: When did you know you were going to America? Moderator: Uh, they put up a list, you know, people, after the paperwork, already processed and everything. The immigration, you know. Accepted and everything. And then, they, put up a list of people. okay here, you know, the date that you were, go to America. Moderator: Do you know the day? Moderator: that you left? I don't remember, its, yeah, Moderator: Were you excited to go to America? Well, let's see... Actually, it was, March, 1982. March 25th. Moderator: March 25th, 1982? Yeah. Moderator: Did you, were you excited? Moderator: Do you remember the day before you left? Moderator: to go to America? Yeah, Mak went to, come to see me off. Uh, cause, I got here before her. Moderator: You went to America before Mak? Yeah, bout three months before. Moderator: So were you guys dating at that point? Moderator: Or... We were just friends. She was best friend and she came to see me off. And, I, uh, got on the bus and, through the airport, uh... Moderator: And, so, Moderator: were, were you excited? Moderator: Were you nervous or...? I was kind a, excited, and I was at same time. Moderator: Yeah? Sokhom: Because you, you don't know. You don't know. America, You don't know, the big world out there. You know? You don't know, how, it... how or if, you're gonna survive. Or, you know, although, you hear that, you know, that America is a, like heaven, you know. But you hear, you still have this, you know? Uh, things in your mind that, you know, what is heaven like? You know? Moderator: Yeah.

Video Details

Duration: 19 minutes and 48 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: Khmer Legacies
Director: Socheata Poeuv
Views: 85
Posted by: khmer legacies on Feb 18, 2009

Part four of six of an interview with a Cambodian genocide survivor. Carrollton, TX, 10/22/07

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