This year, our Khmer community in CT is bringing back a big celebration for the Cambodian New Year. Unfortunately, I’ll be missing out on it, traveling to Savannah, GA. I’m proud that the community has come together in such a way to honor and celebrate for all. It’s a wonderful thing and really great for the next generation to celebrate their heritage and traditions. It shows how strong our community is and dedicated to rebuilding after all that was lost.
This year also marks the 40th anniversary of the Khmer Rouge takeover of Cambodia. April 17th, 1975, when my parents were in their early 20’s with two kids in tow, they were forced to leave their home in to the wrath of Angkar. Where, eventually, 2 million people would perish, including my two sisters among many other family members.
Those were the events that lead my parents to the U.S. When they escaped to the refugee camps, my parents decided they should start their new life in America. I can’t imagine going through what they went through and to pack up with nothing but their children and the traumatic experiences they just lived through… it’s incredibly brave and inspiring.
My parents wanted us to have a better life, and in my opinion they achieved that. I am very fortunate to have the freedom and opportunities that this world presented me. I know my family went through unimaginable hardship to get us here, suffered severe losses, but still pulled through so that I can be here today.
Now, 40 years later, we must always remember and honor those that haven fallen under the hands of such cruelty. Take time to pay our respects for those loved ones, lost and still with us today. We must also celebrate life by ringing in the new year with much gratitude and happiness, because those before us would want us to live our life going forward. And still among us, the generation that carries deep scars from their wounds under the Khmer Rouge, recognize those wounds, and be inspired by the bravery that brought them here. Get to know their legacy, their strength, and understand that’s where we come from.
We survived the frigid winter and I’m loving the extra daylight… the sun! It makes everyone so happy. Along with spring comes a bunch of projects. Seems like everyone is coming out and launching something. Busy and dizzy it makes me…I haven’t been sleeping much. I’m happy for the extra projects but it’s a hard balance with the full time gig. But after this winter’s electric heating bills, I don’t mind the balancing act. Looking around my home, yikes, I need to find time to do some spring cleaning.
Karla and I have been getting out of hibernation mode to do some running, it seems like we will never be able to run as much as Holly (dog) needs. We’re feeling good after a couple of miles and she is just getting started. SMH. At least she encourages me away from the work desk.
In the midst of all these projects I’m working on, I’m also trying to get a little bit of my personal side project done. The spring always tugs at me to get it together in memory of my father. My Khmer Collective site needs some TLC! The 5 year anniversary of his passing is coming up, and that project was a way to honor him. Really, my therapy. It’s strange how his absence can become such a norm, time and healing do work in tandem. I still miss him everyday and sometimes, it really hits me how gone “gone” is. Then I start clawing at ways to get pieces of him back, let him know how much of a presence he is still very much in my life.
So Khmer Collective, you’re getting a redesign!
Also, I’ve recruited another passionate friend who is very much excited to join in and help me with the storytelling, gathering people’s stories and spreading the word.
Dengue Fever came out with their new album, “The Deepest Lake” and it’s awesome. The merchandise I ordered came in the mail the other day, sweet! We just wanted to show our support for such a great band. Unfortunately, my turntable is in need of a new needle, so I couldn’t play the record, but we live in a digital world, so it’s not like I haven’t been playing the album on repeat anyways.
I think Holly looks rather sharp in a kroma (traditional cambodian scarf).
Holly and Karla.
Being a first generation Khmer in the U.S., growing up people didn’t even know where Cambodia was on the map, let alone the atrocities that brought us here as refugees. So, to discover an American band that was so passionate about playing Cambodian rock n roll, that they even went out to search for a Khmer lead singer (the ever so talented Chhom Nimol) was pretty surreal. Listening to how their music evolved from covers of oldies to an infusion of all kinds of genres to create these wonderful unique sounds, I love it.
Discovered this kickstarter project and went ahead to pledge my support. The trailer actually brought me to tears and made me really miss my father. All I could see were my parents face in the old clips, and their friends and family we never got to know… the life they enjoyed around this music, this was their Cambodia. This lively “Pearl of Asia,” all this youth, life, freedom that was tragically taken from them.
This is the Cambodia they wanted us to know… We grew up in America, not knowing much of what our parents had left behind. As a kid, I thought Cambodia was this backwards country with no running water, poverty, and the war, because it just seemed like such a scary place from the stories you hear. I used to think it was always like that, because my parents could never discuss all that they lost. After my father passed, films like these, can tell the stories of his youth that he really wanted to share with us, but was so hard for him to communicate.
I look forward to seeing this film and attending the concert in NYC. In the audience, I know my father will be there with me too.