Monday, January 5, 2009

Between Heaven and Earth: Reincarnation

Continued from KD17506

As I'm typing this, a silky-smooth layer of oil and sweat slowly creeps to the tip of my fingers. My heart pounds to the beat of every key stroke, while and my mind spins to the tune of faded memories from long ago.

Faded, but never tarnished.

I never thought I'd post about my journey--never knew anyone would be interested, except for the few who find my life fairly fascinating, if at all. I'm no one special. Not a writer, nor a preacher. Just an average Joe who eats at your local diner, drinks from the carton and sleeps til noon whenever he can. As as child, I went to public school, played little league hockey, went Trick-or-Treating, and enjoyed snapping girls bras. Heck, in college I even once dressed up as Santa for a children's Christmas party when the original Santa fell sick. An Asian Santa. Wow.

By all accounts, I had a normal upbringing. And today, if you were to look me straight in the eye, you'd never believe my story. You'd say I'm lying. You'd say I'm full of shit. But believe me when I say this: "war is no lie."

It's not easy telling your friends that you're a child of war. While growing up in Canada, I never did. I hid it deep within me. I was ashamed. I was ashamed to be called a refugee, an immigrant, a minority. I was ashamed to say I am Cambodian. My face would turn red and I'd stare at my feet while the other kids laughed and giggled in amusement. Cambodian. Where's that?

My parents worked twelve hour days, seven days a week. When I got home from school, I'd cook for myself, vacuum the house and made sure the meat was defrosting so mom could make supper when she arrived. On weekends, I'd go to church when my neighbors invited me. When it was a Buddhist holiday, my parents would take me to a temple. They never discriminated. I was taught to love, to cherish each other and to forgive. They never cared if that message came from Jesus, Buddha, or Allah. A far cry from the world they had left behind.

It's interesting when you think about it. They've gone through so much pain and suffering, yet, they still find it in their hearts to forgive. To forgive the soldiers who killed their families, robbed them of their childhood and raped them of their freedom. To forgive, but never forget.

Some nights, when my mother couldn't sleep, I'd see her sitting alone, arms crossed, eyes glistened in pain. I'd ask her what's wrong--and slowly, she'd raises her head and look deep into my eyes. Her voice trembled in sorrow, her face washed in fear.

As a child, she would stay up at night and wait for her father to return from the farm. They would spend hours every night, reminiscing about life and times gone by, planned her future and imagined dreams coming true. He'd tell her everything that happened in the village that day, not even the slightest gossip could escape his ears. For a twelve year old, it was the best part of her day.

One night, as she heard her father coming up the steps, she pretended to fall asleep--just to see his reaction. She laid still. Her father, realizing that he had worked late that day, stood there and watched her in silence. He said a prayer for her and closed her door.

The next morning, the Khmer Rouge invaded her village. Lives shattered like broken glass. Blood seeped into the ground, forever leaving their mark for reincarnated souls. Piles of bodies flood the landscape while those who escaped ran for their lives, only to be caught and forced into slavery. She never saw her father again.

I'll never forget that night when she told me this story. I was twelve.

Today, I'm writing for you this story--not to make you weep or to cause you pain, but more importantly, for myself--for a soul looking for closure, looking for light. If I could, I'd take back every moment I felt ashamed, every instance I felt sorry for who I am and where I'm from--I'd take it ALL back.

As I read the comments that you have generously posted, I find solace in knowing that I'm not alone. And even though I've never graced your presence, I know that there's a world out there that understands the complexity of our being, the triumphs and tragedies of human kind. From the depths of my heart I thank you for reading and for understanding.

May peace be with you.



Javier said...

Ron, I'm glad I've come to find your blog. As I read your lines I realized we all have a mission in life, and yours is, I think, to document the anguish and sorrow of the people that are trampled under the feet of all-powerful dictatorships and inhuman, monstruous regimes. I believe you're a great soul and have lots to offer, beauty to see and share as well, for we, as humans, are capable of the best and worst, the ugliest and most beautiful. I thank you for your work and you'll be seeing me quite often!

I'm sorry about the spanish in my blog, I've translated the last two posts so you can follow the stories, I expect you'll enjoy them!



Hi Ron,
Its absolutely amazing how you can bring to life events that happened decades ago. These people have lived a life less ordinary only to inspire generations to come, as said in one of my article they are like eternal flame which can light the lives of many more....
Thanks for visiting my blog and posting a inspiring comment....

Anonymous said...

Hey Ron,

From my history lessons back in high school, I learned about Cambodia's Polpot and Khmer Rouge. Back then, it didn't have any meaning for me. It was just a part of history.

I was compelled to read about that part of history again today. Knowing someone like you and finally associating a face to that piece of history, I can say now I can truly appreciate what you and others like you have been through.


Random Hiccups said...

This was beautiful.

Cheryl said...

The things that don't kill you, make you stronger.

It's a shame that we can't all understand the ramifications of war- the terror inflicted, the pain felt for those lost. It's an endless cycle of hatred, and those who have the ability to rise from it and start over without lingering hatred, are the most admirable, and they are the ones who can truly understand the necessity for peace.

Never forget who you are. The scars you've come to bear define who you are, a survivor.

John said...


"snapping girls bras"

Ron, sorry for asking but what does that mean? Does that mean taking pics of girls in bras or the snapping sound bra clips make when you take them off?

*Showing a very innocent and sincere face*

And did you really do that stunt twice, now that you are on the right side of the car, as compared to previously the left side? I knew the answer should be #2 - testing the balance of the car with your weight! LOL

DUTA said...

Your post is very relevant to the times we are living. There's of course no shame in being an immigrant or a minoriy, But history shows us that whenever economy's down(and it seems we are facing now a major global economic crisis), immigrants and minorities everywhere are the first to be blamed for the situation. This tendency could lead to bad deeds even in the most democratic and civilized countries. Let's hope it won't ever happen.

A Beautiful Mind said...

I have chills. Thank you for bravely and honestly sharing your story. Closure and self-acceptance are so important. What a gift to give yourself, but also such an act of selflessness to share it with all of us so we might learn and begin to understand.

On an unrelated note, thank you for all of your comments on my blog. I appreciate your encouragement with my photography, your suggestion that I move to Canada (made me smile), and your following of my blog every day. I'll be following you, too :-)

Ron said...

@Javier- thank you for the translation in your blog. I too am lucky to have been on your site. Looking forward to seeing more of your work.

@Perspective--Yes, I totally agree with your statement. It would be a waste of a journey if this wouldn't be shared--to inspire others. Thank you.

@Love Crackhead--There are so many young people like you, including fellow Cambodians who know little about that part of world history. Unfortunately, some don't bother to care, even Cambodian kids. You on the other hand are smarter than most. Thank you.

@Cheryl- You're SO right about the things that make us stronger in life. I owe it to my parents to not let their suffering go without purpose. Thank you for your comments.

@John--Oh boy, where do I begin with you? In North America, snapping a girls bra means sneaking up to them from behind and pulling their bras back, therefore, snapping it. I'm sure you've done it, admit it! Secondly, that is the same picture, I just fliped it horizontaly. I was being James Bond.

@Duta- Thank you for your comment. I hope you're out of harms way over there in Gaza. Please take care.

@Beautiful Mind- Thank you so much for your comments. I appreciate you very much. And of course, I will continue to follow your blog--your photo's are awesome!

The Demigoddess said...

There is a famous (and sometimes utterly overused) quote from my country's national hero, Jose Rizal. It goes: He who does not know how to look back at where he came from will never get to his destination.

I think there is a better Filipino-English translation than that but..You are a product of your past and that past has helped you determine what you want to do with your future.

Marissa said...

This is absolutely beautiful. This is your truth - your family's truth. Your shared journey. I am so thankful and grateful to you for posting this. Isn't it amazing how once we learn and truly understand our history, it puts everything else in life into perspective? You no longer feel ashamed of who you are, and are instead proud (as you rightfully should be). That's beautiful. Out of pain comes learning, and by sharing this story, you are teaching us all so many important lessons. Very importantly, about humanity, forgiveness, kindness and love.

John said...

Ron, I honestly didn't know what was that, which was why I asked!

I think it's because it is just not the culture here, snapping girls' bras. Over here, we are not allowed to touch girls, lest to say pull their bra straps! You don't do that in Cambodia, right? I think the most naughty thing guys here do to girls is to peek at them.

"See only, no touch!"

Oh man, why are we talking about this like we are both still naughty schoolboys??? LOL

To ALL other readers:
Please ignore all these comments :)

floreta said...

I like the quote from Rizal..

I was also ashamed of my past, my heritage, my minority of being a Filipino-American...

I found that the time I could not accept my past or where I came from were the times that I was most angry. Once you learn to accept your history, you can let go. It is such a relief and no more anger... I hope you've found that peace within yourself. It seems like you have :)

Diana Saw said...

That was the most touching personal account by a Cambodian I have read, and it reminds me once again why I am here.

"They never discriminated. I was taught to love, to cherish each other and to forgive. They never cared if that message came from Jesus, Buddha, or Allah. A far cry from the world they had left behind." If only everyone was brought up this way. You're parents are incredible people.

TheChicGeek said...

Ron, thank you for sharing your beautiful story. Having such tragedy in one's life makes you appreciate all the little things and how lucky you truly are. I'm glad you are proud of who you are. Never hide that. You are a very special person. Totally Awesome!

TheChicGeek said...

Living with forgiveness is the only way to go on to a happy life. You mother has a good attitude. You're lucky to have her :)

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