Sunday, January 17, 2010

From Refugee to Reverie

It’s cold. The air lingers silently around me, caressing me, permeating into every pore of my body. I awoke this morning to the darkness of night, stars glistened through my window as I laid there in reverie—in bed, wondering what today may bring.

Sometimes, while in the midst of waking, I’d get flashbacks of days gone by—moments that defined me, shaped and molded me to become the man I am today. In the dark, I’d see light. I’d see images of my history, my family, and the journey we’ve made together to escape war and slavery. I’d see it all unfolding again in my proverbial mind—merely making its way into reality. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe—just too hard to accept.

Through my work, I live in the sanctity of dreams come true, of luck and fate. I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve this, but through magic and miracles, I am able to view the world in ways few will ever imagine—let alone dare to dream—and because of that, there’s not a day that goes by that I am truly thankful.

I was born in a refugee camp straddling the border between two nations—devoid of citizenship, defected by war—yet, I’m proud to say that my life defies all that of tears and sorrow. I’ve come a long way from being that little boy in a refugee camp, but no matter how long or fast or narrow that road may lead, I’ll never forget who I used to be.

Twenty five years ago, I awoke every morning to the sounds of a bustling refugee camp. Today, I awake to a world where dreams do come true, where lives are cherished and people are loved--but today, for some reason I can’t help but to be lost in reverie of years long past.

Never before shown to an online audience, I AM KHMER is the story of my family reuniting after twenty five years of separation. Released in 2001, this feature documentary film is told through my words—yet, the story mirrors that of millions of refugees around the world who seek a better understanding of who they are. Produced and written by Sarorn Ron Sim and Steven Bray. Edited by Richie Mehta. Copyright 4Di Communications 2010. (Streaming through YOUTUBE in a five part series).


Lorna said...

Your words are as hauntingly powerful as your images. Stirred by the comment, "I'm leaving yesterday far behind me now" and yet you never forget who you used to be. I love the blending of the two worlds. Something we all do eventually to find peace. And hope. Beautiful story Ron.

Wander to the Wayside said...

Ron, this is a stunningly beautiful and haunting documentary of your journey to your roots and to Cambodia.

I cried several times in part 2, when your mother meets her family, and again when your father meets his, as it reminded me of, and is in many ways similar to, my journey to find my birth family. You mother's father - his tears were beyond touching! And you, finally going back to the land you never got a chance to know, to find an answer to that age old need to know from whence one comes, whether it be a place or a 'spot in time'.

The face of your father sitting in that room listening to the story of his brother, when he is detached from what is going on, was a face that I recognized as my own on many occasions, to hear and see but not be a part of. He even squirmed in discomfort. But to see the joy on his face in the end, at the temple - as you said "my father's face lights up when he beholds this magical place" - said that he had found a peace of sorts with his return to his home country.

Gosh, there is so much that I want to comment on but don't want to take up too much space! Part 3 and 4...a haunting tale of Cambodia's history.

You said of the children: "I take hundreds of photographs of them, and with each one it is as if I'm looking deep within at the childhood I could have had in a different time in a more peaceful world". How could that NOT haunt you on occasion? There but for the grace of god? There but for the luck of the draw? There but for the chance your parents had to escape it all? There but for the courage your parents had to take that chance!!! You've got to be incredibly proud of them. You actually said it best at the end: I've seen the grace of my family.

The most telling of all: "I've been raised to feel with my eyes and ears instead of my heart". But isn't the camera, in a strange way, actually your heart? Because without your heart being your eye and being in the picture taking process, your pictures wouldn't be anything but a flat image on a piece of paper, not the three dimensional images that you present. Oh, but wait, you did say at one point that "for once I put down the camera to view life thru my own eyes"...I think that was more to get a 'wider' view, not a clearer view, because to me you've got the most clarity with your third eye, the camera.

Ron, again, what a journey. Thank you so much for sharing it. I know you the person, you the photographer, you the journalist, so much better now. And to hear this story in your own voice...I would say that I'm speechless, but obviously I'm not.

Sorry for saying so much.

frost said...

Ron, what a journey your life has been. I'm speechless.
I went to Cambodia a while ago on my holiday. Having seen this film now gives me a lot to think about. Thanks for sharing.

Small Footprints said...

That was an amazing documentary ... just amazing! Thank you, so much, for sharing your story with us.

Vera said...

I don't know what to say really, Ron. I was in the middle of baking bread, hearing our roofer tumble down the wood from the tall barn with his chain saw, thought I would have a catchee-up with blogs, and landed on yours. And stopped. This is a stirling reminder to count my blessings, because no matter how difficult my past has been, it has never been as difficult as you or your family's.
I am reminded that I have always lived in a 'safe' part of the world, although my partner hasn't, and that I must not take this security for granted.
I am reminded that for some people there is no 'safe' world.
I am reminded that I have food enough to eat, and that others don't.
I am reminded that I have shelter, when others haven't.
I am reminded that one must not be selfish and see one's own life as difficult, because other lives are far more difficult that mine.
Thankyou, Ron. You are a blessing. And please give my regards to your family as well.

Deboshree said...

I don't know what to say ,Ron.
All I can say is that you should be very proud of who you are. Your parents are amazing people with such brave hearts!
It's unbelievable how mankind can be so cruel, but we can't turn away from it, can we? It's there and it has happened.
I know you love Cambodia and will always be pulled towards it. At the end of the day, that is where you have come from and I'm thankful to be your friend and see all of it.
Thank you for sharing this with us Ron. It was amazing.
Be very thankful, Ron. I feel you are very lucky.

Lots of love

Cheryl said...

That's because you're a hero :D