Transcript, Rebuilding the Temple
REBUILDING THE TEMPLE: CAMBODIANS IN AMERICA
A Florentine Films Production
Copyright 1991 Claudia Levin and Lawrence Hott
Keo: I cry at night when I look up at the sky and see the stars and the moon. My country has the same stars and moon, but when I look down, I see that this is not my country, this is not Cambodia. This is the land of a new country, the land of America. This is the point when I begin to cry. Why did the Cambodian people have to leave their own country to live in this strange, foreign land? This thought fills me with great sadness. This is how much we have suffered.
Boay Bou (points to photographs): This is my mother, she died in 1977. This is the monk that taught me. His temple was completely destroyed. He died in 1974. That’s my daughter. She was very sick in the jungle, there was no medicine and she died giving birth.
Boay Bou: We have to make offerings to our dead relatives to tell them we are still thinking of them. If we don’t pray, their souls will wander around lost; we pray so that the spirits will live in peace. This is what Cambodian Buddhists believe.
Narration: In the 1970’s, one out of every seven Cambodians died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, a communist guerilla army. The Khmer Rouge tried to annihilate everything the Cambodians believed in and loved: the family, dance and music, and most important, their Buddhist religion. Facing death and destruction, 150,000 Cambodians fled to America. Now, they are torn between two worlds: the Cambodian world of their past and the American one of their present.
Pov Thai: We want to be American, Cambodian American. Not just Cambodian or not just American, we want to be both. And same thing, so the culture, custom and tradition we want to keep both also we get some from the Cambodian some from the American, we combine it together take the good ones and stay with them. And so at the same time we expect from American people to understand us. To know some of our culture too. Because whether America like it or not, we’re here in America, you know?
It’s a very difficult thing to undergo what they have endured and then to say “let’s build a community”. They are beginning to pull themselves together in this new environment, partly because they’re relying on old ties, old structures…..the role of religion, has played a critical role it seems to me, in serving as a vehicle of transition, or a source of solace in a stormy sea.
Narration: The Cambodians built the great temples of Angkor over a thousand years ago. Ever since, Buddhism has been at the heart of Cambodian life. Every village and city had a temple. It was the village school, the shelter for travelers and the homeless, the social and spiritual center.
Buddhism is based on the teachings of Gautama Buddha, who lived in India six centuries before the birth of Christ. Buddha developed a philosophical system based on the belief that one could transcend earthly suffering and attain nirvana, or spiritual enlightenment.
The Cambodians adopted Buddhism and combined it with Hinduism and their traditional folk practices, including spirit worship. By the 13th century, most Cambodians had incorporated this Cambodian form of Buddhism into their daily lives.
For hundreds of years, almost all Cambodians were rice farmers and fishermen. Their lives followed the natural rhythms of the agricultural year. Even in the cities, the Cambodian way of life seemed timeless, even eternal.
In the early 1970’s, Cambodia was forced into the Vietnam War. The Americans, hoping to destroy Vietcong strongholds, began to bomb Cambodia. For the next five years the country was devastated by U.S. air strikes…..homes were abandoned in terror, towns and cities bombed and burned. The Khmer Rouge, a fanatical army of communist guerillas, stepped up their raids on the weakened government. On April 17, 1975, they finally overran the capitol. Headed by Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge set out to systematically destroy every vestige of Cambodian culture. They separated family members and sent them to slave labor camps around the country. The Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia for four years; in that time, they killed over a million of their own people.
Arn Chorn: Every day they killed 4 times a day. Kids were, every day we were forced to watch the executions there. Sometimes they took their victims, the Khmer Rouge took their victims and killed them inside my place, inside the children’s center place. I couldn’t sleep at night because blood all over every where, on the temple wall too.
I have to close everything. I had to close my heart not to care what they’re doing in front of my face. Otherwise I would be crazy. I would be crying out or something, and I would have been killed, too, if I cry out.
Reading – Buddhist Prophecy. One day the blood will flow in the streets as high as an elephant’s stomach. The evil ones will ascend the throne and destroy the religion. The laity and monkhood will die in great numbers. The roads will be emptied of travelers, the houses emptied of people. Then only the hooligans, the worthless drunkards, will be allowed to sit in judgement of others.
Dith Pran: I prayed a lot when I was stuck with the Khmer Rouge for nearly four years and I still believe that….Buddha protect me and help me to survive. The Khmer Rouge destroyed all the temples. They killed or disrobed all the monk. But the people still believed inside the heart. We believe that no one can change our culture..
Rithipol Yem: What Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge was trying to do is to um eliminate everything Cambodian and create a new civilization. They destroyed our religion, they destroyed our philosophy, they destroyed our schooling system, they destroyed our um monetary system, they destroyed the market, they destroyed every institution existed in Cambodia. They wiped out everything that we used to have.
Narration: In 1979 Vietnamese forces invaded Cambodia. Tens of thousands of emaciated and brutalized Cambodians, fleeing both the Vietnamese and the Khmer Rouge, escaped to refugee camps in Thailand. To this day, civil war continues to ravage Cambodia. Hundreds of thousands of people wait to return home or to be resettled in the west.
I look out on this great country
and am overwhelmed with grief.
It makes me pity my own poor country
Shattered and burning with war.
The Americans live with their loved ones
We are scattered around the world.
Because of the madness of a few
We must seek shelter far from home.
Our lives have fallen so low
We no longer know happiness, only sadness
Will we ever see our homeland again?
Or will we stay in this country,
Singing the refugee song forever?
Boreth Sun: You try very hard to adapt to the system here because you know you’re going to live here, you know it, and you had to, you’re going to work here, you’re going to live here, almost, I mean, right now, maybe the rest of my life here, so I had to become part of the system, become part of the culture.
The Venerable Maha Ghosananda: This culture is not very good for Buddhist people because Buddhist people are very gentle, very soft and here very hard, not so soft, not so gentle. Very arrogant. The Cambodian Buddha thinking about the Dharma, the sangha, about compassion, about purity about wisdom. And here very strong culture.
Rithipol Yem: It’s hard to be a good Buddhist in this country. From day one we are taught or we are thrown into a very competitive situation. You have to be number one, you have to be the winner in order to make it in this country. And you see it everywhere. You see it on TV, on the ad, everything. Over here, number one is the name of the game and they don’t take number two.
Going to work every day as an insurance sales representative….I had to put on the business suit and to be impressive looking as other people so….Although on the Buddha holiday and on Sunday I still wear my Cambodian attire. Buddhism doesn’t oppose making money. It opposes the greedy part. Everyone needs to make a living but in a proper way, in a fair way. I have to strike a balance between reality and ideology. I have to find the Middle Way.
Boay Bou: The Khmer people may still be alive, but they’re not as happy as they should be. We’re afraid that we’re losing our culture, our traditions….our Cambodian identity. If we have a temple it will help us to preserve our traditions and our identity. But if we can’t have a temple, that’s it. Our culture will die out.
Maha Ghosananda: Buddhism survive then the culture survive. Cambodian culture is Buddhist culture.
Reading: The Four Noble Truths
Life is suffering. Suffering is caused by desire. The cessation of suffering is the complete termination of all desire. To end suffering you must follow the eightfold path.
Narration: For Buddhists, every person’s life is only one stage in an endless cycle of death and rebirth. By living according to the Eightfold Path and abstaining from evil a person earns merit; the more merit you accumulate in this life, the better your next life will be. This is the principle of karma.
Buddhism as practiced in Cambodia combined Hinduism, folk tales, and the belief in the spirit world. In formal Buddhism, one does not worship Buddha as a god. But for most, Buddha is an abiding spiritual presence in their daily lives.
Srun Tea: This is a tattoo for the left shoulder. This is a tattoo for the right one. The chest is sunshine. Underneath there are five gods.
Srun Tea: The younger generation doesn’t believe in tattoos any more, so they’re losing their power. In the old days, people believed in tattoos. They used to be effective. People weren’t hurt by arrows or bullets. The tattoos helped him, that’s why he’s alive today.
Woman: But in order for tattoos to work, you have to behave properly. You have to be good to your kids, you can’t cheat on your wife.
Srun Tea: If you cheat on your wife, you’ll drop dead.
Vendy Kao: In Cambodian Buddhism we learn not to kill anything. Buddha said to do everything in moderation, to take the Middle Path. Don’t swear. Don’t call people names or steal from them. Think clearly. We believe in Buddhism. That’s why we follow the eightfold path.
Narration: As Cambodians grow older, their religious piety deepens. To prepare for death and rebirth, the elderly try to accumulate as much merit as possible. One of the best ways to earn merit is to erect and support a temple.
Mr. and Mrs. Bou: We’re sad that we don’t have enough money to build a temple as soon as we’d like. Practically, we’re not capable of building a temple that can serve the needs of the Cambodians right now.
Chean: Here in the Brittany Manor Apartments, there are only a few Cambodian elders, so we shouldn’t call this a temple. This is just an apartment we rent for the monk to live in. But we also have to use it as a temple, so that’s what we call it.
Keo: The temple in Cambodia and the temple in America are as different as the sky and the earth. In Cambodia, the temple is built in an open field.
Savorn: This temple is only temporary. American people live upstairs and the temple is downstairs. It’s wrong to have people living above a temple.
Chean: In Cambodia, the temple is built according to a particular plan. But the temple here must be built according to American rules and regulations. We can’t do anything the way we’d like to.
Carol Mortland, Anthropologist: It takes a lot of money, a lot of energy to support religious institutions and religious specialists. There are approximately 140,000 Cambodians in the United States scattered around the country. They came here virtually penniless, only starting no more than 15 years ago, most of them less than 10 years ago and it’s really quite amazing that they built the number of temples that they have. That they support the number of monks that they do.
The Venerable Chantha Ky Tran: It’s hard for Buddhists in this country because it’s very materialistic here. You can have anything you desire. So it’s difficult even for monks to be peaceful.
Reading: He who is controlled in hand, controlled in foot, controlled in speech and possessing the highest control of mind, delighted within, composed, solitary and contented….him they call a monk.
The Venerable Oung Mean: Ones who aim at the freedom of suffering, that’s called a monk. We don’t want anything else but we want to have the freedom of getting rid of suffering. For the monk, nirvana, salvation is their goal, their ultimate goal.
Rithipol Yem: Nirvana is the highest stage in Buddhism that you can reach. It is the stage of nothingness. It is the stage of no more reincarnation, no more living, no more dying.
Narration: A Buddhist code of conduct dictates a disciplined daily routine for the monk. He should wake at dawn, recite prayers and meditate. A monk must follow the 10 precepts and avoid the 227 sins. A monk is forbidden to touch any woman, including his mother; he should not earn a living, or do any physical labor. A monk cannot pour his own tea or fill his own plate. He must beg in the village for food and eat his two meals before noon.
Carol Mortland, Anthropologist: How does a monk go to English classes in American city if it’s beyond walking distance or he lives in a climate that’s cold? Does he take a public bus where he is in danger of being touched by a woman which is not allowed in Cambodian Buddhism? Does he ride a bicycle? Is it permissible for him to wear street clothes or does he wear his robe to English class? So every temple, every neighborhood comes up with different answers, but that leaves usually a portion of the Cambodian population not being satisfied with the compromises that have been made.
Narration: In Cambodia a young man was expected to serve as a novice monk for at least one rainy season. This was more than just a way to learn Buddhist doctrine….it was a central rite of passage.
Rithipol Yem: In Cambodian culture it is very important for a son to become a monk because at that time, that stage, it is said that you pay the highest respect to your parents, you in a way, you um show your gratitude best when you become a monk.
Visal In: When I was living with my parents, they want me to be the monk but I don’t know about my life. I want to be ah, I want to go to school and you know and learn and….go to high school, whatever, I like that way….But….my life up and down, up and down. It seem like I go around have a lot of fun, go to bar, everything…I need the very nice clothes. It’s not good way for me to go. I decide to be the monk.
Visal In: After I shave my hair that’s mean all the things gone that I used to be have fun and drinking whatever you know.
Visal In: If you keep the hair you can comb the hair, you can make yourself look handsome, beautiful, whatever….and that’s the wrong ways, is not the Buddha’s rule. Because….everything around you is temporary. From now on no more hair.
Narration: On the day of ordination, the novice, dressed in splendid clothes and sheltered by a parasol, rides a horse from his home to the temple. The novice is young Lord Buddha on his journey to enlightenment. He travels in a procession of friends who carry his saffron robe and offerings for the monks.
Narration: By becoming a monk, a young man earns merit for his parents to ensure them a better rebirth. Young Cambodians in America seldom become monks: they stay in school or get jobs. Some even give up Buddhism altogether.
Nareth Sa: I stay in Thailand for 5 years in the jail and one day when pastor, and he’s from Canada, his name is Don Koma, he speak very very good Cambodian and talk to us in the jail. If you believe God Jesus you will get food to eat, you will get clothes to wear. At that time, I’m so excited and I say yes.
Nareth Sa: Before I’m real Buddhist, because of my parent, my grandparent is a Buddhist, right, but I don’t know nothing about it.
Nareth Sa: I believe that Jesus saved my life. Yes, saved my life. Yeah.
Carol Mortland: I think there are different reasons why Cambodian Buddhists might become a Christian and say explicitly that he’s given up Buddhism. One is the failure, what they see as the failure of Buddhism in their country in the last 20 years and I’ve heard several people express that very strongly.
Carol Mortland: Other Cambodians have expressed the opinion that if you want to make it in this country, get an education for your children, do well economically and become a Christian. And so it’s very a pragmatic decision….The implications there are the loss of Cambodian Buddhism in this country.
Kassie Neou: I have not switched from Buddhism to Christianity yet but currently I am in both. Once somebody help you you feel that you must be grateful to your helper and that doesn’t mean that they have abandoned Buddhism. But some do, some do. Our younger generation will do. I think my kids will do.
Kassie: They spend more time with their American friends. They will learn from them they will socialize, they will do anything to get on with the American friends.
Kassie: There are many thing a lot of similarity between Buddha’s and Jesus teaching but ways of practices are different. That’s the only difference I can see.
Oung Mean: There’s no prayer in Buddhism, no worship in Buddhism and no confession in Buddhism. The Buddha is a human teacher, he is not god, you see
Oung Mean: For the social aspect you will find it parallel, you will find it in Buddhism and also you will find it in Christianity. But in the deep sense, that’s a no, it cannot go together, it cannot go together.
Rithipol: When you leave Buddhism, eventually I think you will lose your Cambodian identity because um, Buddhism is the foundation of Cambodian culture, Cambodian philosophy, Cambodian ways of living and way of teaching our children, bringing up our children and so on. So if you leave Buddhism um long enough your children and yourself may be losing your Cambodian foundations.
Sam-Ang Sam: We worry about the I think the loss or the understanding, the appreciation of the Cambodian traditional culture including music. A lot of the time they come home, they turn on TV and they listen to rock and roll, popular music, Madonna, Michael Jackson and all that, and they only find that their own traditional music is slow and boring.
Sam-Ang Sam: In Cambodia, music is almost always played in a context whether to accompany a wedding ceremony or a trance or a court dance or a shadow play or a mask play. And music is needed all the time.
Narration: Dance is the most revered art in Cambodia. In ancient times, classical dancers were thought to be sublime intermediaries between god and man.
Davy Heder: Cambodian dance depicts a character of Cambodian people, of who we are, the beauty of our people who are a very gentle, kind people. To dance, is a way to show that no one else can dance like Cambodian. It’s how the way we present ourself, the way we sing, the way we use our language. It represents who we are.
Narration: The apsara, the heavenly dancer, is endowed with the noblest of Buddhist qualities. She is the goddess who brings good luck to the earth. In America, the apsara has become the symbol of Cambodian rebirth….the angel who has risen from the killing fields.
Molly Sam: When one is inside a great affliction one must turn onto something that he could depend on, he could identify with….So this is what artists are trying to reaffirm their identity through dance, through religion, through Buddhism, through cultures. It’s everything as bound up as one here.
Molly: To keep the culture alive, to pass on from generation to generation…So in here, when they learn, when they dance they learn about the discipline, they learn about the technique, they learn about the spirituality of the dance…they learn to be Cambodian.
Reading: A man must work, be patient, be polite. He should honor his wife and secure her comfort. The woman must serve her husband. She should be master of the house, the one who saves money, the one who does the work in the house. Children must worship their parents. They should look after their parents in old age and death. They must maintain the family honor and hold sacred the family traditions.
Narration: Being Cambodian has always meant being a part of family. But the Khmer Rouge methodically separated parents from children and husbands from wives. Virtually every Cambodian family has lost at least one member. Thousands of children came here as orphans; widows head the majority of Cambodian households in American.
Sunly Ping Winkles: They took my children away. I live with just my youngest one, with my husband, and very soon, for about a year, my husband die from starvation. And so we try to survive the mother and the three, the four children. Until the middle of 70, I think it’s 78, a really bad time for me because one of, my youngest daughter die, sick and
die and about two days later my two older children, two girls, was caught by Pol Pot soldiers and put them in a jail. Since then I don’t know where they are right now.
Ouk Vaddana: You know I live over here, stay over here, my life a little better, but my children over there. It’s not easy for me.
Video letter from Cambodia to Ouk Vaddana:
Hello, father and mother. I received the money from Uncle. Thank you very much. I’m very happy. How are you doing? I hope you are well. Oh, I forgot to mention that my husband could not come with me today because he’s too busy studying. I came here with my father-in-law, the man who is sitting next to me. I received the money on the 17th when Uncle arrived in Cambodia. You should contact Uncle; he’ll help you come. I want to see you both, it’s hard to believe we’ve been separated nearly ten years now.
Ouk: If I walk on street and met her I don’t recognize my daughter because I left my daughter a long time. Till I see the picture I say my God, my daughter she look so cute and she grow oh. I feel so excitement, my tears coming to. I’m crying real real bad and because I don’t know how when I’m going to meet my daughter and my son again. My daughter was married she so beautiful and she have real real traditional wedding reception. When the children marry like that the father and mother sit in the front and give them the blessing for a new life, but my daughter, I guess all friend or some close relative come to blessing her, not father. It’s not easy for me. I got a lot depressed everyday. Sometime I took her picture, I watch her tape I listen to cassette make me don’t feel good all the time. I’m all but crying I got so, so it’s not easy for me.
Sideth Prak: I was 14 when the Khmer Rouge came to the Battambang. I think my family is dead because when the Khmer Rouge come, people who work for the government just like my family they all destroyed them, they killed them. That’s what I thought. My family is gone. The only one’s me alive.
Sideth: First time I came to the US….I think that if I work in the factory I could save a
little bit of money, but it’s still not good enough for me. So I started to have business….I have a sad story. My family is gone. But I said myself “look around”. I just said one day maybe I’m going to meet one of my family.
Bopha Ros: I happened to get into this restaurant because my friend said they have such good food. Then I sit down and eat. All the sudden, I see the lady come and stare at me.
Sideth: And I run in the back, to the kitchen. I say, “she look like someone I know”. I’m not sure that her or not….cause I never see her for long time….15 years.
Sideth: Can’t cry, can’t talk. It’s unbelievable.
Sideth: Children forget everything. Even me, she don’t recognize me. So I keep trying to remind her something about our family, about our parents, sisters and brothers. She doing pretty well now, a little bit, I hope.
Bopha: I’m not single now. I have a family. Even if I don’t have to be with my family. I have hope and a part of my life always with me.
Sideth: Sometime I want to be a little girl so I can play with her again.
B: You too late
S: Too late for me now. It’s ok, not too late at all.
Judy Ledgerwood, Anthropologists: Almost all activities, networks of relationships were organized around the family. In the village setting, all of the people that you had contact with would have been the extended family or people that you made into family….within a village you would call….virtually everyone that you came into contact with older brother, older sister or Aunt or Uncle or depending on generation….so you would have had people you could call on in an emergency or people you would call on for assistance who would be family, extended family members.
Peter Rose: It’s almost difficult for Americans to comprehend the strength of the family; we envy it when we find out about it, especially parents, because there’s a tremendous amount of filial piety still. But there’s also the collision with the American value system that kids are more important than parents. And you are seeing tensions within the family. That is a problem that’s common to the immigrant experience but it’s particularly poignant in a society where parents are revered and ancestors are revered.
Rithipol Yem: In Cambodia we were very very close together. The family members were very close together, depended on each other. Over here, you have an open society. You have so much freedom here so Cambodian parents are having a hard time in educating or showing the traditional way. So the children are torn between two worlds. That is the problem.
Arn Chorn: I need identity. I think people die if they don’t have identity. They die. Some of us here, kids, teenagers, are lost on the street. I feel so sorry. Some of them are survivors for the Khmer Rouge and they lost their identity, their self-esteem. When they come here, they say I must forget everything about my past. I want to be American here. And they sort of stereotype about becoming American.
Boreth Sun: I think there are real conflicts between the younger generation and the older generation. The older generation tend to sort of, they don’t really want assimilate and the younger generation, people want to assimilate. And it’s really hard.
Boreth: I’m a bilingual teacher and I am supposed to be teaching from first grade or kindergarten to sixth grade. I primarily deal with Cambodian students. I teach nothing about Cambodia…..or about Cambodian families or about Cambodia period. I think maybe as they get older they might want to learn more about who they are or where they’re from. Right now they have no interest in it. I don’t blame them for now. They’re influenced by American culture and so when they grow up their going to lose their identity, you know, who they are and I think it’s very important just to keep in mind what you’re know, you know, you’re not completely American.
Boreth cont: In Cambodia, um, as a kid, or as a young person you’re not supposed to challenge older people even though you know more than them. You’re not supposed to challenge them. Usually you let the older people win or just agree with them and go along with them. And I don’t think, I mean, here it doesn’t happen at all. Cambodian people now at least the younger people challenge the older people a lot because they are educated in America, they go to American school and they learn a lot and so when they go back to their to their houses, they, the way they interrupt their grand, grandparents or their parents, ah, it’s all looked down on them a little bit I think.
Pov Thai: We have a lot of Cambodians, especially the old folks, they want to keep their own culture and tradition and custom. One time….a man….saw…..his daughter….walking along the street holding hand with a boy who was Cambodian also, and he says I saw you on the street walking along holding hand with a boy and you know what’s going to happen to you and the girl said no what, you’re going to get married. The girls said no, we just friend, we don’t want to be married. I still want to go to school, you know. And also in the American way it is okay, it is acceptable to holding hand and walking on the street. But he said uh-uhn not in our culture, so you’re going to be married with him.
Pov Thai cont: So when it comes to honeymoon time the boy said let’s go to bed, we husband and wife now but the girl, the girl said no, I married you only to please my parents. So the boy go mad and he went to the parents of the girl and he said hey, wait a minute, look at this I paid my money and now your daughter don’t want to go to bed with me. So the parents got real upset, real mad because the girl, by doing that, she is bringing disgrace to the family. And guess what they got mad and they cut her hair real short and real ugly and slashed her chin and cut her face and you see blood all over and later on someone took her to Baylor hospital, that’s where she end up and that’s where the police officer were called by the nurse and the police officer called me there to translate. That’s how I found out about the case.
Long Bou: They want to know if you approve of arranged marriage or do you approve of marriage according to the kids?
Mrs. Bou: I don’t care….if they don’t want to follow their parents, it’s up to them.
Mr. Bou: Don’t be silly.
Long: Which do you prefer?
Mrs. Bou: If you do not obey your parents and you choose your own husband, that means that you would be rejecting the family and rejecting us, your mother and father.
Lena Yang: First my mom ask me, Lena, do you want to get married? I say, yeah, I want to get married, you know. But because she want me to get married with somebody that I don’t know and I said no, I don’t want to get married with, like not her friends but her friends, somebody, someone, and I said no. And do you have somebody in mind? And I said yeah, I have somebody in mind then bring him home, so I did, I brought him home. I didn’t tell her that okay I like him, no I didn’t. And she know, she knows that he’s the one.
Lena: The boy’s not supposed to ask. It’s the boys parents that are supposed to ask, but my husband, he didn’t have anybody, he came here by himself. His parents died, he doesn’t have anybody in his family. But he has some friend that took care of him, since, I don’t know, a long time ago, after the war. They took care of him like a parent.
Lena: I’m just going to walk out of this room and go down down, you know, down on the carpet, not lay down, but bend down with my hands go like this this is I think, I don’t know what I’m going to do. But that’s what I think I’m going to do.
Lena: I like having a traditional wedding. I don’t know how it feel to dress up like Cambodians do. It’s new to me. I kinda like it.
Savann Chen voice over: Some families in this country have two day weddings. Others celebrate for only one day. For those who have two day weddings, they usually start on Friday and end on Saturday. But in Cambodia, the celebration lasted from three to seven days.
Old Lady: In Cambodia, first you would go to the girl’s house and bring gifts to her family. Then you’d talk with the girl’s parents to see if they were interested in giving their daughter away to your son. After that, we’d have the formal engagement. When the wedding date was agreed upon – depending on the family – the man might go and serve the woman’s family for one to two years.
Savann: I’m not sure about the younger generation today. For the present time we’ll continue our traditions. When we get married, we still follow our customs. But I cannot predict if we will continue to follow our traditions 100% in this country.
Vendy Kao: We are happy to live here but our hearts still remain in the homeland. We live in the present but our hearts and minds are still in the past. We still miss our Cambodian festivals and ceremonies. We keep thinking about the past and we cry.
Woman against wall: I miss my homeland whenever there’s thunder and rain. I cry a lot. I miss my village and my country. I think about my parents all the time.
Sideth and Bopha:
S: I want to go back some day. I really do, and I want to go back and see the place that I used to work hard, where they put me to work without sleep, without eat. I want to go (back) to see that one more time. See how it is. See how I feel. Check one more time.
B: I don’t want to be there.
S: I do. I do want to go.
B: The more I see it, the more it make me hurt.
S: But that’s ok. We already hurt. It’s deep down you know. You never forget.
Davy Heder: I’ve been here close to over 15 years. But I never really feel complete like this is a home, this is where I want to be for the rest of my life. Although I know I can, I have a house, I have a house to drive, I have nice things. But deep down I still feel this big hollow. I have to find a piece of mind where I have to go on with my life. I’ve changed a lot from what I used to be and that’s from learning how to maintain the balance. I think that’s a good way to survive here.
Oh my lovely children
I have great hope for you
Although you lost your father and
Live far away from home, you have your
Freedom and your future
Preserve our heritage….our values
Our sacred religion,
Our noble race,
When you rebuild our Cambodia
Then I will close my eyes peacefully.