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A Cambodian Life

The following article was written by Sophia Srey Sharp (b. 1960) for a 1993 ESL class.

When I was young my life was easy, and I was happy.

My father was a customs agent. My parents divorced when I was a baby. I had a brother and a sister. At that time I had a beautiful life. I could go to school, and I had everything I need.

In 1970 Cambodia's civil war started. A lot of people were homeless, and lost their family, but my family was lucky because we lived in the city, and there wasn't much fighting. Although I was young, I felt upset when I saw the people who had lost their family and I was afraid that my family would get hurt, too.

Near the end of the war, in 1974, my father was sent to work in Battambang province. My brother, my sister and I stayed in Phnom Penh. My brother was eighteen so he could take care of us and my father sent us money.

Sophia Srey Sharp In 1975 the civil war ended. All the people were happy and were hopeful. We thought we would have freedom but we were wrong. The Khmer Rouge ordered everyone to evacuate the city. Everyone had to live in the country. My family and my grand parents' family want to the town where they were born. It was about 65 miles from the city to that town. We had to walk all that way - no cars, no buses, no bicycles. We had them, but the Khmer Rouge wouldn't let anyone use them. My grand parent's family and my family totaled 15 persons. After two days, the Khmer Rouge told us we couldn't stay in that town . My uncle had been a second lieutenant in the police. The Khmer Rouge took him away, and they said that they wanted to teach him about the politics. It wasn't true. They took him and they killed him.

We moved to the different place. I thought I would be able to go back to the city and study after a short time. From day to day I waited.

During the Khmer Rouge rule all the people from the city had to work hard, just like me. I had never work in the rice fields. When I worked I always got criticized by the old people (the people who supported the Khmer Rouge). In the Khmer Rouge time I had only two outfits of old clothing. I didn't have a blanket or shoes because the Khmer Rouge took everything. My brother, and my grandparents' family were killed in 1978 by the Khmer Rouge. Now I have only my sister and my cousin. Our lives were very, very hard.

In 1979 Vietnamese soldiers went to Cambodia and installed a new government, it was communist, too, but better than the Khmer Rouge. After that I lived with my relatives. I wish I could go to school, and I could find my father, too.

In 1981 my sister got married, and in 1985 I applied for a new job. I became a teacher, but my life still very difficult. In 1990 I met a man whose wife was a friend of my family before the war. They sponsored me to come to the USA. I waited two years to be processed by Immigration. When I got the news that I could come to the USA, I felt excited. Some of my friends said they felt happy for me, but other friends criticzed me, because they said I didn't love my country. But I wanted to be happy.

On April 9, '92, I arrived in Chicago. Everything here is different, so I have to learn American customs, and language, and learn about the American way of life. But America isn't like I expect it to be. I have been one year but I still can't find a job. But I still hopeful.


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