Trying to raise my kids the best I can

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Jaw dropping true stories from Cambodia

Sometimes I'll get the pleasure of hearing a tale from my in laws about their lives in Cambodia. Like when my husband said that during a period of starvation there was once a community pot of soup in which he spotted a human finger float to the top.

Another story that I'll never forget is when they were fleeing the Khmer Rouge in a long trek through the jungle to Thailand. There were hundreds of Cambodians walking this route, not just them. My mother and father in law had toddlers to carry. My mother in law said they walked on sand much of the way and it made her shins swell up. Think about that the next time you walk on the beach. Loose sand is really hard to walk on! She said that along the way they came across a woman who had just given birth and was very upset because she was separated from her family- unsure if she would ever see them again. This woman had nothing. So my mother in law gave her half of her precious water and tied one sarong around her like a diaper (to catch all the blood -lochia) and they put another sarong to wear as a skirt on top of that.

Today my mother in law shared two more interesting stories. I have to preface it by saying that she is one of the sweetest, most gentle women I have ever met, which made the story even more sensational. She said when she was 14 years old a boy was talking smack about her mother. So she beat him up- punching him in the face. Then she tied him to a tree and continued to beat him up! She arrived home late that night and when her dad asked where she was she said she had been at a friends house. But he could tell she had been in a fight so she finally had to admit to it. His response: "Did you win?" Later, the boy gathered some friends to go jump her, but she had a knife. The boys ran. My mother in law described how there was no law enforcement, so sometimes boys would kill girls in situations like that. That helps explains her actions. Culture can really shape the way you judge a person. Growing up with law enforcement makes it hard to understand vicious fighting like that. We have to work hard to remove our ethnocentric blinds.

The last story she told was how she had 10 siblings at one point, but how most of them have died over the years. One of her sisters is only 35 years old (still in Cambodia) and she hobbles with a cane. I wonder what disease ails her. My mother in law had a brother whom she was close to. He used to share his food with her. One time he was sick and a friend had given him an orange but he gave it to her because she was pregnant. She gave birth when he was on his death bed. She gave him a cup of her breast milk to drink which sustained him two more days. When he died she was unable to go the funeral because she was still recovering from childbirth. As the pallbearers removed the body, the slab of wood that held him broke, dropping him to the ground where they were physically unable to lift him. My mother in law prayed, begging her brothers soul to say goodbye and move on. The people were then able to move him again and take him to his funeral and burial. My mother in law is haunted by the fact that, of all the siblings who died, she was unable to cry at the loss of this dear brother.

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