Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Children of Asia

Nhan has come to pick me in Phnom Penh and take me to Ho Chi Minh City.  Neither of us speak each other's language though I suspect she understands more English than I do Vietnamese.  I have just returned from a workshop for the midwives at the Russian Friendship Hospital and am both tired and pleased.

I am to go with Nhan ( sister number 5 ) on a tuck tuck to the bus that will take us to the border crossing.  At the hospital, I no longer tell anyone I am going to Vietnam.    The Rescue Party is uniting its followers around an anti-Vietnam platform.   I ask a young man what Vietnam looks like.  "Like Cambodia because it is Cambodia.  All of Vietnam belongs to Cambodia."   "Really." I ask.  "All of it."   He nods with certainty.

They tell me that thousands of Vietnamese are being told to come to Cambodia, to marry their women and to vote against the Rescue Party in the elections.

My Cambodian family offers Nhan some rice and chicken that she picks through. They stare at her.

The doctor says,  "Why would you give anything to Vietnam.  They already have enough. '

Nhan and I climb into the tuck-tuck as I wave good-bye to my daughtes family and begin life with my son's Vietnamese family.  At home, in Oregon, we are all one family with grandchildren who played together and loved each other since they were young.   In the schools of the United States they are Asian and few faculty take the time to distinguish between the borders of Southeast Asia.   They large Asian grocery stores sell anything Asian;  Chinese, Korean, Cambodian, Phillipino, Japanese, Cambodian.  The aisles are felled with customers of every race.

I do not see any signs of Vietnamese taking over Phnom Penh.   There are no signs, no schools or places to eat.  They say I cannot see them but a trained eye can.  They are everywhere and they vote for the party in power which is really a puppet government for Vietnam.

As we settle into our bus seats and I watch the city streets turn to rice fields, I feel like I am a traitor going into enemy territory.

My daughter's sister tells me life was worst under the Vietnamese than Phal Pot.  I squint my eyes in disbelief.  My daughter hesitates.  "Well, the killing stopped."  Later she explains that it is better to be killed by other Khmer people than be ruled by outsiders.

I suggest that no matter the past,  the Rescue Party might want to focus on some common goals than creating a common enemy.  I say it is never okay to call anyone a racial slur like the ones they use for Cambodians.

They say, "We know Vietnamese people. We like them. We just don't want them to live here."   I tell them that this is what people use to say about African-Ameicans in the United States.  They protest.  This is different.

"The Vietnamese took our land?"
"I am not sure.  The kingdom of Funan."
"That was thousands of years ago."
"It is ours and the Rescue party will get it back."

"The Khmer Rogue slaughtered thousands of Vietnamese and the King killed the Vietnamese boat people."

"That isn't true."
"It seems like it was true.  I can read it everywhere."
"It isn't true.  The Vietnamese invaded Cambodia and stole everything.  Now they are rich and we are still poor."

I say, " I have children and great grandchildren from Vietnam and Cambodia and I have to spend time in both places.  It is never a good idea to raise a new generation to have a common enemy; a hisorical enemy.  No good ever comes of it."

They shake their heads.  Everything I read is a lie. I am being tricked.   With this is my mind I sit in a bus. I look around.  Wh is Vietnamese and who is Cambodian anyway.  The Chinese ruled Vietnam for over a thousand years and most everyone I know in Cambodia, is so proud to be Chinese.

I close my eyes and sleep.   I hear John Lennon sing. "Imagine theres no countries.  Its easy if you try."

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