My first few months in America were very lonely. Whenever my brother went to work, I couldn't go anywhere because I didn't have my driver license yet, and besides the outdoor winter weather was too cold for a newcomer Khmer Krom girl like me. I was lonely I didn't know anyone to talk to. I spent most of my time reading and listening to my favorite Ram-Vong tape. Sometimes I'd watched T.V but there were no channels in Vietnamese or Khmer for me to watch, and the people on TV spoke much too fast for me, sometimes I didn't understand what they were talking about. One day, while I was flipping through the channels I saw Elmo talking on the Sesame Street show. I immediately fell in love with Elmo and all these cute characters on Sesame Street, and most of all they spoke English that I could understand. I think my English improved a lot from watching that show.
Being able to interact with other Khmers on line was a very new and exciting experience for me. It all began when my brother gave me his old computer. He said if I got bored I could explore the World Wide Web, and there are many things that I could learn from Internet. I was a computer illiterate (still), but I learned to search for Khmer websites and was glad to meet online a lot Khmers from around the globe. Since I loved to cook, I'd hang out at the recipe forum at one of the Cambodian Culture websites exchanging messages with other Khmers about cooking and Khmer recipes. Then one day, I saw a message from another Khmer Krom girl for me; she wanted to know how to make sweet, sour and spicy soup (salor machu). I was so happy to see another Khmer Krom girl and never thought that her message written in Vietnamese was a problem.
Being Khmer Krom I know there are many Khmer Krom youths my age and younger that speak only Vietnamese. Since she didn't write in English I assumed this little girl was a newcomer like myself, and she probably was not comfortable with writing in English so I response to her in Vietnamese also. Suddenly the other Khmer Krom girl and I became a target for ignorant and racist people to practice their profanity. They called us all kind of bad names and they also called us Youn( Vietnamese). Some people even told us to go away and that we weren't welcome at that Cambodian Culture website. They even posted links to Vietnamese websites and told us to go there where we belong. They said Khmer Krom are Youn.
I had no idea that speaking Vietnamese to other Khmer Krom would cause a big commotion on that website, especially when I saw no one make a big deal when others Khmer exchanged messages in French. I still don't understand why some people didn't have a problem with Khmer speaking French, but on that Cambodian website seem to have a big problem when Khmer Krom speaks Vietnamese. I always thought that any Khmer who can speak Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai or French is no less Khmer to Khmer that speak only Khmer. The more languages you know the better off you are. They call this education.
I stopped participate at that Cambodian Culture website's forums because it was heartbroken to see Khmer divided into two groups Khmer and Khmer Krom. I didn't like the way some arrogant people viciously attacked us over some nonsense issue about who can speak what language.
It was sad to learn that not only is the world ignorant about Khmer Krom but many our Khmer and Khmer Krom, and the youths living aboard are very ignorant of real Khmer history also. I don't understand why their parents didn't care of teaching them the real Khmer history of how, why and when Cambodia lost Kampuchea Krom (now know as South Vietnam). I can understand why some Khmer youths in Kampuchea Krom are ignorant about our history. If their parents didn't care to teach them about their background they will never know, because there is no Vietnamese school in Kampuchea Krom that going to teach real Khmer history to Khmer Krom youths. When I was a young child, I thought I was Chinese because my grandmother always dressed me in Chinese pajama, and I didn't understand why my father kept calling me Koun Khmer (Khmer kid). If my father didn't constantly remind me where half of my blood came from I would never know of my Khmer Krom background I would be ignorant as well. I learned the real Khmer history from my father, my paternal relatives and the monks. I learned about how the Vietnamese government forced most Khmer Krom from the big cities to abandoned homes, property and land so that more Vietnamese can move into Kampuchea Krom.
I learned my father's cousin was imprisoned for refusing to give up his land. When they finally released him from jail, he barely could stand up on his own. After many years suffering from being tortured in jail, this once wealthy Khmer man became a sick, homeless man who used to loved Mam (fermented fish) and Pahok (pickle fish) no longer have had any desire for those food, because that was all they feds him in jail was liquidly rice soup and mam or pahok, every day.
The more I learned from those horrible, stories of mistreatment that the Khmer Krom got from the Vietnamese government the sadder I became. Learning of real Khmer history was an eye opener. I learned my father and the rest of Khmer living in Kampuchea Krom have been crying under Vietnam oppression for more than fifty years. I can understand why the entire big world wouldn't hear the sound of sorrow from our Khmer Krom people, but what about other Khmer in Kampuchea and Khmer around world? I can understand why Vietnamese don't like to talk about the real Khmer history. They don't want to give back the beautiful, rich Kampuchea Krom land to Kampuchea. They don't like to see Khmer Krom youths in school, because the more illiterate they can keep the Khmer Krom, the poorer Khmer Krom are, then the easier for the Vietnamese to wipe out our real Khmer history.
I learned a lot from Khmer history articles that I've read online. I learned most books failed to mention anything about Khmer Krom or how French government illegally gave Kampuchea Krom (now know as South Vietnam) to Youn on June/04/1949. I was wondering if any Khmer beside me has noticed that? After all it is very serious and the real Khmer history.
I learned many Khmer youths go online daily just to picks fights amongst Khmer. What kind of benefit does this do for our country or people? What benefit do we get from us Khmer fighting and names calling each other everyday? I don't understand why anyone would want to waste precious time for useless causes when there are so many things one can do to make a difference for our poor suffering Khmer.
I learned there are many Vietnamese recipes websites but very few from Khmer and none from Khmer Krom. I remember browsing through one Vietnamese forum and the youths were comparing Mam (fermented fish) to Pahok (pickle fish). They said Vietnamese Mam taste better; smell better than Pahok. One poster said Cambodian's houses stink because all Khmer foods cooked with Pahok. " How ignorant' I thought, every one knows that Pahok is Khmer ethnic food but not many know that Mam is also Khmer ethnic food that originated from Khmer Krom in Chau Doc (Mott Chrouk). Everyone knows of Phu Quoc fish sauce but how many knew Khmer in Kampuchea Krom invented fish sauce? Khmer food is very delicious and not every dish cook with Pahok or Mam. I told myself the truth must prevail. I'll show the world how our Khmer people in Kampuchea Krom cook our tradition and authentic food.
Aimed with determination to get the world's attention I told everyone I met online of my desire for my own recipe website. No one offered to help. Maybe they didn't think a newcomer Khmer Krom girl like me could write recipes, or maybe they saw how bad my English was and were afraid I would embarrass my own people. Maybe they heard about I didn't know how to retrieved the picture after I've download that same picture over a dozen time. I didn't let my broken English and computer illiterate stop me from having my own website. I've yearned to get my first opportunity in this great land of freedom where I could write and share my Khmer Krom stories, and Khmer Krom recipes to other Khmer and the world.
I kept on talking to friends I met online about my own website and praying Buddha for miracle.
On Summer 2001, my prayer was answered when I talked to nak bong pros Naroth Sin. This very friendly and compassioned Buddhist man volunteered to help me set up my first Khmer Krom recipes. Since I didnít know how to operated the homepage, Iíd sent my recipe to nak bong pros Naroth Sin and he'd uploaded on my homepage for me. I was very grateful and happy. But the happiness didn't last long. All suddenly my mailbox was bombarded with emails from mostly Khmer around the world, criticizing every word I used on my first few recipes. Some people said that I didn't know what I was talking about, and some said I didn't write English or Khmer words correctly. Some people even called me Youn in disguised. But none could stop me from writing more Khmer Krom recipes even when they hacked my homepage. The hacker put a big question on my profile where it said I am Khmer Krom and messed up all my recipes. I remember looking at my messy website and started to cry like baby.
Buddha must have heard me cried, because he gave me another miracle; he sent Anh Hai(not real name) to help me set up for another website. A computer expert who's also Khmer Krom Anh Hai became my very close friend who would spent long hours online, teaching me how to post pictures and recipes on my website, and sometimes correcting grammar on my recipes. I remember one late night when Anh Hai saw that I was still online. He called me on the phone and told me to stop working on my website and go bed because it was getting very late. But I told him I wanted to finish what I was doing. I told him I wanted to make this Khmer Krom recipes website bigger than the one that got hacked and that no one is going to shut me up for speaking the truth. I am not going to let anyone put me down or stop me from working on my goal. The harder they made me fall the higher I'll climb.
I would like to take this opportunity to thanks my guardian angels nak bong pros Naroth and Anh Hai for helping me with my website, thank you so much for believing in me. Thank you to all my friends, KKF leaders and team, and my visitors for your support. Most of all, thank you to my generous uncle for sponsor this website.
Last but not least, I would like to leave this message to all Khmer youths. Please, if you don't have anything to do, please be a volunteer, either at your temple, church, hospital or nursing home. I am sure there is plenty of work waiting for you to help out. Spending an hour or two helping other or self-learning by reading educational articles, or reading about real Khmer history online is better than wasting time fighting with each other on the street or online. Please spend your time wisely, do the right thing and think united. Look out and be helpful to each other.
Dalai Lama said, "Our prime purpose in this life is to help others, and if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them."
Remember, whatever you do make sure that Khmer don't end up without a piece of land to call country like the Champs.