Oct
29

The day I got my haircut from a survivor of The Killing Fields at home.

This is a story I shared on my Personal & Blog Facebook page as soon as it happened on Saturday, October 26. It got so many responses and LIKE’s I thought I should share it on my blog as well. It’s a story that should be told and shared so I am with a few more of my thoughts at the end. 

Today I got my haircut here in HOUSTON from a survivor of the Killing Fields during the Khmer Rouge years in Cambodia. I’ve been going to get my hair cut at FOX HAIR Design for well over 10 years for yes $5. I’d seen this old lady every time. Today she cut my hair & we made small talk.

Fox Hair Design, Houston

—Where I have been getting my haircut for over 10 years. Most of the ladies who work here only know enough English to get by yet it’s busy all week long.—

I asked her if she was from Vietnam. She answered “yes” so I let her know I had been. We talked about it for a bit and then she asked if I’d been to Cambodia I said “yes”. She got so excited and said “that’s where really from. My husband Saigon.” We talked about it and then she told me “you know I walked 1 month from Phnom Phen to border of Vietnam when 9yrs old.” I asked her if it was during the Khmer Rouge years and she said yes. She then told me she was so lucky to have only worked in the fields for 6 months, but unfortunately 3 of her sisters didn’t make it and neither did her mother. She told me she still remembers having to lie about her brother being a part of the military and having to steal rice to survive even though she would be killed if caught. She said she still has trouble getting all the images of death she saw everyday out of her mind. She said she remembers walking from Phnom Phen to who knows where and seeing body after body. She said it wasn’t until 1978 her and her surviving family took a small boat cramped with over 40 people from Vietnam to Thailand and then had asylum granted here in the USA.

She couldn’t believe I had been to Cambodia and knew so much about what happened there. She said no one knows here and it’s such a tragedy that everyone should know.

This is the longest hair cut I’ve ever had in my life. I didn’t even realize she cut my hair too short until I got home. I didn’t even care.

This reminded me why I love traveling; you learn so much on the road you just don’t learn about at home. It also reminded me why I love Houston; it really is so damn diverse it blows my mind sometimes.

Anyway I’m sharing this to remind people we really have no clue what others have been through & the struggles we have day to day are nothing compared to what others have gone through else where or are going through right now. Make the most of each day and try and be happy.

Something I didn’t share when I first shared this story is that after we were done talking and I paid for my haircut we talked for a bit more and then I asked her if I could take a photo of her (travel habit). I wanted to put a face to the story, but she said no and I respected that. Now that a few days have passed I am happy she didn’t let me take that photo of her, because this could be anyone. It’s so easy to forget how many of the immigrants here or in your home country may have come from places going through horrible times and gone through things we will never understand. It’s meeting people like this that remind me how resilient the human spirit is and that we are very blessed and honestly just don’t realize it. Our struggles are nothing compared to what others have gone through.

If you don’t know much about what happen in Cambodia when the Khmer Rouge took over the country and began the Killing Fields in 1975 that would eventually last until 1979 and kill over 2 million people it’s honestly okay. I didn’t hear about it until I started reading travel blogs and the reason that is the case is because Cambodia is a huge stop on the “backpacker trail” in Southeast Asia. So of course many bloggers have written about it including myself. I wrote 2 blog post about it, they were: “The Killing Fields in Photos” and “What if the walls at Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum could speak?“. This is a horrific event that in the grand scheme of things happened yesterday. It’s an event in modern history that has intrigued me enough to even read a few books about. I have read First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers and Survival in the Killing Fields. Both books made me cry like a little baby and are books I would recommend reading to understand just a portion of what the lady who cut my hair went through.

As I lay here writing this you know what I love most about this whole story? I love that I have learned travel doesn’t just connect us with people we meet on the road, but with people from those countries we meet at home as well. Had I never mentioned I’ve been to Vietnam and later Cambodia when she asked me I would have never learned this about her. What bothers me most though is that I have been going to this place for over 10 years and seen her so many times and never had the slightest clue that she was a survivor of the Killing Fields.

Have you ever met someone at home who has gone through a horrific event from a place you have visited or an even you happen to know a lot about?

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Comments

  1. I have been living in Cambodia for two years now and I have met many people who lived through the Khmer Rouge. When they are telling me their personal stories it always breaks my heart and I still don’t understand how this was allowed to happen.
    TammyOnTheMove recently posted..Climbing Cotopaxi – And why you shouldn’t mess with your wife when she has altitude sickness

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Tammy, those are my thoughts exactly I still don’t know how the world let this happen. What’s worse is that we are allowing it to happen again in other parts of the world. Like what is happening in Syria today? I just will never understand how our world really functions.

  2. Great example of the special things that travel can bring us :). I agree with your thoughts. It like ‘travelling’ almost becomes an open mentality to life rather than just physically moving from one place to another. :)
    Jimmy recently posted..My Last Days In The UK, Goodbyes & Crying

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Yes Jimmy, it’s these small moments that make travel just that much more amazing. It changes us to the core and something that can never be taken from us.

  3. Beautiful and heartbreaking story, Jaime! Amazing you’ve been getting your hair cut there for 10 years and only just found out this woman’s sad story. Travel does things you never imagine. This post brought tears to my eyes.
    Ali recently posted..Looking Back: Mistakes from our Beyond Vacation Kick-Off Trip

  4. Thanks for sharing this story. I should check out those books you recommended!

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Heather, you really should check out those books if you can. They are seriously some of the best books I’ve ever read and I cried just so much because it’s heartbreaking.

  5. “I love that I have learned travel doesn’t just connect us with people we meet on the road, but with people from those countries we meet at home as well.” Yes! This post was so incredibly moving and well written. Thank you for sharing.

    Happy travels :)
    Lauren Meshkin @BonVoyageLauren recently posted..Happy Halloween! Photo Essay: My visit to Bonaventure Cemetery

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Thank you so much Lauren. I am happy I was able to share this with everyone. It was a small moment in my life that turned out to be one I’ll never forget.

  6. I read this story on Facebook when you posted it. It’s a very moving story, and a shame more people do not know more about the atrocities that happened during the reign of Pol Pot.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Thanks Erik, it really is so moving and I do wish more people learned about what Pol Pot did to the people of Cambodia.

  7. You never know each other’s stories until you begin to listen :)

  8. I didn’t know about the Khmer Rouge or what happened there. Thanks for sharing this. At the end of the day we’re all people– we’re all human and each of us has our story. Sometimes we forget that.
    Priya recently posted..Burning Bridges: Quitting

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Priya, I’m glad I was able to teach you a bit of world history. This is an atrocity that is just not talked about and how the world let happened is beyond me. If you can I would highly suggest reading one of those books to understand it just a bit more.

  9. It’s amazing that I didn’t even learn about the Khmer Rouge in school considering what an atrocity it was! I didn’t even find out about it until I went to Cambodia! What a shame.

    • Jaime Davila says:

      I know Chad, I too never learned about this in school. It’s a shame this is just not taught and no one talks about it either. It’s just sad.

  10. Powerful story. I’m going to have to look those books up. It’s funny what you don’t ever end up knowing about unless you travel and really connect with people. I have always loved that aspect of travel.
    Josh recently posted..My Thoughts on Venice

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Yes Josh you should check out those books if you can. They are very interesting and very heart breaking. It’s crazy the things I have learned on the road. I have learned more on the road than I have in school.

  11. This is such a great story, thanks for sharing! It’s funny, I recently had a similar experience visiting a Cambodian restaurant. The Cambodian owner and her American husband were incredibly friendly and soon they were showing us photos of Cambodia and eventually she told her story of how she came to the US. When she was a child her family’s house had been commandeered by the Khmer Rouge and she watched her father get shot and killed right in front of her. She recalled the walk from their city near Battambang over to Thailand with her sister and her mother. She told us about all the dead people, and heartbreakingly walking past the wounded and dying, having to leave them to suffer because there was nothing they could do. She too came to the US by boat like so many others. She told us that she still wakes up screaming at night, but not very often anymore.

    Obviously we were almost in tears. My friend didn’t really know much about the Cambodian history at all and felt a little sheepish, but I did even though I haven’t been, mostly from a general interest in world history and of course travel blogs. I think it is so important to realize that you can learn so much about humanity by connecting to people and their stories. It makes you appreciate what you have but also feel more human by sharing a tiny piece of someone’s burden.

    • Jaime Davila says:

      Oh Laura that is heartbreaking. It’s so hard to hear someones story when it’s such a tragic and gut wrenching story. All we can do is listen and truly appreciate what we have and that what we have been through will never be compared to what others have gone through. It’s these stories though that make us who we are and in the end connect us to one in other and help share our burdens like you mentioned.

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