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.
—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?