Memories of My Mother and Life in Cambodia

by Sokha Mob

My name is Sokha Mob and I come from Cambodia. I remember that my mother liked to go to shopping, especially when there was a sale. She liked to buy children's books and other educational things.

In the summertime, my family would go together to the park. During our visits to the park, my mother liked to play badminton with her friends. In Cambodia, badminton is called reket and people play the game without a net. Our rules are also a little bit different from the rules that are used in the United States: two people bat the birdie back and forth with their racquets until one player loses when it falls to the ground. After one player loses, they start all over again with another game.

In the springtime, my mother used to plant many different kinds of vegetables in her garden, such as: cucumbers, eggplants, pumpkins, tomatoes, and watermelons. She was always so happy to see how well all her vegetables grew. We didn't have just one garden--we had two! The first garden was our personal garden. It was located in the backyard, near the house so that my mother could step right outside the back door and pick fresh vegetables to cook for us. The second garden was much larger and was located in a field that was further away from the house. Sometimes people would come directly to her large garden to buy fresh vegetables that we had just picked. Other times we would pick the vegetables, load them into a cart, and take them into town to sell at the market. I really enjoyed helping my mother pick vegetables, because I would usually get to eat some of them, standing right there in the field. I remember paying attention to when my mother might be going out into the field and asking her, "Can I go with you tomorrow to help you pick vegetables?"

Photo of Sokha tying her kan saengBefore going with my mother into the field, I would put on a hat that tied under my chin with a scarf. In Cambodia, this kind of hat is called a mouk and the scarf is called a kan saeng (also sometimes called a kromah). I also would take a small piece of cloth and pour some salt into it. I would take this packet of salt and tie my scarf in such a way that there was a little pouch on the end. In this way, I was able to carry my salt in my scarf.

In Cambodia, we know how to tie our scarves in may useful ways and each way has a name. When we tie our scarves so that they can hold things, it is called jong tonok.

Second photo of sokha tying her kan saeng When we were in the field, I sometimes would pick a cucumber right from the ground and rub off the outside dirt with my kan saeng. Then I'd break the cucumber open, pour a bit of salt on it, and eat it, right there in the field! Other times I would go from watermelon to watermelon, thumping each piece of fruit until I found one that sounded like it would taste really good. Then I'd pick that watermelon and break it open on the trunk of a tree, breaking it open and digging into the ripe red fruit--eating it with only my hands. I never even brought a knife with me, I'd just break the vegetables open with my bare hands, enjoying the sweet juices as they dripped down to my elbows. I'd usually pick an extra cucumber before leaving the field so that I could take it home with me in my kan saeng. I loved helping my mother pick vegetables.

Once we picked the ripe vegetables, my mother would take them to the market in a cart that was pulled by cows. My sister and I usually came along with her to the market. She earned a lot of money from selling vegetables every year to feed my family.

My Keepsake

by Sokha Mob

I made a list of all of my possessions, but there is one in particular that is very dear to me. There are others that may be more expensive, but my necklace is the most valuable thing that I own because it represents my family and my heritage.

My necklace is a Buddha sculpture pendant that my mother gave to me on my wedding day. This is my most cherished and valued gift and I will tell you why it is so special.

After my grandmother died, my mother saved one of my grandmother's teeth for seven years. We believe that it is good to keep the teeth of our ancestors. My mother wanted to give the tooth to me, but first she took it to a craftsman in our town of Tani. The artist's name was Mr. Hang and he was very old.

In our country, we have a tradition of carving ivory, the tusks of elephants. Mr. Hang was a very knowledgeable and gifted ivory carver. There were not many people in our area who knew how to carve things as well as Mr. Hang. My mother thought that if he knew how to carve tusks, he would also be able to make a beautiful carving out of my grandmother's tooth. She asked Mr. Hang to make a Buddha pendant out of the tooth, and even though this was an unusual request, he said that he would do it.

Close-up photo of Sokha's tooth pendantMy mother didn't tell me about her surprise, she kept it a secret until my wedding day. On that important day, she gave me my necklace and she also gave a second pendant to my husband. My husband's necklace had a pendant that was made out of my grandfather's tooth. But my special necklace was different from my husband's necklace, because only mine was carved into the shape of the Buddha. She told me that my necklace was special because she loved me very much. She said that she loved her parents and she would like us to keep them with us. She thought that if we wore our necklaces my ancestors would always live with us. It means so much to me to know that every time we go to the temple to pray to God, we also have our grandparents with us.

I love my necklace very much. I wear it all the time because whenever I miss my mother and my country, I look at my pendant and it makes me feel better.

My Dreams for the Future

by Sokha Mob

Right now I live in Arlington with my husband and I don't know how to take care of myself very well yet. My husband takes care of me at the present time, but in the future I want to take care of myself.

After I learn English well I want to learn how to use computers and then learn how to cut hair because I want to get a good job as a haircutter. If I have money I want to sponsor my mom to come live with me.

I also hope I will have two children, one boy and one girl. I hope to be a good mother. I will teach them to be good children.

Finally, when I get old and retire, I want to volunteer to help old people in a nursing home. When my children are 18 or 20 years old and know how to take care of themselves, I will go back to my country.

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Last Updated By Gail Matthews-DeNatale: 10/08/96