I was uprooted 6 times by the time I was 9 years old, by war and extreme poverty. After surviving the genocide in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge I eventually ended up in a refugee camp in neighboring Thailand where I spent the bulk of my youth. There, I focused most of my waking hours, when I wasn’t hauling water or rice for my family, on studying and performing Cambodia’s classical dance. The dance helped me create a feeling of beauty and hope out of chaos and danger. I was stateless; my family had no land that was our own. But I was connected to the land and people of Cambodia, through dancing. You know, when we dance, we mark out the shape of Cambodia's land spirit through our choreography.
When peace was declared, I was repatriated to Cambodia as part of an official dance troupe whose members were given land all together. Then that land was sold off for someone’s profit and we were again homeless, displaced in our own country.
I now have three children. A few years ago I found the courage to leave an abusive husband. Each of my sons has to live with a different relative since I can’t afford a place for us. Because of the physical abuse I suffered I can no longer dance; I can no longer connect with the spirit of the land through movement. But one of my sons is dancing. Maybe he’ll bring that connection back.