Cambodians’ Free Time Worth Not So Much To Them
Hard work is their religion and God is in the details: the tiny pinpricks Taing makes to let air out of his raised dough, the practiced eye Lim uses to determine when to flip the old-fashioneds — precisely pumped rounds that sizzle in hot fat then burst into fragrant flower petals under her care. “Nobody else can do that,” says the man whose pride in his wife’s prowess goes beyond the bounds of their strip-mall bakeshop. “Nobody.”
The second of eight children born in Phnom Penh, Lim quit school at 16 to help her widowed father before Pol Pot decreed she leave the city for the countryside. There, she worked the fields, starting at 2 a.m., subsisted on next-to-nothing and lived in a crowded hut. “They said you were going for three days,” she remembers, “and you never went back.”
Three years later Lim begged for a reprieve. “You’ll be tiger food tonight,” she was told, before walking two days through the forest, a handmade spear at her side, her pocket filled with tiny notes friends passed along to bring to their families once she got to hers. “I’m alive!” the scribbles read.
Lim was 23 when she married the man she calls “Daddy” — the father of her three children. She was sick and pregnant in 1979 when they ran across the Cambodian border to a refugee camp in Thailand. Four years and three camps later, the couple landed at Sea-Tac with two children.
It was 10 p.m. and raining. Lim’s brother was there waiting.
The next morning, Taing was in the fields, shivering in the June rain, picking strawberries with his brother-in-law. Field work. Cleaning and painting houses. Cutting meat in a processing plant. Scrimp. Save. Work. Repeat. It allowed them to buy a doughnut shop from a fellow Cambodian.
Today, they exult in the warmth of their bakeshop community: The church-lady who stops every Sunday to pick up a standing order for 10 dozen. The middle-aged man who shows up each day to buy a doughnut for his 90-year-old mother.
The pair are proud of the hard work and solid craft that helped put their children, now working professionals, through college and bring extended family to this country.
May God preserve their grandchildren from losing their ancestors’ work ethic. This hardworking Cambodian immigrant couple are what make America great.
[H/T: Surly T.]