“Papa is my hero. Everyday he says you should think to yourself about what you have, and be happy. This is why he is my hero.”
The Local: Jumnong (Nong for short)
The Location: Nong Weang Village, North Eastern Thailand
The Love: Her Papa
I was about 5 when they started coming through, when they made it across the boarder from Cambodia and found our village. Everyday we would hear them unleash the bombs, these things falling from the sky that made even the earth around my feet tremble. We ate dinner every day at 2pm, we did everything early so that when the sun fell down and they did come, they wouldn’t find us. Being 5 years old was an exciting time! Balancing on the water buffalo, racing my brothers from one end of the rice paddies to the other and learning to swim in our big pond to escape the leeches. But when the shadows started to fall from the sky and the earth started shaking we knew play time was over. We fell asleep in the shade of the house, our little feet worn out from the mornings fun.
Papa appeared at our sides, shaking our shoulders.
“Get up, get up, they are coming!”
Instantly our eyes snapped open, we fumble for our shirts as we scramble out of the house and run towards the hideout. No time to eat or dress we throw ourselves into the hole. One, two, three, four, all piled up on top of each other trying not to squeal as the child underneath wriggles and squirms. A few moments to untangle ourselves as Mumma jumps in too, and then, it goes dark. Papa throws down the bamboo lid and pulls the soil over top, covering the opening with leaves and plants before hiding himself behind a pilar nearby. We stay here in this hole for the next 3 days. With no light, no food and no talking. Coughing gently into a cloth to muffle the noise, all the while Papa stands guard above with his knife pressed to his leg. Watching and waiting for them to come. It wasn’t uncommon for them to come, usually they slipped in at night time to steal the sons and daughters and mothers. When they found our empty house, they took all of our food instead, the animals too and smashed everything in an angry rage. Then once they had left, we climbed out of the hole and started to clean up the dirty mess of frustration sprawled through our house. Papa just sits there quietly watching the horizon and sharpening his knife, ready for the next time that they come. Ready to do anything it takes to protect his family from the soldiers of the Khmer Rouge.