Last night, for the first time in nearly thirteen years, I
came home to no barking sound or wagging tail. My Dee Dee is no more. Even
after close to two years of preparing for the eventuality, to lose her to
cancer, letting her go yesterday was the most heart-wrenching thing I've ever
done in my life. I held her as the veterinarian injecting a high dose of apentobarbital. Death came quickly and peacefully.
Here she was running free at Berkeley Marina's Cesar Chavez Park, aged 4
Dee Dee was adopted from the East Bay SPCA when she was about
five months. We had wanted a dog for some time. We visited animal shelters and
pet adoption centers frequently but did not find any dog or puppy to our
One day we saw this forlorn-looking ‘Alex, 5 Months Old’ in a
cage way in the back of the SPCA shelter. Unlike other puppies and dogs, she
made no attempts to be noticed, no barking, no wagging tail, not even coming up
to the cage’s wire mesh to say ‘Hi’. Unlike other puppies and dogs in the
shelter on that day, she seemed to have given up on being adopted.
But it was her gaze. Directed at you with arched eyebrows. It
was like a high-power tractor beam.
So we decided to get ‘acquainted’ with her in the fenced-in
yard. We tossed her the tennis ball. No chasing. We tossed her the sticks. No
fetching. She did make half-hearted attempts to go after them, but turned
around, then came to sit at my feet, looking up at me with those arched eyebrows, deploying her tractor beam at full power.
So we came home with her that day. With the exceptions of
throwing up once in the car ride home and peeing on the carpet twice, she was
Alex, short for Alexandra, sounded good, but she didn’t seem
to like the name, never responded to it. We had read that dogs, and cats,
respond better to ‘hard’ sounding short names, preferably one or two syllables. We
couldn’t think of any names. ‘Dee Dee’ came to mind for two reasons. At the
time a colleague at a funding NGO was named Dee Dee and it sounded like ‘đi đi,’ which means ‘go, go’ in Vietnamese.
‘Điđi,’ can also be used as ‘let’s go’ or
‘go away,’ depending on the context.
Lo and behold, she responded to Dee Dee!
Dee Dee became the dog I had wanted to replace the childhood dog that I was forced to give up because we were too poor. Dee Dee was loving,
gentle, but fiercely protective. Instead of a ‘Border Collie, Medium Size’ dog
we saw on the tag at the SPCA’s shelter, she grew up to be a relatively big
dog, over 60 pounds/30 kilos, and she was a Pitbull mixed with what looked
like Labrador Retriever, and possibly Border Collie.
This was at the Irvine La Quinta Hotel
She was well-traveled. She had slept at some of the best ‘pet-friendly’
hotels -- Best Western, Marriott, La Quinta. She walked the streets of LA, San
Luis Obispo, Irvine, San Diego, Sonoma, Napa and Sacramento. She ran on the
sand of Newport, Stinson, Asilomar beaches, among others.
She walked among the giant redwoods, oaks and
maples in state and national parks up and down California coast. She swam the Pacific
Ocean, even taking a dip or two in North America’s largest alpine lake, Lake
She would have become an international traveler had my job
prospects in Southeast Asia come through.
About two years ago we began to feel a ‘bump’ beneath her
skin, in the abdomen area. We had learned, through friends with dogs, and
literature, that cancer is the most common killer of older dogs. We worried,
but there wasn’t much we could have done other than keeping her healthy.
Recently we began to feel more bumps in other areas of her
body. She had also begun to slow down, and with diminished eye sight. Old age, the usual
for dogs, we learned, had begun to set in. But suddenly a white spot on her
right nostril began to grow, and quite rapidly, about six months ago. It kept
We took her to the East Bay SPCA veterinary clinic for a
checkup. We were informed it was an infection, possibly a tumor, considering
her age. Antibiotics were prescribed to help fight off the infection. Blood
test was also done. Nothing alarming came back other than the usual old-age
conditions. As the tumor got bigger, and more infected, she was prescribed more
and stronger antibiotics. At this point, within the last three months, the cancer had
begun to affect her appetite and mobility. On top of those, she also seemed to
be suffering from arthritis, the most common old dog’s affliction.
The tumor on her nostril had grown to the point where it not
only affected her breathing, but also a constant irritation for her, which she
tried to scratch open, causing severe bleeding. It broke our hearts to see our
beautiful, yet still somewhat spunky dog, in pain and losing weight.
We were mentally prepared for the eventuality, but weren’t
certain when to let her go. If she was in pain, she did not show or whine about
it, but we did notice she was often awakened at night by the irritation caused
by the infection.
Yesterday afternoon, in consultation with the East Bay SPCA’s
veterinarian, we decided to let her go. We're lucky to have had her in our
lives for over a decade. She gave us a thousand times more in affection and unconditional
love than the food and shelter that we had provided her.
My Dee Dee is no more. She had gone to join her best friend,
Dumpling, the tabby, which we also lost last month to a suddenheart failure.
Losing two beloved pets less than one month apart was/is
hard. Dumpling, the tabby, was not yet four years old. She was also adopted
from the East Bay SPCA. She was healthy, spunky, seemingly in the prime of her
life. Then one night last month, a massive heart attack struck, paralyzed her
hind legs and causing blood clots. She was in screaming pain. This being pet-crazy
America, we were able to take her to a 24-hr pet hospital at 2 am. The vet on
duty gave us the bad news, and she was put down there and then.
Keeping me company in the office on cold winter days.
It was devastating because she was still a baby to us, even
though we recently adopted a kitten, just a few weeks before Dumpling had the
heart attack. It took her just four days to warm up to the kitten, named
Dimsum, with whom she began to show motherly instincts, licking the little one,
allowing it to cuddle with her.
Dumpling developed a
taste for lemongrass when she was about seven months old. She chomped down on
all the young lemongrass blades, her catnip. She was my gardening companion. I
love that cat. The family already misses them, but I will miss them most in the coming cold, winter days.
Dumpling checking up on the zucchini while Dee Dee on the
lookout for pesky squirrels.
I called her my 'gardening assistant,' the lemongrass trimming specialist.
She wanted to be part of whatever I was doing, including hooking up the old powered amp.
Dee Dee with her true bestie, Puca, which was the only dog she didn't
have a fight with. In fact, she seemed smitten by Puca, who later moved
with her family to Canada. Thanks for digging this up Judy.
13 of April marks the beginning of a new year for 160 million people of Cambodia,Laos,Thailand, Burma and around the world. It's better known as Songkran in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, and Thingyan in Burma, but commonly referred to as the WaterFestival, which is believed to have been adapted from an Indian tradition. As the name implies, it involves lots of water and everyone is prepared to get wet. There's no escaping.
In addition to Southeast Asia, it is also celebrated by various ethnic minority groups in South Asia. Growing up in the Mekong Delta, a stone-throw away from Cambodia, and having Cambodian relatives and neighbors, this was a major event of the year for me. There is a lot more music and dancing going on with Cambodian New Year in comparision to the relatively staid, and certainly less musical, Vietnamese New Year or Tết.
Cambodian music is meant for dancing. It's more about the graceful, subtle movements of the hands and wrists, the swaying of the hips and the back & forth motion. Since Cambodian society is a relatively conservative culture, even though the guy and the girl are dancing for and with each other, it is strictly a group activity.
Above video is with Khmerak Sreymon, the current heartthrob of Khmer pop music. He's the Cambodian Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z all rolled into one. Traditional music of Laos (mor lam), Thailand (luk thung), Cambodia and Burma, especially ethnic tribes, have a lot in common. There's one instrument that I instantly fell in love the 1st time I heard it -- the panflute, also known as thekhene or kaen.
Found, above, on YouTube, a great video -- the costumes -- of Hmong New Year. Hmong people are a mountain tribe in China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand who, during the Vietnam War, were recruited by the U.S. military to the Vietnamese and Lao Communists or Pathet Lao. When the Pathet Lao took over Laos, many had to flee, with over 200,000 now resettled in the U.S.
A video from the Tai people of the Shan State, Burma. In Burma they are known as the Shan people, geographically-speaking.
It’s difficult to wrap one’s head around the current anti-Vietnamese
rhetoric whipped up by Sam Rainsy, the Cambodia National Rescue Party leader.
As a person of Vietnamese descent who had lost
relatives to the pogroms underGeneral Lon Nol in the 1970s and the Khmer Rouge’s massacres of Vietnamese villages
along the border, it has been more than unsettling to see pictures of looted Vietnamese shops.
“This Vietnamese-owned coffee shop near Veng Sreng was looted
Everything inside smashed - Julia Wallace (@julia_wallace), Jan 5, 2014."
Born not far from the Cambodian border in the Mekong Delta
of Vietnam, I grew up having relatives and neighbors both Khmer Krom and
Vietnamese native to Cambodia.
Furthermore, I began my career in the US as a social worker,
assisting newly-arrived Cambodian, Laotian and Vietnamese refugees settled into
new life in America. It’s surreal to think that the many Cambodians I’ve worked
with and for may have harbored resentment and animosity towards me for being
Vietnamese. The most disturbing aspect is the potential long-lasting impact this may have on the Cambodian and Vietnamese American
communities in the US, which have been closely linked since the 1980s.
It seems every time Mr. Sam Rainsy is criticized for
anti-Vietnamese rhetoric, his supporters immediately defend 1) the usage of the word Yuon, 2) bring up Kampuchea Krom, 3) claim Khmer in Vietnam are being
mistreated, 4) claim that illegal Vietnamese
immigrants are taking over Cambodia, culminating in Vietnam’s supposed plan to take over
I’ve spent the past few months trying to figure out, and to
understand, how to best approach the issues raised as the reasoning for why the
Khmer can’t trust and live with the Yuon or Vietnamese.
Mr. Sam Rainsy and his supporters have been trying too hard to defend why they use this word when referring to the people of Vietnam
and those of Vietnamese descent. It’s not the word itself. It’s how it’s being used, as in
‘kap Yuon’ or ‘chop the Vietnamese,’ literally. It becomes a problem only when the
word Yuon is being used to dredge up historical grievances against a long-gone
Vietnam, and incite hatred and animosity towards people of Vietnamese descent. A distinction has to be made between the actions of Vietnam government, past or present, versus the people of Vietnam or
those who happen to be Vietnamese.
Two months after Japan bombed Pearl
Harbor, Hawaii, in December 1941, President Franklin D Roosevelt put together aplan, under Executive Order
9066,that swept up and incarcerated over 100,000 Americans of Japanese descent. The suspicion that those of Japanese descent were loyal
to Japan and/or worked against the United States resulted in violent racist attacks and discrimination whose impact lasting to this day.
'Jap' is a derogatory term for Japanese, in this case Americans of Japanese descent. Photo: National Japanese American Historical Society
Cambodia is no stranger to racist violence and racial discrimination
against Vietnamese.In April, 1970 Lon Nolregime’s
crazed soldiers went on Vietnamese killing sprees or kap Yuon. All told,
thousands were killed and some 200,000 were expelled. The majority of these
Vietnamese, like my relatives, had been born and grew up in Cambodia, the only
country they knew.
I’m familiar with Khmer Krom because I grew up with and
among many in An Giang and Kien Giang provinces. Most older southerners, especially in the Mekong Delta, are aware that the southern part of Vietnam once belonged to the Khmer. Those of us who were
born and grew up there know that place names, such asBạc Liêu, Sóc Trăng, Trà Vinh, Cần Thơ, Cà Mau, Mỹ Tho, Rạch Sỏi(where I grew up),are all
Khmer in origin.
On top of that, many common everyday words we use are
also borrowed-Khmer words, and we know it. Vietnamese word nóp for straw hut; lộp, bamboo fish trap; cá lóc,
the prized snakehead fish; ghe bầu, the
Mekong River transport boat that I escaped Vietnam on; bưng for pond; and hundreds more, are all Khmer in origin. However, it’s true that many Vietnamese, both in Vietnam
and abroad, without the presence of Khmer people around, have become ignorant
of Vietnam's genocidal past.
Vietnam was taken from the Khmer people like America taking what are now the states
MexicoandTexasfrom Mexico or, going further back, the
entire United States of America from the native tribes; white English
settlers taking of what is now Australia from the Aborigines; it was the British and the
Thais that determined which country, Malaysia or Thailand, the Malay Muslims of
southern Thailand should belong to. How is it that
Sarawak, on the island of Borneo, Indonesia, is Malaysia? Why is the western
half of the island of New Guinea, whose inhabitants are culturally and ethnically
different from the majority of Indonesians, yet it is part of Indonesia? They all have been
part of the history and by-products of
conquests and colonization.
Mexico reclaim its land from the US or demand that the border be redrawn to
include its historic territories? Should white Australians be demanded to leave
In the event
Vietnam refuses Cambodia’s claim to its historic territories, should Cambodia
go to war with Vietnam? Would Prime Minister Sam Rainsy do it? Would Cambodians
take up arms to engage border guerrilla war against Vietnam? Should
Cambodia take Vietnam to ‘International Court’ or the United Nations to demand
its land back? What’s the likelihood of being listened to, let alone winning?
KHMER KROM’S HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATED
Vietnam is a
communist state whose human rights record is not the best in the world, to put
it mildly, and has been known to arrest and jail bloggers and writers who speak
up for democracy. There’s room
for debate, and demand for better policies regarding all of Vietnam’s ethnic minority
groups, not just Khmer Krom.
the Khmer Krom may not have been well-treated in Vietnam, one thing for sure is
that in the past 50 years there have not been massacres or attempts to expel Cambodians from Vietnam by the current Communist or the former US-backed
statistics and anecdotal information to compare Khmer in Vietnam and Vietnamese
in Cambodia: According to the CIA “World Fact Book,” ethnic Vietnamese make up
5% of Cambodia population of 15 million people. An estimated 600,000 persons of
Vietnamese descent are in Cambodia, but there’re no precise numbers as to how
many are native to Cambodia, legal or illegal immigrants. Khmer, as an ethnic group, makes up 1.5% of Vietnam's population of 92 million people or close to 1.3 million. Khmer is the 4th largest ethnic minority group in Vietnam. Again, there're no numbers given for how many are citizens, native to Vietnam, and/or whether there're Cambodian immigrants, legally or illegally, in Vietnam.
who’re born in Vietnam to Vietnamese nationals (there’s a difference between
nationality and ethnicity) are counted as Vietnamese citizens, but the same
thing cannot be said for Vietnamese in Cambodia. Technically, and legally, they should be
counted asCambodiancitizens, but the reality is a lot more complicated.
Khmer Krom people's lands have been seized and grabbed by Vietnamese government. However, poor Vietnamese have also had their lands grabbed and seized. It seems this is an
ongoing problem in Vietnam, as well as Cambodia, and many other countries where
corruption is rampant and the civil rights of the poor are not protected.
Much has been mentioned, especially among Khmer online, that Khmer Krom are
denied their heritage, culture and language. However, this is not my
experience. I grew up spending time in a wat or pagoda where one of my uncles
was a Cambodian monk, listening to Khmer music on the radio, as well as
attending festivities where Khmer music and culture were on full display.
Here's a sample of Khmer radio broadcast from Mekong Delta’s largest province, Cần Thơ, which is a
Khmer word in itself.
A dance troupe from Kien Giang Province, where
I grew up,performing on Cần Thơ TV Khmer program
in the Mekong Delta has either a TV or radio, or both, program in Khmer. Does Cambodia have TV or radio programs for its Vietnamese population?
As for why
Khmer is not the language of Vietnam? Well, because the country is called
Vietnam. I agree that Vietnamese who live in Cambodia legally should not only learn to speak Khmer, but also Cambodian history. Cambodia is their country. For comparison, in America, an estimated 40 million US residents speak Spanish
either as the second or primary language even though English is understood to be the official language.
Khmer have pointed out that the mere fact Khmer Krom are called ‘Miên’ is an indication of discrimination
and exclusion. In fact, that’s not only inaccurate, but also absurd. Khmer Krom have been officially known as ‘người Khmer'’or ‘'Khơ-me’.
how did the term Miên come into being? Blame it on the Chinese who
originally called the Khmer 高棉people,which translated into Cao
Miên. They had conflated the Khmer people with the highland Mien of China. It's similar to Christopher Columbus who set sail for the 'New World,' in search of riches in 'East Indies'; when he and his crew encountered the natives of what is now the Americas, who looked dark, non-European, Columbus called them ‘Indians.'
So how are the
Khmer Krom doing in Vietnam? Not that great, if they’re poor, but not living in
fear of having their businesses looted and burned by their neighbors. Vietnam hasn't experienced the kind of upheaval and political instability that could lead to interracial ethnic violence like that in Cambodia under Lon Nol and the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s and now.
The most striking
thing about the anti-Vietnamese sentiment shared among many Khmer is that it’s
a one-sided affair. The majority of Vietnamese, both in Vietnam and abroad, are
oblivious to what’s going on in Cambodia and with the Cambodians. Many,
unfortunately, are completely ignorant of the history of what had happened to
Anti-Vietnamese rhetoric makes no distinction between
Vietnamese native to Cambodia, legal immigrants, and those who may reside in
Cambodia illegally (my frustration extends to foreign journalists whose
reporting often fails to mention that not ALL Vietnamese in Cambodia are immigrants).
My take on the citizenship and immigration is this:
1. Vietnamese native to Cambodia should be accorded all the rights and privileges Khmer, Cham and other Cambodian citizens have.
2. Those who’ve legally resided in Cambodia ten years or
longer should be provided a path to Cambodian citizenship if they so desire.
This should be a formal legal process. This process should include some form of requirement of proof of
residency, such as business or land ownership, deeds, etc.
3. Adults who've resided in Cambodia less than ten years, and illegally, should be asked
to leave. If they wish to reside in Cambodia legally, again, there should be a formal legal process for them to petition.
Corruption, such as the selling and buying of immigration documents, and the lack of a formal legal process may
hinder the implementation of the above, but as a ‘democracy,’ the rule of law should
be above all. Persons of Vietnamese descent should not be blamed for what’s not
working with the government of Cambodia.
I recently asked two young Cambodian Americans, both US
citizens, whether Vietnamese native to Cambodia are entitled to Cambodian
citizenship. They quickly responded, “No, because they’re not Khmer.” I said, “With your reasoning, the US government should
not have given you US citizenship then.” They both realized the similarity, sheepishly laughed, but
stood their ground insisting that Cambodia belongs to Khmer people. Just imagine all 276,667 Cambodians in America are being asked to leave the US because they're not 'American.'
LAND-GRABBING and EXPANSIONISM
Again, Vietnamese who know history or are informed know that southern Vietnam was taken from the Khmer. We also know
that central Vietnam was taken from theCham people, of which there’re plenty of
reminders, memorialized in songs and poetry. However, not unlike people in many countries, take the US for example, ordinary people are not preoccupied with how their countries came into being.
Land-grabbing is a worldwide phenomenon where the poor are
being dispossessed of their land and livelihood. It is enabled by corrupt
government officials, or the government itself, in collusion with powerful domestic
or foreign corporations.
“The government is seizing (our land) it. They say it’s
all about investing in social-welfare projects, but I call it stealing"
Land-grabs in Vietnam, The Economist, March 16, 2013
Land concessions are given to foreign companies, not the
people where those foreign companies are located or local residents who happen
to share the same ancestry as the foreign companies' owners. It should be pointed
out that local, in this case Cambodian, corrupt officials also stand to profit from these land
Vietnam wants to annex Cambodia. How? What for? Communist
Vietnam is struggling to govern within its own territories, not to mention the constant threat posed by China, which has laid claim to the entire South
China Sea. Furthermore, given the state of current geopolitical
reality, invading and occupying another country are no longer the norm nor tolerated,
unless it’s done by the superpowers like the US under the guise of ‘war on
terrorism.’ In order words, Vietnam can't and won’t invade Cambodia for the sake of taking land or to obliterate Khmer people or culture. It’s pure paranoia to believe that Vietnam will find
reason to invade Cambodia.
On the other hand, however, Vietnam, not unlike other Asian countries, does see Cambodia as a market to expand its economy and as a source of natural resources.
Regarding Vietnam's occupation of Cambodia after having driven out the Khmer Rouge, yes, I do
agree 10 years were far too long. By nature, the natives always feel
resentful of foreign occupying powers regardless of the original intent and
Bigger threats to the livelihood of the average Cambodians
might be its own integration into the global market. Given only 50% of its current workforce has finished primary school, low-paying jobs continue to be
the only things available. When ASEAN becomes a regional bloc in 2015, more companies
and professionals from other Southeast Asian nations, including Vietnam, will come to Cambodia. Unfortunately, Cambodia does not have companies that could expand to other countries
and most Cambodians lack the necessary skills and training to go work in other
countries freely, other than as low-paying contracted manual laborers, like maids, fishing boat crews and construction workers.
Electoral reforms are needed, so are concerted efforts to stamp out corruption and enforce the laws, including immigration, that are
already on the book. Blaming the Yuon for Cambodia's socio-economic and political problems essentially let those in power, current or future government, off the hook. It also distracts from the urgent need to improve the levels of
education and training to enable young Cambodians to
compete in the ASEAN and global market.
Historical grievances can't and won't move the Khmer people forward. They only drag Cambodia back to the past.