The Spaces Between Your Fingers

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I interviewed my grandmother, Phek Ly over the phone through FaceTime. She wore her favorite purple jacket and was excited to share more of her life stories with me. It was difficult getting her on FaceTime because of her inexperience with technology, but my sister helped in the end.  In this memory, she shared her daily routine before working in the rice fields and her one bad encounter with one of her former classmates. Because of the financial strain her family was in, she was unable to go to school and pursue her dream of becoming a teacher. However, working in the rice fields and going through hardships has helped shape her into the inspiring driven woman she is today.

It’s still dark out when Ly prepares for the beginning of her day. The roof is as short as her,, and she crouches down and navigates her way around her sleeping brothers. Ly climbs down the hut’s splintered ladder, walks over to the communal well and collects her water for the morning.

As the first rays of sunlight creep into the village, Ly puts away her books and begins to walk over to the fields with her father Hieu, a traditional man making barely ends meet. He carries his youngest daughter on his shoulder, and his calloused hands grasp Ly.

The three exit the village and onto the dirt road. Makeshift gift shops and food carts line the streets.

“Hop bai!”, a familiar face greets. “Come eat your porridge! Only 500 riel today!”

Hieu smiles at the breakfast lady, a family friend for years, but kindly declines and continues down the dirt path. His stomach growls for food, but he is unable to buy enough for his whole family.

Their trek continues and Ly sees her friends, dressed in uniforms and polished shoes, walking to school.  

“Sokhasabbay!”, Ly greets. “Hope everyone is doing ok!”

Her schoolmates smirk.

“Who’s the dropout talking to?”. It was Duc, Ly’s childhood bestfriend. Duc radiated with a new arrogance, and Ly scanned every detail of her once former friend. Dressed in a leather coat and with cigarette hand, he sneered at Ly and her family.

“Forget them”, her father responds. “You’re better off without them anyways.”

Ly’s hands started to stiffen and her heart began racing. Her blood boils as she sees Duc and her former friends walk toward the school.

“If only we had the money”, she thought to herself. “I’d show them.”

She turns her attention away from her friends and lugs her sickle over to the rice fields. This is not the life she wanted, but this is her reality now.

Rice Fields

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1950
Cambodia

I interviewed my grandmother, Phek Ly over the phone through FaceTime. She wore her favorite purple jacket and was excited to share more of her life stories with me. It was difficult getting her on FaceTime because of her inexperience with technology, but my sister helped in the end. In this memory, she shared her daily routine before working in the rice fields and her one bad encounter with one of her former classmates. Because of the financial strain her family was in, she was unable to go to school and pursue her dream of becoming a teacher. However, working in the rice fields and going through hardships has helped shape her into the inspiring driven woman she is today.

Decade: 1950s
Rating:
Recorded by Jason Ngov on June 2, 2019
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