The Spaces Between Your Fingers

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After travelling to Malaysia, my dad and his family stayed at a refugee camp. There, they had to build their own shelter and wait until they could get a sponsorship to move to a new country.

                We didn’t know how long we’d be here. The refugee camp ran out of housing, so we slept in the dirt last night. Today, my dad took me and my brother Sam to collect lumber to build four walls. The camp handed out plastic roofs that would hold out if it rained.

                We went deep into the rubber tree forest. The ones surrounding the camp were being harvested. Carvings were etched into the tree, spiraling around the trunk. The exposed tree was a light tan and the outer bark was dark brown. All the trees had a black bucket at the end of the carved trail, filled with white goo.

                As we walked deeper into the forest, Sam kept complaining.

                “All these mosquitos are killing me. Why don’t we get real housing? They could at least help us cut down these trees.”

                My dad was ahead of us, but if heard what Sam was saying he’d smack him across the face. That’s why Sam was whispering. It didn’t matter how hard it was, when my dad asked me to do something I did it.

                We got far enough into the forest where the trees were untouched. My dad borrowed an axe from a new friend he made at the camp. Its head was a dull red.

                “Will that be sharp enough?” Sam asked.

                My dad nodded at started whacking at the tree. He chopped at one side until there was a nice angle. Then he moved over to the other side and cut another angle, higher than the first. The tree fell, with some of its bark still connected to the tree. With a final swipe my dad cut the tree down. He told us to stomp the high branches off to make it easier to carry. Then he started cutting down another.

Hevea brasiliensis

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Malaysian Refugee Camp

After travelling to Malaysia, my dad and his family stayed at a refugee camp. There, they had to build their own shelter and wait until they could get a sponsorship to move to a new country.

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Recorded by Jon Diep on December 2, 2014
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