A new beginning | Bangkok Post: learning

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A new beginning

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We enter the new year with a sense of excitement and a bit of uneasiness about what it will bring. US immigrant Don Khong had the same feelings on his first day in Thailand after fleeing his native Laos. 

US Immigrant Don Khong (not his real name) is back with a second story, this one on the day he arrived in Thailand in 1977 after fleeing from Laos. He is an American citizen who was born in Laos. He has a very interesting story to tell and he has done so through two books, Once Upon A Time In Laos and Hearts In Mekong. They are books of fiction but they are based on Don's real experience growing up in Laos.

Here is how he introduced himself to our readers last October:

Don Khong

I was born in 1964 to the Lao parents in Laos. Having lived through the long war, I  fled the country with my family to Thailand in 1977 and immigrated to the United States of America in 1979. I grew up and received most of my education in America. I am a former federal Civil Rights investigator, working for the US Department of Health and Human Services from 1992 to 2002. Before that, I worked in schools and served in the police department. I also served in the US Army from 1984 to 1987. Currently, I live with my family in the central Florida, USA.
I got the idea of writing books from my teenage niece who asked me about her Lao roots over a decade ago. Because she was born to the Lao-American parents in America, my niece had very little knowledge of her roots. It dawned on me that, like her, many adults and youngsters could benefit from my past experiences. So as I began to write, I tried to detail as many things as I could remember, ranging from the drinking water to food, plants and animals, landscapes, seasons, people and places, games, customs and traditions, ceremonies and festivities, history and political events – all within an interesting and dramatic story.

Don Khong, Florida, USA, 2010

An excerpt from Hearts In Mekong:

(Author’s note) This is the part where my family and I arrive in Thailand, having crossed the Mekong River from Laos by boat at night in June of 1977. After living in Thailand for two years (mostly in a refugee camp), we immigrated to the United States of America in July of 1979.

Click button to listen to Landing and rightclick to download

A new beginning

The men kept the boat straight and let it drift slowly with the current while their eyes scanned the shoreline fifty meters away. As I sat and waited with my family, I anticipated the landing. I did not see any houses, but with the dim distant lights, I knew that people were living not too far from the shore. The embankment was covered with the vegetation, and it was carved into different terraces of productive gardens. In addition to gardening, folks could rely on the river for fishing and other needs. Alongside the vibrant gardens were pathways leading up to a cliff. Some of them were built with wooden steps and rails snaking up the steep slope.

"The embankment was covered with the vegetation, and it was carved into different terraces of productive gardens." Photo by Yvonne Bohwongprasert

There were boats and canoes scattered along the sandbar. We soon approached the wooden platform with three boats anchored around it, and there was a dirt trail leading up to the steps. Whenever waves came ashore, the boats bobbed along the platform.

“This is it!” Lo said. “We’re here! These are Uncle Chamnong’s boats. His house is up there. We stop right here, guys.”

After we came to a halt, Lo and Don got off the boat first and pushed it further into the sandbar. As much as I wanted to get up, I had to wait for the adults. Having sat for a long time on the wooden bar in the same position, I started to have some pain in my legs, back, and buttocks. But once my feet touched the ground again, I soon forgot the pain. Certainly, I was feeling much calmer than before. I sensed that my parents and siblings were feeling the same way but they remained cautious about the surroundings. Nonetheless, we were excited since we just arrived in the new country. I noticed the sandy trail leading up to the dirt ramp and wondered about what lay beyond the shoreline.

“All right, Lo and I will go up there to see our host. All of you just relax and wait for us. We’ll be back shortly,” said my father, nodding to Lo.

You can read Don Khong's first story here: http://bit.ly/9Rps0g

fled (past of flee) – escaped; left an area very quickly because of a danger there หนีไป
immigrate – to come into a country because you want to live there อพยพ, ย้ายถิ่นที่อยู่, ย้ายถิ่นฐาน, ย้ายไปตั้งรกรากที่ใหม่
federal – relating to the central government, and not to the government of a region, of some countries such as the United States เกี่ยวกับสหพันธรัฐ
civil rights – the basic rights that all people in a society should have, for example the right to be treated fairly by the law, the right to express their ideas, and the right to practise their religion สิทธิของพลเมือง
investigator – someone whose job is to officially find out the facts about something – ผู้สอบสวน,  ผู้สำรวจ, ผู้ตรวจสอบ
niece – a daughter of your brother or sister, or a daughter of your husband’s or wife’s brother or sister หลานสาว
decade – a period of ten years  ทศวรรษ
dawn on – to realise or understand something for the first time ฉุกคิด
landscape –  an area of land that is beautiful to look at or that has a particular type of appearance ภูมิประเทศ,  ภูมิทัศน์
dramatic – exciting and impressive ตื่นเต้นเร้าใจ

refugee – someone who leaves their country or living place, especially during a war or other threatening event ผู้ลี้ภัย
immigrate – to come into a country because you want to live there อพยพ, ย้ายถิ่นที่อยู่, ย้ายถิ่นฐาน, ย้ายไปตั้งรกรากที่ใหม่
drift – to move slowly, often as a result of outside forces, with no control over direction ล่องลอย,เลื่อนลอย
current – a strong movement of water in one direction กระแสน้ำ
shoreline – the edge of the sea, the ocean, or lake, large river  แนวชายฝั่ง
anticipate – to expect something คาดหมาย,มุ่งหวัง
dim – having little light ไม่สว่าง, ไม่แจ่มชัด
embankment – a slope made of earth or stone that rises up from either side of a road, railway/railroad, river, etc. มูลดิน,ตลิ่งทาง
carved – cut out from แกะออกจาก
terrace – one of a series of flat areas of ground that are cut into the side of a hill like steps so that crops can be grown there เนินที่ลาดเอียง, ที่ราบเป็นขั้นลดหลั่น
rely on – to need or depend on something in order to continue living, existing, or operating อาศัย, พึ่งพาอาศัย
vibrant – lively and exciting ซึ่งมีชีวิตชีวา
cliff – a steep side of an area of high land  หน้าผา
rail(ing) – the upper bar of a fence ราว,ราวลูกกรง,ราวบันได
snake – to move like a snake, in long twisting curves; to go in a particular direction in long twisting curves เลื้อย
steep slope – the side of a hill or mountain that rises quickly and is hard to climb ทางลาดชัน
canoe – a light narrow boat which you move along in the water with a paddle  เรือชนิดหนึ่งทรงเรียวแหลม
scattered – spread over a large area กระจัดกระจาย
sandbar – long mass of sand in a river that is formed by the movement of the water สันดอนทราย, ตลิ่งทราย
platform – a long low structure built in a lake, river or the sea and joined to the land at one end, used by boats to allow passengers to get on and off; the raised flat area beside the track at a train station  สะพานที่ยื่นออกไปในน้ำม ชานชลา
anchor – to prevent a boat from moving by dropping a large very heavy object (an anchor) connected to the ship into the water ทอดสมอ
trail – a path through the countryside, often made or used for a particular purpose ร่องรอย
bob – to move or make something move quickly up and down, especially in water ผลุบๆ โผล่ๆในน้ำ
halt – to stop หยุด
buttocks – one of the two round parts of your body that you sit on  บั้นท้าย, ก้น
calm – peaceful and quiet; without anxiety ใจเย็น,ไม่ตื่นเต้น, สงบ
sense – to become aware of something even though you cannot see it, hear it, etc  รู้สึก,ตระหนัก,เข้าใจความหมาย
sibling – a brother or sister พี่น้อง
cautious – careful to avoid danger ระมัดระวัง
surroundings – the area all around a place  บริเวณรอบๆ
nonetheless – despite what has just been said or done; nevertheless; even so ถึงอย่างไรก็ตาม, ถึงอย่างนั้นก็ตาม
ramp – a slope connecting two levels of a building, road etc ทางลาด,ด้านลาด
host – a person who invites guests to a meal, a party, etc. or who has people staying at their house  เจ้าบ้าน,  เจ้าภาพ, เจ้าของบ้าน
nod – to move your head down and up once to say hello to somebody or to give them a sign to do something พยักหน้ารับ

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