Foreign Friends In Our Midst #3

24 Jan Foreign Friends In Our Midst #3

Once in awhile I stop at the neighborhood donut store for a delectable treat. This morning, after ordering a few obligatory maple bars and a smattering of other delights that I would later share with my family,  I took a moment to converse with the store owner about his journey to the U.S.

I learned that he originally came from Cambodia. When I asked him what he did for a living there, he explained that he was a student and only 20 years old when he fled. His journey took him to Thailand, Indonesia, and Singapore, where he lived in refugee camps for up to a year at a time, before finally landing in Tacoma, WA. He eventually made his way south to California to be near his siblings in San Francisco, and after awhile made Redding his home.

I left the store with a pink box of donuts under one arm and a compelling story in my head. Later that morning my curiosity got the best of me and I researched refugee camps like the one the store owner had described to me in Indonesia. Through a quick search, I found Galang Refugee Camp in the Riau Islands where, from 1979 to 1996, around 250,000 refugees were processed. According to the Wikipedia entry, Camp Two at Galang housed Cambodians who had been camped and approved in Thailand. It looked like I had uncovered one of the the short-term homes of my store owner friend. If you’re interested in learning more about the conditions, arrangements, and history of the camp, check out the Wikipedia entry. It’ll give you a glimpse into what early life was like for some of the quiet business owners in our community.

Foreign Friends in Our Midst is a series of everyday encounters with people from other countries and their uncommon stories.