[i] Hello.

[r] Hello.

[i] Can you tell me where you were born, please?

[r] So, I was born… at a border, so we’re not sure, really, a border during the war, between Vietnam and Cambodia. So I don’t really know where I was born.

[i] And what year was that?

[r] It was in’84. 1984.

[i] And how was it, the circumstances of your birth?

[r] Well, my mother told me it was in a refugee camp. And… well, she heard bombardments during my birth, and that I was delivered by an American woman, an American nurse. In a tent somewhere, lost in the middle of nature. Yeah.

[i] And how come she was there then?

[r] I think they started to flee the war so, I think, the Khmer Rouge… She… from the beginning, so… who made her leave her country. And so, as a result, she had to meet my father and then run away together. And so they got me on the way, I think. Yeah, so, here’s the thing…

[i] And you have information about your parents’ lives before you were born?

[r] So the only information is that there is my paternal grandfather and my maternal grandfather worked together. So my maternal grandfather was a customs officer, and my paternal grandfather, he was in business, so he was a merchant. And so, as a result, they often met, and so they became friends, and wanted their two families to get together, let’s say, and so they took a little bit of randomness, I think, it came down to my two parents, my dad and my mom. And so they got married like that. There it is [Laughter].

[i] And what cities are they from?

[r] So Mom is from Prey Veng. I don’t know in French how to say it. And then my daddy so… I don’t know, I don’t have too many stories from him, on his side though, yeah. So, with the war, they left each other quite quickly, so everyone was in a…. well… There was my father’s family who was Chinese-Cambodian and my family who was Cambodian, and finally maternal, who was 100% Cambodian. And so, finally, the… the grandparents loved each other very much, but then between the brothers and sisters, it was… they had a little more trouble, the father’s side, since they were Chinese, they didn’t want too much of our… well, the Cambodian side, let’s say, so it was a little difficult, I think. My mother, she had a bad experience with my uncles, my great-uncle in particular. So after I was born, there was… well, they finally stayed… I know they did… My father went to a refugee camp to go to Australia, so there was his family, and then on my mother’s side, there was already… we already had half of the family that was in the United States and of which my uncle my uncle worked as a translator with the Americans. So as a result, he had brought his whole family back to my mother’s side to go to the United States, and as a result my mother was torn between two choices. That is, to follow my father to the refugee camp, to go to Australia and be with my family, finally with my father. Or either on the other side, go with his mother. So, finally, my grandmother really struggled to get her to come with her. Then, my… well, she made the decision to go with my father, so that I would have a father, actually. And then, I think it didn’t go very well, and she regretted it very much bitterly. And I know that she had told me the story briefly, I was very young, and a sentence had remained like that, she had told me, “A husband, I can have others, but a mother I only have one.” So she took me and decided to go back to the refugee camp to go to America. And on the way, finally, in the meantime, the camp… where my grandmother was, of refugees, was closed, in fact, so the evacuees. So she ended up with no one, in fact, in the middle of nowhere. And so she decided to go back to my father’s refugee camp, and so it was also closed in the meantime. So as a result, she really found herself alone with no family, actually. And so that’s how she met my stepfather today, who… and I was 18 months old then. So actually, for me, it’s always been my dad. And so, that’s how we arrived in France, because he helped my mother and I to flee the country and the bombings, to come to the refugee camp to come to France. So that’s it. We were welcomed in Thailand and then came to France.

[i] And it was in what year did you arrive in France?

[r] We arrived in 1990. June 1990. We were in Créteil. So, yeah, I was five, five and a half years old at the time. We had arrived… so, in the meantime, my little sister was born. So she was born in Chonburi. And she came in, she was three months, three and a half months old. So as a result, she too is a political refugee. And so we all landed in Créteil with all kinds of people who were with us, in fact, in the refugee camp, and so that’s when we started to be in a country of freedom, let’s say. There you go. So we started…..

[i] Do you have any memories of the refugee camp there?

[r] Yes. So I have memories since…. I think, I must have been 3 years old…. 3 years ago, I remember living in small straw houses. We each had a little straw house that didn’t make more than… no more than ten square meters. For the whole house. I remember we had a bamboo bed and a… and just a shelf to put all our stuff on. And I remember one night when there was the bombing and I remember my mother putting all the stuff together all at once, in fact, all our stuff was on a piece of plastic. And so as a result, I saw him take the four corners and… to leave like that…. She gave this to my father, and I on his back, actually we ran. We ran to go underground, and I still remember the… sounds of distant bombings, let’s say quite muffled sounds. But yeah, I can still see myself on her back, she’s running, yeah. Then that stopped. And then we left, I don’t know, I think, we went back to Cambodia in the evening to a camp between the two countries again. Between Cambodia and Thailand, and… the biggest memories I have of the camp in… refugees was in Thailand, in Chonburi. And there, we had bigger houses, it was much more spacious, it was less of a camp… well… when I say refugee camp, well, we see some… well, a kind of tent that was planted everywhere, and there it wasn’t, it was really small houses, small neighbourhoods, we were well housed, it was finally, it was very modest, but it was really small huts, and we had in the middle, a small yard in the middle, where everyone could rub shoulders, and there, it was really much more joyful. I mean, we as kids, let’s say, we used to see friends all the time. Opposite, we ate together, slept together and showered there, in the middle of everyone on a piece of plastic, with water. Everyone had their own water ration. And I also remember queuing for… to get rations of sugar, flour, oil and all that with a little notebook, where we were stamped when we took our ration. These were the last memories, let’s say, in the refugee camps. Quite happy, let’s say, it wasn’t sad. It was… we were fine, we ate enough, everything was fine, we went to school. I learned a little bit of the Cambodian alphabet, at the very beginning and… then there it is. And then after that, we went to places where we were taken… I remember, to come, we had a whole battery of medical exams. So, we were… I think, there was a hospital, I think, I guess, I can’t see where it was, but then I saw myself in a gown so we all went through it and I remember it, more… the thing that really impressed me was the dentist. So he had to remove a tooth from me, and I was really very traumatized, because I didn’t want any shots and that’s what scared me the most, actually, the shot, and he had to pull my tooth out. I don’t know if he managed to give me the shot, but in my memories, he didn’t… he didn’t do it, but so he pulled my tooth out like that, because I had a very bad toothache. And then… there you go. And then we were on the plane, we knew we were going to France. There was still the question that arose, were we going to France, or the United States, at that time. Two weeks apart because in fact the United States took us two weeks before, and France two weeks after. And when you’re a refugee, well… We only want to go to a country of freedom. I mean, any one of them will say, well, to escape the war, to… that’s it. And I remember, well, I don’t know if it’s my memories, or it’s things they told us, our parents. But they said that we hesitated a lot in fact, we had done all the interviews, the interviews to come to France, but like the United States here they were, they said, “We leave in two weeks, and France in a month.”  So it was actually two weeks, it doesn’t seem long, but it looks so long at the same time, but, in fact they were saying…. At school, my mother used to say, “It’s just that very wealthy people who send their children to study in France.” In fact, she had graduated from high school there, and she had put it in mind, the type that it was a cultivated country… well…. The United States too, I guess, but I think France was more dreamy too. And so, well, that’s the way it is, I think they finally chose to take the risk, we’ll say, of waiting two weeks… in addition. There you go. And to come to France than to go to the United States, actually.

[i] And you, at that moment, were you already aware of what it meant?

No, I don’t think I was conscious, I had just done so many other countries, I feel like, well for my little life, I mean, we switched refugee camps and every time I felt like I was finally… leaving one country to another. Right now, I don’t think I was aware of that. Maybe in relation to what my mother used to tell me. But… In fact, for me Thailand was already freedom because I couldn’t hear the bombing and all that. So, and I was living quite normally, let’s say. So, our parents went to work, we went to school, we came back, we played between… with the children, all that… So I wasn’t aware that there could be another freedom elsewhere, actually. So, no, I wasn’t conscious, but I was happy, because we were preparing for our departure. So so, apparently, she wrote to my biological father who was in Australia, who sent us money for our departure, so we did a lot of shopping, we bought a lot of things to come to France. So, yeah, it was a very happy moment, so that’s it. I guess I didn’t realize it yet.

[i] And your mother, she had taken the baccalaureate in France?

[r] No, in Cambodia. But then, since he was under… the… well, they were, I think they spoke a lot of French there, and she had spent a lot of time in French, yeah. That’s it, that’s how she managed to talk to us with words, she understood words and all that. Yeah, well, well, they came from a more intellectual family, let’s say, and well, that’s how their family was decimated by the Khmer Rouge too. Well, my grandfather was a customs officer, my grandmother had 15 children. So my mother was the fifth and so one of my greatest uncles, my greatest aunt was married to my uncle who was working as a translator with the Americans. Then I had my uncle, my mother’s brother who was a doctor and… my mother who was a nurse, and after the rest, most of it was in the police or in business, that’s it. And all the people who were in the hospital, who were in the police, were murdered, in fact.

[i] And among the family you have left, do you have any in France or in other countries?

[r] So, in France, I don’t have a blood relationship at all, let’s say. I only have in the United States as a result. Most of them were able to go to the United States the first wave, and so there I have my uncle the translator, who is still alive. And I have my cousin who was my adopted brother, he, well, both his parents were police officers, so they were killed. My mother was able to save him. So so, he was my adopted brother, so he’s still in the United States. And I also have the whole family of my uncle who was a doctor, so he was killed too, but there is his wife, and all his children who are in the United States today. So that’s it. And…. I have a few cousins here and there. But mainly, they are in the United States. And a few in Cambodia too, but who have, I think, passed away. That’s all. That’s all.

[i] And you have ties to your family in the United States?

[r] Yes, thanks to Facebook! [Laughs] So that’s it, we ended up like that. Before, well, before the Internet, it was a little more complicated, there were the letters… I didn’t necessarily know them, we were all young, it was really just the parents communicating with each other. We, the young people, had news about the parents, otherwise we couldn’t communicate with each other. And then there was the Internet. And thanks to the Internet, that’s it. That’s how I kept in touch with them, how they found me on Facebook, and that’s how they were able to come when I got married. They may have attended my wedding. It was great! It was great! [Laughs] That’s it.

[i] Is it important for you to keep these links?

[r] Sure, yeah, yeah. This is very important. Well, it’s my roots, so they’re a little bigger than me, so they were actually 10 or 12 when it happened. As a result, they have many more memories than I do and… They are the ones who, in part, told me about these little… that little moment when we were together, actually. There you go. Otherwise, I was, I was very young when I was with them. I was a baby. [Laughs]

[i] And so, when you arrived in France, how did it go?

[r] Well, yeah, when I arrived in France, well, there were… we had never seen so many French people, so many people mixing from all cultures, really… We had never seen Africans, for example. That was something, well, I think I was 5 years old, well, it was weird. And I asked my mother, I remember asking my mother, “What do they have on their hair, their braids, how does it hold…?” I mean, that was weird…. These were the first questions, let’s say, well, the… let’s say, the Europeans, we had already seen them. So, who welcomed us, who took care of us, and all that, before we left. But here it is. It was different. Very different. Yeah, I remember, already having landed there in Créteil to see all these <i>buildings</i>, finally… these huge apartments… apartments It had nothing to do with what we lived, what we saw in the little straw, wooden, bamboo huts, and all that. So seeing that, it was very impressive for us. And then, well after…. I don’t remember it having shocked me for long, let’s say, I think that being a little girl, I got used to it pretty quickly. But there are many very funny stories, that our parents told us, when they arrived in France. For example, they told us, “Be careful, buy salt [Laughter] from Cambodia, buy salt, sugar…” I mean, there are things, that’s all…. So my parents, they came back with several kilos of salt and several kilos of sugar, thinking they were short here. So that was pretty funny. And then sometimes, finally the doors that opened… automatically, and then windows that they weren’t used to having so they would bump into the windows and all that. So yeah, it’s…. some funny little stories. [Laughs]

[i] And when you came along, you went to school pretty quickly?

[r] Yes, well, so we were taken care of quite quickly, we went to school, so… between… refugee children actually, who had just arrived So… well, I don’t remember that much at that time. It was when we changed, we went to a home, that there were actually many more people coming from all over Europe, I really think, there was everything. But as soon as we arrived in Créteil, we were only among ourselves, only among Cambodians. After that, when we changed, we were mixed up. We weren’t all in the same place, we’re going to say, in the same home, we’re going to say, and… it had me a little bit… I don’t know… what was the feeling, but it scared me a little bit and… I was sad too, being separated from my friends. And… well, we didn’t know, we felt like we were going to be left here. And then we thought we were all together, and then we saw them leave. You feel like you’re thinking, but, well…. What are we going to do with us here? Why did the others leave? Anyway, there you go. A lot of fear, a lot of questions…. I think, I was 7 years old at the time. [Laughs] That’s it. And then, yeah, at that moment, I remember school well. So from school… and that I had a lot of trouble with… à… to express myself. But I understood. I had a lot of trouble expressing myself. I remember… food. That… well, there are smells, in fact, that… that remind me of that time, strangely enough. For example, the…. What’s it called? The artichoke, at last…. I don’t know, it’s a weird smell. They brought us a big artichoke like that, cooked. We didn’t know how to eat it. And I remember seeing the canteen lady telling us to tear off a petal and soak it in oil or I don’t know, a sauce, vinaigrette, I guess. Yes, for me, it was oil at the time. And then, eating it like that. And we thought it was… too weird. [Laughs] And so did, and the smell of… butter in the rice. Oh! That was something that shocked us. Because we never…, we never put butter in the rice. And so, every time I smell that in a restaurant, for example, butter in rice, it really reminds me of that time. It was weird. [Laughs] That’s it. So that’s it.

[i] And you lived in what city, so when you arrived?

[r] I think it was Lens, but I’m not sure. Yeah. It was a city called Lens… I don’t know, towards Troyes or… There you go. We stopped by… yeah, it was weird because we’re… well, no, because it’s not in the Paris region. We stayed in the Paris area, but I don’t know anymore, yeah. I know we didn’t stay very long, I think less than a year, and then we went to Sarcelles. Teal, because there was one, there was my grandmother’s cousin who lived there, and who welcomed us into her home. So, that’s it. I mean, it was…. I don’t know why she did it to us, I mean… My parents left thinking it was a… how are we going to say, an opportunity, that’s how… to leave, start our lives and all that. But in the end, it was a mistake to leave so early, because we didn’t have… Because the home could have helped us to find a real… a real apartment, a home, to accompany us more in our efforts, in education, finally to… to take French classes, I think we rushed out, at that moment, thinking that the best, well the best is to leave and fly on our own when we should have stayed, they could have helped us more. There we went to an apartment, a very small apartment. We were all stuck together, we only had one room. We were a little left to ourselves, we didn’t really know where to go, there was no… We were not supervised. And…. There you go, and the lady, she wasn’t very available either.

[i] You were a little helpless at the time?

[r] Yeah, at that moment, I had to go back to another school as well, well say goodbye to my friends, change… I’m having a little trouble with that. [Laughs] And so it was another change of location… And then we arrived, well, here we are in a… what it’s called in the neighborhood. I’m going to change schools, change homes again, learn to tame my environment again, and then school was very hard, because, inevitably there were the other children, who mock us because we don’t understand. Yes. Not very well lived that moment. Well, my brother was born there, so…. And then we left again in 1992. In 1992, we found an apartment in Aulnay-sous-Bois. We were found a big apartment and so, when we found the apartment, it was friends in fact, colleagues of my father’s, who have become very close friends now, who found us this apartment. And this apartment, it turns out it was my mother’s teacher’s. So they met again like that, and so on, and so forth, when they switched… well, the landlords they changed tenants, so she saw it, she recognized it, and he recognized it too.

[i] It was a coincidence?

[r] The greatest coincidence. Yeah. [Laughs] So that’s it, that’s it, it’s a… They were able to talk about the past and all that. So…. I mean, I think it must have been good for my parents, especially my mother, who was able to tell her a little bit about what had happened to her in her life, really carefree, let’s say, as a student, or here she was, she went to school, she played a lot of basketball, she was at a level high enough to go play in other provinces, and then all of a sudden there was a war, and she lost all her freedom. I think it’s… she was a little more shocked than everyone else, I think. Because she was really having a happy and carefree childhood, and then after the war, it really made her… There, killed, I think.

[i] Did she tell you a little bit about this period?

[r] Yeah. She told us a lot about her period, her childhood, so Bah, or she…. I can’t remember where she told us all the provinces she went to when she was competing, or she was going to say that… well, you see, thanks to that, she was able to visit a lot of cities. So, so, in fact, when she told me, well… she only came out of the good in fact, from her childhood, from… Until she works, until here… She said that, well, of her siblings, she was the least pretty, let’s say, the least pretty, well, the most rebellious, maybe also… so that’s why, well, it’s…. Preferred by my grandmother because they all thought it was my great-grandmother’s reincarnation, and well, as it was, less spoiled by nature than the others, she actually had more trouble my grandmother for my mother. So they were much closer in fact, and…. so well…. There you go. And she also told me well… when she actually married, before my father, that she married a doctor, so he was a friend of my uncle’s, so they met at work and he… So they lived a few happy years, we’ll say, and before the war, and the day there was the war in fact, he took her to see his parents, and so it was from there, I think the Khmer Rouge arrived and she had to, finally her husband was killed at that time. They said that here it is, all the boys in the neighbourhood here are the names of the people who have to go chop wood for example, to supply everyone, and that’s when he finally never came back in fact from…. of this. And so, well, her mother-in-law understood right away, so she actually remembers coming to see her parents-in-law, so she told me, well, she looked good, she was at the hairdresser just before, and as soon as there was that, she remembers that her mother-in-law had taken her hair, cut her in every direction. I mean, I don’t know, to say that she was a country person, that she was illiterate and she sent her to the rice field and my mother said that the rice field was really hard, because she had never done that before, and that finally, that was really a very difficult time. As a result, she was pregnant too, as a result, there is her husband, who was killed, she finds herself with her mother-in-law, so far from her family, and… who… finally, it was very difficult, really a very difficult time for her. And she always told us that it was her looks, not spoiled by nature, that actually saved her life. Because she didn’t come out like a person from the city, let’s say, but like a peasant woman who was illiterate, so she was darker than everyone else and all that. So there was this and then after that, she carried out her pregnancy, to term. And… and then, here it is, in the meantime, they had really murdered I think, almost everyone in the hospital, from… of… well, all the people who had studied, that’s it, who had a job, all that. To put little young people in the countryside as nurses, as midwives, she had given birth to a little girl who was having trouble breathing because of the mucus in fact. So, my mother told me that, she had, they just needed… to turn her over, to kick her ass in fact, or to kick her, I don’t know, to kick her ass, but very hard, to get the mucus out and make her cry in fact, but since they were… they didn’t know the little girls, they didn’t know how to do it, so they thought it was a stillborn baby in fact. As the little girl couldn’t cry, for them they declared her as stillborn, and so my mother could… I told him, “But why didn’t you tell them, actually? Why didn’t you show them and all that?” I said, but I mean, how…. “See, how could I have? That is, if I show them, it means I show them I’m not illiterate, it means I know what to do.” It was, so she said, “If I talked, we’d both die, no matter what actually happened.” So she could never have saved her child. So it was very difficult.

[i] And so, she… when she came here, she managed to… move on, and still build a life with those memories?

[r] Well, I think she was forced, let’s say, to… for us, I think. She must have made a lot of sacrifices, buried all that in her, actually. To make us happy, I think. But, yeah, she managed to….. to rebuild something to make us grow, to talk to us, but without… without, I think, forgetting her past, because she often talked about it, and… I think she didn’t want to forget either. She used to talk to me about all these things, when, in fact, I was very young. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. But it’s weird that I remember all this, because I think I must have been ten years old, well, I mean, it’s not the kind of thing you… you tell your child or maybe you remember us, as a child. But… But I was very keen to…. all this.

[i] You wanted to know?

[r] Yeah. Even though I remember more than half of it, but…. Yeah, I wanted to know. Yeah.

[i] And… And today, how do you… feel, does Cambodia have a very important place in your life?

[r] Yeah. Now we’re really, finally Cambodia really has a very big place in my life, that’s for sure. It’s my roots, it’s my origins. We are part of an association that, finally, with our parents, we are very active, we help a lot, with this association to not forget, in fact, this is what we experienced, finally our country, our roots. My parents always speak to us in Cambodian and they… here they are, they don’t want us to speak to them in French. So here we are… we manage to do both in fact, we speak Cambodian, we speak French, we speak other languages, it enriches us.

[i] And what is this association?

[r] It’s the Cambodian association of Aulnay-sous-Bois in fact. It’s…. with that one that we do all the ceremonies, the… that we celebrate the New Year together, that we collect donations that we send to buy rice, bags of rice, pens, clothes for the children of Cambodia. There you go. I remember, here, being on the other side, here, we were helped a lot, and we were happy to have all this, so, here it is. [Laughs] We help them with that.

[i] And… do you have children?

[r] Yes. I have a little girl today, a year and a half old, so… It’s a small one. Yeah, I’d like her… well….. I think as a wanted person, I will tell her everything, I will tell her, finally, what she will want to know about her desires too. I don’t want to shock her, I don’t want her not to know, not to know our history, where her mother comes from. His grandmother’s stories too. Yeah, I want her to stay attached, to that country, it’s also hers, and that… I have to show her, that’s all… I think, she, being born here, knows nothing about…. of Cambodia. Well, it’s his roots. I’m going to try to…. to teach him things.

[i] Do you speak to him in Khmer?

[r] So I don’t speak to him in Khmer… it’s my father who speaks to him in Khmer. I try to teach her English, so that’s it, I think it’s pretty hard at school to… with the kids to learn English, so I think I should teach her English, so that’s why she’ll actually speak English with me, and she’ll speak Cambodian with the grandparents, that’s all. And then French, in the nursery and with his father.

[i] And… so, to come back to your childhood here and then your studies, what did you do, what did you follow as a course?

[r] Well, human resources. [Laughs] So, yeah, it started at the beginning, then, well, when I arrived in France. So when I went back to Aulnay, I had to repeat a year, so I came back, I was in first grade, I remember, in Aulnay. And it was very difficult, let’s say, to learn French. So as a result, I had complementary classes with a lady who taught me little things in… well, at the same time, outside the classes. And… then, well, I did all my schooling, my primary school in France. And then my mother became seriously ill, so she wanted me to know my biological father. So she sent me to Australia. So I went to Australia for all my college. Hence the English. And so, well, I lived there for five years. And then I came back to France, and I went back to school, let’s say, I had to be in second grade but I didn’t have the level, we didn’t have the same level in Australia, so I went back to third grade. And so I continued my education like that. Then I did, I passed my high school diploma. And then I did, I did a BTS, management assistant, then I continued I did a bachelor’s degree in management, and then well all that alternately, in fact. And then I continued in human resources, so I did a master’s degree in human resources, finance – human resources, and… so today I have a master’s degree, that’s it, in finance – human resources, and then I continued a little bit to get my MBA. So that means, also in human resources, that’s it. And today, as a result, I am an international mobility consultant and I deal with expatriates.

[i] And what does it consist of?

Well, actually, right now, we’re a consulting firm. And we actually advise on companies that do not have their international mobility service and therefore we are actually asked to… So, they have a plan to send their employees abroad, what should be done, the steps, the policies, well, of each… what policy they want to establish, how much it will cost, what kind of social protection. We have agreements with some countries, and not others, what should be covered, not covered. Like France, we have social protection, one of the highest in the world, so when an employee leaves France for a foreign country, he should be able to keep all his advantages, all these advantages. So we have private insurance, and we subscribe them, we affiliate them to private insurance to maintain a level of social protection for them as if they were in France. That way when they come back to France, they won’t have a contribution gap for their retirement, for example. And… all that. There you go.

[i] And you’ve been doing this for how long?

[r] For 5 years now, that’s it.

[i] Do you like it?

[r] Yes, I like it very much. It is a job that allows me to…. this is from… to make my English work, so I can work with expatriates, to work with people who have changed many countries like that, who have to reappropriate other countries, and maybe, on one side or the other, I can actually understand them, how difficult it is to… here, to arrive in another country, to be lost at last, how… How to manage, well… how to do everything to relive life in another country that is not ours, but that will become ours.

[i] And that’s where… where are your offices?

[r] We’re based in the 10th. So in Paris, at Cité Paradis. So… in a small neighbourhood, really, in a small city, really very, very friendly, we are between the Galeries, rue Lafayette, and Grands Boulevards.

[i] And precisely, what is it that you… what link do you have with the city of Paris? Is this a city you like? Do you feel Parisian?

[r] So, I have always lived in the Paris region, I have never really lived in Paris, but I am there every day. So, it’s a city I really love. I mean, it’s….. When I see Paris, I… When I drive by, or when I’m on the bus, and when I see the monuments, I see the Eiffel Tower, I feel really privileged, we’re going to say, to be there, in this beautiful country with so much history, with all these monuments, which has had its share of life, which has also known the war, and which has… who came back, who rebuilt himself, let’s say, and yeah, it’s a pretty town. I feel… when I pass by, and I see all these monuments, and I think there are many, many… of people who… finally come to visit Paris and that I am there every day, that I can see our Iron Lady, when I want, in 40 minutes by train, I feel privileged.

[i] And what are the neighbourhoods you like?

[r] So I don’t really have any preferred neighborhoods. Obviously, the neighbourhood where I like to be is towards my work, let’s say. There are little… little bars, little corners, where we like to go and do our afterworks, in the little one, the passage of the Petites Ecuries, for example, that’s it. Towards the Folies Bergères, finally, there are some nice little corners, we like to be on the Grand Boulevards too, there are a lot of people. It’s very lively.

[i] And outside of work, do you go too? For your leisure time, for example?

[r] Yes. For leisure activities. To visit. Some times to do a little shopping, to go to restaurants. Here, to show my daughter the monuments too. Sometimes I take him, to see my colleagues, to visit them, so that’s it. I go there quite often to Paris.

[i] And today, where do you live?

[r] In Champs-sur-Marne. So, in the Paris region, I’m not very far away, let’s say. In the centre of Paris, to go to Châtelet, I have a train that goes straight to Châtelet in… in 25-30 minutes. Let’s just say, we’re really not far from Paris.

[i] And do you like living in Champs-sur-Marne?

[r] Oh yes, I like it. [Laughs] So in fact, we’re really close to Paris, but in a green setting, so it’s true that you still need a certain level to live in Paris. It’s very pretty, but it’s… There, I think with my means I couldn’t have such a big apartment and there it is. But… we’re not very far away so it’s fine.

[i] And in relation to… to your naturalization processes, have you ever done any, and how did it go?

Yes, I have already started to do that, it was in… I think in 2009. I had tried to do it. So I had taken… I was alternating, and I remember putting in an RTT to go to the Raincy Prefecture, to get a file, and then, at that moment, I couldn’t get a file back, they made me a stamp. A stamped leaf to say to come back next year. Then I didn’t really understand, so I thought there were more files available, and I found it long for a year anyway, to get a document back. So, what I did, a month or two later, I asked around and downloaded the forms from the Internet. And I filled them out in duplicate, I made all the documents, I… I took a year to collect them, all the documents, though, there were quite a few documents to collect. There you go. And then, after that, I put down an RTT, got up at 3-4 in the morning to go to the queue there. And then I get another document stamped to tell me to come in a year and a half. I said to him, “But Madam, my file is ready, it’s there, it took me a year to gather it. And that’s it, I came today, this in relation to your summons last year, the paper, this paper, that they stamped on me last year.” And, I said, “Well, there you go, my file is ready, it was to give it to you.” She would say, “Oh no, no, that’s not how it was. It doesn’t work that way, you should….. Actually, it was just a paper to get the form back.” So one year to get the form back. And I… I didn’t actually understand it. “Because it took me a year to get all these documents together, so I took a day off to come and give it to you.” And she said, “No, actually, you have to…” I don’t know anymore, what she told me, but during… well, you have to submit the file, so send it by mail, with acknowledgement of receipt, and wait a year and four months at least. So then I thought, “Oh, no!” I have…. I saturated there, and I think I dropped out, at that moment, because, I couldn’t see myself waiting again and everything…. I mean, it was too long, it’s…. There, the administration, they’re really not understanding, and I was really on the edge of nerves, after three hours standing up, in front of the fence, in the cold, waiting, and all that, so I was on the edge of nerves, I think I dropped out at that time.

[i] Did it discourage you?

[r] Yes, a lot. It really discouraged me, and I said to myself, well, I… well, until now, it hadn’t bothered me, we’ll say, to just have my residence permit, and I change it every ten years, like any other Frenchman, so it didn’t seem necessary at that time. So that’s it, so…..

[i] Do you ever plan to reapply?

[r] Yes, let’s say, it’s… That’s it, for… for belonging. That’s it, to say it, I’m French, because I’m often teased, my friends often tease me, to say “the refugee”. [Laughs] That’s it. So, too, well, here it is, finally to be French. I feel completely French. Finally, this is where I wanted to make my life, finally I had the choice between Australia and France. Here I chose France, I wanted to be here, so I feel completely French, let’s say. I have more French culture than any other culture, I lived here. That’s it, this is my life here. [Laughs]

[i] So, you’re not losing hope of getting your nationality?

[r] Yeah, no, I’m not losing hope, maybe I will….. with… here, the arrival of my daughter, it changes a lot of things too. That’s it for… well, I’ll do it so that we’re all French, so that I’ll take more time, maybe, and that’s it for the documents. [Laughs]

[i] And what will it change in your life to have French nationality?

Well, I don’t think in my life, not much, except for travel, let’s say, I’ll need less visas, and all that. But maybe in my interior, yeah, I’ll be happy to be French, actually. Let’s say, I’ll say, at last! [Laughs] Anyway, I… here I am, I made the arrangements. I… It’s going to be a little piece of paper of how I feel inside, actually. There you go. I feel more French than a political refugee today, it’s just the paper, it’s doing that. And I think being naturalized French is just going to show, well, what I actually have inside. There you go.

[i] And have you ever returned to Cambodia?

[r] No, never. I never went back to Cambodia. Besides, it’s a project I have, to go back there, with my whole family. In fact, every time, I want to see, for example, Angkor, to see Cambodia again with my whole family, my brothers and sisters, and my father. And my daughter. And every time, there was always one who couldn’t, so we went to the next countries, but not to Cambodia. Because I wanted to see Cambodia, for the first time with my whole family, at the same time. I didn’t want to tell them what I experienced there, I wanted to share it with them.

[i] And what representation do you have of Cambodia today?

[r] Today, I think it is a country that has modernized. We have really built a lot of things, we will say, they have come a long way, since the war, they have recovered a lot, that’s it, it’s a country where life is good. It is a… I think, me from my outside point of view, because I don’t see what’s going on inside. But from what I see, it’s a country in freedom, well, it has no war, well, a big war anyway, which… it’s…. We can study, here we can go out, we are free to move, to think… to think… to… that’s it, to be who you are too. I see, that’s it, it’s a country, which has been rebuilt really well, a country that was bruised, we’ll say, finally, because of its history with the Khmer Rouge. And really very admiring of…. that they were able to overcome it, actually.

[i] Are you looking forward to going back?

[r] Yes. Yeah. I can’t wait. I mean, they’re projects from one year to the next. I ask everyone to…. [Laughs] to be ready, but every time it’s shifted. We’re really going to try next year to go there. Really. [Laughs]

[i] Do you still have some family living there?

[r] Yes, yes, I have cousins I’ve never actually known. We know each other well, through photos. I know about them. I know they exist. Now we communicate via Facebook. When I finally have needs, such as typing texts in Cambodian, for example, I solicit them. And now they speak good English, so communication is much easier, compared to that, and yeah, thanks to the Internet, I communicate much more with them, yeah. And I see that they too have succeeded in their lives, they work in offices, they have their apartments, they have their children, they have succeeded in their lives too, so I am very happy to see them, and to see that, if they are well, it is because the country is also well. So, that’s it, I’m glad.

[i] Earlier you were talking about Australia.

[r] Yes.

[i] What is the difference between living in France as of Cambodian origin, and in Australia as of Cambodian origin?

[r] So in Australia, I arrived, and I was like in a… in a corner, where there was, and we were just between us. So there I was in Aulnay, I was going from Aulnay, where we were all gathered, the Africans, the Maghrebians, the Asians, we were all in the same building, there was everyone, and then I went to Australia, to very small houses, or buildings that did not exceed two floors, and voilà, it was with a square in the middle. I felt like I was reliving in the refugee camps again, actually. But hey, in brick houses. But, there, it was the feeling, I think, today, now that you ask me, that I had, since we were only among ourselves, there were only Asians, we all spoke Cambodian, Chinese, Vietnamese. And, most of them spoke all languages, yeah. And so that’s where I learned English. English in the street. Because I didn’t have my papers to go to school and so I learned English on the street, I had to learn Chinese because my mother-in-law was Chinese, Cantonese. So, also a difficult period of adaptation, I had to go to school with the… the elderly, the seniors, in fact, here we were, where there were one-hour classes here and there. Then, well, when I got my papers, there I was able to go to school, and so it was… When I came home, we were all between us, and the school that accepted me was actually only Australians. There were only Australians, maybe, two, three Asians, and one African. We were really… So, in fact, I had to communicate in English, and it was difficult, the mockery, all that, but well, I only did one year there, and then we went to college. And then, at school, I picked up all my friends who were in my neighbourhood. [Laughs] And so it was really… The school was really…. How can I say this? A place that I really… that I really liked very much. That school over there, I mean, I… With my girlfriends, in fact, there was a part that had just arrived in Australia too, so they had a lot of trouble with English, so I felt much less alone, actually. And I was one, let’s say, of the… well, I understood the most because I had French, well, there were words that were similar, and as a result, it was a little easier for me, so, well, it was me who helped them, in that thing, and then with school we did many activities, many sports. Yeah, it was….. It was a lot of fun, it was fun at school. Yeah. And yeah, the country itself is very… it’s very good, too. But actually, I had… Finally, after 5 years, I came back to France. Then, there you go, at the neighbourhood level, it changes. [Laughs] But it was really a pleasure to meet all my childhood friends, in the neighborhood, in Aulnay, we were all together, everyone seemed very happy to see me. I was very happy to see them too, it brought back a lot of memories. I came on vacation, and then I didn’t want to leave again, actually. As a result, I was really torn between my family here, my new friends there that I had made. Well, the two countries, well, at that time, it was two countries, that’s it… And it was two countries that were very good, and I made more choices about the people who lived there. There you go. So I preferred to stay with my family in France, rather than my family in Australia. Finally, at the level of both countries, it is…. They’re both fine.

[i] You have been well received in both… both in France and Australia?

[r] Yeah. In France, we were well received, well, after all, it wasn’t the same feeling. That is, in France, I was coming to France from a country at war. It was finally…. Everything, every little thing that we did for us, it looked so… great, we’ll say. I felt really safe once I got here. After that, my time in Australia…. There, I was already in a country of freedom, as they say in Cambodian. We are in a country of freedom. After that, I went to Australia, it was another country… Very welcoming too. I mean, the Australians are very nice…. But I didn’t feel the same way when I arrived in France, actually. That safety cocoon, let’s say, over there, I didn’t feel it like that. After that, maybe also because I was far from my family I knew. And…. But then I learned to love this country or… I really enjoyed school with friends, I have very, very good memories, actually there.

[i] What city were you in?

[r] We were in Melbourne. So all the way to southern Australia, and… That’s it, it’s very, very good memories I have.

[i] Do you still have family ties in Australia?

[r] Yes, so I still have connections. I have my cousin, I have all my little cousins, and everything, who have grown up. Well, we have a lot of gaps, we were eleven years apart at the time. But now they’re in their twenties, so it’s okay. And… yeah, I kept my uncle, and all that, that came to my wedding too. So, well, I was very happy to see them again. And then, there you go. [Laughs] Good memories.

[i] Did you have a Cambodian wedding too?

Yes] Yes![Laughs] We married Cambodian, Buddhist, Vietnamese, Christian, for my husband and his parents. Then we did it, we had a restaurant in Chinatown on the 13th. That was a day for the parents, and then we thought, well, second marriage, we’re getting married for ourselves. [Laughs] So we took a small estate, a small mill, in the 77. And so we made our own wedding, that we wanted, really in country mode, outside. That’s it, with a secular ceremony. So, since we had done all the religious and traditional part the first week, we wanted this one to be really European and secular, so really, here we are, our feelings, here we are. Everything we actually wanted to share at that time, without the barriers of our parents, let’s say. So that’s it, it was a very moving second wedding and that’s it. [Laughs]

[i] Are Cambodian traditions very present in your life?

[r] Yes, let’s say… We try to celebrate all the ceremonies, the good ones…. Really… well, we have a pagoda, at the end of the street, the pagoda of Champs. We go, well, we don’t go every week either, but we go, every time there’s a ceremony, or… or there’s a party, and all that, so… Especially for the New Year, it’s very important. And as a result, we burn an incense every day, that’s it. We’re asking for the protection of the house, the family, all that. Afterwards, we eat… when the parents are there, we eat mainly Cambodian. And then, on a daily basis, I don’t have much time to cook, but… But if not, yeah, you can feel it in the food, I like to share it, I share it with my colleagues, when I bring back food, or sometimes I do “spring roll” workshops at work, I show them how to roll them, the ingredients and all that, so, yes. I like to share my culture.

[i] So cooking is mainly Asian in your country?

[r] Yes, it’s mainly Asian, and then, when you go to the restaurant, too. [Laughs] Mainly Asian, and I think there are many who… a lot of feelings that go through there, through food. The love of our parents, I think, goes a lot through food too, because in our country, we don’t say to ourselves… You don’t say “I love you” to yourself, that’s it… It’s things, where you really keep intimate moments, let’s say, strong. But we don’t say it on a daily basis, but I know that our parents, they tell us through food. My parents, finally food, was something very, very important to them. Anyway, there it was, we ate very well with my parents. [Laughs] It was something, well, they made it a point of honour for us to eat, to eat well.

[i] Do you also cook Asian food?

[r] Yes, I also cook Asian food. I make a lot of stir-fries, pasta, rice pasta, I make a lot of spring rolls, and all that, so… salad and everything.

[i] Are you going to the 13th district?

[r] I used to go there often, when I was more on the Aulnay side, we’ll say, there were fewer Asian restaurants. But now I’m on the side of Champs, 77, there are many Asian restaurants. So I don’t need to go that far. So from there, 5-10 minutes away, I really have restaurants, which are very famous in Ile-de-France. So, yeah, I have… we’re going to go next door.

[i] There is an Asian community that is present….

[r] Oh, yeah.

[i]…in the area?

[r] A very large Asian community, for example, there, in Lognes, there is a… it seems to me that 65% of them are Asians. So, there you go, you have a lot of Asian, exotic stores. I think if there are a lot of stores like that, it’s because there’s a good concentration of Asians.

[i] And you’re going to do your shopping there too?

[r] Yes, I’m going to do my shopping ten minutes from here. [Laughs] Because the 13th is really very far away, and we go there for really if we need very specific, quite fresh things, orders, and all that… big… that’s it. Big orders, let’s say. [Laughs] But it’s always a pleasure to go back, we still have, very good memories there.

[i] And among your friends, are there many Asians? What is their origin?

[r] Well, there’s a little bit of everything. A lot of Asians too. But… here it is… It’s the children, it’s the children of our parents’ friends, actually. We… here we go. When we were young, we were all together in the neighbourhood, now that we’ve grown up, we’ve left a little bit each on our own, everywhere in Ile-de-France, everywhere… well, in the South, my sister lives in Bordeaux now. And… when we meet again, we feel like we’re all cousins, actually, that’s it. We… We really feel very close by this link there in fact, here we are, we are…. That’s it, for me, it’s more than just friends, actually. They’re not cousins anymore, they’re family, because I don’t have many families in France so…. For me, it’s my family, actually.

[i] Did you find it difficult to grow up as an Asian in France?

[r] No, not at all, not at all. Well already, where we grew up, really, we were all… there was really a good <i>melting-pot</i> and there was really everything, I didn’t feel like I was finally too much, or… in a minority. We were, here we are, quite represented, let’s say, Asians, so there were Asians, Africans. I think there were a lot of Europeans too, of North Africans, there was… a good portion of each one, so… No, I didn’t feel… and that’s it… I grew up very well in the neighbourhood [Laughter].

[i] Have you ever… had experiences of discrimination, or racism or not especially?

[r] Oh, between young people, when we were little, yes… The kids when they wanted to bother us, they would do “Tching tchang tchong”, little things like that, but well, nothing… that I keep in my heart, let’s say. No, nothing. Nothing. [Laughs]

[i] And in terms of leisure, what do you like to do in your spare time?

Well, we like to play board games. Well, we discovered that a few years ago, now we discovered it a few years ago…. there are…. I think eight years now, that we play board games, and then, that, it takes a good part of us, we like the afternoon games on Sunday afternoon with the friends, so…. Here we are, playing games at last, sometimes that can take us five to seven hours[Laughs] here we are, in a row. Afterwards, I like it, we get together quite a lot so I like to have small parties, decoration. [Laughs] I like it, I’m very manual, so… I do a lot of decorating, paper flowers,… of leaf pompoms… that’s it, I organize a lot of parties at home, actually for people, we do <i>baby showers</i> and all that. So, all my girlfriends who… who are pregnant, I organize everything for them. So, there you go, and then we enjoy the garden when it’s nice and warm outside. And then there it is. [Laughs]

[i] Are you happy with your life now?

[r] Yes I am very happy, I say to myself, I have been through a lot, let’s say… since the changes of country, the war, the freedom, then… there’s the feeling of insecurity, then security when I come here. The neighbourhood that was, let’s say, difficult, because Aulnay is… it’s a neighbourhood that… Finally, from an external point of view, there is… There is… It’s just that, it’s difficult, when we live it from the inside, we don’t feel the same way, I guess. Well, I don’t feel that feeling of insecurity that people have when they come to Aulnay. I mean, right now, when I go back there, when I go to my parents’ house, it’s really, it’s really a pleasure. I see… I also see the neighbourhood changing, improving, these are the buildings, they have been… some that have been destroyed, rebuilt… Really new buildings, redone to new, with barriers, now… Finally we have the impression that it changes, it evolves too, and so it’s really a pleasure to come, yeah, every month, every week, see, where I actually grew up. Well, where we… that’s where I learned a lot of things, and now today, that’s, I’ve changed, I’m more in the East, and yeah, it’s another life. It was difficult to adapt, because in Aulnay, where I lived, I was really in the centre, near the Galleon, I was really in the centre, there was a lot… As soon as I opened the window, there were always people outside, the children, the papis who were sitting, to talk. When I went to Lognes, I really didn’t have anyone, and I felt really lonely, let’s say, when I was a student at university. And, so, then, well, you get used to it, you get used to it, and… How many is that? I’ve been here for maybe 10 years now. But then, there you go, I’m happy where I am. There is a lot of greenery, we… here we are, we… we are in a house, it is really very pleasant, we can welcome a lot of people, here we can enjoy the sun and all that, so… home. [Laughs] Quietly. So yeah, I think I have….. And yes, in relation to studies as well. Because I had left so I wouldn’t have to study long. I mean, I had difficulties everywhere. Anyway, every time I moved to another country, I lost a year, so I passed my baccalaureate, I was already 21 years old in fact. Without really, well, regardless of what I wanted, I was always not very good, I wasn’t very good, but I was always persistent. in everything I did. So I was getting there, little by little, step by step. So, so, there I was, I got my baccalaureate, and then, after that, we did the BTS, then the BTS, why not continue, because for me, where I came from, having the baccalaureate, it was awesome, having the BTS, it was wow! [Laughs] So that’s how we were, that’s it… And so I had my husband with me, who actually pushed me a lot. He, who clearly said who believed in me, so that pushed me to take the degree. After the license, for me, it was… that’s it. It was very, very good. My objective was the BTS, I have my degree, that’s it, it was very good. And while I was getting my degree, he was talking to me about the master. In fact, he went crescendo like that, he always pushed me. And I said, “Oh, the master, no. It’s something, I can’t, actually. It’s too high for me.” He said, “No, why are you saying that, you’ve come this far, I mean, go ahead, what are you actually losing, trying?” So, so, here I am, saying, “Well, why not then?” So we did our contests and… and him… Well, he too resumed his studies at that time, with me. In the meantime, by bringing me to the competition, so he was reading the brochures, and so it… it made him want to go back to school. He had stopped at M1, so with a Master 1, we don’t do much, so he started again in MBA and I in the first year of Master.  So we were in the same school, we were very happy. And so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, I’s going to MBA. So, here’s the thing…. And to see, from where I started, finally not knowing a word of French, and to have had my MBA, until today, here I am, having married, having bought the house, finally, to work every day on a daily basis, finally, to have my little girl, and all that, yes. It’s a feeling of…. Now I’ve arrived somewhere where… I’m… finally, a simple, happy life. [Laughs]
[i] Are you proud of your career path?

[r] Yes, I think I can be proud of my career. A lot of… let’s say, the difficulties I’ve been through, and… yeah, I think I can be proud of my journey today.

[i] And what are your dreams today for the future?

[r] My dreams… Well, today, I think that… well, from… to see my daughter grow up, maybe have another child, and to see my daughter grow up, stay, that’s it, just live like that. I think that’s it, I met my soul mate, I built everything with him, and… I think I’m happy today, happy enough to say I have no other higher dreams, let’s say, today, yeah. Apart from going on with my life, and watching my daughter grow up, with my husband. There you go.

[i] We’re going to reach the end of the interview, do you have anything to add?

[r] No. I think, that’s it, that’s…. [Laughs] I concluded well… on that.

[i] Very well, thank you very much.

[r] Thanks to you.