Host Christian Pearson is joined by Dr. Dana Bourgerie, the director of the Cambodian Oral History Project. Dana reveals his unique connections to Southeast Asia and goes on to share some of his findings relating to the Chinese diaspora in that part of the world. At that point, Christian and Dana discuss the importance of knowing one’s personal history, and Dr. Bourgerie explains how the Cambodian Oral History Project is helping the Khmer to do just that. They finish out the podcast with some incredibly inspiring stories from present-day Cambodians.

For more information about the Cambodian Oral History Project, visit their website at

[00:00:00.410] – Christian Pearson
Hello, I’m Christian, and you’re listening to inside the Cambodia Project, an educational podcast where we discuss cutting edge research on sustainable business in an emerging market. So last episode, I talked with Ben Lewis, and Ben shared some really key findings from archive research that he conducted on how rankings affect the way that firms approach corporate social responsibility. Later, we talked about the controversy surrounding the blurring lines between corporations and the government, and we looked at the issue of greenwashing as a potential problem for these small businesses in Cambodia. In this episode, we’re talking to someone who has spent a lot of time in Cambodia and has largely immersed himself in the history of that great country and the many wonderful people there. Dr. Dana Bourgerie is a professor of asian and near eastern languages here at Brigham Young University. He earned his phd in east asian languages in 1991 from the Ohio State University. He has been a Fulbright scholar at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, a visiting lecturer at City University of Hong Kong, and a visiting professor at the Panyastra University of Cambodia. He was also an honorary professor in the Overseas Education College at Nanjing University.

[00:01:29.640] – Christian Pearson
Professor Bourgerie’s research interests are sociolinguistics, chinese dialects including Yue and haka, and language acquisition. He travels regularly to Cambodia and other southeast asian countries. And as the director of the Cambodian Oral History Project, he is helping to capture and record the stories of the cambodian people, many of which do not have any written records of their lives or stories of their ancestors. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast today, Dana. I’m so excited to learn more about Southeast Asia with you.

[00:02:04.470] – Dana Bourgerie
Thank you. I’m glad to be here.

[00:02:06.310] – Christian Pearson
So I love to kick things off with a quote, and today’s comes from Michael Crichton, who’s a prominent author and screenwriter. So he said, if you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. So what do you think Michael Crichton is trying to teach here?

[00:02:25.760] – Dana Bourgerie
Well, he’s trying to talk about connections and what your life means without its roots. I’ve heard similar things said that you don’t know yourself unless you know at least a couple of generations, you don’t understand who you are. And I think that’s true.

[00:02:39.860] – Christian Pearson
Yeah, I can imagine. I mean, luckily, I know a few generations back, but a huge part of your identity comes from where you were speaking.

[00:02:50.280] – Dana Bourgerie
I think that’s true even if you don’t even understand why that is. It’s true either way. It’s true whether you understand it or not.

[00:02:56.840] – Christian Pearson
Yeah, there’s just some innate part of us as humans that craves a personal history. How does this quote relate to the work you’re doing in Cambodia?

[00:03:06.930] – Dana Bourgerie
Well, it relates very directly, and I think of this all the time, where we first started this, that I had some research assistants that were working for me for a different project, and I would ask them, just as a matter of course, what’s your family background? And very often these age groups are 20 something. They had no idea at all. And it just struck me as stunning because they said my family didn’t talk about it, and that sort of was part of the genesis of our project.

[00:03:37.440] – Christian Pearson
Yeah. What would you tell people like that if we have listeners that also don’t know a lot of personal history?

[00:03:43.490] – Dana Bourgerie
Well, it’s funny because in this one case, it’s kind of a humorous example, but he was working for me, and I said, I’m going to put you on leave until you talk, until you talk to your mom.

[00:03:53.260] – Christian Pearson
Oh, my.

[00:03:53.760] – Dana Bourgerie
So I said, you can’t work for me anymore until you talk to your mom. And he came back the next day and said, wow, I can’t believe this. This makes a lot, things make a lot more sense now. He told me, I’ve never forget that. And he said, I knew my mom lost her husband, my dad, but I didn’t have any idea about the difficulty of her life and what she went through. And so at that point, I said, you can work again.

[00:04:16.770] – Christian Pearson
Wow, that’s a cool experience. I hope that Ben doesn’t put me on leave anytime.

[00:04:23.190] – Dana Bourgerie
Well, be aware.

[00:04:25.250] – Christian Pearson
Okay, sounds good. I love hearing about history, and I want to hear a little bit of your history as far as your connection goes with Cambodia. How did you first get started with this research in Cambodia?

[00:04:39.360] – Dana Bourgerie
Well, this is one of those winding paths kind of things. I’ve had a long interest in chinese dialects, and I was working overseas. I was the asian studies director for a while, and I was on a plane one time. This was about 1999, I think, way early on my career, and I sat next to a man who was the former, one of the former, I think it was Newsweek editors in Japan. And he had projects in Cambodia as well. He was a retired journalist, and he was running one of the papers there. And we started talking a little bit, and he says, found out we have cambodian speakers at BYU, and he says, can you send us some interns?

[00:05:22.170] – Christian Pearson
Oh, wow.

[00:05:22.710] – Dana Bourgerie
So then he invited me to come to Cambodia, and I said, that was very different in those. So I came there, and I started noticing how many chinese speakers there, were there, yeah. And there were many, many of the business classes are chinese. And I think some of your audience here might know a little bit about that. But maybe 90, 95% of the business class have chinese roots and chinese background, for sure.

[00:05:46.730] – Christian Pearson
Yeah. We know, like, the big four demographics, the Kamai, the Chang, the Chinese and the Vietnamese.

[00:05:54.860] – Dana Bourgerie
Right. And the Sino Cambodians dominate business. I mean, really dominate it, even if they’re more or less connected to their roots. So that led to one thing to another. And over the years, I did some work there for asian studies, and then I ended up going there from time to time over the field, work on studying dialects, southern dialects that are spoken in Cambodia. And then I took a leave in 2014, 2015 and did a professional development sabbatical in Cambodia. And so I was working on studying contact between local types of chinese and other languages there. And that sort of got me in there again in that spot.

[00:06:47.150] – Christian Pearson
So that all started because you sat next to a guy on a plane?

[00:06:50.650] – Dana Bourgerie
Well, part of it was that, I mean, I had some broad interest, but I didn’t get it, sort of. I didn’t understand the context until I ended up going there because of that. One never knows.

[00:07:00.970] – Christian Pearson
That’s crazy. What are the chances, man?

[00:07:04.280] – Dana Bourgerie

[00:07:04.950] – Christian Pearson
Very cool.

[00:07:06.490] – Dana Bourgerie
Some call it serendipity. Somehow providence, whatever it is, that’s life. That happens. Things. Lots. Big things turn on little things sometimes.

[00:07:20.580] – Christian Pearson
Yeah. Well, I’m so glad that it happened to you because now we get to talk about your experience. Before we dig further into that, though, I had a little bit of time. I wasn’t able to see your website, but I did see a little bit of your profile, and it looks like you’ve done a lot of work on Chinese. Diaspora. Diaspora, right, diaspora. So can you explain for our listeners and for me, too, actually, what a diaspora is and why is it important to your research?

[00:07:50.100] – Dana Bourgerie
Well, diaspora just means dispersion, or in this case, it means applied to Chinese. It means chinese communities outside homeland. Outside of China. It’s. Historically, the term is often used for jewish expulsions in armenian and some others, but these days, it means anything where large communities of a certain group are found outside their homeland. So the indian diaspora, the chinese diaspora, the jewish diaspora. So just that broad term for dispersion. Outside homeland.

[00:08:23.620] – Christian Pearson

[00:08:24.210] – Dana Bourgerie
So in this case, I’m interested particularly in the Southeast Asia chinese diaspora.

[00:08:29.130] – Christian Pearson
Yeah. Because I’m sure there’s a significant portion.

[00:08:31.720] – Dana Bourgerie
Yeah. And it’s very old. It’s been there for five to 700 years, depending on certain evidence. So there’s been chinese people who landed in Southeast Asia, a place like Siem rip and especially in Sienrip and later penumpen and places like that who’ve been there for generations, centuries.

[00:08:53.230] – Christian Pearson
I mean, how did the talking more about those early immigrants, how did the chinese immigrants arrive in Southeast Asia in the first.

[00:09:00.300] – Dana Bourgerie
Well, different. Like, some came overland, especially Vietnam and some to Cambodia, and some came from trade routes.

[00:09:07.780] – Christian Pearson
Do you know why? I mean, Cambodia hasn’t been exactly prosperous in a long time.

[00:09:12.530] – Dana Bourgerie
Well, for opportunity. Like, it’s a universal thing, right? When things aren’t going well in your home, you look for opportunities. You look for chances. And often they were people that were affected by war and local wars and economic turmoil, and they said, well, maybe there’s a better way. Maybe there’s a better opportunity somewhere else. Sort of the immigrant story, right? Yeah, sometimes you take a big chance, but it’s also opportunity, and you go there and you find opportunities. So they did. And of course, once some come, just like all immigrant communities, more come, they sponsor family and they figure out ways to get there. And the Chinese are known for their entrepreneurial prowess.

[00:09:52.420] – Christian Pearson
Yeah, they’re very adaptable.

[00:09:54.040] – Dana Bourgerie
And they often had family groups. They helped their business. Often. Early on, they typically married chinese women. They were mostly men who married or not. Sorry, who married local women, in other words, kamai women in the case of Cambodia, or vietnamese women. And then later on, more chinese women came so often, like somebody came from 19th century. They have a chinese grandfather, but they have lots of cambodian background. So they’re often mixed situations, just like a lot of immigrants are in a lot of places, for sure.

[00:10:30.010] – Christian Pearson
I know that sometimes immigrants can be a touchy subject in certain areas, and I’m wondering, do you know how well received or not well received are the Chinese in Cambodia today?

[00:10:43.010] – Dana Bourgerie
It depends on the period. There have been periods where there’s heavy persecution. In fact, during the Khmer Rouge, where in the 1970s, they were persecuted heavily because they were, mainly because they were disproportionately wealthy and educated and not so much because of their chineseness, per se, but that sort of identified them as a group. And they were disproportionately persecuted and killed during the Khmeruge, for sure.

[00:11:11.190] – Christian Pearson
Yeah. I mean, the Khmeruge targeted people with glasses, too, because they looked too intelligent.

[00:11:16.030] – Dana Bourgerie
Anybody who was wealthy or educated was a target. And Chinese tend to be more educated or more wealthy than the average. So there’s a group, they were more at risk.

[00:11:24.160] – Christian Pearson
Got you. What strategies then, under the weight of have some persecution, what strategies did the chinese diaspora employ to kind of integrate into these local societies because they’re not gone, they’re still there.

[00:11:39.980] – Dana Bourgerie
No, they are. And they’ve been seen differently these days since it’s not as much of a risk to be chinese. It’s almost a little bit of. A little bit of cachet. A lot of chinese Cambodians think of themselves as kind of a little bit more bright and educated. It’s sort of a cachet of middle classness sometimes, but that goes up and down and it’s often like a lot of places where on one hand you identify with your ethnicity and your background, the other hand there’s pressure to integrate. Right. So if you ask a cambodian, sometimes chinese Cambodian, they’ll have a chinese, let’s say shrine or characters on their door. And I said, are you chinese? And they say no. Right away. They said no because they want to establish that I’m cambodian. First and foremost, I’m cambodian. There’s reason for thinking of that because they’re citizens of that country. They’re not chinese for sure. And even in Chinese, there’s separate terms for the Chinese who are from China and the ones that are local. And you want to sort of establish your identity once they’ve done that. There is a community, chinese community. Some are more integrated than others.

[00:12:49.740] – Dana Bourgerie
Some speak Chinese, some don’t, but there’s definitely a community. There’s a school system in Cambodia that’s for chinese language.

[00:12:58.960] – Christian Pearson
Really? I didn’t know that, actually. I know that they prioritize learning English and Kamai, obviously, but, wow, Chinese is also a big language there.

[00:13:10.910] – Dana Bourgerie
Yeah. There’s a school in phenomena that enrolls like 13,000 and it’s a k to, I think k to nine school. And lots of villages have small chinese schools, so often they’re trained a little bit in Chinese as well. English is very popular, too, but Chinese is probably the second most popular language because both have economic value.

[00:13:36.330] – Christian Pearson
Right. I imagine it’s very useful.

[00:13:37.950] – Dana Bourgerie
Especially both are good. They want to get an english education because that gets them international connection, better jobs locally. But also Chinese is often helpful, too. So both are popular. English education is probably the most popular.

[00:13:51.610] – Christian Pearson

[00:13:52.270] – Dana Bourgerie
They can afford it.

[00:13:53.850] – Christian Pearson
So giving, I guess, a changing global landscape. We know that Cambodia is, I would say it’s a pretty dynamic country. As far as in recent years. How do you envision the role of the chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia evolving in the coming decades? Do you think it’s going to stay? Do you think it’s going to grow? What opportunities and challenges lie ahead?

[00:14:19.090] – Dana Bourgerie
I think it’s very important, and it will continue to be because, as I said, it dominates both the small business community and the large business sectors. There’s a place called central Market in Penum, Penn. And I had my students one time go around there. It’s a large open market with lot of stalls. They sell hard goods, usually watches, glasses, jewelry.

[00:14:41.140] – Christian Pearson
Okay, yeah.

[00:14:42.030] – Dana Bourgerie

[00:14:42.630] – Christian Pearson
Bunch of private vendors.

[00:14:43.780] – Dana Bourgerie
Yeah, lots of vendors and stalls. And there’s hundreds and hundreds of these stalls. I had students go around and do a mini survey once, and it was virtually every single one of them was. And many, many spoke Chinese. And that’s not changing. If you go to a small village in Cambodia, you see cambodian, pure Kamai, cambodian everywhere. And then you go to the main store, it’s a chinese person, chinese ethnic, and again, they may not speak Chinese, but they identify. And that community of chinese business associations are very strong in Cambodia. So I think it continues to be very important. And more and more, their connections with mainland China are positive. But there’s also been challenges to that because all along they said, we’re cambodian, we’re cambodian. And all of a sudden, hey, can you help us with China? And they said, see, all along you weren’t really cambodian. You were still loyal to China. So it’s a double edged sword that a lot of immigrants face, right? Because they say on one hand you want to be integrated to your home culture, your home country. On the other hand, you connect with your country of origin.

[00:15:51.650] – Dana Bourgerie
And some people wonder about your loyalties, then sometimes it can cut both ways, for sure.

[00:15:56.850] – Christian Pearson
Why do you think that? If there was a force, what is the force that’s preventing non chinese kamai from entering the business workforce?

[00:16:08.270] – Dana Bourgerie
I don’t think there’s any prevention. I’m not a business expert. But it’s about community, right. And about connections, who you know, and culture and connections and finding a community. I would say there’s plenty of non Cambodians connect. I mean, sorry, non kamai working in business, but usually the overall business group is very dominated by cambodian Chinese.

[00:16:38.950] – Christian Pearson
Yeah, dang, that’s really interesting. So talking more about just the cambodian oral history project that you run, how did that begin? And, I mean, you told me a little bit, right? You ran to that guy on the airplane. But what motivated the creation of the cambodian oral history project?

[00:16:57.700] – Dana Bourgerie
Yeah, sort of back to my experience with my young assistant at the time. Right after that, I started thinking about it, because part of when you do sociolinguistics or interviews, you ask for background. You’re looking at language data and recordings. But you want to do ethnographic background, so you want to know about their background. That’s standard practice for soci linguistics. So I would ask those questions when we were interviewing for my other project, for my diaspora project. And what would happen was that they didn’t usually know anything. And so that was a problem. And then I started talking. I ran into some people. There was a church historian from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints that sponsored this university who was in Cambodia at the time. And I started talking to him about how if they do family history in Cambodia, and he says, it’s really hard. And then he said, why? And then I started thinking, well, we could do something about this. We could collect some of these. And I sort of floated it to a couple of people. And then I came back to campus and I floated it to our humanities center, which has what’s called a sort of a public outreach arm to it and sort of public humanities, meaning sort of applying humanities to practical problems.

[00:18:19.150] – Dana Bourgerie
So I just said, can we do this? Will you support it? And he found out and he said, yes. And we amazingly got pretty quick approval, which doesn’t happen at a large institution.

[00:18:29.100] – Christian Pearson
Oh, yeah. It’s a lot of bureaucracy.

[00:18:31.560] – Dana Bourgerie
And it had to have some very, lots of different kinds of approvals. And we got it in weeks, not months, weeks. And then we just started out and it was really rough go for a while, but it sort of came around.

[00:18:44.710] – Christian Pearson
Well, that’s encouraging. I have to say, as a young project being the Cambodia project, we look at you guys and see an example to follow.

[00:18:54.140] – Dana Bourgerie
Yeah. The first time we decided to go with a peer leader model, so we sent a person over there and we got 20 interviews in six months. And then it just exponentially increased over the years when we’re getting thousands.

[00:19:09.370] – Christian Pearson
That’s incredible. What role, I guess, does the project, the cambodian oral history project play in connecting Cambodians to each other? Kamai. Right. You talked a lot when we mentioned that quote about the importance of having a personal history. What role does you play in helping them have a personal history?

[00:19:30.580] – Dana Bourgerie
Well, there’s so much out there because some people may know that there are a lot of records were destroyed, and that’s very important to especially chinese people. And so for the cambodian Chinese, they often don’t know anything about their history. And likewise with the Kamai, they were not chinese. And so there are some times, like my young assistant, who didn’t know anything. So that’s really detached. Right. And it’s disconnected. And so many times when they go to help interview their parents or their grandparents. It’s the first time they ever heard it ever. And they’re just stunned. They say, well, I had no idea. And there was a situation where a friend of mine who he’s probably in his late, he interviewed his mother, who was in her seventy s, and he had never done that before. He kind of knew about her, but he didn’t know too much. And then only six months after that, she passed away unexpectedly.

[00:20:34.720] – Christian Pearson

[00:20:35.120] – Dana Bourgerie
And so we were having dinner, and he was still very sad and mourning, and he said, where do I find that interview again? Online. And I told him the URL, and he’d listened to it. And it was one of those moments he just got out of the way and said, he said, I want to hear her voice again. And so he realized that now he and all his children, grandchildren could hear the interview in her own voice. And that was pretty amazing. And that’s happened, just replicated hundreds and hundreds, thousands of times where these would, if not for this project, they wouldn’t have any record at all.

[00:21:08.460] – Christian Pearson
That’s brilliant. It makes me wish we had more of a culture of storytelling that’s so powerful. Right. I’m sure it meant a lot to him, and it probably will mean a lot to future generations just having a.

[00:21:23.230] – Dana Bourgerie
Record and a video or audio record on top of it to actually hear the voice. And what’s the things you can do fairly easily now that even 510 years ago we couldn’t have done?

[00:21:34.930] – Christian Pearson
Yeah, that’s fantastic. You should start a provo oral history project as well.

[00:21:40.540] – Dana Bourgerie
It’s funny. People, a number of people come to ask how we could replicate it. I gave a talk at what’s called roots tech, which is family history group that’s run out of Utah and other places. But that’s what I talked about there is how you could replicate this. I’ve had people, groups from Laos, from Philippines, from other places come and say, how can we do this? And so we’ve shared with them our sort of experience and our approaches.

[00:22:10.260] – Christian Pearson
Man, that’s got to be inspiring. I hope that it is spreading this.

[00:22:14.080] – Dana Bourgerie
Well, I hope they say, why Cambodia? And we say, why not? Why not Cambodia? This is where we’re at, and this is where I had my background and interest, and this is where I go. So we can start it here.

[00:22:26.670] – Christian Pearson
Yeah. And I mean, Cambodia has had quite an interesting history in the recent. Sure. You know, as you’ve been interviewing the Kamai people, you’ve probably heard a lot of stories about the Kamai Rouge. From those stories. How did these ordinary people cope with the atrocities, the upheaval from that period? Have you heard?

[00:22:51.190] – Dana Bourgerie
Oh, I mean, we’ve heard hundreds and almost thousands of stories. Now.

[00:22:55.290] – Christian Pearson
How do they deal with that? How do they reconcile?

[00:22:57.340] – Dana Bourgerie
Well, that’s the really an amazing part of listening to these stories. It’s just the resilience of their journey. It’s just stunning sometimes. The fact that they survived, let alone thrived in the end. We have stories about people who. There’s one story where literally a woman was. Her family had been killed and she was thrown in the pit for dead. And she woke up in the pit of bodies and they pulled her out because the Vietnamese had just come into the village and found. And they expelled the Kamai rouge, and they pulled her out and they yanked her right out of the pit, almost literally back to life. Wow. And she said, throw me back in. I don’t want to live. My family’s gone. I don’t want to live. And she did survive, and she’s now become a local leader in Penn. The idea that what she survived is just unthinkable. And yet she did. And there are people who crossed over weeks in the jungle to get out of the way and to get their families. We have one story of somebody who was sold into slavery. And, I mean, just the stories you hear.

[00:24:07.460] – Dana Bourgerie
And sometimes people ask me, do you feel sorry? And I said, I do. But at the same time, I feel in awe, just amazed. These are people who went through so much and so resilient and were able to survive the worst things and still come through it in some way. It’s just really breathtaking sometimes.

[00:24:27.270] – Christian Pearson
Dang. That’s really powerful. Thank you for sharing that. I find it inspiring. Right. And I hope I can be as resilient as some of those people that you’re talking about. Just with my first world problems.

[00:24:44.280] – Dana Bourgerie
Right. Well, I mean, everybody’s different, and your own problems aren’t minimized by these. Just because you can find somebody else who’s worse doesn’t mean yours aren’t real. But it does give you perspective, gives you perspective of people who, it didn’t go perfect, and they bear the scars often. It’s not like they just come out all nice and clean and they’re neat without any psychological scars. They many times have deep psychological scars, but they did survive. And they have some families to bequeath their wisdom now, too.

[00:25:19.910] – Christian Pearson
I’m sure you have to be. It’s probably more of a delicate process sometimes extracting these stories and getting these narratives from cambodian elders, specifically the older generation. How do you as researchers ensure accuracy and authenticity when you’re asking for a story?

[00:25:41.490] – Dana Bourgerie
Yeah. Our team at bye does almost no interviewing in Cambodia. It’s done by what we call peer leaders. They’re local, usually 20 ish or late teens, early 20s. Sometimes they’re family members of the people they’re interviewing. At least they’re connect in their own network. So there’s a natural trust there for sure. And it gives a connection, which gives us an entry and it gives very authentic, and that’s accepted. And sometimes we will do it. We’ve been working in heritage communities in the United States, and sometimes we do them there. Sometimes we have local people do it, but our focus is on having local people do it who have already have connections and relationships, but sometimes very intense. Right. There are times when we’ve had to edit out stuff because it was just inappropriate. It was so raw. There was a woman that cried through most of your interview, and we just thought that wasn’t really appropriate. So we edited a lot of the most rough stuff out. We gave the whole thing to her, but we didn’t publish it, the whole thing, because it was just too much.

[00:26:47.670] – Christian Pearson

[00:26:49.650] – Dana Bourgerie
She was too vulnerable and that we didn’t think that was appropriate. But you can imagine there are people who’ve never talked about this, this awful trauma for 2030, 40 years. Sometimes the first time they talk about is to us, to the extent that we actually had a person that interest in our project. He’s a cambodian immigrant to the United States, and he’s also a psychologist and a counselor. And so we actually chatted with him a lot on some of the techniques of how to deal with when people are going through a traumatic situation and relating to their story.

[00:27:25.900] – Christian Pearson
I was going to say, I minor in psychology now. And one thing that occurs to me as we’re talking about this is, man, there’s so much value in just asking for a story. For many people, maybe that’s all they need is just to feel like someone wants to hear it.

[00:27:44.700] – Dana Bourgerie
It’s therapeutic, but it’s also hard and very difficult. We sort of balance that. We don’t want to exploit them in any way. And so be very careful about that. There’s actually people who study trauma in literature and psychology, of course, in a lot of places, trauma studies people who studied the jewish diaspora and Holocaust survivors and like that. And some of them had some interest in our projects just because there were some commonalities. You’re talking with people who’ve gone through really horrendous things.

[00:28:20.920] – Christian Pearson
Yeah, veritable Holocaust.

[00:28:22.490] – Dana Bourgerie
I mean, just things that you can’t imagine. We can’t just say, well, this is a cool story, I want your story. You got to appreciate that you’re delving into their lives in a way that could be really difficult for them. And so we have to be very careful for sure.

[00:28:39.960] – Christian Pearson
Based on what you’ve seen, how has the trauma of the Khmeiruge affected not just the older generation, but subsequent generations? I’ve read a lot about generational PTSD and that kind of thing. Have you seen that at all as well?

[00:28:56.090] – Dana Bourgerie
I don’t think I’m qualified to evaluate it, really, but I mean, just from a layperson’s point of view, you do see it. You see it. The scars in Cambodia. Again, a lot of that generation that they just sheltered their kids from, they didn’t talk about it. If they did that. Sometimes the kids actually didn’t believe it. There was a lot of situations where they just said, that’s just really disbelief. No, it just is unthinkable to them. And so they just choose not to believe it. But it’s a national thing. And one thing I want to say too, is not all these interviews are Kamaru stories that’s prominent in many of them, but it’s not the only thing we talk about. A lot of times we talk about just life through other difficult times, but also some really good times. We always ask them about their best times, too. So we don’t want to make this just pure, purely about the Holocaust for sure.

[00:29:49.230] – Christian Pearson
It’s not the Kamiru’s oral history project, right?

[00:29:52.610] – Dana Bourgerie
No, it’s not. But there are some things you can’t get around it for that age. That is part of their story. But there’s also really fun things how they met. One guy talked about how he met his wife by wrong number, really. And one is just kind of funny. It had a kamaruge thing, but it was more humorous. It had a kamiruge angle, but he talked about how he stole the guard’s shoes to get married because he didn’t have any shoes and his wife didn’t have any shoes and they were going to get married. So he stole the shoes of one of the female guards and gave it to his wife to get married. And he was very proud of that. It was a small victory. He was talking about how clever he was and he thought that was really sweet justice.

[00:30:38.010] – Christian Pearson
I’m sure that’s a core memory.

[00:30:39.650] – Dana Bourgerie
We hear people about being in refugee camps and one guy told us about how he went swimming for the first time in a long time. He came out with leeches all over his body and how they had to get him off. And things like that are just human, everyday things, too, that are just fun to listen to.

[00:30:55.860] – Christian Pearson
Dang. Wow. Well, this has been so great, Dana. I’ve really enjoyed learning more about the value of storytelling on a personal and just a general level. I’ve also really enjoyed hearing some of those stories. And could you just share, before we go, one or two of the most inspiring stories that you’ve heard as the director of the Cambodia Oral History Project?

[00:31:22.480] – Dana Bourgerie
Yeah, I think there’s a few. That one, that was one of our early stories from Long beach, where we started going to some of the communities in the United States. Nike Chubb. And this gets his name, Nike, because they couldn’t pronounce my name. When he came to the United States, they saw that he had Nike shoes, and they called him Nike, and it stuck.

[00:31:46.010] – Christian Pearson
All right.

[00:31:46.470] – Dana Bourgerie
But he tells a story, just epic story that could be a movie about he and his sister being sold in slavery to a thai farmer, and he was sold again to an electronics dealer, and he landed in a refugee camp. From there, he found his way to Long beach and Long Beach, California community, and he found some education, found sponsor, found a life, and he became a missionary for church, married, and then he found himself back in Cambodia. And he wanted to reconnect with his family that sold him, of all things, sort of a Joseph of Israel from the Old Testament kind of thing.

[00:32:29.230] – Christian Pearson

[00:32:29.790] – Dana Bourgerie
So by miraculous circumstances, he connects and he finds his father. And he meets him at the border in the night, rainy night, and they say he comes over and he sees his father and he recognizes his tattoos or something like that. And he says, I forgave him. He says, nobody could have suffered more than he did for selling his children for a bag of rice. And he ended up supporting them and helping their family get educated and everything. He had no malice. And it’s just unbelievable to me. I was just stunned. And that story, that was a short story of the Nike story that we’ve told before, but it’s on our website, too, and it’s epic movie. And then just one recently, I read about this man named Samadhan from Tacoma. And he was a soldier, and he had a sneak out. He snuck out. They were going to kill him. And often what happened is they would say, oh, we need your help with something, something mundane. But he was smart enough to know that what was going to happen. So he said, let me get the tools. And he snuck out the back door.

[00:33:40.890] – Dana Bourgerie
And for seven, eight days, he moved through the jungle day by day, staying in trees, trying to figure out how to get through. Crossing roads were dangerous, so you would observe for a day, use little tricks like walk backwards and make the steps look funny.

[00:33:58.320] – Christian Pearson

[00:33:58.860] – Dana Bourgerie
He gets to Thailand and he’s arrested immediately as being a spy and thrown into prison. And he finally gets out and he’s resettled in Iowa. He becomes a mechanic. Then he becomes a farmer. I don’t know if it was a farmer or something like that. Then he ended up in Tacoma. He worked for defense industry. He had this long career, really great family, and these really amazing group. And that was just little snippets of his stories. And so what strikes you is these epic journeys all the time, epic things that every one of them could be a amazing movie if you wanted. But just they go on and on. There’s a woman who survived by gleaning rice from the fields that she was forbidden to take, and she would hide it in the crook of a tree and sneak back at night and eat the rice. And so these just survival, and yet they got through it somehow. And it’s just inspiring. And again, it doesn’t minimize what we go through, but it inspires you. To give you perspective on life is sometimes an amazing journey.

[00:35:15.040] – Christian Pearson
Yeah, that’s incredible. Dana, thank you so much for sharing some of those really powerful stories with me, with our listeners. Thank you for being on the podcast, too. I think if there’s one takeaway that I’ve had today, it’s that no matter who you are or where you come from, where you’re going, your life, it’s a story in itself. And it has the power to be inspiring to others, to those who hear it, to future generations. And I think it’s also important to remember that those who have come before us have inspiring stories. And sometimes all it takes is asking for those stories.

[00:35:55.510] – Dana Bourgerie
And back to your quote, it makes you understand the roots.

[00:35:59.340] – Christian Pearson

[00:36:00.180] – Dana Bourgerie
If you understand your roots, you understand who you are, you understand what that leaf looks like and why it looks like that, right?

[00:36:06.080] – Christian Pearson
Yeah. I don’t want to be the leaf that doesn’t know what the tree looks like, for sure. But thanks so much for coming on. For all of our listeners out there, just a reminder that you have power to make a difference, that your story matters. And take some time to share it with those who matter most. And also take some time to ask for those stories from your loved ones. Remember that you really can be an influence for good in this life. And remember most of all, to lift where you stand.