As a child growing up in Phnom Penh in the 1960s, the only long trip I had made was going to visit one of my grandmothers who lived in Battambang City. We had gone by train to meet this very modern grandmother, who wore makeup and served us coconut dessert made blue and pink with food coloring. Then came the Khmer Rouge’s rule, my fleeing the country to a refugee camp in Thailand and finally immigrating to the United States.
But in 1992, after the Cambodian government and political factions had signed the Paris Peace Agreement in 1991, I was back in my home country, serving as an international polling station officer with UNTAC—the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia. I arrived in Sihanoukville by helicopter, and saw for the first time this beautiful beach on the Gulf of Thailand that I had not even known existed in my country.