excessively hot and humid; marked by sweating and faintness
Phnom Penh city wakes early to take advantage of the cool morning breeze before the sun breaks through the haze and invades the country with
a distinctive odor that is pleasant
Waiters and waitresses in black-and-white uniforms swing open shop doors as the
aroma of noodle soup greets waiting customers.
a pungent rhizome used fresh as a seasoning
The clang and clatter of spoons against the bottom of bowls, the slurping of hot tea and soup, the smell of garlic, cilantro,
ginger, and beef broth in the air make my stomach rumble with hunger.
allowing light to pass through diffusely
"Phnom Penh special noodles with chicken for you and a glass of hot water,” says the waitress as she puts the steaming bowl of
translucent potato noodles swimming in clear broth before Ma.
small very thin pancake
There are food carts on every corner, selling everything from ripe mangoes to sugarcane, from Western cakes to French
Cambodians eat constantly, and everything is there to be
savored if you have money in your pocket, as I do this morning.
things that make you comfortable and at ease
We are very modern—our bathroom is equipped with
amenities such as a flushing toilet, an iron bathtub, and running water.
poor enough to need help from others
impoverished live in makeshift tents in areas where I have never been allowed to wander.
someone who exchanges goods or services for money
Under the bright green and blue plastic tents
vendors sell everything from fabrics with stripes, paisley, and flowers to books in Chinese, Khmer, English, and French.
something considered choice to eat
Cracked green coconuts, tiny bananas, orange mangoes, and pink dragon fruit are on sale as are
delicacies such as silver squid—their beady eyes watching their neighbors—and teams of brown tiger shrimp crawling in white plastic buckets.
placed side by side often for comparison
The city owes its ultramodern look to the French colonial buildings that are
juxtaposed with the dingy, soot-covered ground-level houses.
lacking conscious awareness of
At five, I am
oblivious to the events of war, yet I know Pa to be brilliant, and therefore he must be right.
of many kinds purposefully arranged but lacking uniformity
In the bathroom, Kim throws soap, shampoo, towels, and other
assorted items into a pillowcase.
a seasonal wind in southern Asia
The bedroom looks as if a
monsoon has passed through it: clothes, barrettes, shoes, socks, belts, and scarves are strewn everywhere—on the bed that Chou and I share as well as on Keav’s bed.
quick and energetic
They walk with short,
brisk steps, yelling for their kids to stay together, to hold each other’s hands, to not get left behind.
relinquish possession or control over
They holler for the people to close their shops, to gather all guns and weapons, to
surrender the weapons to them.
state of violent mental agitation
After each round of rifle fire, people push and shove one another in a panicked
frenzy trying to evacuate the city.
causing or fraught with or showing anxiety
queasy feeling grips me as I watch the villages pass by.
the place designated as the end, as of a race or journey
I can still make out thousands of people milling around or walking to unknown
forsaken by owner or inhabitants
My family scrambles to set up our encampment in the field near an
the act of surrendering power to another
With shoulders bent to show
submission, Pa takes the watches off of Meng and Khouy's wrists.
become singed under intense heat or dry conditions
Some of the people walk barefoot in the
scorching heat, carrying their life’s belongings on their backs or heads.
force to leave an office
Anyone who has worked for the
deposed government, ex-soldiers or politicians, step up to the table to register for work.
makeup consisting of powder applied to the cheeks
We look so pretty with red ribbons in our ponytails, red
rouge on our cheeks, and red lipstick on our lips.
have one's name listed as a candidate for several parties
“Pa,” Meng says in a frightened voice, “a man told me the noise last night was the Khmer Rouge soldiers opening fire on all the people who
registered for work. They killed every one of them.”
in an advanced state of decomposition and having a foul odor
It is not the smell of rotten grass or my own body odor but a smell so
putrid that my stomach coils.
collect or look around for, as food
Our food supply is reduced to only a few pounds of rice so Meng, Khouy, and Kim have to
forage for other food to supplement the rice.
a small unit serving as part of a larger political movement
Uncle Leang and Uncle Heang say that since the Khmer Rouge have won the war, the soldiers removed the old village chief and replaced him with a Khmer Rouge
do away with
Pa says the Angkar has
abolished markets, schools, and universities, and has banned money, watches, clocks, eight-track players, and televisions.
the quality of wearisome constancy and lack of variety
Yet despite the
monotony of farm life, the longer we live in Krang Truop, the more fearful and anxious I become.