Chan Thou was born in 1980 in Cambodia’s
countryside. He lived there with his mom and his immediate and extended
family. Unlike himself, Chan’s mom actually experienced the
ghastliness of the Khmer Rouge regime. In some ways that is how
he’s tied in to the "Pol Pot era." In 1982 Chan
and his mom left Cambodia for the refugee camps along the Thai border.
Chan was only two years old.
They stayed at four different refugee
camps, off and on, for five years until Chan was seven years old.
At these times the mother and son led a very unstable life, hopping
from one camp to another but thankfully it seemed the camps got
better with each one they stayed at. The first camp only consisted
of tents for the refugees. The second camp provided shacks but you
still had to provide your own food. The third camp was a little
better. It consisted of bamboo houses and they provided water and
food. The fourth and final camp they stayed at was similar to a
rundown city building. The building was shared by at least 10-15
families. The families would put up blankets to separate themselves
from other families. After the camps, Chan and his mother were "adopted"
by a family. The family that adopted them had a daughter in the
U.S. that was immigrating them all to the U.S. Chan’s mother
took on the family's last name and the interview process began.
In 1987, Chan and his mother finally
arrived in Seattle, Washington U.S.A. One of the things he remembers
most about that day was the intense cold. "Getting out of the
airplane, I was just shocked by the cold," he said. In Seattle,
Chan and his mother took up residence in a three bedroom apartment
located in the Northgate area. "Wow, that’s pretty big,"
I exclaimed to him. " …but there were about ten people
living in that apartment," he replied. When I asked Chan "why
only him and his mother moved to the U.S.?" He answered, "ummm..I
think one of the main reasons why my mother wanted to move here
was for me to have a good education because at that time Cambodia
wasn’t stable enough to provide good education." His
mother was also worried that Chan was going to be educated by the
Khmer Rouge but her bigger fear was a repeat of the events that
took place from 1975-1979. Chan was also thankful that he started
school right away. At seven years old he began attending Latona
Elementary School. Continued>>