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Copyright (c) 1995 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College
Harvard Human Rights Journal

FIELDWORK: THE VIETNAMESE OF CAMBODIA

1995

8 Harv. Hum. Rts. J. 269

Author

Jamie Frederic Metzl

Excerpt

Something about the little building attracted me. Built of large planks of wood, it looked like an overgrown house of cards. The simple sign read "cafe" and pictured a miniature Eiffel Tower. Maybe, I thought, they could make a croque-monsieur. I pulled up on my motorcycle. "Lek srey twe m'houp tngai trang the?" I asked. The two women and a man looked blankly at me. "M'houp tngai trang, do you make lunch?" I repeated. I remembered well the food chapter from my Khmer language book, and felt sure I was using the right words. On the other hand, I had just arrived in Cambodia and wondered whether my accent was the problem.

After an awkward pause, a beautiful woman of about my age with a heavily made-up face and long, shiny, black hair pointed to herself and the others. "Khmai, no. Vietnam," she whispered gently. She took out a worn Streamline English workbook from a drawer and smiled. "How-are-you?" she asked in an uncertain monotone.

"I'm fine, thank you, and you?" I answered, recognizing the dangers of deviating from the chapter 1 text. After a prescribed but warm dialogue covering the basics, I asked if they served lunch.

"Lunch?" the young woman asked.

"To eat. I eat lunch?" I said with a hand motion. From their faces, I realized this was not a restaurant. They motioned, however, for me to join them, and brought out a small pan ...
 
 
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