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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Ran Kong, November 25, 2000. Interview K-0269. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Limited exposure to non-Cambodians for a Cambodian immigrant

Kong remembers two modes of acculturation: Cambodian students who had become Americanized and "cool," and her experiences with other Cambodians at the Greensboro Buddhist Center, where she could play with other Cambodian children without pressure to act American. Except for at school, Kong had limited exposure to white Americans.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Ran Kong, November 25, 2000. Interview K-0269. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

BARBARA LAU:
So just because they were Cambodian doesn't mean they were kids that you got along with? Is that what you were trying to say?
RAN KONG:
No. I think, you were just asking me in terms of, you know, how did the other kids treat you. I think it was like the other Cambodian girls who had been there had— I guess what I'm trying to say is that they had developed, they were cool. You know, they had developed this image that they were really smart. They were more Americanized than I was. And so when I came in, they were like, oh, this other Cambodian girl, she's our friend too. And so I was accepted. But it was always in a way—there was always like this competition, sort of to see who's smarter and stuff. I remember that with our multiplication tests.
BARBARA LAU:
Where else did you see Cambodian kids, I mean, outside of school?
RAN KONG:
Outside of school I'd see them in the community at the temple, basically, is where I'd see them.
BARBARA LAU:
So tell me what it was like when you were a kid and you were at the temple here at the Greensboro Buddhist Center?
RAN KONG:
It was fun. I just remember, jumping across the tables that the monk had built, just running around playing hide and seek, or playing whatever games that the kids thought up around here. And so whenever there was a ceremony we'd come and I'd stick with my grandmother for five minutes and then run and play. And then she'd come and call me back. And then I'd have to go back and sulk because I couldn't play with the other kids.
BARBARA LAU:
So being with other Cambodians and community kinds of celebrations, that's something you would look forward to?
RAN KONG:
Definitely.
BARBARA LAU:
Tell me why.
RAN KONG:
I don't know. It was just fun. Like just as a kid, all you want to do is play, play, play, play, play. So you know, we play at school, but at school, you know, there's a certain time, you can only go out to the playground and play for like 45 minutes each day and then you'd have to come back in and work some more. But here at the temple, it was just like whatever, you could just do whatever, get together with a group of kids and play hide and seek for hours until your parents call you to go home or whatever. And I guess just like that freedom of having like no constraints like at school, that was what really made it like fun here at the temple on the weekends. And plus, you stay at home, there's nothing to do.
BARBARA LAU:
So you didn't play as much with the neighborhood kids, you played more with other Cambodian kids at the temple?
RAN KONG:
Yes. In my neighborhood, let's see, as far as I remember, every neighborhood that I've lived in has always had a Cambodian. After we moved from that apartment into our second house, right, our backyards were connected to another Cambodian family's backyard. It was actually Romato's family. And Romato and I grew up— you know, sort of grew up together. We were about the same age. And so I always remember going over, you know, going across the fence to her house and playing with her on her swing set, or she would come across to by backyard and play. And also I think my mom babysat for Cambodian kids. And so I was always busy, helping her, entertaining them. So I never really got a chance to go out into like the neighborhood and play with other kids.
BARBARA LAU:
So your exposure to other kids was sort of limited?
RAN KONG:
Yes, just basically school. That was my exposure to other kids.