Five steps from a Cambodian mountain village to America

By Beth Pollak

On our trip to Angkor Wat today, I knew my story even before I arrived at the famed temples. Lunh, the excellent, well-spoken, tour guide Frances Micklow and I had today, has been working hard for years in efforts to make his way to America. His story can provide a set of guidelines – or more likely inspiration – for people like him: rural Cambodians working hard to one day make it to America.

1) Start in your hometown: Lunh started in a town in the mountains in northern Cambodia.

2) Find a cheap place to live and learn English: After primary school, his parents sent him away to work as a temple boy – “being a monk is too hard” – for four and a half years, since living is much cheaper in a monastery. There he learned a bit of English.

3) Get a job where you can hone your new-found English skills: After that, he left to drive a tuk-tuk – or “remore,” as he calls them, since “it sounds more French” – where he was able to pick up even more English.

4) Start climbing up the job ladder: Lunh then went to tour guide training school, where he learned history and hospitality, and – you guessed it – more English. He has been working as a tour guide for seven years.

5) Learn on your own, and love learning: Watching Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper – “my favorite!” – and listening to Voice of America programs has helped Lunh learn new words, proper diction, and correct pronunciation. He also loves giving tours to English-speakers who can help with his speech – he asked us to correct him if he misspoke.

Lunh’s life goal – “don’t tell anyone I said this – I’m too shy to say this to people” – is to become the translator for the king of Cambodia. If that doesn’t pan out, he wants to share his love of the English language by being an English professor. Little by little, he’s saving his money to go to Korea, then America.

With all of Lunh’s hard work and determination, it’s hard to imagine anything but success for him.


1 comment so far

  1. Eric Pollak on

    Excellent writing. I enjoyed this! Hope you are doing well and I can’t wait to hear of the sights you are seeing. Love you. Dad

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