Metro Transit employees come from many cultures and backgrounds. To celebrate this diversity, employees who are proud to share their heritage and identity will be regularly featured on the Riders' Almanac blog. Read more stories here.
Tell us a little bit about your background.
I was born in a three-sided hut on a mountain in Cambodia. At the time, my father was in a prisoner of war camp for working with the Americans during the Vietnam War. When I was six months old, a family member bribed the guards to get my father and two other men from the village out. They decided the whole village would have to leave the country right away to escape backlash once the higher-ups found out what had happened. So, 127 people fled to Thailand and 120 made it to a refugee camp, where I lived until I was almost four years old. Then in 1979, I arrived in Mobile, Ala. Later, my family moved to Pomona, Calif., where a lot of our relatives were settling.
How did you settle in Minnesota and come to work at Metro Transit?
My parents and younger siblings moved to Minnesota to get my younger brother away from bad influences in California. I stayed with my older sister in California while I continued studying in college. In 1998, I came to Minnesota to rejoin my family. While I looked for work, my younger siblings supported me. I wasn't sure what I was looking for and being a bus operator wasn't on my radar. Until I saw signs, literal signs, everywhere I looked. So, I decided to apply. I had no idea That I would still be here 20 years later. I’ve come to love not only operating the bus and improving my skills but also working with the community.
How do you continue to celebrate your culture today?
Food and family are important to me. While my wife can cook some Cambodian dishes, I learned to make my favorites from childhood so that I can share them with my children. My extended family still gets together regularly, though the pandemic messed that up for a while. My children are now learning to cook some of their favorites and will even cook for me sometimes (though I normally help with the final seasoning). A family favorite is a Cambodian green bean salad. Herbs that are staples of Cambodian cuisine are mint and lemongrass.