On Sunday, October 15th, the MAYE center hosted a Java Plum Harvest for the community in Long Beach. The java plums grow mostly in Cambodia, but luckily after the Khmer Rouge someone brought it over to the States. This was one of our first events and I did not know what to expect. I am a second generation Cambodian born in Long Beach, but I recently returned to the LB after I graduated from my Master’s this past year. It was nice to re integrate myself back into the Cambodian community to see how it has changed.
As people started to trickle in, some began to prepare the papaya salad, the famous Cambodian dish of yumminess. There was fish sauce, garlic, and lots of chili- smelled just like home! Others began shaking the java plum tree and it took a whole team of us to catch them all; it became our mission for the day. It was great seeing us all work together to save all the plums from plummeting onto the concrete all mushy, but instead into our mouths.
There was a diverse group of colors and cultures that came to celebrate the harvesting. I was happy to see us all interacting, even though we may not understand each other completely, we have the gift of connection. Long Beach is one of the most diverse cities in the country, and I have grown up seeing the segregation and discrimination. But here we told a different story of harmony and peace between all cultures, for we are all here for the same reasons: to enjoy each other’s company, connect, and to love.
As we shook the tree over and over again laughing with one another and helping each other, I saw the beauty of community. It shined through my heart and brightened throughout the day for I longed for community, for belonging. Being the daughter of the Khmer Rouge survivors, I was told not to trust and to stay away from people. My parents’ did not trust anyone and I was too afraid to trust others. I never had the feeling of community for I did not allow others into my heart. As time went by, I realized that it was lonely not to trust others and that I was only truly hurting myself. I know what happened in the Khmer Rouge broke the spirits and the community of the Cambodian people, but we are able to revive it; it will show the courage and resilience within us all if we are able to trust again and build a community together. We have seen the darkness of humanity through the Genocide, but we are never broken by it because we have only grown stronger from our pain.
On that day, I saw hope, I saw light, I saw love that would conquer the beasts of our pasts and transform them into the beauty that lies within all our hearts.
I hope you may join us next time to be part of this community. Hopefully the java plum kombucha we are making will entice you!
BY JENNIFER KA