After reading Michele Bremer's story, the editors of the Virginia Weekly asked Heuan Kong to tell us how he felt about his experiences in this country. He wrote the following letter which was translated for The Washington Post by his friend Voha Chuon.
I came to the United States on June 26, 1979, and stayed with a Cambodian family in Arlington while waiting for an American sponsor. Six months later I was told that I was accepted to live with the Bremers of Great Falls.
The Bremers were so nice and kind to me. Mrs. Bremer was so helpful while I made every effort to learn English. The day I arrived at the Bremer's residence, I was offered lunch with the family immediately. While I was getting to know the Bremers, the beautiful children of the Bremers showed me the room where I should stay.
My life with the Bremers was a pleasant one and I had a good experience with them. I have learned a lot from them. Mrs. Bremer usually got up early in the morning, prepared breakfast for everyone and then drove her children and myself to school in Herndon. I was so surprised to see so many students from different countries attending the same class with me. I met a few students from Laos, Vietnam, Iran, Spain and France. There were no students from my country. I was the only Cambodian student in that class.
At noontime, Mrs. Bremer picked me up and took me home for lunch. After lunch I helped Mrs. Bremer finish the jobs outside the house -- such as cleaning the yard and cutting the wood to burn inside the house to keep us warm. In the evening, the Bremer children came to me and asked me if they could show me how to read the children's books. I was amazed to see the Bremer children read so well. They taught me how to pronounce the words that I had problems with. They also taught me how to read the newspaper. I really learned a great deal of English by talking with the Bremer children.
I should say that I also enjoyed going to church in Washington every Sunday with the Bremer family. I have learned to listen, read and sing in church with them.All that I can say about the Bremers is that they are a wonderful American family. I am so grateful because they are the first American family that I have had experience with. They helped me to face life in America.
In May 1980, the Bremers took me for a job interview at John Rocca's farm in Leesburg. After waiting for a period of three weeks, I was offered work as a helper at the farm. I took the job with excitement and fear because I never dreamed of taking up anything this challenging in America.
Having a job with the Rocca family is something else again, even though farming is well known in my country. Mr. Rocca taught me how to drive his tractor. He also showed me how to feed the animals. I sometimes went with him to cut the trees down for firewood. My job also includes tilling the soil with a plow, planting and picking corn and painting. I really enjoy doing this work.
The Rocca family is so nice and kind to me. They let me use their trailor at no charge. Every Monday and Thursday night, Mrs. Rocca takes me to a school in Leesburg to learn how to read and write English. Mrs. Rocca also takes me to see the doctor when I am sick. She also helps me to buy the things I need the most. They are great people. I love them all!