Sambath Ouch hadn’t seen his sister, Chum, in 43 years.
Decades later, Sambath, 55, and Chum, 60, talk easily, sitting outside Sambath’s Faribault home. In the yard, his granddaughters run around in bright-colored dresses. Two lapdogs lounge in the shade. The scene looks nothing like the circumstances of war and loss that separated the siblings. Looking back, Sambath views the reunion and his very survival as a miracle.
The story begins far from Faribault, in mid-1960s Cambodia. Before Sambath turned 5, his mother had died in childbirth and his father had gone off to fight in the Vietnam War, leaving older sisters to feed and care for the family.
After his father remarried, the family had a total of nine children. Four are still alive. Since his father wasn’t going to be around to care for everyone, he sent Sambath to live in a Buddhist temple, where the child attended school and knocked on doors to beg for rice. Once a month, he crossed a length of jungle alone (about the distance between Faribault and Northfield), swimming across a river during monsoon season, to see the rest of his family.
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