Home of the Delta Kings

Stagg Online

Home of the Delta Kings

Stagg Online

Home of the Delta Kings

Stagg Online

Where did I come from?

Where did I come from?

The waves clashed the side of the ship and one woman aboard began to holler. Was it because of the long trip in the vast ocean? Was it because she was scared of drowning? Or was it because she was doing her best to give birth?

On the crowded ship, Jannetha Thon’s mother, Sakhom Pen, had successfully given birth to a baby girl. But wait, aboard a ship?

It seems unusual, but that is exactly how Thon had been born… so she thought.

During the interview process for this story, Thon discovered that how she had understood her birth wasn’t exactly how it happened.

In fact, she came to discover that she was born in sunny Philadelphia.

While Thon was under the impression that she had a history from Cambodia, she actually took on the story from another’s point of view.

Her mother was born a Cambodian citizen who lived the average life in a Cambodian family. When she was 8 years old, she was sent to concentration camps, for the Khmer Rouge was nearing an end.

During this time period when Pol Pot was in power, people were starving and working themselves to death in labor camps.

Pen was one of the lucky few to escape to Thailand for a vigorous voyage to America, it was then that she was aboard a ship.

A year later, Pen and her husband met through a family friend and were wed. Staying with his side of the family, Pen left her eldest son Johnathon Thon with her parents here in California, knowing that there was no way she could take care of a child at that moment in her life. A year later, she had Jannetha and another little boy some time after that.

Because of her mother’s exposure to various diseases in Cambodia, Jannetha was born with a cleft palate and hepatitis B. “I don’t have to take any medicine or anything for it,” Jannetha says, “but the Hep B will forever be part of my genetics.”

Complaining of the absence of grandchildren, Pen’s parents convinced the family to move down to California.

“She only stayed in Philadelphia because she had to make a living,” Thon said.

Always curious,Thon was constantly told stories about the concentration camps and how difficult it was to escape.

Her father, Neal Thon, told of how his friend had to bury one of his own family members.

Even though he came to America a year after Pen, he doesn’t regret leaving the gruesomeness taking place in his homeland.

One of the biggest challenges both he and her mother faced when they were here was learning the English language. Jannetha herself had to learn English at school then go home to a family that only spoke Khmer. It was then that she assisted her parents in speaking English as she did her homework. Always remaining active in their daughter’s education, they learned way more than they pictured they would. Despite the practice, they still have the heavy Cambodian accent and lack the understanding of some words.

Thon realizes that school is her main priority in life because in order to be successful and not live a life like her parents, she has to further her education.

Still adopting the customs of Cambodia, Thon and her family live a normal everyday life. A busy schedule keeps them on the edge, but for the most part, other than an occasional car breakdown, life can be lived without fear.

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Where did I come from?