Many years later, Loung reflects on her life in America. Determined to fit in, she immersed herself in American culture and tried to Americanize herself to erase memories of the war. Chou often wrote letters to Meng asking about her, but Loung never wrote back.
The fact that Loung never writes back to Chou betrays her guilt about leaving her sister in Phnom Penh while she lives a more stable life in the United States. Loung’s second memoir, in fact, details the vastly different directions their lives take after Loung leaves Cambodia.
Khouy, Kim, and Chou stayed in Bat Deng. Chou married at eighteen and bore five children. Khouy became the village’s police chief and has six children. Other relatives also made their way to the village. Kim made it to a Thai refugee camp in 1988. Though Meng filled out reunification papers, the United States reduced the number of accepted refugees and Thai officials began to deport many to Cambodia. Meng managed to get Kim as far as France through a black-market ring, and still awaits his arrival in Vermont.
The Ungs are able to rebuild their lives after the devastation of the Khmer Rouge—a testament to the power of the human spirit. The fact that Kim is not able to make it to the United States after all he has been through serves as an unstated indictment of overly-strict immigration laws.
Meng and Eang live in Vermont with their two daughters. Both obtained jobs at IBM despite having little knowledge of American culture, and support the entire family. Loung notes that current immigration laws mean their family will likely never be reunited, however. Loung was able to attend college and get a job working with victims of domestic violence. She eventually moved to Washington, D.C. to work with the Campaign for a Landmine-Free World. She is now the CLFW spokesperson and travels across the world to spread its message. Talking has reduced the nightmares, as well as the hate and fear she feels.
Meng and Eang’s success reveals their strength of character and will to survive, while their support of those back in Cambodia again emphasizes the unbreakable bond between family. Loung’s work with the CLFW is directly inspired by her experience with landmines in Cambodia, exemplified by the badly-burned boy she saw in the Vietnamese camp’s infirmary. Whereas she survived via rage and hate under the Khmer Rouge, she has now turned her trauma into a force for peace.
After fifteen years Loung returns to Cambodia for the first time, both nervous and excited. Her family greet her at the airport, but seem unsure of how to react. Chou looks like her mother, and when she and Loung lock eyes, Chou bursts into tears. The two hold hands “as if the chain was never broken” and walk out of the airport together.
Chou’s easy acceptance of Loung after all this time mirrors the way she reached for Loung’s hand in forgiveness back in Ro Leap. Their bond transcends time, distance, and trauma.