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David and Amy Chiv play with their daughter and son in the US in 2003
David and Amy Chiv play with their daughter and son in the US in 2003. Photo Supplied

A love that spanned 13,000 kilometres

As John Lennon once said, “All you need is love”, but in this time of hatred and war, it is not always so easy.

In Khmer they are called a “fated couple”, two people whose faith and love has kept them together despite massive challenges.

David Chiv, a Cambodian-American, and his wife Amy Chiv, from Singapore, are the owners of Digby’s deli and diner on Street 63. They share a story like that.

David, who was born in Cambodia, sought refuge in Thailand before moving to the United States, where he studied business in university.

Amy’s studies took her from Singapore to Australia and then back to Singapore, where she worked as a professor of polytechnics.

“After I graduated in Australia, I returned to become a professor in a polytechnic school in Singapore. At the same time, my family was also busy with our own business in the country,” Amy said.

However, fate would have it that David was not to finish his studies.

“I decided to suspend my study and start selling doughnuts,” he recalled.

“When my doughnut shop became popular, a lot of customers bought from my shop. I looked for a new opportunity by creating a coffee shop.”

With both the doughnut and coffee shops becoming successful, he decided not to return to his studies, “because I had a good occupation with a good daily income”.

A natural entrepreneur, David saw his businesses grow and become successful, similar to that of Digby’s.

“Day by day, as my shops grew in popularity, I tried to find new things and menu items including new beverages to serve customers,” David said. “My businesses were increasingly successful with rising incomes, but I was always busy and had almost no free time at all.”

In 1996, Amy visited the United States with her some of her university friends.

Some of her friends lived in the state where David ran his businesses, which is where fate decided that the two should meet.

Every day Amy and her friends went to David’s cafe, and one day a friend introduced her to David. They immediately started a friendship which would span time and space.

“One day, David promised he had a unique talent and would make a special coffee for us. I accepted,” Amy said. “After drinking it, I recognised that it had the most special and wonderful taste that I had ever drunk.

“It was unforgettable. Meanwhile, I thought that this man took his heart to make a coffee for me. His coffee seemed to grab my heart already, my God!” Amy chuckled.

“I always thought about him and soon enough realised that I loved him, and at the same time our friends would invite us to see each other more and more.

“I always looked at him every day and he also looked at me.

“I love David, I see him as a true man. He’s good for me. I trust in love and good deeds,” Amy said.

The Chivs celebrate Khmer New Year in Cambodia 2014
The Chivs celebrate Khmer New Year in Cambodia 2014. Photo Supplied

“At that time, and still today, I don’t think any negative thoughts about things like race or nationality – love is the only thing.

“After my vacation, I came back to Singapore to continue my work. We were far apart from each other – about 8,400 miles [13,600 kilometres] apart. The time zone difference between our two countries was 15 hours,” Amy said.

“When it is night in Singapore it is day in the US, so I had to wait until David was free from work before I phoned him.

“We communicated with each other every night and only by phone. At that time there was no Skype, Viber or Facebook like today. So I had to spend thousands of dollars every month on my phone bill. It was very expensive but it could not be compared to our love.”

After much time and even more expensive phone bills, the two got married and Amy went to live with David’s family.

“I love David and David also loves me. As Christians, our private lives became only one life after our marriage. So I went to live with David even though my relatives did not support it.

“David’s family members also love me; they’re very kind. We lived in the US with happiness and harmony.”

In the late 1990s and early 2000s Amy gave birth to two children – one daughter and one son.

In 2006, the family moved to live in Singapore for a few years, then decided to see what life in Cambodia had to offer.

They moved to Phnom Penh and opened Digby’s, a restaurant, cafe and, now, the largest butchery in the country.

Even with their business success, they both still emphasise the importance of family. They are quick to point out that in Phnom Penh there aren’t only four family members – two parents and two children – but actually almost 100, as they consider all their staff at Digby’s as members of the family.

David and Amy say their familial harmony is the result of a health give-and-take attitude, as well as from their faith.

And, now spending nearly 24 hours a day together even after some two decades of marriage, their recipe for success sure seems like it’s working well – just as well as those recipes used by the chefs in Digby’s.

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