DISCLAIMER: The following post may be considered offensive or triggering Cambodian women of the night, the American school system, Norwegians, Swedes, and the entire Siem family.
At some point during childhood, all American children are asked by their elementary school teachers to present some sort of project about where their family lineage comes from. Kids are told to go home, talk to their parents about their ancestors and then dress up in some sort of bastardized costume (8 year olds with sombreros and mustaches are hilarious) while presenting a report on their homeland. At this point in American history, most kids are multiple generations away from actual cultural relevance, so this homework really just rewards that one kid who realizes he's 1/16 Cherokee, which means he's going to get a free college education in 10 years.
On this day, back in 1995 or whatever it was, I showed up with Swedish meatballs. I'm not Swedish. Mom and Dad said I was part Norwegian so we bought Swedish meatballs because they were available in the frozen food section and no one had to do any actual work. Also, Norwegian meatballs are not a thing. Or maybe they are. It was the nineties and no one cared about Scandinavian food. I got up to do my presentation with my culturally misappropriated balls and explained to the class that my parents said my last name, Siem, translated to "little farmer" in Norwegian. I told people this for the next decade, and because no one outside of Norway speaks Norwegian, we all just agreed that it was the truth and moved on with our lives.
And then Google was invented and all the lies were revealed. "Little farmer" in Norwegian translates to "liten bonde" which is obviously not my last name. "Siem" means nothing in Norwegian, so the truth of my last name just went on the list of Lies My Parents Told Me which also includes "watching PG-13 movies will make you a harlot" and "alcohol is the first step to meth addiction, unless you're drinking white wine from a box like your father."
The only reference to "Siem" that I could find online was a place called "Siem Reap" in Cambodia. At the time of this genealogical discovery, I never thought I'd be in a position to actually visit my namesake, but life is bizarre and I just returned from 36 hours in Siem Reap. I mostly spent my time wandering around the Angkor ancient temples, eating gelato, and avoiding "massage parlors." I decided that the only logical way I could have acquired this surname was if at some point in the lineage, my great great great Norwegian grandfather went to Cambodia to have a little look at the Angkor temples himself. After eating whatever frozen treat existed at the time, great great great Grandpa decided not to avoid the massage parlors and ultimately fell in love with a Cambodian hooker. In order to commemorate the union, he adopted Siem as his last name and then he got on a boat to Seattle and that's how the Siem family was made.
This story is about as plausible as the "little farmer" lie, but way more entertaining and believable because Google can't disprove it. If Google can't disprove it, it must be true. That's how the internet works.
So, who's up for some Cambodian meatballs?