12 01 2009

I have started this first sentence dozens of times, but I can’t seem to find the right words to capture what I truly feel about Cambodia. For now, this less-than-perfect intro will have to serve as the beginning of an entry that I hope will capture at least a glimpse of what I experienced.

Living in America, I didn’t realize how “American” I was. Here, I felt different—an American citizen with a past and history that only few Americans have the un/fortunate responsibility to remember and carry. There are less than fifty Cambodians attending my college, which accounts for a nearly invisible population when compared to the makeup of my campus as a whole. One of fifty. One of fifty! I would spew what little I knew of my culture to others, at times ashamed of how much I didn’t know, at times saddened by how little others knew.

Unintentionally, my trip to Cambodia would open my eyes to how ignorant I was to the reality that is Cambodia.

Knowing mostly genocide stories from my parents—I would often tell people of the pain, the endless toil that those in the genocide suffered. Although the Cambodian genocide is clearly one of the most important and tragic events in its history, Cambodia itself trudged forward, rebuilt itself, and is still in the process of advancing and healing. The only thing I really saw prior to my trip was a genocide which occurred nearly 30 years ago.

Landing in the capitol city of Phnom Penh, I saw exactly what I expected, numerous beggars, overcrowding, interesting and unfamiliar smells. It was all there, no surprises! When will the trip be over? I knew all of this in the states. Mistakenly, what I first saw was only what I expected to see and I can attest now that while there is still begging, overcrowding and interesting smells, all of this has contributed to a fuller perspective—a beautiful and vivid understanding of what being Cambodian truly means.

Continued in next entry.