Cambodia – a World of Extremes

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Being on the other side of the world had a strange effect on my sleep.  Throughout the trip I was up and at it early. Every day my internal alarm would wake me between 5:30-6:00am.  That is crazy for me because I am a night owl and don’t particularly love the early morning, but on this trip my body was in sync with sunrise and sunset, and I didn’t mind it at all. Weird.

DSC_3158VicI’ve been thinking about what a small/large world it is!  It is SMALL in that we humans are so similar and what we need for survival in this world is pretty much the same – food, clean water, shelter, education, love, self esteem, good health, etc.   It is LARGE in that there is a great separation between those who have and those who have not.  Here in America we pretty much take these basic things for granted:  We flip a switch and we have electricity, we turn a knob and we have clean water.  But in a place like Cambodia, in the poor rural areas, clean water is a luxury and electricity is non-existent.English is the second language in Cambodia and we never had too much trouble getting around and communicating our needs.  In the larger cities like Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, we could have conversations which made it fun to meet and converse with the hospitality staff or our drivers.  We also got by on gestures, smiles and short little bows with our hands folded to our chest. Uncle Vic is great to talk to and luckily is fluent in English.  He is also a hero in my books (there are many heroes in Cambodia!).  Vic and his wife love and serve their people with passion and perseverance.  They have dedicated their lives to help them.  Regarding THEIR language, I am sorry to say I haven’t learned a word of it, although it is beautiful and rhythmic, it is very difficult to learn.
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While in the rural areas I stuck to the freeze dried food we brought and the rice.  The lack of clean water made me feel a bit nervous about eating any food from the rural areas but once we got to a hotel I relaxed a little and ate some – carefully selecting what I chose.  And its strange, eating a bowl of plain steamed rice actually satiated me all night – just goes to show you that we eat way to much food at home!
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The lack of clean running water in the rural areas is pathetic, but the people are resourceful.  They collect the water in big cisterns then boil and cool the water to drink. In one of the rural villages Uncle Vic introduced me to a lovely young wife who showed me her water “filtration system” in a make-shift, dirt floor kitchen.  Dressed in pants and a bright pink shirt, she was clean and smart and her children were beautiful.  She attempted the best way she could to demonstrate to me (she could not speak English) how she cooked in her kitchen for the other families in the village.  It was a beautiful experience and made me feel that there could be hope for her and her family – with a little help.  After our visit to the rural villages I asked myself how can this be?  How can a people be so disempowered?  Is it a corrupt government system?  Lack of education? Ignorance? or despair that breeds this level of poverty?
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The Cambodian country side is lush and green and beautiful – speckled with temples of gleaming gold and bright colors, some rice paddies, palm trees and colorful/ornamented houses. But poverty is the scar that runs across the landscape, you cannot miss it, it is everywhere. There are white cows standing in the fields that are so skinny they look like a cartoon. I asked Vic if they still produced milk, he said “yes, but they don’t use milk here”. I thought “what?!  There could be an entire industry that could support these rural areas just from the milk and other products developed from the cows.
More to come!
Love and peace!
Sandy

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