Should we go home?

Phnom Penh Travel Blog

 › entry 6 of 6 › view all entries
Both of us are healthy now and a few days around the pool have helped to tan our new, much slimmer physiques. The wide variety of
International cuisine here in Siem Reap won't be much help in maintaining all of that, but it is great to have my appetite back. Last night we had the amazing cocktails ,crepes and tapas and this afternoon we are looking forward to some apple pie and ice cream with
our coffee.

Phenom Penh almost put an end to this fledgling journey.  Yes there was a moment when one of us said, "Let's just go home".  The
corruption intensified the closer we got to the city. I have been so critical of US government policies for years, TRYING to stay optimistic about the future, even leaving the country for a few years hoping to return it when "got smarter") but now I am seeing things differently. The Cambodia government just hurts their people, there's just no other way to say this.  This headlines I have read here are something out of your worst living nightmare, and the people do not know any other way. I am thankful to my government for the opportunities that were given to me and for the safe, protective environment our police officers and health professionals provide to us.

I see so many Lexus SUV s among the 3 or 4 people huddled together on a motorbike, clinging to small children while others (maybe only 3 or 4 years old) hold onto the back for dear life.  Chris and I visited a orphanage and donated a huge bag of rice while we were in Phnom Penh.
 The orphanage had 83 boys and only 34 girls. There are cartoons on television showing stories of children of poor families, trying to sell
postcards or scarves on the street.  Usually unsurprised, they befriend an older woman who gives them food.  On their next visit to
her home she takes them and sells them to a human trafficking ring.  I can't understand the language, but the message of the cartoon is
abundantly clear as the white mouse with a bow tie comes on to review the lesson of the cartoon, trust nobody.

Trust nobody. I sometimes get upset at just being here as a voyeur of these social perversions.  I want to help, my heart breaks because it
is everywhere.  Sometimes I feel selfish, wanting to enjoy my day wondering around the temples without being chased by touts and
children yelling at me in their crying voices, "Please lady please, just take a look, please lady, you need cold drink. Pineapple, lady,
pineapple".  Holding naked, dust covered babies, men missing arms and legs from landmines.  Then there I am, instinctively wanting to turn
away and just go on enjoying my privileged life, getting angry over being charged double the going rate for a tuk tuk, or not wanting to
pay full price at the market.  How do I make a difference and spend my money in a way the it benefits as many people as possible, the ones
who really need help.

So are we defeated because we were ripped off a few times. Sadly we were even hustled by some Canadian who gave everyone up and down the street the same dramatic tale of being robbed and beaten up by a tuk tuk driver left without a passport or a dollar to his name? No, because "let's just go home" is quitting and this is everyday life for the people of Cambodia, it is hard, dangerous and it
is desperate. No I can't buy everything but I can try to be kind and learn from these happy, smiling people and help in ways that will
build stronger communities.  These people may not be able to trust their government, but I have seen how they help each other in their
communities by referring business and working together in the fields.

We left Phnom Penh with renewed hope in our journey and openness to looking at things optimistically. We took an early morning boat up Tonle Sap towards Siem Reap, home of Angkor Wat and many other amazing temples
built in the 10th century
As we sat on the roof of the jet boat we marveled at floating villages, farmers harvesting their crops, water buffaloes rolling in
the mud, cute naked little children standing in every doorway, smiling and waving as we passed (I have not seen a single diaper in this
country, basically the kids just go pant less until potty trained). Our time in Cambodia has been very memorable and challenged our ways
of thinking and opened our eyes to many things.  Everyday that I am feeling frustrated with our government, ungrateful for the privileges I have, unsatisfied in some small detail or even feeling as if I need more things, more stuff, I will remember the people of Cambodia.
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Phnom Penh
photo by: terminalfunk