Well, by the time you read this I will be back from Cambodia and back to work. I have had a few days to reflect on the whole experience and to realize a few things about my trip.
I came to Cambodia play tourist, to travel about and to spend several days volunteering at Sunrise Village?s Orphanages (Phnom Penh & Seim Reap). Maybe hangout at a beach with a pretty Scandinavian girl.
Pretty straight forward journey huh?
Well like a lot of things the real journey was not quite that simple. You see the real journey turned out to be not really the one I mentioned above. The real journey was far more personal, the real journey has impacted on me in far more subtle ways and has had more influence on me than just going to another place and looking at something, albeit incredible things. I find that when I am away on a trip like this, as I get farther from friends, family, and work, as I get farther from the familiar, I am more open to these influences. The real journey is in trying to understand how this inner journey changes and motivates my spirit.
I cried on this trip, I cried more than once, those who know me can attest to how rarely they have ever seen me do this. But I also laughed, I laughed so hard I thought I would burst. This place has that effect, it slaps you in its brutality and caresses your soul with its fragile touch.
In my lifetime, they have fought numerous wars here, they have been bombed by outsiders, they have practiced genocide on a scale rarely seen, in parts of the country you have to know where you are walking (and even then) or you might step on one of millions of land mines strewn about. Orphans and amputees are common, conflict and poverty have been the norm for multiple generations.
Yet, this is a beautiful country, full of beautiful things, and most importantly full of beautiful, generous people. You only have to see a Cambodian smile, to see them making something out of the wreckage, to see them rebuilding their country and you cannot help but be inspired.
They have a lot of help doing this of course, rebuilding a country, healing old wounds, rebuilding lives, rebuilding a whole culture, this does not come easily. Fortunately the Cambodian people have lots of help.
Non-governmental groups like MAG (Mine Advisory Group) remove the mines. Here in Canada, CIDA (Canadian Aid Development Agency) provides about 16-17 million dollars to Cambodia and we are just one country helping out. Church groups, community
groups, my boss who out of the blue gave me $500 to help out, even 8 year olds like my niece Caitlin pitch in. This outpouring of giving, of aid, of providing a helping hand to someone you don?t even know, inspires the Cambodians, and gives them hope that the world has not in fact turned its back on them like it appeared to do for so much of the twentieth century.
My grandfather fought in two wars, he told me stories about the liberation of Holland and the Netherlands, of the joy people there expressed and still do at their sacrifice. He told me stories of how appreciative the Koreans were of Canadian and UN involvement there, even after 40 years when he went back there to visit, he experienced that appreciation.
Well, the people of Cambodia are like that as well, they appreciate, from the very depths of who they are, the sacrifice and gifts from total strangers.
The tragedies of the past are slowly being put behind them, the Cambodian people are looking ahead to the future, they are looking for help and for partners to help them on this journey.
And this brings us back to my real journey here, not a journey from Canada to a far off exotic land called Cambodia. No my real journey, my secret journey was a journey into myself and exposing a level of compassion and caring I did not know I had and discovering that I had and have so much to give to others, even strangers on the other side of the world.