I wrote this the day I arranged for an early flight from Cambodia, home.
Where does the truth make you guilty?
Well in Cambodia of course.
Where else can you ride your cheap second-hand bike with the rusty brakes down polluted dirt roads, squirming and pedaling your way through the tuk-tuks and the moto’s and the big fancy Range Rovers, to find yourself praising God when you reach your destination – limbs attached.
Where else can you tuck in for a good night’s sleep only to find that your used pillow the guesthouse provided you with smells like the dirty hair-sweat of the person who slept on it previous to you.
Where else can you wake in the morning, walk downstairs to the main dining area of your $3 per night hostel to eat your generic bran cereal and find yourself sitting next to a snoring, hungover, rotten smelling tuk-tuk driver.
Where else can you see shining ornate palaces, touched with accents of gold, and beneath its shadows the tiny hands of a naked, begging baby boy.
Where else can you be constantly greeted, no barraged, with the phrase “you buy something lady” “lady buy something” as you walk down market stalls, suddenly feeling like the color of your skin has instantly morphed into American Money green.
Where else can you walk to dinner – to a fancy Western style restaurant of course – and be faced with a begging mother who has laid her incoherent, bloated, starving, child out on a woven mat before you on the sidewalk so that you are forced to literally step over him while thinking to yourself, “I’ve only got a fifty. I’ll come back when I’ve got smaller bills.” before indulging in two for one cocktails. On more than one occasion you’ve simply forgotten to go back.
Where else can you find yourself face to face with the reality that for God knows why you – a twenty something college graduate from the United States of America – were born with such privilege, and for some reason, these people, who are breathing the same polluted exhaust filled air as you…they obviously were not.
There are in fact many places around the world that I can go and experience these very same emotions, these very severe examples of in your face poverty juxtaposed against the verity that I myself have for some reason been spared.
This is the most difficult truth to face. This is what gnaws at me day after day, taking in this countries sights, its smells, its customs its people.
I’ve heard foreigners who come to Cambodia say they can’t believe how much the people smile here. I’ve yet to experience this side of Cambodia. Maybe I impose my pessimistic curiosities on others, and I only see in them the harshness of what I perceive.
I’m unsure of it all. I have learned so much and yet I feel as though I am more uncertain about the state of the world, about life, about fairness, about religion about individuality than I’ve ever been. When you spend time in a developing country, and if you’ve come from a developed country, you must adapt. You must look at the circumstances; take in your surroundings, your social encounters, even your daily commute to work in a different way.
So now I wonder, what will happen to these thoughts when I leave? What will happen to my conscience when I’m safe in my king sized bed, comfortable under the cool breeze of an air conditioned bedroom?
What will happen to these thoughts when I resume my responsibilities, as a wife, a daughter, a sister? Will I be able to carry this experience with me, sharing its lessons with significance?
Once again I am uncertain.
I am though, confident in the decision I have made to leave. I feel the weight of these realizations these moments and memories pressing down on me, making me weak. My stomach is in a constant state of acidity and my legs are covered with bruises. As someone who just over a year ago ran a 26.2 marathon, I find it physically difficult to simply ride a bike a few miles back and forth to work each day. And despite my conviction that this situation is all about adapting and accepting, there comes a point where I must consider what is right for me personally.
So with these confessions that surely haunt my soul, I neatly pack my bags and return to the comforts of home.
I set out to challenge myself, and challenge myself I’ve done. I don’t know that I even came close to accomplishing some of the many vague goals I’d set for myself, but bear in mind I acknowledged at the onset that this was as much about me learning to personally take the focus off of vain pursuits and expose myself to a world much different than what I’m used to.
I love that I when I write honestly, without the intent to share, I can look back and grow from my previous feelings. I chose to share this because of the lack of filter. I sometimes feel that when I blog I edit my thoughts in order to appease or impress, but often my most genuine writing comes from my random “thoughts on paper” that I never intended to share.