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A troll who goes by the handle @ratfreealberta took a run at me on Twitter for being too positive about our trip and the people we met. He tends to take a swipe at me every couple of weeks. If it isn’t a snide comment about my art, it is something else that he chooses to attack. This trip has helped me to realize that I can choose not to accept that kind of negativity in my life. I blocked him from ever seeing my tweets again.
I think there are many ways to see the world and the people in it. My interest is in seeking beauty, kindness, humility, tenderness, integrity, and commitment. In seeing the people in this tiny village in rural Cambodia, I saw resilience in action, connectedness, acceptance, devotion, and a beautiful simplicity.
Is there poverty? Sure, at least in comparison to how North Americans measure wealth. What we often don’t see or understand is that the way of life in this country has been that way for generations. Some may struggle for sustenance every day, but they still smile, laugh and love. They persevere and look out for each other.
It took time to get used to countless street vendors and roadside shops, garbage strewn ditches and yards, and kids running around with no pants. Seeing cows, chickens and ducks roaming freely at first seemed like a novelty. By the time we drove back to the airport in a tuk tuk it seemed endearing and strangely perfect.
During this trip we experienced sincere kindness and countless smiles. We felt welcomed and accepted. We were barangs with money in our pockets coming over to “help”. It would have been easy for them to be skeptical, wary and cold hearted. They weren’t - not a single one of them.
What we gave and what we did paled in comparison to what we received. This was less a vacation and more a priceless lesson in humanity. Sure, I hoisted some wood and metal, cut a few boards and helped chop out a stump. I even painted a few pictures that now hang in three different homes in a small village. We shared pictures and stories and did our best to capture the essence of what we were experiencing. But at the end of the day, we are both enriched beyond measure having met some absolutely lovely people.
Lee said that we would be changed, though he couldn’t say how. We have discovered two amazing countries, completely different from our own, and met people who have so little yet give so much. Eed and Nat’s kindness, Mern’s spirit of generosity, Poy Thou’s strength and determination, and Chat Tom’s work ethic and love of family inspired me in ways that I don’t yet fully understand.
I bought a stone obelisk neck chain made by a Cambodian landmine survivor named Bel. It sits under my shirt, next to my heart, reminding me of all I have experienced, seen, felt and learned on this magical journey.