A look back at Cambodia.

wowThe first time I was in Cambodia, in 2005, I disliked it intensely. It was the end of the dry season and the land was parched and brown, as if nothing had ever lived there. My friend Martha and I stayed in a fancy tourist hotel and went outside the resort only to visit the famous temples of Angkor Wat. The heat was so intense, and the beggars & cripples in the streets so aggressive, it sapped my interest in seeing the countryside or meeting the people. Despite the wonders of the temples, it was an unpleasant experience overall, and I never wanted to go back.

Pretty much my tourista view of Cambodia, the first time.

Pretty much my tourista view of Cambodia, the first time.

However, when I went to Cambodia with Heifer last year, it was an entirely different experience. (And this is why you should never hold on to prejudices about countries you’ve only visited briefly — or in an utterly touristy fashion.)

For starters, I met the people I really wanted to get to know.mother & childAnd then there was the fact that everything – and I mean EVERY single living thing– in the countryside was bathed in green. And water. greenCambodia is geographically shaped like a bowl, so in the rainy season, water collects in the center and seeps out everywhere. The rice paddies were swollen with their watery harvest…rice field

…and children everywhere along the road were splashing happily and joyfully in the ubiquitous ponds.picking lotusI got to really talk to the people I met in the villages, and understand some of their tragic history on a deeply personal level.

Pream Sui, survivor of a forced marriage to a Khmer Rouge soldier - and beautiful grandmother.

Pream Sui, survivor of a forced marriage to a Khmer Rouge soldier – and beautiful grandmother.

I saw the work Heifer was doing to mend communities, bring people together to work alongside each other, and heal ancient rivalries with the amazing gift of animals . water buffalo

mom & chickies

pigs

A brood of guinea fowls.

A flock of guinea fowl.

And I came to adore Heifer’s country director, Keo Keang, who traveled with me every day to the villages and towns where Heifer works – and had her own horrific tale of tragedy from the Khmer Rouge days, when her father and sister were murdered. Keo Keang

Despite the severe difficulties this country faces in overcoming its genocidal past, poverty-ridden present, and dubious future, I met so many people filled with a gorgeous spirit of optimism and hope.fisherman

Kuhl Samon, mother of 11, and wife of Chin Chhil, an amputee in the war.

Kuhl Samon, mother of 11, and wife of Chin Chhil, an amputee in the Khmer Rouge civil war.

girls in temple

sweet namasteAnd believe me when I tell you, nothing can make you love a country more than that.lotusFor a look back at my Cambodia posts (and they’re really GOOD!) ..

http://heifer12x12.com/2012/10/16/haunting-cambodia/

http://heifer12x12.com/2012/10/22/a-song-of-reconciliation/

http://heifer12x12.com/2012/10/25/under-water-but-not-overcome/

http://heifer12x12.com/2012/10/29/i-was-married-to-the-khmer-rouge/

watery road

Categories: Agriculture, Animals, Cambodia, Heifer International, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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10 thoughts on “A look back at Cambodia.

  1. Hey! I have been following your blog for a little while now and I just love the work that you have been able to see. Thank you for the insight and beautiful stories. I have learned much from reading your blog. My husband and I have a passion for missions work through practical means and the work Heifer does allows for that helpful relationship and open conversation which is so wonderful. Way to go for taking on that journey. :) – Arielle

  2. Deb Palmer

    Beautiful. My daughter, Whitney, has traveled a fair amount in the last 10 yrs and one thing she said to me was it is the people in your surroundings that make a place. She learned that things, we Americans seem to covet, are not what makes a persons environment special. It is the relationships that bring happiness to where ever you land. This is the bottom line to happiness. People and love.

  3. Anne Orndahl

    Thanks, Betty, for shining a light on such a beautiful country! Despite a history of violence and poverty, what I see is optimism and hope.

    • I love the way you put this, Anne! And it was so wonderful to be able to go back and see Cambodia in such a different — and hopeful light!!

  4. Beautiful and inspiring, both in pictures and in words. I want a job like this!

  5. It’s interesting that somehow those who have been most oppressed turn out to be so optimistic and hopeful! Makes me think of a book I read as a teenager called “Gray is the Color of Hope.”

    Hope you are doing well, my friend.

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

    • Kathryn, I know from all your travels you have totally seen the same thing! I want to read that book –thanks for the comment & the suggestion!!! lots of love, B

  6. Anonymous

    Betty,
    Every one of your posts is fabulous. I hope all your efforts result in more people giving Heifer as Christmas gifts. we all have soooo much!
    Louise

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