I’m not really an emotional person. Those who know me might even agree in more stark terms than that. I’m not into causes of any sort. I’ve seen poverty on my trip (Solomon Islands) and some places which it seems that God has forgotten about (East Timor). Nothing however, has quite had the impact that the last few days in Cambodia have had.
- Today at a temple, I saw a little girl, maybe about 10 years old who couldn’t speak. She had a cleft pallet. As she went about playing with a younger girl (they were both orphans) she could only grunt and make noises. Wasn’t even speaking Cambodian.
- I’ve seen dozens of people with limbs blown off from landmines. Even if the landmine victims are more in sight begging or performing for money (they often play local instruments), there are still way more amputees here than I’ve ever seen anywhere on Earth, many of which are double amputees.
- I went to a floating city today and saw a woman in a small wooden boat paddling with what looked like a 2×4. She had 3 kids in the boat which was loaded with stuff. She was going to all the boats trying to sell drinks and snacks for $1. As she came up to my boat, I realized that in addition to the kids and the boat full of stuff and the 2×4, she had an infant child in her lap.
- There are lots and lots of orphans here.
All of this should be placed in the context of the fact that I haven’t even been to the killing fields museum yet.
I’ll confess to being a sucker for these type of hardcases. I’m not one to buy crap which is being sold at temples, but I have no problems giving a buck or two to a guy with no arms…or buying some bananas from the lady with her kids in a boat. I even purchased notebooks and pencils for an entire floating school today. (in the end, I just felt sort of bad for disrupting their class).
I don’t want to paint too bleak a picture of Cambodia. This place is probably leaps and bounds better than it was after the Khmer Rouge were done here. Traveling outside of Siem Reap today, in a very non-touristy area, I saw a fair number of new homes and construction. There were still a lot of people in shacks made of sticks, but there does appear to be progress, albeit slow. Cell phones and motorbikes are also pretty wide spread. No one seems to be starving.
I have photos that go with most of what I’ve written here, but it is going to take a while for me to get photos uploaded and I’d rather write this now than wait for photos. I’ll probably just share them later on when they are ready to go.