The Khmer Rouge is something every Cambodia of a certain age has brought up in my conversations with them. It is still on their tongue. No one wears black - outfits are often ridiculously bright colored in reaction to the all-black everyone wore for 3 years, 8 months, 20 days. About 3 million were killed. Between 25-30% of the population. Monsters.
And so all of thisscared me, I guess. I'd just never been in a place that suffered so much so recently. And Thailand was the opposite. Cambodia was coloniyed be the French - there are baguettes and French style houses everywhere! Thailand has avoided Western invasion. Cambodians (or Khmer people) talk about their sad Khmer Rouge memories and their poverty. Thais avoid emotional conversations.
I think I expected sadness everywhere, but that wasn't the case. The poor, begging children were really bad in Angkor Wat and left a bad taste in my mouth, but once out of Siem Reap, the Khmer-Barang (thats what they call foreigners in Cambodia. Farang in Thailand) relationship changed: children wave hi and run up to you because you're different, not because you have money; adults smile at you; you are not harassed and so you are more likely to give at a temple or cafe or anywhere.
I have gone from feeling nervous and scared and sad about Cambodia to really loving it here, and marveling at the strength and resilience of the people, as well as the beauty of the rice fields, small mountains, and orange dirt roads. Even two weeks ago I did not think I would come back to this country, but just today I was dreaming of coming here to volunteer - and there seem to be opportunities everywhere to volunteer, donate, or to shop at a store that has items made by street kids, or to eat at a cafe run by disabled or deaf people. It's kind of amaying. The entire country seems to run on donations - schools donated by Japan, Angkor Wat ruins restored by the Japanese, Vietnamese, French, and Italians, water fountains in a village donated by a couple from the U.S., and the list goes on. I feel likemany different people and other nations have reached out an great amount to this wonderful country. It's never enough of course, but it really amazes me.
|Last Cambodian sunset.|
|At the Cambodian-Vietnamese border.|