>Cambodia has struck a chord somewhere inside me. The poverty these people face and the determined way they pursue what may be the only options open to them is inspiring. Their suffering under the brutal Khmer Rouge regime in the 70’s still weighs heavily on the Cambodian psyche, with almost half of the country’s population of 7 million murdered by the decree of Pol Pot, for no reason other than paranoia and racism.
My heart suffers along with those who must scrounge in the dirt, who must beg rich foreigners for enough money to be able to afford dinner because they have no other choice. Those disabled by landmines, those who can’t afford an education, or simply those who have no better ideas sweat and toil in the unforgiving sun all day. A boy pleads with me to buy his postcards, when I just bought 10 from the boy next to him and couldn’t possibly need any more. Another boy offers two carved flutes with bamboo sheathes for $1. I give him 1000 rial (almost enough for one flute that I don’t want!) because I feel his desperation. A beggar graciously accepts my half finished bag of sugar cane. A man selling souvenirs in the dusty parking lot asks me for some of my water, because his throat is parched and he can’t afford his own. As we drive away I see him share his precious few gulps with a friend. A band of landmine disabled men provide ambience music and thank me heartfully when I drop a dollar into their collection plate, which holds three other dollar bills. The band has at least 7 members with which to split their earnings.
I never thought a roadside bus stop could be so eye opening. The desperation of the Cambodian children, all trying to be the first to sell you their fruit, or the deliberately but not inaccurately pathetic beggars, sitting at the step of your bus or being guided around blind by their young children. No wonder they see westerners as cold, as bus after bus of rich foreigners come, drop a few measly dollar bills into th hands of those who desperately need it, and then board their bus again with a juicy snack. Is it that we can’t handle the assault on our sanity, that some are forced to live and be brought up in such conditions, while we fare so much better at home? Or is it our ability to keep ourselves so distracted that we can afford to not thing about it…our books, our iPods, our movies, our food. How pathetic. How human.