Friends and Family,
I have finally put together a little web update. My emails may actually be more informative, but there have been requests for pictures, so I have given the people what they want. Let them have their pictures. It only took two weeks to upload the files. No, just kidding. Actually, I have internet connectivity at home now!! It's a blazing fast 48 Kbs dial-up service ... it does the job. More about the web update at the end of the email.
Anyway, as of today it's been two months since I arrived in Cambodia. It's kind of refreshing to be in a country that's isolated from what's going on in the rest of the world. Is Iraq the 51st state yet? I wouldn't know, because gratefully I don't have to listen to the daily reports of violence and exploitation. In Cambodia, you kind of forget that there's a world out there. Did you know that Cambodia is actually shrinking? This is because the Thai and Vietnamese continue to steal land at the borders. There are people who joke that soon the border with Vietnam will be at the edge of Phnom Penh, and still no one will say anything. Cambodia is insignificant to the rich and powerful and holds little of value to them, so few even pay attention to such exploits. It's sad.
In Cambodia, there are many problems, but the most obvious and glaring one is poverty. Especially in the rural villages, people struggle just to get by. Many are seasonal workers, who work in the rice fields. They are paid once a year in rice. Needless to say, by the end of the year they are broke and hungry. The micro-enterprise projects we (at the New Life Foundation NGO) attempt to start aim at providing an income of $1 a day per family member. This would be considered a success. Even in Phnom Penh, the average Cambodian does not make much. Many of my new friends only make around $50-$100 a month. How do you live off of this? Yet so many of the young people I've met talk of their dreams of going to study abroad. In Cambodia, you come face to face with the inequalities of life. I'm not smarter. I haven't worked harder. I'm no more special or deserving. But I travel around freely spending money without hesitation, while others struggle just to make an extra dollar. It's hard to come to terms with this, and sometimes it's hard to know what to do.
While I've been in Cambodia, I've been trying to use the time away to reconnect with my faith. I've been thinking a lot about the life of Jesus, reading about it again and again. I know all of you don't hold a belief in Jesus, but regardless I think looking at his life would be beneficial for all. I can't say that I'm gaining some great understanding ... he's just as confusing as ever ... but there is something attractive about Jesus. There is something attractive about the life of simplicity and yet impossibility that he taught. There is something attractive about the freedom with which he related to people. There is something attractive about a life of faith and love. And yes ... this is the blessing of being in Cambodia. A stripped down, simple life filled with the near impossibility of just getting by. The freedom seen in the poor who, broken by their circumstances, have no need to impress or maintain a reputation. Unlike the rest of us, they cannot hide their brokenness ... their needs are exposed for all to see. Pride does not keep them from asking and receiving, from dependancy on others. They are free to accept with no pressure to return, and we are free to give with no possibility of repayment. It is a life of love, and we must learn to live on both ends ... as the giver and as the receiver. And it inspires a life of faith ... faith in something bigger than our ourselves and bigger than our circumstances.
Well, I don't mean to drone on and on. I've been having a great time in Cambodia. I posted some photos and updates to my web page for those interested. Just follow the Cambodia link at:
Thanks for reading this far. You're all special to me, and you wouldn't know it if you hadn't read this far.
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