Friends and Family,
Greetings from Cambodia. Well, the inevitable finally occurred. I had a run in with the law. I was pulled over by the police. I broke the "law." Yes, I committed the unpardonable sin of Cambodian driving ... I was driving my motorbike ... with the headlight ON ... during the daytime! OH, THE SHAME!!! What gross negligence! The guilt is too much to bear!
My Cambodian friend was with me at the time, and after a few minutes of "negotiating," I paid $0.50 to the police (a.k.a. the day robbers) and we were on our way. I guess my Cambodian experience just wouldn't have been complete without having to pay the "foreigner tax." Really though, it's kind of sad, because the police are so underpaid that abuse of power is just too easy a solution. Nobody trusts them. When some Cambodian friends were asked if they would go to the police if they had a problem, they laughed heartily.
It's hard to believe that it is April already. Wow. The hot season is kicking in full gear now, but it's a dry heat ... a really hot dry heat. I actually haven't seen any rain since November of last year. My time in Cambodia is winding down, but it has been a very rewarding experience. March was spent primarily in Phnom Penh, helping in a variety of ways and capacities at the NGO. The city has kind of grown on me.
Cambodia is an incredible country, but as I hope you are aware by now, there is also a lot of sadness here. Seeing the street children scrounge through piles of trash looking for scraps of food will break your heart. And how can you not be affected by beggars with bodies emaciated by hunger and disease? Your stomach will turn when you hear about very young girls trapped in brothels or corrupt politicians taking advantage of the poor. It would be easy to focus on the sadness, the injustice, the pain ... it's all around you here. And yes, we should be aware of these things and proactively seek to meet the needs around us. But, I am beginning to see the importance of finding the "small" glimpses of joy, of celebrating life instead of focusing on death. Being captivated by the sadness only reinforces the mentality of death. Only by coming with joy can we expect to transform the hearts and lives of others. A gift of love, a message of hope ... these lose their power if we don't affirm life with joy.
I hope all is well back home and abroad ... wherever this email finds you. As usual, I've posted another update to the website:
Thanks for your friendship,
Back to Cambodia 2004-2005