Inspired Words

These are the experiences of our volunteers in Cambodia.

En route to Cambodia

Posted in Cambodia on December 8, 2008

December 5:

This meaningful adventure to Cambodia has finally become a reality. After months of preparation and anticipation, here we are, at last, en route to Cambodia. Having waited and waited and waited, to finally be here, past the point of no return, gives me a feeling that can best be described as surreal.

Half the group has started this journey in Kamloops. Getting on to the plane in Kamloops my bags were thoroughly searched and swabbed for bomb materials. Apparently the big toothpaste containers are dangerous and the little ones aren't. Who knew? Oh well, at least I can rest assured that I am safe – at least from Kamloops to Vancouver. I find it ironic and counter intuitive how security checks are always so much better in the small airports as opposed to the larger ones. This is a post 911 world.

We arrived in Vancouver and went through yet another round of security checks and my passport checked another half dozen times. I was pleased to learn something in my bag leaked (insert sarcasm). No matter, at this stage, no small annoyance could dampen (no pun intended) my excitement to meet other members of our team and get this show on the road to Cambodia. We all met up and we chatted, some slept and others played a game of Uno. Amongst peoples' laughter and excitement, I sat back and reveled in some joyful and self-satisfied contemplation about the meaning of all of this. I can't wait to observe people's reactions and live vicariously through the experiences of those who have never been to a developing country. I suddenly developed an acute sense of the extent of my responsibility as well; this doesn't feel like a burden, but rather a privilege. In this moment, my resolve and commitment to these generous people, this experience, our hosts partners and our movement has never been stronger. Like all other Developing World Connections team leaders, I am so pleased to be part of peoples' meaningful experiences.

Inevitably our four hour layover increased to a 5.5 hour layover as we were delayed for mechanical issues. Our 13 hour flight time also increased to 14 hours, I suppose because of the winds. As I write this, I find myself at above 30,000 feet,cramped like a chilled sardine into an impressively large B777-300E. With literally hundreds of people, it's like a floating village up here. Lucky for me, I am sitting, next to crying babies and the bathroom (again, insert sarcasm). Sleep is a luxury I don't expect to get much of in the next hours.

As we boarded the plane we walked through the 'first class' section where people actually had their own beds. I couldn't help thinking that maybe they insist of putting us economy folk in the back of the bus, almost just to rub it in – if I hadn't seen what I was missing, I may not have missed it. Promptly after being seated, the curtain was closed to separate us from those in the front. It dawned on me that the seating on a plane is a metaphor for the social structure of society in the developing world: a vast majority of less-than-comfortable people living next to a small elite. With the curtains closed, those with the privilege of space, good service and food are less bothered by the masses. As we took off, I couldn't help wondering, from an economics point of view, whether it was the first class passengers who were effectively subsidizing the cost of a ticket for the economy class, or vice versa? In any case, if we could have all shared the same space equally, the net increase in comfort would have been drastically disproportionate to the net decrease. In any case, no matter our seat, I am sure we all could agree and hope that our pilots knew what they were doing; God forbid in the case of an emergency we would all go down together.

I suppose one could easily get frustrated by air travel. But, contrary to my complaints, its all good. Given the upbeat and positive disposition of all the participants, it is evident that this group will not be daunted. I suppose, in a way, this is good practice for the inevitable 'spontaneity' of the developing world. Better yet, I consider this nothing less than a personal opportunity to practice surrender. Inflicted with the 'convenience is king' and 'time is money' attitudes prevalent in my culture, just going with the flow doesn't always come easily and I am certainly not immune. However, I do hope this experience will gently challenge me to, at very least, boost my immunity.

So far I can tell we have an excellent group of people. It will be interesting to see how the dynamics evolve when we are challenged. I sense that we all have open minds and a genuine curiosity and desire to be of service. With an air of humility and dispossessed of rigid expectations, we stand poised for nothing less than meaningful adventure.

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