Inspired Words

These are the experiences of our volunteers in Cambodia.

Global Citizenship and meaningful connections.

Posted in Cambodia on December 29, 2008

December 16:
Today we harvested rice in the morning and thrashed rice in the afternoon. The family whose plot we worked on was kind to allow us on their land and was exceedingly patient with us. Understanding the importance of this harvest and the immediate implications of rice going to waste, I was painfully careful to do it right. I feared being more of a burden than a help. I was impressed at how efficiently and quick this family was. I regret that tying bunches or rice together is not a skill I can honestly add to my resume. They make it look so easy but it's really difficult! We stumbled along and our collective inability was of great interest and amusement to the neighbours. They laughed openly at us and no offense was taken – we were a funny sight to behold. Using sharp blades to cut the rice, I managed to try and chop off my leg … I failed with only a scratch.

This was an opportunity for us to witness how most Cambodians live traditionally and have lived for countless generations. In this fashion, tradition and life itself is founded on family, religion and the land. Again, I hesitate to romanticize this way of living as people's weathered faces tell stories of hardship. As for me, don't get me wrong as I like my Facebook, my internet, my things and the occasion drive-thru. Yet, I can't help feeling that these people possess an intangible quality of living not so readily accessible to those of us who have been marketed to since birth. The Khmer Rouge tried to brutally and swiftly destroy this tradition of family and religion – a proud tradition that has, does and will continue to serve Cambodians well. In this light, the Khmer Rouge's radical leftist attempts easily reveal themselves to be little more than textbook hypocrisy, thuggish power mongering and pathological sadism. But, the Khmer Rouge failed. The Cambodian's ability to preserve this lifestyle despite everything gives me a reserved sense of hope that the inexorable forces of urbanization, capitalism, mechanization, technology and “progress” will not destroy it. Perhaps a balance exists whereby the benefits of modernization can be had in harmony with those of a simpler lifestyle as well. Perhaps this is true for us in the so-called “developed world” ... maybe a balance exists where we can benefit from money and the economy without living in service to it....a balance where greater value and appreciation is placed on things that are of a much more fundamental importance.

In the afternoon we proceeded to thrash the rice. Everything is done by hand. Nothing is taken for granted. The family was kind enough to offer us some refreshing coconut milk. We gestured, laughed and communicated the best we could and I felt the powerful connection was made between the locals and our group. For many I could tell today they experience a personal shift. I can't speak for everyone, but I think we gained some valuable perspective and a palpable feeling that no matter our differences, we are all essentially the same. We all want good food. We all love our families. We all want to be safe and secure. We all want to believe that things are getting better. The world felt small today. It is easy to see how it takes so little to make a meaningful connection between people... and how easy it is to care for others. The spirit of cooperation feels good. Global citizenship feels good.

Over dinner there was discussion about the experiences we have had. I was pleased to see that all of this was having an impact on people's thinking and perspective. Seeing is believing. Time will tell what comes out of all of this but I believe a trigger has been pulled inside of us.

Chrystie had the great idea to have a poetry contest. Each contestant put in a buck and the winner – by popular vote – got to keep the pot. The winner, by a narrow margin, was Shalen Curle. She did an animated rap for our group's ears only – sorry readers. But, I am happy to share that the following poems that were inspired by this trip and read over dinner.

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