~And let us pursue that most tempting of
Saturday, March 7, 2009
The Khmer People
I just wanted to write a quick blog about our experience with the Khmer people so far.
We left Siem Reap this morning and are currently in Phnom Penh. It’s kind of hard to explain what we have experienced here so far, but there is definitely a feeling I can’t quite describe. Cambodia’ s recent history of torture, starvation, and forced labor is very much prevalent today. It’s interesting to look around at all the Khmer people because you rarely ever see someone older than 50.
Cambodia is an extremely poor country, and as a result there are thousands of children and people living with amputations selling books, bracelets, and postcards on the streets. Many of the men with no arms or legs have signs in English explaining their family situation and their tragic encounter with landmines. Children are working hard by not begging but by selling. It is so hard not to buy their items and give them money, but it is not the best thing to do because often times the children rarely get to keep the money and it only perpetuates the problem. Do you want families sending their kids to school or sending them to sell books?
It is better to give them food and more effective to give to larger systems and organizations who can better deal with these cycles. Bryan and I gave a small donation to an orphanage and would have loved to give to the free hospital in Siem Reap, but unfortunately we don’t have much to give. We did meet several volunteers working on building houses as well as at the orphanage which was nice to see. I would love to go back and help when there is more time. Oh and by the way, the free hospital in Siem Reap was lined with poor families located right next to a million dollar hotel. The disparity between rich and poor was very much prevalent in Siem Reap.
In short, I guess what I’m trying to say is despite the fact that these people have recently seen war, genocide, and famine – they are still some of the kindest and most honest people we have met yet.
More to come later as we are visiting the Tuol Sleng Museum where the once school was turned into a security prison and was the largest torture center in the country. We will also be going to the Killing Fields – we are anticipating a rather depressing day tomorrow.