I know our political @assholes use this word flippantly sometimes to describe normal things, but I can’t think of a better description of how I felt when I arrived in Cambodia. I think perhaps that I felt two things today that are remarkable. I felt humbled and embarrassed at the same time.
I arrived in Cambodia this morning, met by a driver that was born in the 80’s and doesn’t have first-hand knowledge of the “American War,” but could tell me more of the history than I have forgotten. He didn’t seem consoled by the fact that I will never forget the day that my brother, Rick, was inducted into the military during what we called the “Vietnam War.” (It’s called the “American War” here.) My memory is that our mother fainted. It was a terrible day. I was next in line, and not far behind. Could she bear to lose two sons to Indochina? Thankfully she lost none. The mothers in Cambodia are not so fortunate.
Here I am in Cambodia and I think I’ve had the most life-altering day of my life since Ray died. There are going to be a lot of posts about the details. I have arrived in what is perhaps the poorest country I have ever visited. Poorer than Egypt and poorer than Peru; I’m going to India in a couple of weeks though, hopefully this will brace me a little for what I’m sure to see there. But yet I’m buoyed by the smiles and the playfulness of the people that I see.
They are a good looking lot, in my eye the most attractive people I’ve seen in Asia to date. But it goes beyond their physical beauty. There’s more, and I don’t yet know what it is. I want to find out. How can it be that this country of 14 million people and lost 2 million during the “Killing Fields” era can stand up? Also, how can they accept me as an American? How can they use the American dollar as the de facto currency? It’s all very complicated to me.
I have so many pictures that will make the hair stand up on your arms. I’ve never had such tired follicles in my life personally. I stand in awe at this country. It wasn’t the people we warred against. It was their government. Once I wade through the details, I don’t know the conclusions I will draw. In the meantime, I’m mesmerized.