Sunday, May 29, 2011

Ignorance is Never Bliss

Lately, I’ve been thinking about all the pain I ignore around me. I see beggars everyday and walk by, sometimes not even looking in their faces because it makes me feel guilty. When I go to the beach, I am not always patient with the sellers  trying to thread my leg hair or sell me yet another bracelet. Sometimes I’m rude and say somewhat briskly in Khmer, “No, I don’t want!” and get back to reading my book. Whether it’s failing to smile at the person walking past, or not taking the time to talk to a friend that really needs me, I realize that in ignoring all these tiny things, I am becoming more and more desensitized to the hurt around me.
A big wakeup call happened when my sister and I visited Teol Sleng in Phnom Penh. The site is a high school that was turned into a prison for torture and execution during the Khmer Rouge. The people were taken there to be interrogated and tortured. Each prisoner was numbered and photographed upon arrival. Animal like cells were fashioned of bricks and wood to confine the prisoners till their deaths. We walked through the narrow cells and saw some of the instruments they used to torture the “accused.”

I ran my hands across the rough bricks and looked into the faces of hundreds of people that were murdered, all the while thinking, “I had no idea.” Over twenty thousand men, women and children were executed in that high school alone. When the Vietnamese army liberated Cambodia, there were only seven prisoners left alive in the prison. The rest had been electrocuted, waterboarded, seared with hot metal instruments and beaten to their deaths.

As I walked into one of the makeshift cells, I thought the person that crafted this cell knew it was meant to hold a human being. I wondered, did they stop and think about how their actions would affect someone, or did they force themselves to block out all emotion and go on with the task at hand?

It’s an extreme example, but think about how it applies to your daily life. How many times do you shut off your emotions and “go on with your life.” How many times do you change the channel when you see big bellies full of nothing but parasites? How many times do you listen to the guest missionary at your church talk about hunger, disease, lack of resources and afterwards go out to a nice brunch with your friends? How many times do you watch celebrity gossip shows instead of educating yourself on the things that are really going on in this world?
I know we all do these things more often than we would like to admit. But we can change. Let’s allow ourselves to hurt for other people. Let’s stop turning our heads and hearts away from things that cause us discomfort. Let’s stop living in our own ignorance and choose each day, to live in love, no matter the cost.
May these innocent faces remind you, ignorance is never bliss.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Crickets, Ears and other Edibles

After a long run in the heat, I'm in the mood to sit in front of the fan and not do much of anything. I've decided to be slightly productive and amuse myself by recapping a few of the Cambodian foods I've tried, so here goes...

Raw oysters- Not enjoyable, but not bad either. They tasted like slimy, sandy things dipped in chili sauce.
  Pig ear- Sliced up and put in my sandwich. I wasn't much of a fan. It was quite chewy and not so tasty.



Cricket- This sweet lady was so happy I was trying her food and I'm glad I did. The fried cricket was actually really good. It was seasoned and was a nice, crunchy snack.

Squid- With tentacles. One of my favorites actually. Once you get used to the texture, it's really good in stir fry. 

Yummy food with good friends :)
  A few things I've turned down:
 Partly developed chicken
Pigs blood

Unagi- Eel sushi. I've tried, but sushi still isn't my thing.

Enjoying rice, steamed fish and goat meat at a wedding.
 So, you may be entertained or grossed out- either way, the moral of the story is don't be afraid to try new things, you might be surprised.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


So it’s been awhile…. Life here has been busy, and hot. My sister Katie came to visit in April and it was so good to see her again. We went to the ancient temples in Siem Riep, saw the sights and hit up the markets in Phnom Penh, went to a floating village and stayed beachside at a bungalow in my town.
Kate was a real sport. She tried everything and as she says, “got out of her comfort zone.” The first time we traveled on a moto taxi we saw a bad wreck.  I’m on the back of the bike thinking, “Oh great she’s probably never going to get on one again,” but she did, and with no complaints. When we went to the floating village, little kids were chasing us around with boa constrictors, my sister hates snakes…  she even went up and down flights of  temple stairs so narrow that you literally had to climb on all fours.  I was so impressed with her willingness to try new things and to truly experience life here.  It was hard saying goodbye to her, but I feel so blessed to have a sister who will fly around the world just to visit. Seriously, she is the best. <3

                                                                Floating Village

After Kate left, it was back to work and I added a few new things to my classroom. We expanded our classroom library thanks to generous contributions from back home. We now have a writing station and each student has his/her own “mailbox” where they receive notes from teacher and from their friends. We even got a few real games, not handmade! I wish you all could see their faces when they get stuff “all the way from America” they are quite thrilled.
April also brought a lot of reflection on my part as I considered staying on here another year. It’s been such a challenging/rewarding time and it’s hard for me to think about leaving. I came here prepared to serve and as I did, I have been blessed more than I could have ever imagined.  I’ve decided right now I have to look for a job elsewhere due to the fact that I have to start paying back loans in June. I will stay on a bit longer to help with the summer school program and fly back home early September. I've put out resumes all over the world, so we'll see! (Note to people that might miss me a bit... don't worry, I plan on applying in the states too ;)