Tuesday, October 30, 2007


“I am on a bus bound for Sihanoukville. The Cambodians call it Kampoung Som. Either way, “it” is a beach town four hours away from Phnom Penh. We had another holiday from school, so my roommates and I really wanted to get away.
The Cambodian countryside passes me by; shelters on stilts above ponds of sewage water, white emaciated cattle, naked little children casting fishing nets, and towering palm trees dotting the rice fields. A Khmer movie with Chinese subtitles plays loudly on the bus as I watch soldiers shoot and yell at each other. I think this is the Cambodian version of “MASH”. A woman behind me has answered her cell phone and talks very loudly in a foreign language I don’t recognize. The bus driver spends most of his time honking at motos and trucks packed with garment workers headed to the factories. My roommates sit in the row ahead of me and watch “The Office” season DVD’s on Trina’s laptop. My experience is completed by Jill Phillips and Fernando Ortega as they sing to me through my headphones.
As we pulled out of Phnom Penh an hour ago, I began talking to a Spanish gentleman named Manuel. He grew up in Spain and now he travels for business that has taken him to over 70 countries. He is going to Sihanoukville to visit friends. He is in and out of Phnom Penh regularly. We talk about how lonely it can be to travel, places I should visit in Europe on my way home, and the yoga classes has found in Phnom Penh. He mentions how cheap they are at $5 a class and I nearly gasp. There is no way I could afford that on my income!
He seems comfortable as a traveler. He has seen so much of the world. He has perspective. I can’t always understand everything he is saying in his broken English. So I focus on his lips and nod my head and smile. He asks why I came to Cambodia. He says it sounds like I was at a crossroads in my life. I think I agree. He tells me about breathtaking landscapes on the coast of Greece and beautiful country sides in Florence, Italy. At this I say, “That sounds gorgeous! It can be very difficult to find beauty in Cambodia especially in Phnom Penh!” He says, in many words, that the beauty is there you just have to look for it. He mentions character, values, culture, and smiles. Honestly I think this all sounds a bit cliché because I was hoping he would tell me about some hidden park or waterfall I hadn’t found yet. But he didn’t.
The beauty is harder to see. In America, ideal conditions, beautiful landscapes, and easy living has been handed to me my entire life. Is my situation here completely devoid of beauty or am I missing something?
Do I have such strict standards for blinders that I am missing the point? Am I fighting my very reality? Am I seeking changes that are just part of the experience? Am I missing out on a great adventure because part of me refuses to adjust?
This is my life right now and will be for 10 months. I will not live in Cambodia for the rest of my life. I am not trapped. I am not suffering. I did not sign-up for easy, ideal, or beautiful. I signed-up for Cambodia and everything that entails. I can’t pick and choose. I may never find this place to be charming. Heather, accept what is and start living!
I have plenty of things I do not like about Cambodia. But faults are too always easy to spot. That is too easy. What do I like about my life here?

-wearing less make-up, spending less time on my hair, my wardrobe
-doing all my grocery shopping
-riding motos around town
-Asian pears
-fresh sugarcane juice
-being called “Ms.Bo”
-a simpler life
-the funny sounds Cambodian make when they really laugh
-the kindergarten girls when they come out of the bathroom with their uniform tucked into their underwear
-less focus on being skinny
-the beautiful Buddhist temples
-watching my students perform, get up front, sing, anything
-playing volleyball with the dormitory students
-travel is cheap
-food is cheap
-clothes are cheap
-how my 6 year old Pakistani neighbor calls me “Baji Heather”, which means “sister”
-fellowship at potlucks
-wearing Crocs every single day
-seeing monks riding motos
-knowing I live where ADRA works
-the smiley cook in the kitchen at CAS, we don’t speak the same language, still we communicate
-Cambodian dancing
-dragon fruit
-not living on much
-meeting people from all over the world
-the random herd of goats that wanders around my neighborhood”

-my journal entry from October 28th
(This list is only a few of the 92 things I wrote down that I like about Cambodia)

We arrived in Sihanoukville. We found a guesthouse on the ocean, dropped our things, and went swimming. The beach wasn’t awfully crowded. But we are in Cambodia, so it is a little dirtier and all the locals wear jeans and long sleeve shirts to swim. This made my one-piece swimsuit look a bit risqué! That night we saw the town and ate some good ‘ol Western comfort food at a restaurant called Holy Cow. They had this yummy Pumpkin soup and apple pie with ice cream for desert. The next day we relaxed at the beach in the morning, visited some waterfalls, and even splurged $4 on foot massages!
We only spent 2 days in Sihanoukville because we had to get back to do schoolwork. Still, it was an incredibly relaxing and much needed getaway.


Livny said...

Heather! Wow, what a cool vacation. 92 things you like about Cambodia? How could you not like this place and have 92 things you like? Your recount makes me want to go be a missionary somewhere Heather. But for now, I will live vicariously through your missionary experience... God Bless YOU in all things and all situations.

caitlyn brianne said...

Heather i am so glad you were able to get away and relax a little! i'm praying for you everyday! i love reading your blogs they help me see perspective....lol well i have to get ready for work and class, you know the "joys" of college! miss you babe! God Bless and i'm praying for you! :)

barberboy said...

"Honestly I think this all sounds a bit cliché because I was hoping he would tell me about some hidden park or waterfall I hadn’t found yet. But he didn’t."

This comment made me smile. I love how your experiences are changing your perspective every day. Thank you for sharing them with us.

Love you.

Ashley said...

92, wow!

I'm glad you got to relax and see new sights. You're becoming that Citizen of the World that we talked about...

Love you!

Dad said...


You helped me see a side of Cambodia that I was hoping was there somewhere! I'm proud of you for beginning to see the good things, and it's a reminder to all of us still back in the U.S. to remember the things we can be thankful for also! luv ya, Dad