Monday, April 21, 2008


I write from Cambodia. Today was my first day back at school. Things that made me laugh today? Well, because you asked, I’ll tell you.
This morning I asked my 8th graders what they did during their vacation. Vanny said he has a new girlfriend. Then in worship I taught them how to sing that song, “I’m gonna sing…/ This train is bound for glory…/Swing low, sweet chariot…” And as we did Pagna started waving his hands like he was directing a choir. I laughed.
We had Geography class and afterwards Vitya, who is over shunning me, came up and said in his broken English, “You went Aust-trail-ia and what did you bring me?” I looked a bit flustered and responded, “A big hug!” He grinned and continued, “You leave Thursday, what you do? Not whole thing. Day-by-day.” He then bent over put his elbows on my desk, his chin is his hands and fluttered his eyelashes. He looked genuinely interested. I tried to be complete. But he would stop me at times and say, “You skip something? I want all. Don’t skip.” Then he would make me go back and tell certain parts again. I laughed.
I went to Drama class and we practiced our play for this weekends Easter program. I know it isn’t Easter, but Cambodians don’t really celebrate it anyway so who cares what weekend it falls? We are practicing the part when Jesus, or Lim Sear, is healing people who came to him (I picked Lim Sear to be Jesus because no one wanted to be, but I knew Sear would complain the least. Is it wrong to punish the good kids to avoid a fight? I think so). So one girl I have pretending to have a broken leg. Apparently he likes Nov Sovathavy so the action of “healing” her by touching her leg made the whole class go, “Ohhhhhhhh!” but I just laughed.
I went to Morality and they asked if I brought them back a kangaroo. I said, “Well I tried” and then went into an elaborate story about catching one and trying to stuff and force it into my suitcase while it kicked me and pleaded for mercy. Navy looked completely convinced by my story, so I laughed.
Later in the afternoon at English time, the construction crew was drilling 12 feet from out classroom. I was trying to teach about double negatives to no avail. They just couldn’t hear me. So I am now yelling, almost at the top of my voice, as the students looked at me like I was crazy. I just stopped. We laughed together. I started writing things on the board because that is the only way to be “heard”. After wards, David told me about a triathlon in Kampot province and Rithea who wanted to be in the conversation told me he can now dunk a basketball. This is completely unlikely because he is shorter than me and not many Cambodians play basketball. But I listened politely and acted impressed. But as I walked out the door and out of view, I laughed.
It feels good to laugh. But unfortunately it isn’t a daily occurrence. I thought today would be rough because of it being my first day back. But it was ok. No, it was fun.
Last week as I walked the streets of Sydney, completely in awe of all that surrounded me, I could not, and still do not, understand how places like Australia and Cambodia can exist at the same time. Cambodia is about 20 years behind the rest of the world. Yes, we have computers and occasional Escalades cruising the streets. But their maturity and intelligence is way behind. So going from Australia to this is strange but eye opening. Since I got here months ago I felt like the outside world must have stopped. Because how can these people be so far behind? Amazingly, upon reporting from both countries the last two weeks, I can confirm: Life goes on. Differently yes! But it goes on. I sat and looked at the busy road today and realized this is just another neighborhood on the globe. As I sit sweating in the heat and chaos of Cambodia, the busy trains of Sydney continue to run. As I watched a new mother hold her naked child on the road side this morning, Starbucks in Sydney served up another cup of coffee. As I dished out my 50 cents for lunch today, a shopper in Coach purchased a $4000 bag.
No it doesn’t make sense. Isn’t there some way it could all balance out? Is that socialism? I’ll do more research before I confirm it. I am reading, “50 Things that Should Change the World” by…a woman whose name I cannot recall. It talked about how 20% of the world lives on less than a dollar a day. That makes me want to secretly dive in to the other 80%’s bank account and with draw just a dollar or two to even things out. Because I am convinced that is what it would take. If everyone was actually aware that there is a big world out here, they would do something.
But instead, just as I have done and fear doing upon getting home, we create comfortable environments to distract ourselves from the fact that the world is an awful, hurting place. Guilty. I suppose I am just overwhelmed at how to solve the problem that people have been trying to solve for decades. It seems so hopeless.
But today I laughed in Cambodia. I am still frustrated at the world’s situation and confused by the people I deal with everyday. But part of me felt proud to be helping, at least right now, in a small way. I did what I could amidst the heat, contruction, and chaos. I laughed because it was all I could do. For now.

HEY: I just posted Australia pictures. Check them out.


Julie said...

Hey! Actually, here in Ukraine, it IS Easter this weekend. Strange, but true fact. And did you know that they celebrate New Years twice (sort of, they have Old and New New Years) and that Christmas is in January? Yup. True. :)