Cambodia broke my heart.
It’s where I learned to cross the street as soon as I saw child beggars approaching from the corner of my eye.
The adult beggars, much harder to shrug off in the calm of Siem Reap as opposed to amongst the noise, lights and debauchery of Khao San Rd.
Tucked into a temple corner, a wizened woman cradling the bloated form of a young boy, his proportions all wrong – balloon head, stick figure body.
A dead dog in a stagnant creek. The most emaciated cows and chickens I have ever laid eyes upon. Skeletal would be too kind a word.
Thick, low-hanging bunches of power lines marring the beautiful, vivid Spanish-style buildings.
A lifetime of World Vision ads on TV leads you to believe you understand what’s out there, but do they really penetrate through the layers of scepticism, indifference, fatigue?
No. What does compute is a hippie-looking American, who checks into your lodge just after you do, to a familiar cry of surprise and joy from the owner. Later, you sit at the table next to his, where he chats to a local about his fundraising efforts. Articulating his dream of clean drinking water and good solid meals every day for their children. Attempting to come up with a number for this undertaking. That’s what it takes.
Personified, I think Cambodia would be that tough-as-nails woman who’s withstood everything life could possibly sling her way – divorce, cancer, bankruptcy, recession, depression, the loss of loved ones – but is still soldiering on.