As promised, this is the last post about the negative things I saw in Cambodia, with many beautiful and hopeful posts coming soon about all the great things happening there. 🙂
As I’ve mentioned before (click here to see previous posts), I was a bit surprised to find that Cambodia wasn’t as much like Thailand as I’d expected it to be. There are a lot of similarities, but I didn’t expect Cambodia to be as underdeveloped as it appeared to me. After learning about the effects of the Khmer Rouge’s rule on the country in the 70’s, it made more sense to me. Cambodia has had a lot to overcome.
Below are some photos of some living conditions I was able to see in Phnom Penh. It is known that some young women from this neighborhood have been sold into prostitution to help earn money for their family. I was able to see some organizations that are working with people from this exact neighborhood, so that was encouraging. I’ll be posting about that organization soon. This web page explains Cambodia’s poverty situation in an understandable way (over 30% of Cambodians live below the poverty line). The rural areas are even more affected by poverty as their traditional agricultural methods that don’t produce for quick profit.
Another sad part of Cambodia’s story is its high rate of human trafficking. Last fall, my friend led a book study on the book Not For Sale by David Batstone. This book is very eye-opening to the problem of present-day human slavery all over the world. The projects I visited, associated with the Center for Global Impact, and many others are working to fight against this problem. Specifically in Cambodia, there is a problem with children being sold into prostitution. Of Cambodia’s 15,000 prostitutes, 35% are under the age of 16 (click here for the source of this statistic and more information). Here are some of the sights I saw that opened my eyes to this heart-breaking problem.
So, poverty and young women being sold into prostitution… sorry about the downer post. However, there’s good news! Organizations like Center for Global Impact, Hagar International, International Justice Mission, and many others are working to both help prevent and rescue women from this modern day slavery. Just last night I heard an amazing woman, Somaly Mam, speak here in Indianapolis about her own experience of being sold in Cambodia’s sex trade as a little girl and now she’s helping save and assist in the recovery of thousands of girls. Learn more about her organization by clicking here or read her book, The Road of Lost Innocence. Stay tuned for more photos of beautiful Cambodia and the great things going on there.
I am so excited to finally be able to start posting photos from my adventures in Southeast Asia in June and July of this year. I should probably start by explaining how I got to go on the trip, why I chose Cambodia, and why I’ll be doing so many blog posts about it.
This past February (on my birthday, no less), I found out I received a Teacher Creativity Fellowship from the Lilly Endowment to pursue my proposed project. After hearing about Cambodia from my friends who are living and working there and doing a book study about the problem of human trafficking with the book Not for Sale by David Batstone, I had a great desire to learn more about the country. I also wanted to see what the organization my friends are working with, Center for Global Impact, was doing to help with the problems prevalent in the country. So, I proposed to study photography and go to Cambodia over the summer to capture Light in the Darkness: Beauty and Trauma in Cambodia. Through these blog posts of photos that I took in Cambodia, I hope to share a piece of my experience and some information that will show both the beauty and trauma that I saw in Cambodia. It is my hope that these posts will show both the needs that are present, as well as the hopeful and productive things occurring in the beautiful country of Cambodia.
I’ll begin with my first day there, which was spent outside of Siem Reap visiting the ancient temples of Angkor Wat. My friends Katy and Alan were gracious enough to endure a very hot day exploring this area and brought their friend, Ryana, along for the fun too. There was so much to see and I know we only touched the surface. This post is dedicated to the mother of all the temples, Angkor Wat. The grandeur and scale of these constructions are difficult to show on a screen like this, considering the manpower, hours, and labor that must have gone into this back in the 12th century. Angkor Wat is the world’s largest religious monument. It was built between 1113 and 1150, with many additions built later. It was built to represent a microcosm of the Hindu universe with the five peaks symbolizing Mount Meru, though over the years more Buddhist symbolism was added to the sites which you will also see in some photos. Click here to see an aerial photo of the area… it really helps you to see the magnitude of it!
I hope to be more consistent in my photos posts from this trip in the coming months. Look here for some of my previous posts with observations from my time in Cambodia, Malaysia, and Singapore. Thanks for checking in! Feel free to leave some comments, observations, questions below!
Hello again! I’m finally getting a chance to sit down at a computer and thought I’d send a reflection your way via this blog.
I continue to have a really great time seeing the good, the bad, the ugly, and the hopeful here in Cambodia. It’s been an slightly overwhelming time with so much to take in in the short week I’ve been here, but really great overall.
Instead of giving you the play by play on all I’ve seen and done, I’m just going to share some fun tidbits along with some other thoughts on my brief time here. Please note that I realize that I’ve only been here one week and I am a clueless American. Being someone who loves to experience new cultures and knowing that our culture is equally foreign and strange to those who visit it, I hope these comments do not offend anyone and the non-expert source will be considered while reading.
- Gas bottles are sold on the side of the road in old Coca Cola and other clear pop bottles, but they also have regular gas stations. I rode a moto up a mountain to a temple and cave and the guy had to stop for gas. He filled it up with a coke bottle of gas and we were on our way in about 10 seconds!
- They use US dollars here and their bills for small change (no coins). I’m a pretty big fan of not exchanging money and knowing how much things are.
- Walking around a foreign country with a pregnant friend has its advantages: when people stop, stare, and talk about us, I can just assume that they’re talking about the pregnant foreigner and not me. 🙂
- It’s REALLY hot and humid here
- People wear pajama sets as normal clothes here… and you can wear flipflops with everything. This is my kind of place!
- Angkor Wat is actually a temple complex of many temples built in the 12th century and covering tons of land. We explored three temples and barely scratched the surface.
- Khmer is not a tonal language (I thought it was since Thai is tonal. I was wrong).
- Siem Reap, Battambang, and Phnom Penh have many NGO projects that are helping provide livelihoods for Khmer people.
- It’s been a privelege to get to see some of those projects in action.
- The Green Mango Cafe & Bakery in Battambang not only helps train young women in culinary arts, but it also has really good food… I had the fried pickles everyday I was there.
- Today I went to the workshops of the Daughters’ Project and byTavi (www.bytavi.com), two sewing projects of the Center for Global Impact(www.centerforglobalimpact.org). It was so great to see the place where my ID holder and my mom’s purse was made (Buy their stuff, it’s great!).
- Seeing projects like this and seeing women learning about God’s word has been an experience that has left me encouraged and hopeful for further progress in this country.
- A cultural thing that people do here is to get their picture taken at these studios… basically Khmer glamour shots. Since it’s super cheap, I decided to jump in to said cultural experience. Let’s just say that fake hair, fake eyelashes, and a tiara were involved in this process. One of the funniest experiences I’ve had in a very long time.
- Tonight my friends had teachers from their Khmer language school over for dinner. I had a great time talking with three of the young women (in English) about teaching a language and their perspective on refugees as they asked me about the refugees at my school.
- When your main purpose in being in a country is to take pictures to document it, I’ve discovered that you end up without many pictures of yourself due to your big fancy camera being too big and fancy to give to other people for self pics. However, due to the climate’s effect on my outer appearance, I think that I’m ok with this fact. The Khmer glamour shot is the best I’ve looked all trip, so maybe that’s all I need to prove I was here. 🙂
- Have I mentioned that it’s REALLY hot and humid here?
If you made it through the list, thanks for allowing me to share a few pieces of my experience. Tomorrow is going to be a tough and heavy day as I visit the Killing Fields and S21 museum to learn about some of Cambodia’s darker Khmer Rouge history. Tough stuff that I’m not sure how to take in, but I’m thankful that it’s something people are willing to learn from today in hopes that history will not repeat itself.
Thanks again for reading. Until next time…