Cambodia!! When you come face to face with a new country–one you never even considered you’d visit a year ago–you think, “What am I doing here? Ridiculous!!” Before when I’ve landed in an Asian country, it’s been to experience my birth culture, to move there (that’s not really a visit, is it?), to go to a work conference, or to visit a friend. In Cambodia, it’s purely for tourism.
On the taxi ride to the hotel, I looked into the faces of people crossing the street in groups–t-shirts, flip-flops, floppy k-pop hair, dyed with bangs k-pop hair–earnest people pedaling bicycles or tuk-tuks (bicycles that transport people)–people playing with their kids in the car next to me at a stop light–the boy popping up and down playing peek-a-boo through the window (no carseat, Americans, in case you were wondering). I see them and imagine their lives running parallel to mine. “When did they decide to dye their hair? I would have been doing school work or having dinner at that exact same moment on earth. Where was I when that mom had her son? Maybe visiting my sister in the hospital after her son was born.”
It’s the simple basic realization that a whole nation of people lives on the planet with you and you can only guess at parts of their lives but never truly know them without opportunity and time. I don’t imagine as hard when I people watch in the mall at home. I feel I can pretty much picture the lives of my neighbors because I see them at school and church. As a teacher we have a unique perspective into the personal lives of others. But how much can we know?
Later we walked to dinner from our hotel. We saw lots of children. Lots of children. Selling DVDs. Wandering in groups. Playing with rocks on the sidewalk. Lying asleep covered in a small towel next to their mother who was asking for money. The sun had set. Yet, the streets were bustling with tourists. And foreigners.