As I flew in to Phnom Penh from Bangkok, it was clear that I was entering not only a different country, but rather a completely different form of living. From the plane, I saw not concentrated areas of civilization and living, but race paddies divided by one main stretch of road. That road was the main source of civilization with almost all the homes and buildings were built along it. There is a dependency on that main stretch for survival, well on that and the tourists who visit the capital.
Slavery comes in many forms in Cambodia from sex slavery to child slavery; both problems are widespread throughout the country. Children eagerly sell flowers on the street but are controlled by a higher power and are forced to give the money away, much like the beggars in Slumdog millionaire who portray an aura of innocence while begging for money but are dictated and abused by their superiors. One boy followed us down the street pretending to cry until someone gave him money – in which he was instantly subdued.
Besides accustoming to living in a third world country, there is immense beauty to be found in the people, architecture, and way of life that endures here. After enduring unspeakable horrors from the Khmer Rouge, the people show extreme resilience. Monks roam the streets and are eager to talk and learn English, the people are nice, and the food is good! Tut-tut drivers on the street recognize us already and come and say hello, always willing to recommend a place to eat. The Pagodas are unbelievable – intensified by rich culture, colors, and history. Regardless, memories of the unbelievable past this country has endured live in the people with lost limbs and remnants lie in the killing fields.