This past weekend I journeyed about 7 hours north to Siem Reap, Cambodia, to go see the temples of Angkor Wat, one of the man made wonders of the world. These temples are so incredibly old and literally took my breath away with their calm surroundings, extensive detail, and timeless beauty. I’m still amazed how history can transcend and persevere through time; these temples were built in 1000 and 1200 AD and remain standing today through all the horrors this country has seen. In the Angkor Wat temple there are bullet holes from the Khmer Rouge war in the 1970’s. Those bullet holes lie next to the ancient engravings marking the historical battles with Vietnam and China from the old world; how is it that one wall can withstand the testaments of time and war and remain standing to tell the tale?
The Angkor Wat temples are reflections of the people that live in Cambodia. On our way to Siem Reap we drove on one road for the entire way through village after village of people living in utmost poverty. The vast majority of people who live outside the capital of Phnom Pehn or Siem Reap live in a shack built on stilts. They bathe with a bucket of water, chop wood with an axe, cook their food in a pot over a fire, their only source of light at night, wade through the swamps, pick the rice from the paddies by hand, and make a living by selling limes off the side of the road. Yet, there were still kids running, jumping, and screaming naked through the puddles laughing in the rain.
I look back on kids in America. Violent video games being played alone in basements. Parents diagnosing their kids with ADHD when they discover that their kid is simply trying to be a kid in this increasingly grown up world. Over fed and under appreciated, kids look increasingly to superficial satisfactions. Here in Cambodia, pure bliss comes from the crack of thunder releasing the heat after a long day in the sun and the simple pleasure of belly flopping across a big ole pile of mud. And loving every bit of it.