Goodbye Cambodia!

Tonight marks the end. I love field studies, I learn so much within the 2 weeks outdoors, in the field, it extends beyond all that I (can) learn within the confines of the classroom. I love how I (almost incidentally) stumbled into Geography, and how Geography has brought me to this – discovering this one thing I can say I truly enjoy, coming closer to the local way of living than I could ever have done on my own.

It’s one thing to read and study things on books and readings, and a completely different other to speak with these local villagers to hear how their views mirror all that you’ve read about; only then does it register how real everything is – how pertinent these issues are. Issues of infant mortality, education, gender roles and relations, corruption and a lack of a system, spirits and black magic in natural resources. More than ever I witness the reality of it; more than ever I feel like I came face-to-face with what I knew to be the poverty trap, a cycle, and how… helpless, truly limited, they can be. 
The 6 weeks in Thailand was a little different; for this Cambodia trip it opened my eyes alot more to structural inequalities and social issues. Forever I will remember the nights I lay with my fingers outstretched and realising I was completely shrouded by the darkness of the night, blinded to everything around me, as the crickets chirped noisily away; forever I will remember that surge of relief I felt for the sun as rays of its sunbeam trickled along the tiny cracks of the walls into the wooden planks of the room to enable my vision – that intense gratitude I felt for now being able to see. I will remember the days I felt so confined within the home, unable to run and leap freely as I wished, waiting for a boat to take me elsewhere along the lake; the days I put on a sarong and showered under the glowing stars. How I tried to put on my best smile as I felt a slight pang of disappointment the first day I ate rice, with what I (despite my best efforts to not be a spoilt brat) felt was a rather miserable meal of soup with carrots – I had never experienced poverty so poignantly reflected in a meal. Most of all, I will always remember how village life ends after afew nights, where I get to go back to sleep on the soft bed of a hotel, basking in the aircon and snuggled up against my pillow while my hosts remain in the everyday of their village, their lives ongoing just as they were. I got to experience a tinge of their lives, perhaps the better of their days, and then I got to leave. For them, they have no choice but to remain.
In saying this I’m not making a spectacle of their poverty, neither am I insisting they’d prefer my way of life, and that mine is necessarily superior in any sense. But having witnessed their ways of life made me see more than ever how much more I prefer mine, and how absolutely much more I truly, truly had.

I love field studies because it reminds me of how real everything is 
I love travelling because it makes me feel alive
Ending with a gift from Dr Carl, how pertinent, how true:

‘I soon realised that no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within’

– Lillian Smith


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