Just another day in Paradise

Posted on November 10, 2009

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Greetings one and all, today was a fun filled day. I woke up early got a quick shower and waited for Romy and Rune to pick me up to head to Svay Rieng for the dedication of a church. It was about a three hour drive which wasnt bad. The Province is close to the border with Vietnam so the roads are much better than other places in Cambodia.

I was expecting a small gather but to my surprise it was no small gathering. There were people from all of the province there to celebrate this event. I saw some of the people that I had met at the community development and was greeted with Khmer greet of putting your hands together as if to pray and the bowing. Then we shook hands and hugged. The smiles on the faces of the people that I had met before was amazing. Like I said before the communication is limited but the look in the eyes and the smile on the face says it all. That being said I HAVE to learn Khmer, because I want to communicate with these people so badly. I want to hear their stories and get to know them, I want to ask them how they are and tell them that I missed them and am glad to see them. I want to have conversations about their lives and what it must have been like to live through the Regime of the Khmer Rouge. I want to hear their story and I want their story to become a part of my story. And so as soon as I get moved into my apartment I begin to look for a teacher.

I was in the coffee shop I frequent for Pasta and Tomato sauce (so much so that when i walk in the lady that cooks smiles at me and asks “Pasta with tomato sauce sir?” I smile and say yes, she smiles and begins to get to work. The guys behind the counter offer me something to drink but to night I declined, I went next door and browsed the movies. I found 4 that cost me a total of 6 dollars, then I went back to the Coffee shop and waited for my pasta to finish. I struck up a conversation with the guy behind the counter. He was very nice and was curious if I lived alone, and how long I would be in Cambodia, where I was from. He asked if I planned on learning Khmer and I said yes very much so. He smiled, I told him that I would be moving on sat. but that I would come back for my pasta and tomato sauce and I would practice my Khmer with him. He was very appreciative, I paid for the pasta and headed across the street to my hotel. For 9 dollars I had dinner and 4 movies. Not a bad night, in case your curious, the movies were “The Gamer” “Adaptation” “The Answer man” and “Casablanca”

I know its an odd arangment of moves but I began reading a new book (that mentions a few of these movies) being that I finished the last one. I am now reading Donald Miller’s new book “A million miles in a thousand years”. I am already over half way through, the way he writes captivates me and I must say at certians I have to put the book down because what he says hits me so hard that I need time to process. Its as if sometimes his words speak to my soul in a way taht I have been feeling, as if he knows what i have gone through, as if he has been there.

One part in particular actually brought me to tears, luckily I was sitting in the back seat by myself so Rune and Romy didn’t see. In just about all of Don’s books he talks about growing up with out a father, in fact one of his books is entirely about growing up without a father. Well in this book he does something he never thought that he would do, he searches for his dad. He goes through the painful process of asking his mother about him. (something they never do) She doesnt know much about him but finds some papers with his social security and former addresses. Don gives the information to a friend who knows someone who tracks people down. In an email that he recieves from her he finds out that his father passed away about 5 years ago. He is saddened by this, he doesnt know why because he didn’t even know the man but he is still sad and kind of relieved he admits.

At this point I am feeling for Don. I know what it is like to grow up without your father around, granted I had people who loved me and filled those roles, but growing up without a father all the same. I also know the courage it takes to talk about those kind of things with your mother. The last thing that you want to do is bring up something that must have been painful and have the person that you care about the most in the world, the mother who has always been there for you, nursed you back to health when you are sick, who provided and gave of herself so selflessly . But I also know that no matter how great the father figures are in your life and I have some amazing ones, there is always something in the back of your mind wondering if you missed something, if like Don says in his book there is something that fathers teach their sons, some secret something that you have missed out on. I know if seem rediculous but you cant help it, it comes with the territory.

Well all of this being said a chapter or two later, Don is talking with his mother and she tells him that she found his dad, that he lives in Indiana and she talked to him last week and he said that he would be ok with meeting Don. Don is shocked, he tell his mom that his dad is dead, and she tells him I dont know where you heard that but he is alive and in Indiana. And so she gives him the number and address.

Don once again goes through this painful process of going back and forth on whether to call him or not. Long story a little shorter, he does, he meets his dad and the exchange between the two brought tears to my eyes. Its things like that that change a person, that take a person from hurting and coping to relief and living fully. I wish I had that kind of courage but I do not. I don’t know why I am sharing this with the world but to let you know that their is a hurt that lies beneath the surface, it is subtle and it can go unnoticed for years, there are scars that form that shape who we are, they effect us in ways that we may never fully realize.

Those scar are not all bad, they have given me a relationship with my mother and brother that I would not trade for all the dads in the world. These scars have any many ways softened my heart and allowed me to be who I am. But these scars have also led to other hurts and pains, the feelings that you are not good enough, low self esteem. These scars create fear and fear keeps us from moving forward in ways that we need to in order to heal.

I say all of this to also say that when I look into the kind gental eyes of the loving people here I see their scars. I see the scars of a nation that went through a genocide, economic instability and even to this day lacks basic rights. I see the scars of people all around me and though I will never know what it is like to be Cambodian or to have experienced what they have experienced I want to get as close as I can. I want help them in any way that I can and that means being able to communicate with them, to hear there stories and make them apart of my story. I want to share my story and let it become a part of your story. That is why I write, its why i serve, because we all are a part of a larger story, one that started in Eden and continues to this day, we have a part to play in it. Maybe my part in the story is to deal with the scars. What is your part?

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