Just the other night I had the privilege of enjoying some food and conversation with locals near my house, and I can tell you the hospitality of Khmers is truly humbling. If you are going to be invited out by a group you will be edified by their graciousness, they take great pride in your comfort as their guest. The knowledge and multilingual abilities of my Khmer hosts was impressive - I am a guest in their country, and yet they have learned English to communicate and interact with me and other foreigners. I’m really impressed by how far this country has come in just 17 years since the end of the civil war.
To think just 36 years ago this country went through one of the worst recorded genocides in history. And now today, sitting next to locals who can recount in fluent English the history of their nation, and what happened in the 70’s, and the 19-year conflict that followed, and how as a country they have healed and grown from their experiences, is exactly why Expert-Exchange needs to first establish itself here. Not only would we be honored to be part of their rebuilding, but the lessons for our volunteering Envoys would be hugely beneficial for their own healing.
One member of the group with whom I was enjoying the evening, was a veteran also. He’d had the unfortunate experience of loosing a leg to a landmine. The issues he faces are far too similar to the ones I see veterans in the States enduring. One thing I must point out is that I’m increasingly appreciative of our VA system for veterans, with all it’s flaws it’s doing everything it can to transition vets back home and get them the help they need. After talking to him, and other Khmers, we should all feel more privileged - I think sometimes we forget how good we really have it. Personally, by living here, I’m reminded daily of the privileges we enjoy as a society back in the US. In the provinces here you see numerous kids who have lost limbs to mines leftover by the conflict, kids everywhere pick up plastic bottles and other discarded waste to make a living, whole families cram themselves onto a single thirty year old scooter because it’s their only mode of transport, many live off a dollar a day or a single bowl of rice, and you know the little beggar kid’s shorts are the only clothing item he owns! And the list goes on. Poverty here, and in many countries, is grinding and despite it you still see the smiles and resiliance of the human spirit shine through. The things that could bring me down are too endless to mention, but I feel privileged to be here and provide future exchanges that will not just benefit Cambodia but equally importantly inspire the westerners who will share time with these remarkable people.
I was taken aback by how well this soldier had adjusted and adapted. It was an inspiration sitting next to him and hearing him share his struggles, but also his optimism about his own life and his country today. It exemplifies the importance of EXPERT-EXCHANGE for my fellow vets, and how the men and woman who have served can not only reintegrate back into society but can use their skills to build a better society for future generations. And the thing that struck me most was that he believes, like I do, that healing is all about not segregating ourselves as a demographic but striving to stay connected with all people. The future success and growth of this country is bright because of their strength of spirit, and I can’t wait for my first volunteers to come over and get to work.
Executive Director's Blog
Follow Macie through SE Asia as he embarks on a humanitarian adventure and assists inspirational individuals to improve their life quality.