There are a few places in the world that captured my heart. One of them is San Francisco. Another is Cambodia. San Francisco because I’ve never really felt Chinese or Asian or anything till I was in that city. When in Hong Kong and China, I felt like a foreigner. In Malaysia, I’m mostly struggling to understand and live what it means to be Malaysian. I didn’t feel foreign or local in Cambodia, but it felt right. When I was there, I didn’t want to be anywhere else.
A can of Coke costs 0.50 cents. Internet cafes charge 0.50 cents per hour. Besides these two things, everything else costs one dollar. Scarves, books, a stack of postcards, tacky touristy t-shirts (I bought two, yay!), fried rice and a child (maybe).
I was on the airplane on my way home and all I wanted to do was turn back. I’m still missing Cambodia. I don’t really know why. The country is poor, corruption reigns, undiscovered landmines in remote areas and mosquitoes are everywhere. AIDS, dengue and tuberculosis. All for a dollar. For the first time in my life, I was called ‘madame’. I’ve always associated that term with snooty ladies with a pointy nose, an extremely long cigarette filter in one hand and a fat wig-wearing rich man in her arms. So that was disturbing.
I was at a meeting the other night and one lady was sharing about her experience at an orphanage. She brought her own kids with her to that visit so her kids could see beyond themselves and another kind of life. The 100 orphans live in two sheds built over a drain where the children sleep beside. Cleanliness is secondary to everything else: shelter, food, spirit. Instead of making new friends, her kids did not want to sit and be around the orphans. They squirmed and did not desire to be there. The lady was hurt… angry and sad not because her kids were bad, but that she felt as though she failed as a mother. I can’t help but think that God feels the same way when we withhold love from others because of their lack. Because they have no political power, health, wealth and social network. Because their ‘lack’ reveals our lack.
I received an email today, detailing a one week trip to Chennai, India this August. Sounds all too exciting, but the tasks the trip entail seem overwhelming. I will sit on it though. What do I have to lose, right?