Friday, August 12, 2016

An Assault on the Senses

Well you guys....

We've officially departed from the kingdom of Cambodia & my heart feels torn. As we jetted off into the pitch black sky, I looked back on the country that left such an impact on my life & thanked God for this experience. I have gained a wider world perspective and increased insight on how we operate as humans, some of us just merely trying to survive harsh social conditions & some through the rebuilding of life post physical trauma. 

Before I go on to share about my final activities though I want to say thank you to all who have been following along, learning with me, sharing with others, and praying for our team. You're part in this trip is one of the motives that drive us to make this journey to the other side of the world. This is an awareness trip for modern day slavery (human trafficking) & I'm simply the vessel that got to go, so THANK YOU from the depth of my heart for caring as much as I do on this topic. I'm praying for each of you. I do request that you don't stop thinking about the things I've shared with you in the few emails  that have come across your desks and please don't stop praying for our team. We're still in route traveling home as I write to you and we have already experienced some hiccups along the way... and personally, my health is not keeping up with my feet so thank you again for your continued thoughts and prayers for me and my team. 


While we were in Siem Reap on the final leg of our trip, I experienced a variety of emotions. It was like this city was an assault on my senses. 

Visually, there were some absolutely stunning landscapes & architecture, but then it was contrasted by these gaudy idols of the Buddhist & Hindu religions that could be found on every market table in a city that is now overflowing with tourism. And it sells. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, the tourism, and so I don't want to paint it in such a way because as a professional in the hospitality industry, this type of growth is exciting, especially for a 3rd world nation with so much potential. But as a freedom fighter, tourism in a country with visible trafficking also brings the reality of the potential increase in the demand for sex tourism. As we walked through the streets in Siem Reap, I saw something I never thought I'd actually see, even as a person who works with trafficking survivors & high risk youth in Indianapolis... I saw trafficking happening right in front of me. This made me angry; this made me upset; this broke my heart. Tuk tuk drivers would solicit foreigners on the street, including our team, to take them to massage parlors & KTV (karaoke) clubs where human trafficking is evident & in your face. While I knew this was happening in Cambodia, it felt contained to specific areas & businesses, but this just proved that it wasn't, and it's not. And further, this highlighted the reality of what's happening at home, too. You know, it doesn't have to be in your face to make it a real problem. It's easier to ignore when it's not, but it is still a problem, in Cambodia, and at home, and wherever there are people-- and we can't just ignore it no matter how much it tried to remain hidden. We must educate those with the information we now have to bring this injustice to light.

Along with the abundant amount of tuk tuk drivers hassling you as you walk down the street saying, "tuk tuk sir/lady? i give you tuk tuk ride", there was constant noise in the city. I would wake up to the Buddhist chatting in the morning; the Khmer conversations happening around me became a constant white noise; and the way Cambodians would listen to music made it difficult to contain or absorb my own thoughts. It was loud, but in all of the chatter of the city, the safe house for the girls offered total peace. The community is just outside the city and it exudes tranquility. I loved being there-- painting, hanging out with the girls, and playing games. It was the kind of peace that restores and quiets your soul.

When we went into the markets, stores, villages & temples I found myself wanting to touch everything.. the Cambodian silk and the carvings in the walls, I wanted to touch it all. Maybe because it was new to me, or because it was just what made it feel real. Im not sure, but the air also felt thicker in Siem Reap. We spent our last day exploring the ancient temples of Angkor Wat & I ended up passing out due to heat stress. Fortunately it was once we returned to the safe house and I was able to rehydrate and rest, but this was just part of it I think. Spiritually, the climate is dark & heavy. With the added tourism & diverse western culture entering into a modest Buddhist culture, I could sense spiritual warfare. Being war, there are two sides however, and I know that the God that I serve gets the victory over this nation. I pray that peace would fill the streets and enter into the souls of those living and touring through Cambodia. 

The Khmer food that I ate, for the most part, was enjoyable up to this point of my trip. Some of it had a particular smell which gave it a particular taste which was not particularly satisfying in my opinion, but this was just a part of the culture that stood out to me, especially in Siem Reap. Not all of it was questionable though; the iced coffee was the best iced coffee I've ever tasted & the street pan cakes... not at all what I expected from a pancake, but totally my jam. And with Nutella and sweet milk. Okay, yes please. I'm drooling now. 

The good cooking wasn't the only smell finding its way to my nose though.... this is a 3rd world country we're taking about, and one that is 98% Buddhist (if you hadn't caught that yet). Other smells that were more potent here than I Phnom Penh and Battambang were the incense offerings, the sewage, and the drug & alcohol usage. I had headaches here, my allergies were heightened, and I was more emotionally drained. I felt overwhelmed with trying to figure out what I was seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and smelling. It was a lot.

But I hope it doesn't sound like it was all bad. There were some sweet moments here that are forever engrained in my sensory pockets too. Perhaps the most memorable is that we had the pleasure of taking the girls to see The Secret Life of Pets in 3D. First off, 3D in itself is a positive sensory overload, but that's not the point. For most of these girls, and even the Rapha House staff, this was the first movie they had ever been to... and their reactions were priceless. As the introduction to the movie blared the song "Welcome to New York" and panned the NYC skyline, the girls giggled and screamed and were absolutely in awe of what was happening. It was a special occasion for them; they wore their fancy dresses and did their hair. It was so adorable & their reactions brought me to happy tears. Quite literally, I cried. But that's no surprise to those who know me. I quickly realized as I scanned myself in a ball cap and joggers that this type of entertainment (or entertainment at all) was something I take for granted at home. I was deeply moved through the laughter and new appreciation I felt as a result of this shared experience. 

The peace at the safe house reminded me of the hope found in the midst of chaos, and beauty in the intricate detail of the Angkor Wat temples reminded me of the delicate care that these people have for their nation and their people, which reminds me of the way God loves & cares about the details of our lives as well.

The experiences I had in Cambodia have taken me on an intense spiritual journey and have given me a deeper reverence for the God that I serve. I have a better understanding of how to love myself, how to serve other people, and how to be thankful for the things that I have. I have mixed emotions about coming home-- Im sad to be leaving so much of my heart behind, but I'm happy to reunite with my friends and family and continue this spiritual journey. I know this trip doesn't end when I land back in Indianapolis; it's really only beginning. So with this being said, please keep praying that as our team enters back into our day to day lives, we love others well and use our new perspectives to help enrich the lives of those around us and ultimately bring glory to the God of this universe. 

Again, I want to say thank you for loving me and supporting me and praying for me. I appreciate you!! 

Lee-hi!
(That's goodbye in Khmer)
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About Me

About Me
i'm drey. i'm 25. i have two cats; i love to travel, take pictures, walk around antique shops, and eat donuts... and i'm trembling at the feet of my Savior.

Psalm 111:10

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise."

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