Wordless in Phnom Penh

February 19, 2008 § Leave a comment

It’s hard to find words for the week I just spent in Cambodia. Definitely a place in motion (which I love), but with a trajectory that’s far from clear. Exhilarating. Confusing. Hard to stop thinking about.

Sparked but wordless, I took a ton of pictures, which are now on Flicker. I also did a bit of visual journaling, including this:


I met with and talked to people filled with so much hope: that the work they were doing would make a difference; that they education they’re struggling to get will open doors; that the country will flower again. Yet, often from the same lips, came the sense that corruption, poverty and silly kinds of greed meant that none of this was possible.

Two practical experiences to illustrate. 1. Hope. I met the dean of Maharishi Vedic University in very rural Cambodia. Out loud, I admired the fact that he had risen from farmer’s son to dean and remained committed to spiritually grounded participatory rural development. He looked in my eyes and said: poor help poor. He said it very forcefully. It came from the core of who he was. 2. Hopelessness. I read a newspaper ad for one of the many shopping mall filled condo developments popping up in poor areas of Phnom Penh, which proclaimed: Gold Tower 42 will improve living standard of the world. Part of a hug whirlwind condoized commercial disconnectedness that is popping up around Phnom Penh. Hopelessness. Hope.

The nice thing was that the hope and hopelessness didn’t seem to cancel each other out. They felt somehow in creative tension, seeking balance. And, there was clearly high velocity flow and energy everywhere. A place in motion. I wait eagerly to listen and feel as it goes somewhere.

PS. I didn’t share the journal sketch or pictures from my visit to the Choeung Ek killing fields. Another strange tension, and one of the most emotional experiences of my life. Too much to just post online for all. I can share directly if you are interested.

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