On something a little stronger than a whim, we took our kids, 8 and nearly 3 to Cambodia for a short family vacation. The grandiose vision is to challenge the kids to appreciate life (urban and affluent in comparison)...ha, they had a frolicking good time - never mind the food was different and we did not have electricity so it was total blackness once they shut the generator at 9pm. I guess for kids, they feel safe and happy as long as parents don't panic!
For me though, the trip triggered off many other thoughts:
1. cambodia is 85% subsistence farming and living. THey do not plan ahead, catch, grow, sell, buy and cook on a daily basis. They are at the mercy of weather conditions and corruption.
Well, urban, city, plan-ahead, try not to fail, get the best deal Singaporeans are unable to get it. Sure it's a nice change, but it's not a way of living we can accept i think...a friend who lives there told me she gets blank stares when she asks the youths what they dream to do or become. Considering their way of life, where education is still fairly limited and village-based...what did she expect huh? [then again, we also get blank stares here] come to think of it, in my poorer days growing up, my grand ambition was to sell char siew rice...
2. i felt extremely burdened and lost about how these poeple would come to know Christ. i feel this way each time i see small handfuls of households in a dirt-track village...but as usual God surprised me. Missionaries have lived here and yes there are christians. easy to miss since the pagodas and temples are gilded palatial structures next to bamboo and straw and wood huts! and yes, i dare say these Christians display a peace and joy that quickly bonded us together - even thoughin our hearts we knew we are worlds apart in every other sense...and whatever our context, we must let Christ sit squarely on the throne and work out our faith from that centre. Not good for us to impose our version/expression/flavour of faith on these good people...! though er, they translated a couple of Hillsongs into Khmer already! Unity and Diversity!
3. there was a small kindergarten in the compound we were at. the kids had no books but rote learnt from the only teacher who yelled at them and whacked her cane to get compliance...one child was chewing on a plastic bag. the guide told us plastic has made its way and is affecting the rivers and river-life. The vision of progress in most poor areas is alas the unsustainable, consumer-crazy model we offer them...something needs to be done about this!
Finally Phnomh Penh is pronounced with the 'p' sound!! it's not silent - and i think the Cambodians are not either! may they rise up and make a new sound in our world.