From Chicago to Cambodia

Sometimes you meet people when you’re little, you stay friends with them for a few years and then move on with your lives. Well that is not the case with Bella or any other member of our girls group. About 15 years ago a group of us got together and we became friends for life. Today, some of us are living in Canada, the others in the U.S and Bella all the way in Cambodia. But we still try to see each other at least once a year. No matter how long we are separated we always pick up the conversation right where we left off, and that my friends is a great friendship. I am delighted to have this beautiful woman on my blog today and I hope that you enjoy reading a glimpse into her Cambodian life. 

Love, Libbey 

Two years ago I unexpectedly found myself living in Cambodia-home to the historical burdens of a genocide and communism, Cambodia is located in Southeast Asia and shares a border with Thailand and Vietnam.

Being brought to Cambodia by a job opportunity, the original plan was to stay here for 2 months. 2 months easily turned into 2 years as more of my energy was invested into a counter-trafficking project and the Cambodian communities.

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Many of my co-workers call me “Khmer” (Cambodian people are commonly referred to as being Khmer).

I laugh because although I eat the street food, speak a basic level of the language, ride a motorcycle and have taken on many mannerisms of my community etc.- I will never be Khmer, nor should I strive to be.

I am an American. Growing up in this nation is embedded into me in both conscious and unconscious ways. Wherever I go, I bring with me the foundational beliefs and values of our nation. To deny the American in me would be to deny a core of my being.

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Although I have made a home in Cambodia for an extended period of time, I am a guest. As a guest in Cambodia, I can kick my shoes off and relax, but must do so respectfully with a full understanding of my place in the Cambodian community. In doing so, my ability to take a continuous learner’s perspective comes naturally.

Although it has been two years striving to understand Cambodia- the behaviors of its people, the possibilities for growth and burdens of the country, I am always finding that any conclusion or insight I find always has a deeper layer to it.

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The reasons for traveling or living internationally can be broken down into 2 motivations. Either an individual is 1) running away from something 2) running towards something. Whether you fit into either of this motivations, the perspective you take on as a traveler will determine your ability to benefit from your traveling.

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These pictures serve as a tribute to those people who have helped me understand my role as a guest.

~ Bella McKay

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