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“This trip has me grappling with my privilege.”

“This trip has me grappling with my privilege.”

Not sure what you have? It’s easy to find out.

We headed off the beaten path outside of Siem Reap, Cambodia and visited a school, a local market, a riverside home and had a peek into the life of another world.

The school children practically exploded with smiles and laughter. The girls showed off with some paddy-cake choreographies ready for “Cambodia’s Got Talent.” The boys did what boys do best to show off: wrestled with each other, tousled hair and slid on their knees on the tile classroom floor like the best of international soccer stars.

This trip has me grappling with my privilege. [Near Siem Reap, Cambodia]

This trip has me grappling with my privilege. [Near Siem Reap, Cambodia]

Their uniforms were dusty, the desks from the 70’s and no one but us seemed to care. They were big hams in front of the camera and wanted high fives and to practice a few of their favorite words in English.

The open market had the full range of shiny green limes to bloody chicken corpses complete with chopped-off-head-in-front-of-my-boys eyes. They cringed, but not-so-secretly loved the gore and guts.

We ate a fruit that looked like potato but tasted like a plum. We bought sugar cane cakes that rival the freshest of French bakeries. We didn’t really need the chicken necks as we don’t have a full kitchen in our hotel. Nonetheless, we smiled at the butchers and they smiled back.

Lunch at a local’s house, prepared by the grand dame of the household, was noodles and fresh greens. My oldest son was scooping the last noodle out of the bowl and said it was the best meal he’d had in all of Asia.

Could it be that a meal’s flavor is partially influenced by the endless bright smiles of kids at the local primary school? Maybe the warm welcome of the river house’s owner as we walked up the ladder to his above-flood-level first floor? In the simplest of settings, with rotting garbage behind the house and who-knows-what-kind of sewage system, we can experience something we haven’t experienced before?

I thought maybe the words would come from my 12-year old, who did comment on the schools and how much nicer his was. But the one comment that summarized our entire day came from a 20-something Indian from Malaysia who is currently studying in the United States.

His hair was expertly coiffed and his hi top shoes matched his shirt. His sunglasses rarely came off and I wasn’t sure he knew where he was. But he apparently did.

In possibly some of the clearest language used to promote the importance of travel to other countries, this well-to-do young man’s outer shell was pierced with the experience of experience. Not reading about it in a book, not seeing it in a documentary or hearing it first hand from a friend.

But flies-on-the-chicken clarity of reality.

Out of his comfort zone and into the dusty back roads of poor villages in Cambodia and one mind was expanded today. I’d like to think that this mind’s expansion somehow somewhere reduces the zero sum understand of world culture and makes it a better place if only by the count of one.

But all we need it one. By one. By one.

“This trip has me grappling with my privilege.”

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