Arriving in Cambodia

Blog post by Michelle Bosco

What does it mean to arrive somewhere? There is so much to be said about this experience. Physically, you journey through countless hours of waiting, landing, and taxing. You endure the not so great airplane food, the crying baby, and the uncomfortable middle seat just so you can arrive and experience something new. Then there is the push and pull of mentally arriving. Sometimes jetlag can be a significant factor. But, at some point, you arrive and you ingest the sights, smells, and sounds of a new environment. I arrived in Siem Reap, Cambodia on May 15th, 2014, along with the other members of the NCAS-I team.

My first step off of the plane and onto Cambodian soil was filled with relief, excitement, and a lot of humidity. I felt even more at ease once we reached our hotel, Soria Moria. This quaint and hospitable hotel strives to positively impact the local community and help facilitate long-term economic development in areas of Siem Reap. Since NCAS-I strives to be a social justice organization, it seemed fitting that we decided to stay at an establishment that supports multiple causes for social justice.

One organization in partnership with Soria Moria is called Friends International. Friends-International is a social enterprise dedicated to protecting marginalized children and youth, their families, and their communities in South East Asia and across the world. The primary focus is to offer people an opportunity to build better futures. Friends-International sustains their vision by developing various partnerships and businesses, including managing restaurants and shops. These businesses offer job-training programs for marginalized young people to work behind the scenes and gain hands-on learning. They also provide income to further support the mission.

The NCAS-I team and I ate at Marum, a premier dining spot in Siem Reap, and also a non-government organization (NGO) within the Friends-International network. We were welcomed in a similar manner to how we were welcomed at the Soria Moria Hotel: with warmth and kindness. The staff members were committed to giving us the best possible experience and we gratefully accepted their kindheartedness. The Soria Moria is partnered with the Anjali House, which is also one of NCAS-I’s partner organizations. Anjali House is a non-profit organization that provides food, healthcare, and education to under-privileged kids and families in Siem Reap. The Soria Moria currently provides trainee placement for three young adults from the Anjali House. The hotel also sells products from the Anjali House and Friends-International. Here is a photo of all of the products that are sold!

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Photo credit: Jessica Sabo

We will also be working with people at the Anjali House, collaborating and painting a joint mural with them! Please stay tuned to hear more about our time there. Although I mentioned these two incredible partners, there are several other organizations that Soria Moria is affiliated with. To learn more about the others, please see their website.

Earlier I spoke to the nature of physically and mentally arriving, but one piece I didn’t mention was about emotionally arriving. Just saying it feels heavier and more complex to me. It requires more, but also rewards more. For me, connecting to several Cambodian people wasn’t difficult, but beautiful. I’ve had small moments of connection with the staff members at our hotel and at restaurants I’ve visited, but the one memory that stands out to me is when I met a Cambodian family at the temples of Angkor Wat. I stood behind a woman and exchanged several glances and gestures with the baby on her shoulder. She turned around and we began talking, which was more like a dance between understanding words and using facial expressions and hand gestures to make up for any confusion. We were separated by the crowd, but somehow we found each other a bit later and reconnected. I was so glad to see her sweet family again and she was excited as well, as she asked to be my Facebook friend. She has already reached out to me and even invited me to her home in Phnom Penh.

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Photo credit: Megan Nemire

The conversation and little glances we shared were enough to make a meaningful impact on my journey. I may still be adjusting to the physical discomfort of 100 degree heat and the mental disorientation of jetlag, but I feel comfort in the fact that I experienced true connection. Through this emotional experience, I feel like I have arrived.

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