How to package sunlight
Write about Cambodia.
I have lived here for 5 years, I started my first business here, I formed my professional identity here, I reformed my personal identity here, I have a family of Cambodians who love me like their own, and young people who look to me for their future. Write about Cambodia? That’s like saying, write about water; there are many angles one could take.
Cambodia is the people I have met here.
Cambodia is the nightmares I have seen here.
Cambodia is a chance to be creative, to build, to be good.
Cambodia is a place to be alone, and a place where you are never alone.
Cambodia is us telling each other how we got here, or how we survived, or how we survive.
Cambodia is the silence of stories itching to be told, scratching at the dirt over their head, hoping to come out, waiting to be called on.
Cambodia is learning to see itself.
Cambodia is learning how to see yourself.
Cambodia is about shouting your ideas at the top of your lungs; or thinking you are, and realizing you are terrified.
Cambodia is about not knowing where to go.
Cambodia is about not being able to understand the world.
Cambodia is about waiting for someone to do something that makes your life better.
Cambodia is about indulging yourself. It is about men indulging themselves and women being bulldozed; rich indulging themselves and poor being bulldozed. Or knocked off by a Humvee, or a Lexus, and sometimes, quite literally, a bulldozer.
Cambodia is about poise, position and deference to norms that nobody believes in anymore; upholding a social order that doesn’t work, not since the days of Angkor.
Cambodia is about refusing to be pushed down, but knowing that sometimes, often, you have to duck to save your own life.
Cambodia is about children living lives that American kids wouldn’t even be permitted to see in the movies.
Cambodia is about choosing to farm on a minefield, because that’s your best option.
Cambodia is about forgetting what cannot be processed.
Cambodia is not about its past.
Cambodia is about the future; it is about what is possible; it is about what is new; it is about what is within reach for the kids who dream and who are lucky.
“Write about Cambodia.” That’s like saying, "wrap up a parcel of sunlight...." It doesn't lend itself very readily to being contained.