Giving back to Cambodia

First, in case you missed it last Friday, check out, What would an epic creative retreat look like to you? And, or take a few minutes to complete my survey of the same name. Your insights are greatly appreciated!

Back to some thoughts about Cambodia….

My husband and I huddled around my computer, in our hotel room in Siem Reap and watched the movie, “First They Killed My Father“.  It is available for streaming on Netflix, made by Angelina Jolie and based on the book of the same title, written by Loung Ung. The two women collaborated on writing for the project, filmed in Cambodia, using all local actors and spoken in the native Khmer language. Angelina Jolie’s adopted son Maddox, born in Cambodia, was on set and played an active role behind the scenes of the film, learning and absorbing a critical part of his birth country’s past.

I honestly didn’t want to watch this film. I kept thinking this would be the stuff of nightmares, watching the horror of the Khmer rouge rained down on the Cambodian people. While there was an accurate portrayal of the facts, many of which I didn’t know or fully understand, it is more about the harrowing story of the child Loung, one part heart breaking and another part inspiration. 

I won’t give any spoilers, but suffice to say, this is a story about human resilience. It honours the important role of family, in Cambodia. It provides hope. It shows gratitude. It puts life in perspective. And it may just give you a kick in the pants to take action on the important causes in our world that need support. For we can all do more, particularly those of us living the good life in developed nations around the world. As Angelina Jolie said in an interview at TIFF, for the release of the film, “there is still much work to be done”. 

What also struck my curiosity was how Angelina described her initial interest in Cambodia. When she visited the Siem Reap area for the first time, she was on set for a film which was set in the now famous temple, Ta Prohm. This is the one that appears to be growing out of the jungle, with tree roots embedded into the crumbling stone ruins. She thought that the people who had suffered so much would be hardened by their collective experience. She found the opposite and in doing so, realized she had a major gap in her education of the world.

What an interesting concept. For I too, feel a gap in my education. It is no ones fault. Rather, it is my current job to explore the world, filing the blanks as I go. As I let my interests guide me, the experience of gaining knowledge is all the more sweet. It also builds a further understanding of myself, of my own story and what my contribution could be in the future. For that, this round of education is priceless.

It is ridiculous to feel sorry for myself, for what I don’t have, for what I won’t ever have, against the backdrop of life here in Cambodia. True, I will leave here one day and eventually return to my life in Canada. Back into the neighbourhood where there is an extreme one up man ship with all worldly possessions. Bigger homes, better views of the ocean, more cars and expensive resort holidays, just to name a few of the items on the scorecard. I don’t want anything to do with all that.

The trick will be to continue to stay grounded and stay with the purpose I feel in my life right now. Once we return home, there will be questions of how to live in our physical space, the way we fill our days with purpose and who we will serve in the process. For what is becoming very clear is, what we need most in life is, (what many Cambodians have already found), the relationships we have built and continue to treasure. Everything else is transient and somewhat unnecessary. 

Maybe by being away for a full year, we will have an easier time not falling back into the old habits. By making such a huge change in our day-to-day life, I hope we might challenge some of those old assumptions. After being exposed to so many different ways of life, possibly we can live with more gratitude. For the life we have the privilege of leading, is pretty fantastic.

Join me in this creative journey. I think it will be worth your time. I look forward to hearing from you! Use any form of communication which feels comfortable. Email, social media or even, if you want to give me a call, I can reached at cwestermark on Skype. Together, let us see where we can take this.

Until next time, please share your thoughts in the comments! As well, connect on these social networks:

Daily Creatives Resources:
: : “Fruitless at 40: Rediscovering My Creative Power
: : Turning a midlife crisis into a creative manifesto
: : After 25 years, why I walked away from my beloved career
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Our travel year:
: : We are a Canadian family, on a year-long trip, planning on 32 cities, 18 countries over 4 continents.
: : Dad is working in Europe and Asia, Teens are doing distance education for grades 11 and 9, Mom is keeping it all together, writing, taking photos and making videos.
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