Thursday, 29 March 2012

Cambodia and Laos...'Because of your smile you make life more beautiful' Thich Nhat Hanh

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012
A little girl runs to give me a lotus flower (which I proudly kept in my room for many days), Cambodia

I have been traveling in southeast Asia and I have not blogged in a few weeks.... besides having very little time to do so my main reason is that I simply did not know how to put into words the experiences I was living at the time...and I still do not know.

It is my hope that my photos will replace these 'lost' words and help tell the story of the incredibly wonderful and resilient people I met in both Laos and Cambodia.

I felt so many emotions during my time there......I was overjoyed, I was sad, I was happy, I was HOT, I smiled a lot, I cried a little (behind closed doors)! but mainly I was amazed, amazed by the courage and fortitude of people whose everyday hardships never seemed to wipe the smile from their faces, whose gratitude at the smallest gesture of kindness or even just recognition was overwhelming. 

I shared their stories, I shared their meals, I partook in their ceremonies, I sang with them, I was hugged and I hugged,  I laughed with them......these four amazing weeks and these equally amazing people will stay in my heart forever. 

Here are some of the images I hope convey the emotion and huge respect I feel for these people.

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012

Cambodian children paddling back from the floating school to their floating homes in Tonle Sap lake (there is always time for a lolly pop!)

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012
A loatian woman and her beautiful smile help pass the time at a roadblock

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012
Boys cleaning the fishing nets on the shores of the Mekong river, Laos

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012
Boys being boys on the river island of Don Khon, in Southern Laos

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012
Rice pickers employed for the harvest and their makeshift plastic tents 
outside of Siem Reap, Cambodia

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012
A beautiful girl and her smile on Tonle Sap Lake (The largest freshwater lake in southeast Asia)

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012
Weighing the fruit and veg at the floating green grocer on Tonle Sap Lake

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012
A Nun sits with her offerings in a Temple, Cambodia

I consider myself blessed to have had the opportunity to cross paths with these people and the many others that touched my heart and I thank them for their never ending generosity of spirit and their smiles which radiated from morning to night. 

Thank you also to Yaz, Dunakeo and Sichanh Duangmara, my very special friends from Laos who welcomed me into their home and their family, I can never forget their warmth and hospitality and the wonder at being part of such a beautiful and touching ceremony, thank you again and again.

Related and recommended reading

In the shadow of Angkor, Contemporary writing from Cambodia (Frank Stewart, Sharon May Editors) 

The Khmer Rouge Tribunal (edited by John D Ciorciari)

When Broken Glass Floats - by Chanrithy Him

Her Father's Daughter - by Alice Pung

When Broken Glass Floats and Her Father's Daughter make harrowing reading. I read these two books prior to my departure for Cambodia and they helped me gain some sort of understanding of the magnitude of suffering that the khmer Rouge inflicted on the khmer people; over 1 in 4 cambodians perished from either starvation, torture, execution or disease.

I have only just started the book The Khmer Rouge Tribunal, it has been written to give an overview of the issues surrounding the tribunal and why the call for justice has never really been successful and is still proceeding (albeit with all its frustrations) to this day.

In the shadow of Angkor I read whilst in Cambodia and  I struggled to put  it down.  It marks the 25th anniversary of the defeat of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, and 'reveals the vibrant written culture that flourishes in Cambodia today'. There are samples from writers who were prominent before the Khmer Rouge as well as stories from contemporary writers, interviews, memoirs and poetry. It is a stunning book.

Millie xx

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