This morning myself and a few of the guys went for a morning run through the streets of Kompong Thom, the area we are currently staying in. We left the hotel at 6am and headed off through the back streets, running past families as they got ready for the day. It was an attack on the senses, to say the least. The streets were full of rubbish and dirt water puddles, with dogs strolling in and out of them. We ran along part of the river and took in the smoke coming out of the little shacks on the river back, mums getting food ready for the family while kids got ready for school. The smells of the rubbish, river and smoke was at times overpowering and at one point I thought I would vomit from the smell. 6am is a fairly quiet time of day in the back streets, the only noise coming from the bike or car horns. But the silence meant we could clearly hear when one of the kids or locals called out hello and waved, which was a nice change becasue in Sydney when you run through the city streets you’re lucky to get a nod or a grunt from someone passing you.
I had a slight giggle to myself thinking how odd we must look to the locals; a bunch of white people jogging in the humidity by choice. But I’m finding that I’m loving the morning runs because it’s giving me a further insight into the community, another window to look through. It’s such a mixed bag here, people either in extreme poverty, just above the poverty line or wealthy. Mainly i’m seeing people in poverty or just above the poverty line. But despite the poverty, despite the lack of so much, one thing that isn’t lacking here is heart. There is so much heart here. The people are welcoming, letting us come into their homes and introducing us to their families. We went into a poverty are on Wednesday and looked at one of the programs that Samaritan’s Purse are running and the village Chief welcomed us in and allowed us to walk around and see what was going on. They taught us how to prepare a nutritious meal and explained the roles they played in helping the rest of the village become more self sufficient. After cooking they offered us all food, despite not having a huge amount for themselves. These are people that are not looking for a handout but for knowledge; they want to have a better way of life and they are willing to share it with others.
The Prion Fellowship program was no different, where families with a member in prison gathered together at the local church trying to support each other and encourage each other. They shared food and resources and made savings plans. It was encouraging to see, especially coming from a society where you’re encouraged to look after ‘number one’. Back home, our society teachers that it’s about watching your own back and making sure you do what you can to advance yourself. While society teaches us to be kind and all that, in the western world it’s very much focused on the individual. These guys are focused on community, on changing the country for their kids and their grandkids. We met a guy who gets up at 2am each day to water his crops, a task that involves placing a wooden stick across his shoulders with two watering cans full of water taken from his pond. He would then walk up and down his crops watering them from the watering cans hanging of his shoulders. He did this sixty times a day. Sixty. He would use some of the crops for his family and the rest he would sell so that ge could save up money to buy a water pump, as well as saving money to send kids and grandkids to university. Did I mention this guy was 67 yrs old? Yea, just about all of the teenage boys here said they could 10-15 runs of the water a day, but not 60.
Its about community and making their world a better place. None of the people we met were looking for abundant wealth, they just wanted to be able to feed their families and help their kids and community. And when they gain news skills they teach others. Simple. It’s just a different world here. And a beautiful one that I think many could learn from. I know I’m learning a lot here, especially about human nature and family and community here. Part of me is just taking it in and not really emotionally processing it, while another part of me is getting emotional at random times and random events. Praise Jesus for sunglasses is all I can say as it’s in the midst of joy and fun functions that I start crying. Likely when I get home I’ll burst into tears and sob like a baby but for now I’m just taking it all in and running with it. I certainly have some new perspectives on things, so things will be interesting when I get home. All I can say it that I will need lots of cuddles and lots of chocolate on arrival.