After my mommy left Thailand, the fighting between the protestors and the police got even worse, so I decided the safest thing would be for me to visit some other place for a while. I went to a country called Cambodia, which is right next door to Thailand. In Cambodia, people speak a language called Khmer (pronounced: kuh-MARE) and the letters in Khmer are not the ones that you or I use. Khmer writing looks like ribbons to me, it is so pretty (but hard for me to read and recognize!).
Cambodia has a really sad history. It used to be a huge and powerful nation. Kings and emperors built huge temples to their gods to show their love and the land used to stretch into what is now the countries of Laos and Thailand, too. Eventually, Cambodia was taken over by the French and became a much smaller country.
In the 1970s, soldiers that were following a man named Pol Pot took over the capital, Phnom Penh. Pol Pot believed that Cambodia should be an “agrarian” society, which means that everyone should be farmers and work together for the common good. Sounds, pretty good, right? But what would we do if there were no doctors or business people or teachers or people that did anything other than farming? And what if not everyone thought that being a farmer would be a good idea? Pol Pot made everyone living in the capital move to the country and forced them to work in the rice fields. Everyone had to wear the same color clothes and there was not a lot of food to go around. It was kind of like being in prison since people weren´t allowed to make their own decisions about anything. People had to work in the heat of the fields for up to 16 hours a day. They often got only one meal a day. Lots of people died and it was a very bad time for the people of Cambodia.
Eventually, Pol Pot and his soldiers were kicked out by soldiers from Vietnam. Even then, life was not easy for Cambodians! The soldiers from Vietnam stayed in Cambodia for years and years and the Cambodian people didn´t get to rule themselves until 1993! The country is still recovering from the war: there is lots of countryside where people can´t go because the bad soldiers buried bombs there called land mines and it takes a lot of time to find all of them and blow them up so they don´t hurt people accidentally.
You might think that because of all of this sad history, Cambodia is a really bummer place to visit. But Cambodian people are in general very happy and helpful! I think that they are glad to see people visiting their country and eating in restaurants and giving money to businesses that they are very hopeful about the future. Almost half of the people in Cambodia are under the age of 16, so there are lots and lots of young people and I think when a history of a place is really sad, sometimes the only thing you can do is look ahead and try to make the future better.
Modern Cambodia is very different than New York. Lots of people have motorcycles instead of cars and sometimes you will see four or five people on one motorcycle at one time! There are also lots of Buddhist monks in Cambodia. Buddhism is a religion and a monk is kind of like a student of the religion. You can tell a person is a monk by his haircut (very very short!) and his clothing (monks wear beautiful orange robes instead of pants and shirts). Monks are all boys. They don´t have any possessions or belongings and people give them everything they need like rides around town or food. People in Cambodia live in houses that are raised off of the ground like they are on stilts! The part under the house is used to hang out during the heat of the day, most people have hammocks set up in the shade. A lot of times, little kids in Cambodia don´t wear clothes at all. I´m not exactly sure why this is but I think it might be because babies and little kids grow so fast that it is hard to find clothes that fit for a cheap price. Maybe it is just because all the other little kids don´t wear clothes or because it is super hot in Cambodia.
Have I mentioned that it is hot hot hot??? It was so hot that sometimes I would look down at myself after walking just a little ways and the tops of my arms would be shiny with sweat! I don´t know about you, but the tops of my arms only sweat when it is hot hot hot with HIGH humidity.
The best place I went to in Cambodia is a place called Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is the biggest religious building in the the whole entire world! Really! The temple was built around 900 years ago and it is still standing. Angkor Wat is surrounded by lots of other temples that are even older and you can climb all over them and take pictures and imagine what it must have been like to live all those years ago.
I spent three days exploring the temples at Angkor Wat. To get from place to place (the whole area is HUGE! If you walked, you would waste a lot of time in transit) I took a thing called a tuk-tuk which is kind of like a golf cart. There are benches in the back and it has a covered roof and is pulled by a motorcycle! Here is a picture!
I think this brings me to my announcement. After seeing how little money Khmer people have, I wanted to do something to help. A lot of people in Cambodia don´t have money to go to the doctor if they are sick or are going to have a baby and sometimes there is no doctor to go to! Remember, a lot of the doctors and teachers and professional people died when Pol Pot was in charge and it takes a lot of time for people to become doctors and for people to teach other people who want to be doctors! Cambodia is not the only place where the lack of doctors and nurses is a problem. A lot of places in the world don´t have the universities or teachers to help people become doctors or nurses. So I have decided to change that! I think I can really help other people by becoming a nurse and traveling to other countries to teach other people to be nurses as well! I am really excited about doing something new and I know I will miss working with kiddos like you every day, I think I can do a lot of good helping people with their health and (eventually) teaching people in other countries how to be nurses, too. The other part of this is that the school I want to go to for my nurses training is in……Portland, Oregon. Remember, that is where Ramona Quimby is from! My cousin lives there, too, so we are going to be roommates! Polly is coming with me, she will like living in a house rather than an apartment.
Portland is a long way from Brooklyn, I know. I am going to miss being able to see you at school and check in on you every day. But we have gotten so good at talking over the computer and Skype that I think we will still do well with keeping in touch. I will keep writing the blog and you all still have my email address (email@example.com). PLUS! I will be coming home a little earlier and I will be in New York for the whole month of August! So if you want, we can have a little party or I can come say hello at your house and you can show me your room and all the cool things you worked on during 3rd grade.
Speaking of which……HAPPY LAST DAY OF 3RD GRADE!!!!! I am so proud of all of you for working so hard! Who will your teachers be next year? I am excited to find out! Write me to tell me how the last day of school went!
Lots and lots and LOTS of love,