not all who wander are lost.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

One Starfish.

Today Gillian and I went with Chris and his partner/friend/translator Satie to two villages: the first that has one of Chris's schools and is somewhat familiar with white people. The other is over the river and through the woods...they have never seen tourists and the sight of white skin sent the children running. There is no school here yet, but Chris hopes to build one in the upcoming year.

Our first stop was the schoolhouse at village number one...far outside of Ban Lung. The village, Chris, Satie, and the teachers were having a meeting- so Gillian and I were left in charge of 118 students. These young children did not speak any English, and most didn't even speak Khmer...only their local tongue. It was a bit of a slow start but after we figured out some ways of communication we were singing The Wheels on the their language! I played Proud Mary on my guitar, and they all sang the chorus- it was amazing. We took a stroll around the villas afterwards, and then began our journey to the remote, untouched village. When we arrived, the children ran. The village wasn't quite sure how to receive us- especially Gilly and I...two white women. The men had a meeting concerning the possibility of a school. Golly and I were to wait outside. We found a little spot and sat down. Well, it was like we were in the zoo-- everyone stared. Especially the children, who eventually got adventurous enough to make run up towards us- only to run away. After a few minutes of us sitting, an old woman walked up and waved us inside her hut. She spoke nor Khmer, and certainly no English. She had a Tumor the size of a grapefruit growing out of her throat, and a large black eye. She brought us a mat to sit on, water, and some cooked yucca. It was such a kind gesture- the woman with nothing, offering all she had. We sat, smiled, and attempted any kind of communication. When Chris and Satie came to collect us, they were blown away to find where we were. It is a HUGE honor as a westerner to be invited into someones home in the village. As we started on our journey home, I had heaps of time to think about our day....

There's a story about two men walking down along the sea. On the beach are thousands of starfish that have washed up. One of the men bends over and tosses one of them back to the sea. The other man says "What was the point of that? It wouldn't make a difference...there's thousands that are dying." The man replies, "It makes a difference to THAT one."

As much as I'd love to change the world, I can't. After visiting these villages today- I haven't renounced material things, or vowed to a life of simplicity. I haven't left or plan to leave my previous life for one of selfless service. I enjoy my feather earrings, iced lattes, and nice dinners. I love champagne, goat cheese and the occasional shopping spree. But what I was reassured about today is that every bit counts- and we each need to do our little part. We don't need to quit our job, sell our homes, and dedicate our lives to bring education to Cambodia, working without salary, like Chris has. BUT: I can invest in companies that are environmentally aware, and be more educated about buying quality goods. It's like the farmer said in the recent book I read, The Dirty Life:

"He saw that cheap goods cost somebody, somewhere, plenty, but by the time they reached the big-box shelves thousands of miles away, those costs were invisible. He became uncomfortable with processes he could not see, impacts he could not measure."

Most of the jungle is being cut down in Cambodia, replaced by cash crops of rubber trees. These are owned by the Chinese as well as corrupt, powerful Khmer. They are in no way benefiting the small villages that they've stolen from- and they are in NO WAY benefiting mother earth. They are ruining the forest, the soil, and the lives of thousands. What for? Rubber. So that I can purchase my crappy flip-flops at Old Navy for $1.99. How to fix this? Instead of purchasing these disposable flippys that only last 2months- invest in a pair of Tevas that are quite a bit more, but will last a decade. When I order my iced lattes- make SURE that it is Fair Trade. Buy local and handmade, and stray from mass producers like my beloved Forever21 and H&M. One starfish amongst thousands DOES make a difference, even if it's only a small one...


  1. Beautiful. Well said! Bravo lady!

  2. you are awesome. i'm loving reading your blog (and living vicariously... oh to travel again!).

  3. Save the starfish, one at a time. I'm going to be so much more careful about what I buy.