An American in Cambodia


It’s Wednesday morning here in Sihanoukville. I started my day at 5:30 am with my 5K run around the beach. The weather was just perfect — not too hot yet. I had a good run, much better than the ones I’ve had previously in Phnom Penh. I attribute that to the fact that Sihanoukville is a tourist town — even the dogs are nice to tourists. Though I saw many dogs, they looked health and none of them tried to attack me. Phnom Penh has a lot to learn from Sihanoukville… :).

This was my first real run in a while and I could surmise what message I was sending bystanders when a mototaxi driver did the official greeting on the streets of Cambodia, “Taxi?Taxi?” I must have looked like I needed one or again, it may have been his brainsimply reacting to a foreign looking person…

At this exact moment, I am sitting at the restaurant outside the hotel, enjoying the great breakfast — they have eggs any style, cheese, salami, ham, all sorts of breads, strong coffee with real milk, tea, and, of course, the omnipresent rice with vegetables, which I have gobbled up already. All included in the price of the room — $22 per night. No bad, eh?

While having breakfast I met a couple who is traveling through Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. They used to be missionaries in Kenya, where they met, then his health began to go south and they had to return home, which is Canada for him and U.S. for her.

I met the lady first at the buffet line as I was trying to decide whether to get cheese or not. She told me that she was born in the U.S. but she had lived in Canada most of her life. So I asked her, “So do you consider yourself more Canadian or more American?” She said, “I have dual citizenship.” I said, “Okay, but how do you really feel?” She said, “Well, I guess I will always be an American. I will always cry when I hear a marching band playing on July 4th.”

I thought to myself, “What a wonderful way to capture the essence of being an American.” Then I was laughing inside. I too remembered the times I had cried on July 4th… So what am I? An American? Yes, an American in Cambodia!

Back to the couple. After they returned to Canada, he went on to get a doctorate in Psychology and now helps bring healing to people who have experienced trauma because of wars, etc. I briefly told him about our ministry rescuing at-risk children in northern Thailand. I have read that the trauma experience by children who suffered sexual abuse is similar to the one experienced by children who have suffered the brutalities of wars in places like Sudan. Perhaps I will see this man again in Thailand.

By the way, I was pleasantly surprised to find big billboards here in Sihanoukville advertising a number anyone can call if you see a child who is at risk or appears to be at risk of abuse. It is anonymous line and it shows some effort on the part of this government to address this evil. Or perhaps it shows that the pressure from organizations such as International Justice Mission is making a difference.

Well, the beach awaits.

Ivanildo C. Trindade