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February 3, 2011

Part V - Cambodia Condensed - A “Two-a-Day” Series of Our Time In Cambodia:

Mom Schwary Enjoying a Massage (Photo: Schwary) 
DAY 9 & 10 - CAMBODIA (Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville, Cambodia):
For all of us, it was time to leave the capital of Cambodia and head somewhere where we could relax, unwind, and initiate the process of reflecting on the emotionally tumultuous experience we had lived over the previous eights days. We fled to a bus, if you could call it that, and four hours later we most deservedly found ourselves at a Cambodian beach town called, Sihanoukville.
Some of the Team (Photo: Schwary)
For the first time, my Mom, as an official member of TheVicariousAdventure Team had arrived at the South China Sea, and what a sea it was. Sihanoukville is arguably the only traditional vacation destination within Cambodia. To me, the rest of Cambodia’s vacation destinations fall within either the educational, historical or archeological category. In Sihanoukville, we succeeded in checking the box on the fourth and final category.

Lobster on the Beach (Photo: Schwary)
Our time there was lazily filled with lying on the white sandy beach, walking the energetic and colorful beachfront boardwalk, basking in the warm sun, and sharing our opinions and personal reflections on the people, culture and history of the country we were in, and the country we were on the cusp to leave. The beach food was extraordinary, hawkers sold everything from BBQ squid, steamed lobsters, fresh spring rolls, green papaya salads, to any type of alcoholic beverage your imagination was capable of concocting.  The manner in which it was served was as yummy as it tasted. The joyful smiles and interesting conversations that were exchanged in the process will certainly be the taste that’s left in my mouth long after my time in Southeast Asia has come to an end.
Silhouette of a Boy (Photo: Schwary)
However, what’ll even last even longer will be the wounded Cambodians that hobbled pass us, dissecting the short distance between our plush lounge chairs and the waters of the sea.  Almost poetically, in the few moments we were capable of putting behind us the unthinkable hardships of the people of this country, we found ourselves helplessly donating dollar bills to some of the victims handicapped by an estimated, six million hidden land-mines that blanket their country.  These poor and incapacitated men where missing arms, legs, hands, feet, eyes and an wide array of other deformities I’d never witnessed with my bare naked eyes. Despite providing donations to almost all whom crossed my path, there was one in particular who I hadn’t.  The overwhelming feeling of guilt and selfishness brought me to chase him down. After catching up to him, I tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Where do you think you’rrrre go’n?  This is yours!”. I remember him tilting his head as he looked up at me from just a mere two feet above the ground, and with a humble smile and deep sense of gratitude he replied, “Thank you!”.  It was sporadic moments like that which served as constant  reminders that no matter how quaint this little beach town appeared to be, I was still in Cambodia, and in Cambodia, there’s not one dot on its map that’s exempt from the horror, depression and reality of a its all too recent past.  All in all, it was fitting of a place that was as sad as it was beautiful and depressing as it was refreshing.
On a more uplifting note, we dined well, received a couple wonderful massages, gazed at two spectacular sunsets, but what was undisputedly the best aspect of Sihanoukville, was the opportunity to witness everyday Cambodians enjoying a vacation on their very own land.
Smiles in Cambodia (Photo: Schwary)
So that’s it! Or is it? The truth is, there’s so much more but time is scarce and the Southeast Asian Odyssey must go on. But while in Cambodia,  TheVicariousAdventure Team had accomplished seeing and experiencing a solid portion of Cambodia is just ten short, yet crazy packed days; from its capital to its world famous temples, from its cities to its sea, from its culture to its cuisine, from its harrowing past to its improving present, from its depression and horror to its kindness and generosity. In such a short time Cambodia touched my soul in a way like no other country had done before. Cambodia dug itself deep into my heart, leaving tears in its wake and joy, that man, no matter how down and out it may find itself has the strength and ability to transcend it all with a smile and a sense of gratitude for the simplest things in life...food, clothes and shelter.
Goodbye Cambodia. Goodbye for now, for someday in the future we shall meet again...

Photographs of Day 9 & 10
Etched in Sand (Photo: Schwary)
Beach of Sihanoukville (Photo: Schwary)
Lounging Around (Photo: Schwary)
Umbrellas (Photo: Schwary)
Rainbow of Colors (Photo: Schwary)
Peek-a-Boo (Photo: Schwary)
I-See-You (Photo: Schwary)
Nap Time at the Market (Photo: Schwary)
Pleased to Meat You (Photo: Schwary)
Do Not Disturb! (Photo: Schwary)
Sleeping on the Job (Photo: Schwary)
The Lions of Sihanoukville (Photo: Schwary)
The Beach (Photo: Schwary)
Crossing the Line (Photo: Schwary)
Does God Really Exist? (Photo: Schwary)
A Cambodian Harbor (Photo: Schwary)
A Cambodian Headed in the Right Direction (Photo: Schwary)

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