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Climbing Cambodia

My Scholarship entry - Seeing the world through other eyes

WORLDWIDE | Monday, 23 April 2012 | Views [108] | Scholarship Entry

The dog stirs, then barks – soon the stock wake up one after another, each grunting in its own voice the reluctance of rising, an orchestra of farm animals performing a morning song. It’s four in the morning and still dark out; I trudge bleary-eyed towards the shed, where the kids were already up and anxious to begin the day’s tasks.
Clutching tightly to the rope, my young cow and I lumber slowly towards the padi fields to graze, dodging the occasional lump of waste still warm and wet from the troop ahead of us. My calf catches sight of the grass ahead and goes berserk, breaking away from the pack and dragging me along. The kids chuckle at the novice that I am, an out-of-country bumpkin once the master now the slave; a young boy walks up confidently and tugs firmly at the rope, and my cow is subdued and obedient once again. He speaks gently to the animal, sharing a relationship of mutual respect.
I spy two boys scampering up The Tree – one that seemed to have swallowed a porcupine whole and layered itself with its spikes – using each jutting thorn as a stepping stone to the top. Worried, I gesture and point out the danger these mischievous boys seem to have gotten themselves into; the village girl smiles back at me, puzzled. The elders had warned me off these trees, the same species used by the Khmer Rouge to kill children thirty years ago, yet the boys continued frolicking about the branches carefree. Was the generational gap too big for these kids to comprehend, or had these bitter memories become dark secrets hidden away?
The sun had risen, casting shadows that shrank by the minute. I try to stand up tall to hide the smallness I feel within. The view is magnificent: devoid of concrete stackers, the wholesome sky meets the huge expanse of land, an undisrupted horizon no widescreen LCD TV could capture in its vastness and vibrancy. I breathe in all the tranquillity, the elusive serenity seldom found in my modern city – their world seems bigger and richer, somehow.

Tags: Travel Writing Scholarship 2012

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