A Friday in Cambodia

Yes, I had an idea of what Cambodia would be like–sunny, hot, crowded, and brimming with poverty. But no, I didn’t expect so many smiles and Buddhist monks clothed in shiny orange togas carrying umbrellas, exchanging blessing for money. I had no idea CGI in-country staff like Vibol, Sopheony, Sreyleak, Nary, and LyPhalla, would soon become good friends. Nor would I have guessed a simple Friday at the zoo would imprint my heart forever.From the time we picked the CGI Daughters up to when we arrived at Cambodia’s only zoo, we had shared sliced green mango heavily salted, sprinkled with chili sauce, and many favorite karaoke songs. The Titanic’s theme, “My Heart Will Go On,” created a chorus of both harmony and giggles.After a picnic of roasted chicken and yes,even fried frog legs, we watched monkey acrobatics. Then the otters and black bears swam circles in greeting. Pythons lounged, keeping cool in the water. CGI President Chris Alexander even treated an elephant to a coconut.

Our mini-safari ended mid-afternoon. But not without one last instruction.
Donna Alexander gave each girl Khmer currency worth two dollars. Chris told them to give it away to the weathered elderly who begged along the dirt road leading into the zoo. But they were not just to give. They were to encourage and bless.

And one by one they did. Smiles and tears mingled. Gratefully, heads bowed. We soon left. But a part of me will always linger there.

By Joyce Long
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