When sitting in the airport terminal in Ho Chi Minh City, I couldn’t help but think about the isolated snapshots of lives we witness—from all the people coming and going, of people shedding tears of joy, holding loved ones tight, meeting for the first time, or meeting for the last time. It is all we get sometimes, whether in the form of watching others in an airport or reading a blog written by a daughter, a friend, a stranger abroad in Cambodia: a snapshot. Here is my best attempt to provide you with a snapshot from my stay at Prek Toal, a floating village in the Tonle Sap Lake, in the last week.
We sit, two students and one professor, on the wooden floor next to our beds. We rock back and forth and back again, along with the entire house, to the beat of the lake’s waves. To get up and walk more than ten meters in any direction would result in plunging into the lake, a somewhat terrifying prospect for a student who grew up in a landlocked desert. A wooden cage filled with crocodiles floats behind the house next to the toilet, their eyes staring (apparently adding ‘into my soul’ is considered an exaggeration) as I move through the house. Our interview subject and homestay host claims, in the same breath, that the crocodiles are both comforting and seeking to gobble us up if we fall into their cage (I have never been more afraid of suddenly developing sleep walking habits after 22 years). Boats roar by, their motors deafening, filled with men and children smiling and waving as they pass.
This is just one of the many snapshots of excitement, challenge, triumph, comfort, and joy from these last months that together have changed our perspectives, our interests, our passions, our frameworks for understanding, and, in our own different ways, our lives.