By: Emily Hagerott

Posted: February 26, 2018
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Student Post

Filling the Void in Cambodia


Trials, tribulations, and euphorias enthrall me in the Kingdom of Cambodia. Even though I’m only a couple weeks into the semester with SFS, its pertinence for myriad issues is becoming ever-clearer. Through aesthetic, instrumental, and intrinsic elements, SFS fills a void that desperately needs to be closed.

The Aesthetic
Whether it’s the Greater Adjutants soaring in the sky or minute salty puddles, splendor pervades the Kingdom. Through its diverse wildlife, majestic temples, gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, and scrumptious cuisine, Cambodia’s beauty settles across its landscapes. Yet, what makes up its beauty is under threat from both the pressure of development and damaging environmental practices. Today, we begin to love and conserve its beauty, so that we will be able to cherish it tomorrow.

The Instrumental
In order to be able to feel the unencumbered flow of the Cambodian aesthetic, we must learn how to sustainably use and conserve the environment. Cambodia is at a unique crossroads of rapid, globalizing development, trauma from historical conflicts, and environmental degradation. Navigating the ethical conundrum of balancing biodiversity and human development is rote with paradoxes, unpredictability, and heartbreak. Nonetheless, my experience at SFS thus far has begun to guide me down this moral river. Through a multitude of field trips, case studies, and daily life, SFS grounds my outlook into one of pragmatic idealism where we dream of what could be and change what we can.

The Intrinsic
The cockroach embodies resilience. In spite of its surroundings, it is a creature that overcomes and perseveres. While many people retreat in disgust and squeamishness, I have come to appreciate the cockroach for being itself. The resilient cockroach teaches us how to look beyond the external and instead, begin to acknowledge, understand, and cherish every creature. My brief time at SFS has deepened my intrinsic perspective through pushing me to take the time in the outdoors to identify the plethora of life that abounds throughout Cambodia. Unfortunately, many creatures are threatened – we simply are not doing enough. Together, we must defenestrate the hegemony. We must transform the here and now. We must dream and reach and reach. For me, one of the seemingly endless steps towards the dream lies in Cambodia. For others, their paths may lead somewhere else, but we can all arrive on the other side.

Passing the Palm
Like maple syrup back home in the United States, palm sugar in Cambodia draws the sappiness in all of us – fulfilling our sweet tooths. Whether in hardened sugar cubes, juice, or sappy candy, palm sugar is a family event where many members contribute from the cutting of the fruit in the treetops to stirring the boiling sap into goodness. Here, we can learn how to create something sweet. Here, we learn how to pass the palm to the next hand together. Here, the seemingly daunting pit of what needs to change is another hand and step further towards fully ameliorating the world.

→ Conservation and Development Studies in Cambodia

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