POV: Cambodian life complex, fascinating

The author is a 2006 graduate of Bethlehem Central High School

It has been almost seven months since I departed the oh-so-familiar grounds of New York to arrive in Cambodia to work for The Cambodia Daily newspaper in Phnom Penh, the country's capital.

But now, the traffic that initially seemed chaotic seems perfectly normal, the fear of robbery has faded, the heat has become a friend to my body and the native Khmer language — so unlike any other idiom I had heard before — now sounds familiar in this developing country, whose remnants of its French colonial past are sprinkled in its architecture and cuisine.

I no longer do ridiculously overly cautious things like wear bug spray 24/7, avoid lettuce in veggieburgers, wear a helmet in a tuk tuk (an enclosed, 4-wheeled cart pulled by a drive) or neglect to brush my teeth in sink water.

I have even kept running, after varsity cross-country at BC and through college, and raced in the Angkor Wat Half Marathon through the ancient Temples--also known for where Angelina Jolie filmed Tomb Raider! Running here is tough though; motobike drivers looking to make a buck (literally) constantly nag you to take a moto, the weather is hot and the sidewalks offer little refuge from street traffic.

I have made great friends, exposed stories of joy and injustice, traveled to exotic beaches and witnessed where people were tortured and executed during the 1974-79 reign of the Khmer Rouge, which still visibly affects so many aspects of this country today, and is at a pinnacle of judgment now as the UN-backed Tribunal is under way.

So far, the experience has been inexplicably worth answering the ad on journalismjobs.com calling for journalists at this well-respected, internationally read paper. Many national stories we publish tell of rape, murder, fights over land concessions and human trafficking, particularly Cambodian girls being sent to Malaysia as maids and the ensuing abuse.

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