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From the Desk of Summer Intern Morgan Haefner-Entry #2
June 17, 2014

Dear FELC,

I’m wrapping up my last week in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I’m content with spending my final hours teaching, adventuring and shoving in as much good food as humanly possible. I know my experience here won’t end once I returned to the States. I’ve experienced too much, seen too much to process in a month. I found an article in a Cambodia travel magazine describing what it is like for a foreigner to live in Cambodia. An excerpt from the article goes along the lines of this: “Get off the main highways for a moment. Wander down red dirt roads, where traffic is reduced to scuttling chickens and the growl of engines is replaced by a chorus of “hellos” from waving children. Just hours later, find yourself settling into an opulent armchair in a five-star resort, where the most rustic experience will be provided by the mint in your mojito. For many visitors, Cambodia’s greatest wonder is this juxtaposition of disparate worlds. It is a place that can shake the soul one moment, before bringing on a rush of delight the next.”                                                                                                                                                       I could not describe the atmosphere here better myself. This country is filled with unbelievable “sorrow and joy,” as the article defines it, and it’s hard to process how those two opposites work together to make up my experience in Cambodia.

One of the most joyful places I have been on my trip is a Christian/ Buddhist/ Islamist/ (it really encompassed all religions) reflection center run by a woman striving to make life better for landmine victims in Cambodia. The most beautiful statue at the center appeared at the entrance. It was a landmine victim getting his only foot washed – he was missing the other one. The statue voiced such a powerful message of care and compassion in a country where so much hardship has taken over.                                

One of the most sorrowful moments came when I went to visit a landmine museum near Angkor park. The pictures and deactivated landmines told a devastating story. Various testimonials of orphaned children, handicapped adults and survival stories littered the walls. The museum was small, but the emotion was packed with a punch. Many people in Cambodia today are disabled due to landmines, and many cannot lead a life they are proud of. This is just a small demographic of people who need help in Cambodia, and their struggles are deep.                                                                                                                                                         
These are merely glimpses into my reality here in Cambodia. I can’t wait to get back to Appleton and tell many more stories about my experiences to my fellow interns, staff and congregation. I’m forever thankful of my opportunity to study abroad in Siem Reap.

Morgan Haefner  

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