Each night I dream of Cambodia


Today I exist in two places at once. Right now I’m in my New Zealand office designing a questionnaire but at the same moment I’m in Cambodia and thinking about one of the scholarship students who lost her brother, through sickness, this week. The tragedy has pulled me back to Bakong and I wish I could be at the school staff meeting today to extend my condolences.

What I experience, a deep sense of living in alternative states is not uncommon for visitors to Cambodia. I’ve met many others whose dreams each night take them to Cambodia and the people they have met there. I’m not alone in my experience, back in 2004, of returning “home” to Cambodia even though I had never before set foot there. What is it about Cambodia that exerts this spell?

I put the presence of Cambodia deep within my subconscious down to the problems and riddles that the nation perplexes us with. How can such gorgeous people have turned in on themselves during the Pol Pot years? How could this have happened?  To what extent did the politics of our western countries play a role in this? To what extent were we complicit in this tragedy?

And today’s problems worry me each night. How can we assist more young Cambodians? What can I do better?

For sure, my feeling of returning home in 2004 came – I’m positive – from growing up with South East Asia imprinted, thanks to the US/Vietnam war, on our TV screens. Those paddy fields and sugar-palms trees were immediately familiar.

But the dreams I harbour most nights? They come from a country that faces new troubles and challenges ahead.  By nature I’m a puzzle solver, and every night I wrestle, always unsuccessfully, with the questions facing modern Cambodia.

2 thoughts on “Each night I dream of Cambodia

  1. So, I am not alone because I had the same experience, a feeling of returning “home” when I walked around Angkor temples on my first visit in 2011. It’s like a déjà vu or déjà vecu 😉 and that made me visiting Cambodia 4 times in that year and now still having lots of thoughts of Cambodia… thanks for sharing this.

    • Thanks for the note. I’ve spoken to a few people who have the deja vu feeling when they visit Cambodia – so you and I are members of a lucky club! Even the smell of the red earth contributes to that sensation of familiarity. However this process worked I do know this: on the first journey I knew, within minutes of landing at Siem Reap that I could be fairly confident that something important was going to happen in my life. Instead of being the skeptical tourist I was more open and ready to embrace whatever Cambodia had in store for me. I’m glad this little nation worked its magic.

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