Land Mines In Cambodia

Land Mines In Cambodia

“When elephants fight, ants get killed.” Cambodian Proverb

Everywhere you go in Siem Reap you will see disabled beggars. They are victims of war – victims of landmines.

The landmines in Cambodia were placed by different fighting groups (the Khmer Rouge, the Heng Samrin and Hun Sen regimes) during the Civil War in Cambodia in the 1970s. They were put in the whole territory of the country. One of the problems that Cambodia faces is that the people who placed the mines do not remember where they put them.

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Cambodia is still a very poor traumatized country from the cruel years of the Khmer Rouge. Almost every family has lost at least one family member and faced unbearable situations during that time. Most of the adults remember starvation. There are many terrible stories.

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The Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) estimates that there may still be as many as four to six million mines. It will take at least ten more years to clear most of them out. They have 40,000 amputees. It is the largest number in the world which makes it the most disabled country.

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Even now about 250 people a year still step on land mines – most of them children. The hospitals are too far away and many of them die. The ones that don’t usually lose a limb.

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Traditionally in Khmer society the person who stepped on a mine was viewed as unlucky, their own bad karma having sentenced them to a life of misery. It was assumed, furthermore, that those with only one leg or one arm could not be productive members of society. This attitude of discrimination is changing and there are now some organizations to help the disabled.

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Some of the organizations have music groups that you will see around Cambodia especially in Angor Wat and the other temples. They sell their CDs and play traditional Khmer music.

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There are many organizations you can give to in Cambodia and in the US to help as well. Unicef, Cambodian Children’s Charity and Land Mine Survivors Cambodia are a few in the US. The American dollar goes a much longer way in Cambodia and even a small amount will help.

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The country is recovering slowly. They are determined to build and succeed, heal the wounded, forgive the unforgivable and have better lives.

Fly safe,

JAZ

 

 

 

 

Top Ten Travel Travails (say that three times fast)

Top Ten Travel Travails (say that three times fast)

“The Act of God designation on all insurance policies… means roughly that you cannot be insured for the accidents that are most likely to happen to you. If your ox kicks a hole in your neighbor’s Maserati, however, indemnity is instantaneous.”  Alan Coren

I think the word travel comes from the word travail. Travail comes from the Latin word: trepalium, which is instrument of torture. The definition of travail is use of physical or mental energy; hard work. It means suffering and singing the blues while you work. It means an epic Greek Tragedy is happening. That is how travel used to be for the ancestors, pilgrims, pioneers and explorers. It was arduous and life-threatening. I think going away back then meant having travails or  “travailing.”

I thought that I would write a blog about some of my modern-day travel travails.

1. You’ve spent months planning your trip. Life kicks in and things go wrong. For me it is  illness related, I sprain my wrist the day before I fly. I get a weird fever, rash or asthma the week I am leaving. It is definitely anxiety. I always go away carrying some new medicine or arm brace that I didn’t need the last time. When I get there, it is fine.

2. Other than Japan and Switzerland, I always experience flight delays. There are no explanations and no one seems surprised or aggravated in third world countries. Planes leave when they leave. Hakuna Matata is a real thing. I hate when I have connecting flights in these countries. I am always running through airports only to find the next plane is late also. There was that one time that the connecting plane was on time and it was the last connecting flight of the day and no one spoke English.

3. Rain can ruin your holidays. If your hair frizzes in the rain, you are going to feel ugly. There is nothing more dreary than seeing the sights of London soaking wet because a car drives by and splashes water all over you.  Running across a marble courtyard in high heels during a downpour in Ankara can be dangerous. How often do we hear “the first day was great and then it rained.” But rain is not exactly a reason to sit in your hotel room watching reruns of seventies sitcoms in Chinese. It is only water.

4. Malaria and Dengue Fever.  Avoid being bitten by mosquitos. Mosquitos prefer fat, sweet-smelling, sweaty people who leave lights on, and who’s fashion choices are bright colors and sandals. Daytime mosquitos carry dengue. Nighttime mosquitos carry malaria. Dusk can be both. Take malaria pills if recommended, use netting, cover up and Spray, Spray, Spray.

5 Being robbed not at gunpoint. (hotel room, pickpockets, car break ins, etc) There is nothing like having to contact your credit card companies, insurance companies and banks while on vacation.  If they get your passport, let me add in the US embassy.

6 Being robbed at gunpoint – ok that is really scary.

7. Food Poisoning. There is a specific misery that comes with being violently and uncontrollably sick in a place that is not your home and especially in a foreign country.   I am normally germophobic so when I travel I become the food police. I don’t know when the last time the street vendors have washed their utensils or what kind of water they are cooking in. It is not enough for me to just not drink or brush your teeth with tap water in countries with poor sanitation. After seeing “Slumdog Millionaire” I now have to worry about fake sealed bottles of water and make sure to drink a reputable local brand.

8. No electricity. Many third world countries have power outages. It’s always a good idea to carry a flashlight or perhaps a generator if light is important to you. Find the stairs if you are staying in a hotel with an elevator. From experience, I try not to stay on a high floor if I see bad weather, lights flickering or dim street lights. It is pretty much of a given that it will happen somewhere when you are in India or Africa . You might be traveling to places with no or limited electricity.  Be aware of that before your cell phone dies.

9. No hot water. Hot water is a luxury that we take for granted. There are moist towelettes and dry shampoo but you might at some point have to take that very cold shower.

10. Poverty and begging. In third world countries you are going to be approached by children, the elderly and people with physical and mental disabilities begging in the street. It’s hard to see and to know what to do. I’ve heard if you give kids money it keeps them on the street supporting their families and out of school. It is said that if you give things in packages, they can sell them for drugs or glue to sniff. People maim and blind kids on purpose to get more money. I don’t know what the truth is. It is something I don’t understand so it is best  for me to give to charitable organizations in the country.  I always bring pencils, stickers and small inflatable balls to give out. It is not an answer but it is something.

These are the challenges that I face on the road to adventure. They are the anythings that can and always do happen. The most interesting things happen when I am cold, hot,  hungry, wet, tired and uncomfortable. The travails become the stories.

 

Fly safe,

JAZ