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Photo by Sampor Burke, Mekong Semester.

This Morning

This morning, our first morning in Koh K’Sach Tonlea, I’m slowly awakened by music I’ve never heard before. A distant neighbor has decided to start wedding festivities early, 5:30 am early. As I look around our single room home, the sun creeps through the cracks in the wood, and the mosquito nets that we hung last night have been put away. The grandparents that slept on the woven mat beside me have now been replaced by Rak Sa, my 12 year old host brother. Crowing roosters and barking dogs outside my door compete with the dull whirring of two old fans, one of which was given to me, an unknown guest, and with all this noise I wonder how I will ever sleep past 6.

This morning, our first morning, my host mother is awake before me already starting breakfast. We eat together in mostly silence, except for the occasional sound of her heaping more food onto my plate. I try a bit of my Khmei by telling her “chaight howe” meaning “I’m already full” yet she simply laughs and continues filling my rice bowl. She continues her morning rituals, including offering sweets to the house spirit and walking around with burning incense. At first these rituals are seemingly chaotic, but as I watch her preform these tasks with purpose I see the simplicity and calmness that is represented.

This morning, our first morning, is peaceful and the tranquility I feel appears opposing to the very idea that I am sitting in a strangers house halfway across the world in a country where the depth of my Khmei only gets me your name. However, as I sit outside with my grandmother taking in the morning and the coffee, I still feel welcomed. Her name is Ye Hawn and she talks to me as if I understand her. I only partially do, but communication lacking a shared language almost immediately creates a deeper sharing among us. The silly hand gestures signifying basic needs and laughter out of confusion creates vulnerability and joy in interactions. There is more consciousness of others needs, more presence in the moment, and a little more caring about how you affect others.

This self awareness is something I’ve been trying to master my whole life. It somehow seems simpler living in this wonderfully different place surrounded by wonderfully caring people. Their daily kindness inspires me to live my own life simply and kindly. Finally, what I take from this first morning is excitement. Excitement in growing the connections I have already made, excitement for taking mindfulness of others through my journey across Asia and beyond, and excitement to live another day vulnerably with my family away from home.