These last few weeks in Cambodia have posed the question of what home is to me. There have been moments where I missed my home in the US as well as times where I truly felt at home in Cambodia.
A few days ago, our group was sitting on a rooftop overlooking the city of Battambang and taking everything in: the view, the heat, and of course, the sounds. There was music playing, which I was not able to understand but wanted to know more about. It was playing because someone in the neighborhood had passed away. I instantly thought of an important event in New Orleans – Mardi Gras. The original purpose of a second line was to announce someone’s death to the community. While second lines have evolved to have multiple purposes, they always make people smile due to the beautiful music. Both in Cambodia and New Orleans, music and death are interconnected and highly valued.
Even though I only know a few phases in Khmer and many people in Cambodia do not speak English, I am still able to feel at home due to the generosity and kindness of the people. Immediately when I arrived at my homestay family’s house, I felt a genuine sense of care and generosity when they had four plates of food waiting for me and smiles on their faces. Ever since my arrival, I have received nothing less than the first night. My host family has done everything in their power to make me feel at home; from giving me my own room to eating meals with me to doing my hair.
Granted, there have been many differences between Cambodia and my home in New Orleans. As I travel to new places and meet new people I am reminded of the power of a sense of home in connecting communities across nations. I can feel at home in a place drastically different than what I am used to in the United States, and I find beauty and peace in the community of Koh K’sach Tonlea.