Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Peacebuilding one duckduckgoose at a time

Today I spent the afternoon driving through rural Cambodia from the capital city in Phnom Penh to Battombang Provence, in preparation for a field work project tomorrow in Peace building. Along the way we stopped at a school to use the restroom- a little “unplanned field time” with the local residents. As we were chatting with the teachers I saw how curious the children were about us, and how shy and reticent they were to interact with us. The teacher said we were likely the first Americans they had ever seen. I wanted to draw them out a bit, and I asked the translator if we could teach them an American game. Four minutes and a little Khmer translation later, and we had an intense game of Duck-Duck-Goose in full swing. A dozen American students and thirty or so Khmer students, ages six to thirteen, running around in the dirt laughing and sharing a moment of fun. Despite our vast differences in lifestyles, backgrounds, and experiences, we had found a common ground in which to understand one another as human beings.

I can’t help but hope that perhaps when these children are older and learn about the bombings carried out in their country by the country that I call home, they might think of that strange morning when a group of Americans pulled up in a big bus and played with them. I am not implying (or trying to) that this will somehow sweep away the atrocities committed against them by our government, but I think that the more we can work as individuals to make a connection with each other, the more we will pause to think before applying blanket judgments in the face of propaganda. Not a sermon, just a thought.

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