Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Every 4 minutes for 10 years

A bomb was dropped on Cambodia every 4 minutes for 10 years.

Just think about that for a minute.

Whether that bombing was intentional, accidental, or simply a 'dump' is pretty irrelevant. The country is still suffering the consequences.

Many of the bombs dispersed what we call cluster munitions. Those are hundreds of small 'bomblets' that cover the ground and are supposed to explode on impact. Problem is they often don't. And they lay their for years and years until someone steps on it, picks it up, or hits it with rock or stick.

And don't you just love the name: bomblets. Sounds so cute. But they are landmines just as sure as the ones that are planted by hand or machine. And they are just as dangerous.

I met a 15 year old boy last week. He'd just lost his hand to a landmine he'd found in a field. It was Russian I think, and it was small enough that when he held it in his hand and it went off it only blew off one hand, injured the other and disfigured his face.

He didn't bleed out. He got some medical help quickly and now he lives with some friends of mine who are helping him recover and move on with his life. And this happens all the time, all over the country.

Well, enough of that. I've been traveling a bit the last week or so. I was in Phnom Penh for the last 2 days and it really is a busy place. It's the rainy season but it's only rained about 3 times the entire time Ive been here. And even then it only rained for less than 30 minutes. My friends tell me it used to rain so much that the river would overflow leaving fish flopping on the riverbank and in the road. Now the river seldom overflows.

For the past few years it seems to be raining less and less during the rainy season.

It's a beautiful country and the people are just amazing. They work like crazy. Stores are open seven days a week. I have to look at my calendar to figure out if it's the weekend or a weekday. But they are very family oriented. On holidays it seems like the whole nation is moving from place to another. It may just be from one end of town to another - to visit Grandma, or it may be from one side of the the country to another, to visit Grandma - but they are gonna visit Grandma.

And everyone is smiling. All the time. I've been in a lot of countries, first and third world, East and West where no one smiles. Life is a grind and everyone dwells on it. Not here. Life is certainly a grind, but people enjoy what they have. And that's a lot to say when you have so little.

Well, more to come soon.


1 comment:

Bob Uva said...

Nice report. A lot of the in situ reports that I read about Cambodia reflect this tangle of the incomprehensible tragedy and optimistic for the future in this beloved country. I'm hoping to get there in the next couple of years to see it myself.