I woke to the sound of thunderous rain striking my hotel window. It’s the first time I’ve seen rain during this period of the year here. I jumped out of bed trying to figure out what was going on. Silly me.

Afterward, I went alone for a refreshing morning walk along the Battambong River. This city has changed so much. It is almost unrecognizable from my first trip here nearly seven years ago. The revitalization of this once quiet city is bringing in more tourists. With that, comes opportunities and challenges.

I’m sitting by the river when I hear USA English speakers asking for directions. I keep to myself. I’ve almost forgot what it feels to be able to pass, to remain hidden, to blend in with the locals. In Minnesota, I stand out. When I used to attend meetings with leadership teams, I’m usually the only person of color. Here, along the Battambong River, I can somewhat choose to blend in.

I get noticed and approached by a group of people. They are missionaries, spreading the word of their god. I surprised them when I started talking back in English.

“Wow!” They gasp. “Your English is really good.”

“Thank you,” I reply. “Your English is almost as good as mine. I’m from Minnesota.“ We chuckle, and they offer to share with me their gospel. I politely decline, thank them for their work here, and they continued their walk. Later, I’m approach by more travelers asking for directions. I sense that they are traveling for other indulgences and entertainment, so I pretend not to speak English, pointed straight ahead and said “good day, bye bye!”.

I remember having a conversation with a friend, Tasha Soundara, about this several years ago when she and her husband traveled with me. It’s not my place to judge. It’s just the way it is. I don’t always agree with other people’s reasons for traveling, but I’ve learned to accept it. Tomorrow, I travel to the capital city and have to adjust again to another reality.

Cambodia – Kingdom of Wonder. Land of Contrast.

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