Bloganuary: We Shall Overcome!

Write about a challenge you faced and overcame.


In the mid 1990’s I backpacked around South East Asia (Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos) for three months. This was back when French archeologists were still excavating and preserving Angkor Wat, before Siem Riep became a tourist boom town and so Phnom Penn hadn’t started to clean itself up for the tourist trade. In the middle of the city was a kind of shelter where I saw real hunger — emaciated mothers holding up children with bloated bellies — and true poverty for the first and only time.

Not my photo, but I have rolls of film from here in my archives. After the war, the people assembled the skulls of 5000 people and made them into several artworks, like this one, a map of Cambodia. The government has since removed the artwork (for the tourist trade) and interred the bones more respectfully in a pagoda. 


In Vietnam I went on one of the many available tours to experience what it would have been like to have lived through the Vietnam war (essentially museums of gruesome ways to die). I visited several places that had on display the corpses of severely deformed people or jars of foetus’s deformed from the chemicals used during the Vietnam war. I accidentally happened upon a corpse in an abandoned cave.

Not my image, but I have them on film. Hundreds of jars of the babies that were NOT born.I met countess people deformed by war or born with deformities


In Laos I traded being guided through Vientiane by Buddhist monks for teaching orphans English at a local temple in the evenings. The children were super enthusiastic little boys from 3 – 16 being cared for by the monks in the temple, the boys learning how to become monks themselves because, without a family, they had no other options. Their life’s path was firmly set for them. 

Again, not my photo. Mine are still all on film.

On Obstacles

I have overcome no real obstacles. I have had a few inconveniences along the established path from school to work — and now on the way to retirement (though I never want to retire). I have been blessed. I grew up neglected and bullied and I tell you I am blessed. I am fortunate to have been able to see hardship as a tourist — I could leave — and I am grateful that whatever has been in my way on the path to becoming the man I am today, it has been, by comparison, minor.

May we all be able to put what we see as our problems and obstacles into a larger perspective. 

Have you traveled? Did traveling change your relationship to the world? Tell me in the comments.


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