Monday, August 27, 2007

Camping Cambodian Style!

This past weekend was a great opportunity to build some friendships and bridges with the Cambodian community in Portland. We spent the weekend at Camp Meriwether, on the Oregon coast and had a great time. Every year, hundreds of Cambodian Americans get together to share food, friendship, and fun - in no particular order.

The purpose of this annual event is to unite the Cambodian community, preserve their cultural heritage, and to create awareness of their presence and impact in society. The entire event is youth directed and the teenagers and young people in the community were given the enormous responsibility of handling the weekend's events. They did a spectacular job and the whole weekend went smoothly.

The highlights for me, were being able to sit and talk with people - to hear their stories and share experiences. Their stories of surviving the Pol Pot-era, living in refugee camps, and their struggles to make a life here in the United States. They have made it through so much and yet; the older generation has higher hopes for the next generation of young people to make something special for themselves and the world. Some of them are on their way.

One young lady is on her way to Columbia University to attend law school. Others are attending Stanford, USC, and other high profile colleges. They have high goals of working in law, medicine, and business - to impact the world in a meaningful way. My kids had a great time sharing their experiences from living in Cambodia with these young people, of whom, many have never been to Cambodia.

On a similar level, I had the opportunity to share with many people in the Cambodian community as to what Transitions Cambodia is doing in their home country to preserve its next generation, which they were excited to hear about. It was a great time of sharing and connecting with a sense of shared love and concern for Cambodia's next generation...

The weekend was filled with lots of Khmer food (Chanly and Sophorn's grandma fed me all weekend - Thank you Ma!), dancing, and laughter...Ashley and Gabe worked with the Cambodian youth - setting up, registering guests, doing performances, and Ashley was even the co-MC for the final evenings festivities.

By the end of the weekend, we were all tired from staying up too late and getting up early. Yet, I would not have passed up the chance to spend extended time talking and sharing the common desire to see the world a better place - both here and in Cambodia.

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