By: Nicole Kim, Guest Blogger September 1, 2015
It’s easy to fall into a routine. I go to the same coffee shop every weekend, one that is shoved in between an antique store that sells frayed Persian rugs and a burger joint that serves grass-fed beef patties. I always order the same drink and make small talk with the same barista. I spend thirty minutes to get ready in the morning and drive by a modern sculpture resembling a stubby, white caterpillar everyday before school. I usually carry out the entirety of my day within a few miles radius; it is as if I am living in a bubble.
Before this summer, it almost felt like I did not exist beyond the circumference of my school campus, the café I frequent during the weekend, or the black picket fence around my house.
However, flying out to Cambodia, a country more than 8,000 miles away from my usual hub of activity, made me realize otherwise. This summer, a dozen high school students and I spent ten days filming footage for a documentary on sex trafficking in Cambodia.
image by Nicole Kim
We interviewed directors of NGOs and walked through red-light districts in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap in broad daylight; we also attempted to encapsulate the warmth of Khmer children and the beautiful symmetry of Angkor Wat on our Nikons. Trying to capture something so big on something so small felt incredibly ambitious.
With a camera slung over my shoulder and a krama twisted around my hair, I experienced the richness of Cambodian culture. Looking back, I remember smelling a pungent potpourri of spices before my lips could dip into a spoonful of morning glory soup. I remember Serayrath, a Saravan dancer with dark eyebrows, whose fingers would bend back to look like lotus blossoms. I remember the two shirtless boys begging in front of Angkor Wat and how their round, Buddha bellies heaved when they laughed at tourists with fanny packs.
I also realized that deviating from my usual routine and stepping outside my comfort zone could be rewarding. I embraced talking to old women selling dragonfruit, children playing in the streets, and tuk tuk drivers in a language with too many r’s to roll for my own tongue; I felt something closer to exhilaration than worry when my friends and I danced on crowded streets lined with nightclubs, swept by the bad trance music blasting from speakers.
Has a trip abroad helped you find yourself as it did for Nicole? Tell us below!
Nicole is a high school student who believes in the importance of empowering girls within her own community and advocating for girls’ rights. She loves journalism, swimming, watching films, and reading the New Yorker.
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