I love electricity. Living in Phnom Penh, the largest city in Cambodia, my wife and I are some of the blessed few (when compared to the entire nation), who have access to power, and running water.
My wife and I have been able to “rough it” in a foreign land, since our apartment has an air conditioning unit for the main bedroom, as well as daily access to the various wi-fi Internet cafes scattered around the city. My funky white MacBook might be slowly turning the dusty color of the Cambodian roads, but all in all, we have nothing to complain about.
Although we have no complaints, we still have had to adjust and learn what it means to “go with the flow.” The major area of adjustment has been in our willingness to step into the rhythm of Cambodia. We’re getting used to the humid days and nights where the sweat can drip from every part of your body, and we’re enjoying the (almost) daily thunder storms—with heavy rain that floods entire streets and homes, in the matter of minutes, add to this I’ve even discovered a Cambodian Tea, served like their coffee, with heaps of ice, and just sweet enough. Yet, if there is anything we are struggling to find a flow with, it would have to be the (almost) daily power blackouts.
When these power outages hit at night, my wife and I can hear the entire neighborhood partake in a community moan. Our first experience surprised us. Lying in bed in the comfort of the air con, we both gave a sigh of disbelief when the power disappeared, and we could hear the neighbours sighing with us (it was as if we were a choir).
I know electricity is a privilege, believe me, I am reminded of that each day, when my moto drives past the slums around my neighbourhood, where whole families are living under plastic tarps. It challenges me deeply, when I can use my electric powered fridge to keep my food fresh, whereas, my neighbours in the slum are forced to live meal by meal. But, wherever I look, around this broken nation, there are people committed to bringing lasting change to the poor and needy. Just a few weeks ago, there was a major fire in the slum close to us. A lot of damage was done to the materials that the people use for daily life, like their family cooking pot and clothes. Worst of all, children lost their lives. In a nation without any form of welfare or family care, full of dire situations, these people were left further starved of hope.
Thankfully, along with various other good Samaritans, my new local church joined with the slum community to provide new cooking equipment and clothes. It was maybe a small gift on our part, but it further allows us to become welcomed there, and hopefully further assist families to break free of poverty.
Slowly, my wife and I are learning to share in the joys and sufferings of our new neighbours. Like the collective sigh when the power is cut, we’ve also learned to cheer when the lights come back on. You see, here, the things like electricity, and clean water, are not a given—they are not expected; instead they are seen for what they really are, privileges. The people who live around our apartment, no more than a five minute walk to the slums, know that the rhythm of life in Cambodia means that nothing should be relied upon, there are no guarantees. So when we join together, and cheer in the odd hours of the night when the fans start again, its not because we see electricity as our right, or demand it. Instead it has more to do with the fact that we have access to this tool, and can enjoy the benefits. Along with the cheers my wife and I send up, we pray and hope that our neighbours down in the slums can share in this same privilege, that as Cambodia develops and expands the poor and needy would not be forgotten, and that through the work of the many good Samaritans here, people would be blessed.