Travel notes from Ellen Wood, DSVP Partner and Board Member When I left my full time job in 2005, I wanted to take one really great trip each year to explore a part of the world and culture that I could learn from. So, recently, I went on a small group “walking trip” with two of my best friends to Cambodia and Vietnam.
Vietnam is still primarily (say 70%) agrarian, so most people are farmers, but it seems everyone has another business (store, or selling something or some service on the side) to keep moving up. I grew up in Port Arthur, TX and when I was in high school we had an entire village from Vietnam resettle in my community (because it was on the coast and had a good shrimping industry). That was in the late 70s when the "boat people" and refugees came to the US to escape a very difficult post war Vietnam when there was a shortage of food and little education as the Communist government was in disarray. I was able to get to know the personal transformation story of a man who landed in Port Arthur at nine years old. He later worked for my Father at the family drug store business while he worked through college. He became the business manager, and later purchased the store from my Dad. His character possessed energy, a desire to learn, to do and become better. Throughout my trip, I saw so much positive ambition. Our world could use more of that.
Any trip to Vietnam had to include a visit to the famous temples of Angkor Wat in neighboring Cambodia. Cambodia was quite different. However, I was stunned to learn about the atrocities that country had endured in the 1975-1979 period under Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge when about 20-25% of the country was killed. Our walks through several of the villages there were eye-opening. Very few had electricity or plumbing and limited access to clean water pumps. The children though were so sweet and very interested in following us. Schools seemed much less organized than in Vietnam as well. It is still a very poor country, with a corrupt government, so these people have such a different outlook and perspective than what I saw in Vietnam. It's not so much about ambition, but about survival and peace. Travel notes from Ellen Wood, DSVP Partner and Board Member
Travel notes from Ellen Wood, DSVP Partner and Board Member The trip was a gentle reminder, that even in these tough times, we can lose perspective here in the US. We have so much here to be grateful for, even as we complain. From every trip, I always come back with renewed thankfulness for the opportunities, freedom and life in the USA.