Daniel's Travels

Asia

Across the Pacific

Asia. In the United States, there are so many assumptions about Asia. We look across the Pacific and believe it to be a certain way. Although we can anytime look at a map and see on it that Asia is made up of many different nations, cultures, and spans great distances, in our minds we think of it as "Asia." This was the first myth that I lost. I think it was when the Thai Airways flight was somewhere over Beijing and we still had more than 6 hours to go to Bangkok. That was when I realized just how wide Asia stretched. Then, when I landed at Phnom Penh and saw all of the cars, heard all of the noise, my second assumption was broken. Though Cambodia is still quite impoverished, it was miles ahead of what I had assumed from what I heard in the United States.

Back to Cambodia

The last time someone in my family was in Asia was when my grandfather was medivac-ed from Cambodia to the Philippines in 1974. He was in Cambodia as part of the US forces combatting the rising Khmer Rouge of Cambodia. I first came to Asia as part of a group (SEALNet) to participate in a service leadership project with two of my friends, Seihout, a Cambodian boy, and Tú, a Vietnamese girl. Our project was centered at a high school in Phnom Penh. Although Phnom Penh is by far the most developed city (with the possible exception of heavily touristed Siem Reap) in Cambodia, we staged the project there to try and reach students who were already motivated and try to encourage them to make changes in their communities as they moved further through the world.

The things that I saw in Cambodia changed me. I did not see shocking poverty, at least it wasn't shocking to me. Somehow, I saw similarity. Because my dad grew up in a slightly undeveloped part of Colorado, I was used to seeing trash, rusted cars, and collapsing buildings. The scenery was completely different but not altogether alien. The people spoke words I had no hope of understanding but were still genorous and helpful through the valleys that separated us. Cambodia fascinated me, and I decided that in the future, I should go back. I told the students that we were working with that I would be back the next year. Then, I just had to find a way to be back.

Living in Asia

After Project Cambodia 2006, I decided that I would try to spend more time in Southeast Asia. This manifested itself in my decision to take a year off from Stanford and head over to Vietnam, then Singapore. This has been my adventure for the last 8 months. From the time that I left Stanford in June 2007, I have been to no less than seven countries. And here my adventure continues, everyday bringing something new in Southeast Asia.

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