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The Traveling Cow


sonder
n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.
On July 17th, we ran a story about a young lady named Kim Em. She was born with dwarfism and became quite ill at the age of ten where she lost the use of her arms and legs. Her father abandoned her, leaving only her mother struggling to care for the family.
On July 22nd, I was able to FaceTime with Kim Em when my aunties visited with her to bring the money I sent to Vietnam for her, and I learned that her condition had worsened:  she can’t breathe on her own now after the many seizures she has had in the last few months, and must be hooked up to a portable oxygen tank.  The tank is on temporary loan from the hospital, as the family can’t afford to buy one due the prohibitive cost of $1000 USD.
I woke up the next morning determined to help buy Kim Em her own oxygen tank.  I put up the first $500 and before my lunch break that day, I texted and called a few close friends and related the tragic predicament to them.  I pleaded with each of them to forego their daily coffee and asked if they could each send me $5 to help this precious little girl.  After work, I was stuck in traffic for two hours during which I made a few more phone calls while sitting in my car on the highway.  By the time I got home, I was overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of my friends and family; from the few phone calls and texts I sent that morning and evening, we have raised over $2000 to help Kim Em! One of my good friends and colleagues whom I have worked with for over ten years even matched my donation dollar for dollar.
We have reached our goal of purchasing an oxygen tank for Kim Em, and the rest of the money raised will be donated to her family for the ongoing medical care that she will need.
Someone asked me why I was putting so much effort into helping this little girl, knowing that she may not have that much time left on this earth, and I answered that that’s exactly why I am determined to help her. Whatever time she has left here on earth, I want her to have a chance to benefit from the things that most of us take for granted, such as the ease of a breath or simply having food on the table at dinner time.
If you can forego your coffee for today, please consider sending $5 to help Kim Em. 100% of all donations will go directly to her family.  You may donate via Paypal at kathy.stenger.rover@gmail.com. Thank you.

On July 17th, we ran a story about a young lady named Kim Em. She was born with dwarfism and became quite ill at the age of ten where she lost the use of her arms and legs. Her father abandoned her, leaving only her mother struggling to care for the family.

On July 22nd, I was able to FaceTime with Kim Em when my aunties visited with her to bring the money I sent to Vietnam for her, and I learned that her condition had worsened: she can’t breathe on her own now after the many seizures she has had in the last few months, and must be hooked up to a portable oxygen tank. The tank is on temporary loan from the hospital, as the family can’t afford to buy one due the prohibitive cost of $1000 USD.

I woke up the next morning determined to help buy Kim Em her own oxygen tank. I put up the first $500 and before my lunch break that day, I texted and called a few close friends and related the tragic predicament to them. I pleaded with each of them to forego their daily coffee and asked if they could each send me $5 to help this precious little girl. After work, I was stuck in traffic for two hours during which I made a few more phone calls while sitting in my car on the highway. By the time I got home, I was overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of my friends and family; from the few phone calls and texts I sent that morning and evening, we have raised over $2000 to help Kim Em! One of my good friends and colleagues whom I have worked with for over ten years even matched my donation dollar for dollar.

We have reached our goal of purchasing an oxygen tank for Kim Em, and the rest of the money raised will be donated to her family for the ongoing medical care that she will need.

Someone asked me why I was putting so much effort into helping this little girl, knowing that she may not have that much time left on this earth, and I answered that that’s exactly why I am determined to help her. Whatever time she has left here on earth, I want her to have a chance to benefit from the things that most of us take for granted, such as the ease of a breath or simply having food on the table at dinner time.

If you can forego your coffee for today, please consider sending $5 to help Kim Em. 100% of all donations will go directly to her family. You may donate via Paypal at kathy.stenger.rover@gmail.com. Thank you.

Whenever I have the day off, I like to ride my bike around Seattle and just explore the sites and people watch. I randomly walk up to people and start talking to them like we have been friends for years. Most of the time people respond with a smile and causal banter ensues. (And sometimes they’d show me a magic trick and give me candy.) On my ride yesterday, I noticed a lady with lustrous pink hair that appropriately matched her outfit. I nonchalantly rode up next to her and said “I love your hair.” I ended up talking to LaDonna and two of her friends for five minutes.
Meet the three belles from St. Louis. LaDonna (pretty in pink) and Rosy (in the black top) came out here with Sheila (in the white top) to attend Sheila’s Grandmother’s 100th birthday party. Shelia proudly told me that at the party, there would be 6 generations of her family in attendance. After allowing me to snap a picture I told them of some of the tourist places to see in Seattle and off they went.
Watching people, I noticed many of them were on their cell phones. I rode by a park bench and saw a mother and her 2 teenage children sitting side-by-side staring at their iphone. Are we becoming more isolated socially because social media had replaced the causal banter with the status update? While I like facebook, I love meeting people face to face even more.

Whenever I have the day off, I like to ride my bike around Seattle and just explore the sites and people watch. I randomly walk up to people and start talking to them like we have been friends for years. Most of the time people respond with a smile and causal banter ensues. (And sometimes they’d show me a magic trick and give me candy.) On my ride yesterday, I noticed a lady with lustrous pink hair that appropriately matched her outfit. I nonchalantly rode up next to her and said “I love your hair.” I ended up talking to LaDonna and two of her friends for five minutes.

Meet the three belles from St. Louis. LaDonna (pretty in pink) and Rosy (in the black top) came out here with Sheila (in the white top) to attend Sheila’s Grandmother’s 100th birthday party. Shelia proudly told me that at the party, there would be 6 generations of her family in attendance. After allowing me to snap a picture I told them of some of the tourist places to see in Seattle and off they went.

Watching people, I noticed many of them were on their cell phones. I rode by a park bench and saw a mother and her 2 teenage children sitting side-by-side staring at their iphone. Are we becoming more isolated socially because social media had replaced the causal banter with the status update? While I like facebook, I love meeting people face to face even more.

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Recently I had the chance to listen to John Quiñones, the host of the television show “What Would You Do?” give a commencement speech where he recalled a time when he was a correspondent for ABC News. He was working on an exclusive interview with the President of Colombia at the time, and an hour before the segment was to air, Quiñones had to call his boss, Peter Jennings back in New York to tell him that the interview was not happening. Quiñones was bracing himself for a scolding from Jennings, but instead he was reassured by these insightful words: “Don’t worry about talking to the movers and shakers; talk to the moved and shaken.”

While on a road trip in Vietnam, I was able to meet a very courageous and resilient young lady in the city of Ca Mau.

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My mom once told me about how I almost died as a baby because I had become very ill with a virus, and my parents couldn’t afford the antibiotics that the doctor said I needed. We were living with my dad’s family at the time because we were so poor, and when my mom came home with the news that I was in dire need of medicine that she couldn’t afford, no one in his family offered to help. The next day my mom took the only thing she had that was of value - her ring - and pawned it to buy the antibiotics that saved my life.

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Candace Parker is an American basketball player who plays Center and Forward for the WNBA’s Los Angles Sparks. She is one of only two women in the league who can dunk a basketball. In 2009, I read an article about Candace being criticized by both fans and pundits of the WNBA for choosing to become a mother at the age of 22.  She was described as being selfish for putting her maternal ambitions ahead of her team’s 2009 season prospects.

On May 12, 2011, the eve of Mother’s Day, I was shooting a pre-Olympics basketball exhibition game between the women of team USA and China’s Women’s National Team.  Behind me sat a little girl with her father; she was hooting and hollering for team USA.  She was so adorable, I even put her on the big screen a few times.  At the end of the fourth period, team USA won, and I rushed out to center court at the buzzer to catch the victory celebration.  To my surprise, the little girl behind me rushed the court too.  I watched the little girl to see if one of the ushers would chase after her and escort her back to her dad, but no one did.  It was then that I saw Candace break away from the victory circle and run towards the little girl.  My camera was still pointed in the direction of the celebration taking place at mid court, but my eyes were fixed on the image of the cute little girl weaving her way through the crowd, running into the arms of her mother. It was then that I realized that the adorable little girl giggling and cheering behind me the entire game was, Lailaa, Candace Parker’s daughter.

I can’t speak for Candace, but I am willing to bet she would forfeit any gold medal, MVP trophy, or even a world championship ring for a victory hug from that beautiful little girl who rushed the court.

Whenever I’m asked about my favorite moment from shooting sports is, I tell them this story.

Candace Parker is an American basketball player who plays Center and Forward for the WNBA’s Los Angles Sparks. She is one of only two women in the league who can dunk a basketball. In 2009, I read an article about Candace being criticized by both fans and pundits of the WNBA for choosing to become a mother at the age of 22. She was described as being selfish for putting her maternal ambitions ahead of her team’s 2009 season prospects.

On May 12, 2011, the eve of Mother’s Day, I was shooting a pre-Olympics basketball exhibition game between the women of team USA and China’s Women’s National Team. Behind me sat a little girl with her father; she was hooting and hollering for team USA. She was so adorable, I even put her on the big screen a few times. At the end of the fourth period, team USA won, and I rushed out to center court at the buzzer to catch the victory celebration. To my surprise, the little girl behind me rushed the court too. I watched the little girl to see if one of the ushers would chase after her and escort her back to her dad, but no one did. It was then that I saw Candace break away from the victory circle and run towards the little girl. My camera was still pointed in the direction of the celebration taking place at mid court, but my eyes were fixed on the image of the cute little girl weaving her way through the crowd, running into the arms of her mother. It was then that I realized that the adorable little girl giggling and cheering behind me the entire game was, Lailaa, Candace Parker’s daughter.

I can’t speak for Candace, but I am willing to bet she would forfeit any gold medal, MVP trophy, or even a world championship ring for a victory hug from that beautiful little girl who rushed the court.

Whenever I’m asked about my favorite moment from shooting sports is, I tell them this story.

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On November 4, 2013, I entered North Korea on a tourist visa granted by the government of the DPRK. For five days and four nights, my two guides led me on a propaganda parade, touting the power and greatness of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Most of my time was spent visiting boring museums and viewing countless monuments in the likeness of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. There are an estimated 34,000 statues of the two leaders throughout the country.

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I met Justin Barnes, a prominent local radio personality on Movin’ 92.5 FM at a baseball game where he was a guest DJ. When I looked him up on Facebook, the first picture I noticed was one of him riding a scooter while wearing a bunny helmet, and I immediately knew he would have an interesting story to share. I was too impatient to wait for him to respond to my friend request, so I reached out to a mutual friend who only agreed to give me Justin’s cell phone number if I promised not to stalk him or call him at two in the morning. A couple of phone calls, a string of texts and a restraining order later, Justin agreed to have lunch with me (just kidding about the restraining order).

In between bites of our salads and fries, Justin revealed to me that he belonged to a scooter club call The Soldiers of Destiny. Each of its 23 members sport a different animal on their helmet including a hippo, lion, eagle, elephant, monkey and even a shark. “But no cow?” I asked him. “Not yet.” He answered.

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When I was a child, I collected soda and beer cans that I found around my neighborhood for extra spending money. Whenever there was a party or event, I would show up with my little bag and scoop up all of the empty cans, then added them to the two giant trash bags in my back yard where I stored my commodities. Every few months when the bags were full, I loaded them into the back of our van, and my mom would drive me to the local recycling center where she waited in the car while I eagerly stood in line at the enormous scale. After weighing my cans, I would then rush to hand the cashier the piece of paper with the weight of that day’s haul. My head barely cleared the counter, so I had to stand on my tippy-toes to slip my receipt through the window. The best part of my recycling adventure was watching the lady count out the money. Afterwards, I’d race back to my mom, waving my handful of cash in the air as if I had won the lottery. I would use the money to buy copies of Mad Magazine and Debbie Gibson albums.

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Nhu and Nhi are sisters born to a poor farmer. When I first met the family, I had dinner with them in a shack deep in a rural village where electricity was still a luxury not every household could afford. When I returned this year, I discovered what was once a hut held together by nails and palm leaves is now a beautiful brick and mortar home.

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A few years before she went to Heaven, my mom and I visited Vietnam together. During our trip, we learned about a school that was in dire need of books and supplies. We pooled our money together, collectively were able to buy composition books, pens and pencils for every student. I saw the pride and joy on my mother’s face that day as she handed out the books and supplies; my mom loved school when she was a child, but only made it to the fifth grade before her grandfather decided that girls didn’t need to be educated past elementary school. She was forced to drop out to stay home to help care for her brother and sisters.

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Her childhood is filled with violence and despair: her father is in prison for gang related crimes, and her mother abandoned the family after years of receiving brutal beatings by her father. She’s been in the first grade for the last three years, and spends her days wandering the street, as she doesn’t have anything or anyone to play with at home.

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She was sitting on her front porch when I walked by, so I stopped to ask her permission to take her picture. She objected at first, claiming that she was too old and didn’t feel she was beautiful enough to be photographed.  I told her with the utmost sincerity that I thought she was one of the most beautiful people I have ever met.  After talking to her for a few minutes she agreed to smile for my camera.
Her face has never been tainted by Botox; her eyes are hugged by the wrinkles and folds that come from rearing twelve children.  Her smile is radiant without veneers. The grey in her hair is a crown of wisdom that has been earned through decades of triumphs and errors. Her entire face is a map of a life well lived; the fine lines that dip between her smiles are the paths to a journey only she knows.
This portrait is the essence of what a beautiful and dignified woman looks like.  No make-up required. No airbrushing needed.

She was sitting on her front porch when I walked by, so I stopped to ask her permission to take her picture. She objected at first, claiming that she was too old and didn’t feel she was beautiful enough to be photographed. I told her with the utmost sincerity that I thought she was one of the most beautiful people I have ever met. After talking to her for a few minutes she agreed to smile for my camera.

Her face has never been tainted by Botox; her eyes are hugged by the wrinkles and folds that come from rearing twelve children. Her smile is radiant without veneers. The grey in her hair is a crown of wisdom that has been earned through decades of triumphs and errors. Her entire face is a map of a life well lived; the fine lines that dip between her smiles are the paths to a journey only she knows.

This portrait is the essence of what a beautiful and dignified woman looks like. No make-up required. No airbrushing needed.

Hello Cow friends — my name is Kathy, and I’m the official photographer for the Traveling Cow.  Today’s post was written by me, about one of the experiences we had on our recent trip to Southeast Asia.  Thanks for reading!
 ——————————————-

Tan and I had been traveling together for the past three weeks throughout Southeast Asia.  We left Luang Prabang, Laos an hour before and were now on a two-hour layover in Siem Reap, Cambodia, headed for Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.  Our flight back home to the US was leaving the next evening, and I couldn’t wait: I missed my husband and daughter so much I could hardly stand it.  And then suddenly, to my horror, the man behind the counter was telling me that I would not be permitted to board, due to a clerical error.

In the US when I arranged my visa, I had paid extra for a double-entry visa, and they mistakenly issued me a single-entry visa.  Because our trip began and ended in Vietnam, my single entry visa had now been stamped and rendered useless.  My flight was leaving in an hour without me, and I found myself stranded in Cambodia, which was never a part of my travel plans.

The staff member from Vietnam Airlines that had denied me boarding instructed me to say goodbye to my travel partner, as she was heading off to Vietnam without me.  We hugged goodbye and joked that some day we would laugh about this.  As I was being escorted away from the gate, I turned around and mentioned to Tan that I felt as if I was being taken to prison.  Together we made our way through immigration where I was issued a visa for the Kingdom of Cambodia, and then on to his office where he arranged for me to fly out the next evening.  Once he printed out my new flight confirmation, he explained that I needed to make my way to the taxi kiosk outside, and off I went.

I was exhausted, exasperated, a little freaked out and a lot angry with the idiot travel agent whose careless mistake led to my being stranded in Cambodia all alone.  A very small man approached me and told me he would be my driver.  I handed him the address to the guesthouse that I had booked online while waiting for my flight to be changed.  I didn’t say much; my mind was on other things. 

Once I was seated inside the Lexus SUV (thank god for air conditioning), I let out a heavy sigh and my driver timidly asked me if someone had perhaps forgotten to come pick me up.  He sensed my foul mood and I suddenly felt like a creep.  I explained to him that Cambodia hadn’t been on my itinerary, so I had been having a bit of a rough day.  He suggested that as long as I was going to have some time to kill in Siem Reap, I should consider seeing some of the local sights.  I perked up; I hadn’t really considered that idea, and it dawned on me that this might turn out to be a lot of fun.  I asked him if I could arrange for him to pick me up the next morning and take me to Angkor Wat and he cheerfully replied that he would be happy to.  He even stopped at a 7-Eleven where I was able to find a bottle of wine to help me unwind later on.  Once we reached my guesthouse, we said our goodbyes and agreed upon a time to meet in front of the hotel the next morning.

When I walked outside the next day, I half expected my driver to not be there but sure enough, he was parked across the street and waved furiously when he spotted me.  He greeted me kindly and asked me how my day was going.  I told him I had been able to get a very good night’s sleep, so I was in much better spirits that the previous day.

As we drove to Angkor Wat, my driver (whose name I discovered was Chhu Ma) explained that he had lived in Cambodia his entire life and had never left the country.  He has a three-year-old daughter whose name he didn’t tell me, but he said instead they nicknamed her “Rainy”, as she was born during a monsoon.  He grew up in a very small village and came to Siem Reap to go to school.  Before working as a driver and meeting his wife, he stayed with extended family and slept in a hammock.  He told me he didn’t usually mind sleeping in the hammock but that during the winter, he couldn’t afford a decent blanket, so he would get very cold.  Due to financial circumstances, he was forced to drop out of college, but then attended tour guide training and became a driver.  Because of this training, he was able to give me an incredible history lesson on Cambodia, Siem Reap, and Angkor Wat.  He was my personal living, breathing Lonely Planet guidebook.  I had struck gold.  

When we got close to the site of Angkor Wat, I learned that it is not only one temple, but a cluster of several temples, and is the largest religious monument in the world.  I was unaware, but it is  also where several of the scenes from Lara Croft:  Tomb Raider was filmed, and I remembered that Angelina Jolie adopted her first child, Maddox, from Cambodia when she was on location filming.  

Chhu advised me on which set of ruins to visit and in what order to avoid crowds and for the best position of the sun for idea photographs.  When we pulled up to the gate, he instructed me on where he would meet me after walking the site and at what time.  Each time I exited another set of ruins, there he was, smiling and waving and offering me ice-cold bottled water from the cooler he stocked in the back of the SUV, just for me.  

Angkor Wat was breathtaking, and although Cambodia is by far the hottest place I have ever been, I had the time of my life exploring the temples and taking photos.  And the entire time, I knew I was in great hands: I had the world’s best driver!

Finally, it was time to make my way back to the airport to see if I would be permitted to fly.  When we reached the airport, Chhu gave me his phone number and told me to call him if I had any problems.  He let me take his photo, and asked if I wanted to be his friend on Facebook.  I thanked him profusely, and he drove away.

Although I was still extremely ticked off at the travel agent that made such an enormous blunder, I couldn’t have been happier at how things had turned out.  The man that escorted me away from Tan the day before made a special point to find me in line as I waited to check in, and then checked me in personally.  I breathed a huge sigh of relief when he handed me my boarding pass and I knew that I would make my flight out of Vietnam back home.  And what could have been a complete disaster turned out to be one of the biggest highlights of my entire three weeks in Southeast Asia. 

Hello Cow friends — my name is Kathy, and I’m the official photographer for the Traveling Cow.  Today’s post was written by me, about one of the experiences we had on our recent trip to Southeast Asia.  Thanks for reading!


——————————————-

Tan and I had been traveling together for the past three weeks throughout Southeast Asia.  We left Luang Prabang, Laos an hour before and were now on a two-hour layover in Siem Reap, Cambodia, headed for Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.  Our flight back home to the US was leaving the next evening, and I couldn’t wait: I missed my husband and daughter so much I could hardly stand it.  And then suddenly, to my horror, the man behind the counter was telling me that I would not be permitted to board, due to a clerical error.

In the US when I arranged my visa, I had paid extra for a double-entry visa, and they mistakenly issued me a single-entry visa.  Because our trip began and ended in Vietnam, my single entry visa had now been stamped and rendered useless.  My flight was leaving in an hour without me, and I found myself stranded in Cambodia, which was never a part of my travel plans.

The staff member from Vietnam Airlines that had denied me boarding instructed me to say goodbye to my travel partner, as she was heading off to Vietnam without me.  We hugged goodbye and joked that some day we would laugh about this.  As I was being escorted away from the gate, I turned around and mentioned to Tan that I felt as if I was being taken to prison.  Together we made our way through immigration where I was issued a visa for the Kingdom of Cambodia, and then on to his office where he arranged for me to fly out the next evening.  Once he printed out my new flight confirmation, he explained that I needed to make my way to the taxi kiosk outside, and off I went.

I was exhausted, exasperated, a little freaked out and a lot angry with the idiot travel agent whose careless mistake led to my being stranded in Cambodia all alone.  A very small man approached me and told me he would be my driver.  I handed him the address to the guesthouse that I had booked online while waiting for my flight to be changed.  I didn’t say much; my mind was on other things.

Once I was seated inside the Lexus SUV (thank god for air conditioning), I let out a heavy sigh and my driver timidly asked me if someone had perhaps forgotten to come pick me up.  He sensed my foul mood and I suddenly felt like a creep.  I explained to him that Cambodia hadn’t been on my itinerary, so I had been having a bit of a rough day.  He suggested that as long as I was going to have some time to kill in Siem Reap, I should consider seeing some of the local sights.  I perked up; I hadn’t really considered that idea, and it dawned on me that this might turn out to be a lot of fun.  I asked him if I could arrange for him to pick me up the next morning and take me to Angkor Wat and he cheerfully replied that he would be happy to.  He even stopped at a 7-Eleven where I was able to find a bottle of wine to help me unwind later on.  Once we reached my guesthouse, we said our goodbyes and agreed upon a time to meet in front of the hotel the next morning.

When I walked outside the next day, I half expected my driver to not be there but sure enough, he was parked across the street and waved furiously when he spotted me.  He greeted me kindly and asked me how my day was going.  I told him I had been able to get a very good night’s sleep, so I was in much better spirits that the previous day.

As we drove to Angkor Wat, my driver (whose name I discovered was Chhu Ma) explained that he had lived in Cambodia his entire life and had never left the country.  He has a three-year-old daughter whose name he didn’t tell me, but he said instead they nicknamed her “Rainy”, as she was born during a monsoon.  He grew up in a very small village and came to Siem Reap to go to school.  Before working as a driver and meeting his wife, he stayed with extended family and slept in a hammock.  He told me he didn’t usually mind sleeping in the hammock but that during the winter, he couldn’t afford a decent blanket, so he would get very cold.  Due to financial circumstances, he was forced to drop out of college, but then attended tour guide training and became a driver.  Because of this training, he was able to give me an incredible history lesson on Cambodia, Siem Reap, and Angkor Wat.  He was my personal living, breathing Lonely Planet guidebook.  I had struck gold. 

When we got close to the site of Angkor Wat, I learned that it is not only one temple, but a cluster of several temples, and is the largest religious monument in the world.  I was unaware, but it is  also where several of the scenes from Lara Croft:  Tomb Raider was filmed, and I remembered that Angelina Jolie adopted her first child, Maddox, from Cambodia when she was on location filming. 

Chhu advised me on which set of ruins to visit and in what order to avoid crowds and for the best position of the sun for idea photographs.  When we pulled up to the gate, he instructed me on where he would meet me after walking the site and at what time.  Each time I exited another set of ruins, there he was, smiling and waving and offering me ice-cold bottled water from the cooler he stocked in the back of the SUV, just for me. 

Angkor Wat was breathtaking, and although Cambodia is by far the hottest place I have ever been, I had the time of my life exploring the temples and taking photos.  And the entire time, I knew I was in great hands: I had the world’s best driver!

Finally, it was time to make my way back to the airport to see if I would be permitted to fly.  When we reached the airport, Chhu gave me his phone number and told me to call him if I had any problems.  He let me take his photo, and asked if I wanted to be his friend on Facebook.  I thanked him profusely, and he drove away.

Although I was still extremely ticked off at the travel agent that made such an enormous blunder, I couldn’t have been happier at how things had turned out.  The man that escorted me away from Tan the day before made a special point to find me in line as I waited to check in, and then checked me in personally.  I breathed a huge sigh of relief when he handed me my boarding pass and I knew that I would make my flight out of Vietnam back home.  And what could have been a complete disaster turned out to be one of the biggest highlights of my entire three weeks in Southeast Asia. 

Between 1965 and 1970, the American military sprayed roughly 13 million gallons of Agent Orange over the lush vegetative areas of Vietnam in an attempt to rid the terrain of all hiding places of the enemy fighters. Forty some years later, this poisonous chemical is still claiming innocent victims with its pervasive trail of devastation. 
In a tiny, desolated house behind an old Buddhist temple in Song Doc, Vietnam, lives a family still devastated by the effects of Agent Orange.  Inside this house, I discovered Mrs. Thu sitting on a mattress laid across the floor with her children. When I first entered the house, I noticed a shrine decorated with brand new mourning ribbons. The photograph beneath these ribbons was that of a middle-aged man; I knew without asking that Mrs. Thu was a single mother: her husband died suddenly of a heart attack three months ago.
Mrs. Thu has five children.  The two oldest live and work as servants for relatives in nearby cities, and only make enough money to support themselves.  Sometimes they will send home a little bit of money to help their mom. 
As we sat in the only living space in the house, Mrs. Thu described her son, Thinh’s, condition.  Thinh suffers from birth defects associated with Agent Orange. He is nine years old but has the physical appearance of a toddler. He has never spoken; cannot walk or even sit up on his own. Because of the curvature of the bones in his body, Thinh has to be held constantly, as he can’t lay flat on the bed. Thinh is also stricken with constant seizures. 
Mrs. Thu receives $20.80 monthly in welfare from the Vietnamese government to help care for Thinh. In addition, she is also given 20 pounds of rice from the local church to feed her family. She works as a housekeeper and makes $80 per month. After paying all her bills and buying medicine for Thinh, there isn’t much left for food. She will go without eating so that her children can eat first.  
While sharing her story with me, never once did Mrs. Thu complain about having to bear all the burdens of her family as the only parent; she never made herself out to be a victim because her son was afflicted with the aftermath of Agent Orange. What I noticed was a valiant woman who has accepted her dire circumstances, yet she still gets up every day and works hard to provide for her children. What I find humbling in meeting families such as these is the lack of hatred and animosity towards the people who have caused their pain, grief and struggles.
When you look at these photos, I hope you see past the impoverished house and see an extraordinary woman capable of enduring countless obstacles and adversities, and stands tall when life has brought her to her knees.

Between 1965 and 1970, the American military sprayed roughly 13 million gallons of Agent Orange over the lush vegetative areas of Vietnam in an attempt to rid the terrain of all hiding places of the enemy fighters. Forty some years later, this poisonous chemical is still claiming innocent victims with its pervasive trail of devastation.

In a tiny, desolated house behind an old Buddhist temple in Song Doc, Vietnam, lives a family still devastated by the effects of Agent Orange.  Inside this house, I discovered Mrs. Thu sitting on a mattress laid across the floor with her children. When I first entered the house, I noticed a shrine decorated with brand new mourning ribbons. The photograph beneath these ribbons was that of a middle-aged man; I knew without asking that Mrs. Thu was a single mother: her husband died suddenly of a heart attack three months ago.

Mrs. Thu has five children.  The two oldest live and work as servants for relatives in nearby cities, and only make enough money to support themselves.  Sometimes they will send home a little bit of money to help their mom.

As we sat in the only living space in the house, Mrs. Thu described her son, Thinh’s, condition.  Thinh suffers from birth defects associated with Agent Orange. He is nine years old but has the physical appearance of a toddler. He has never spoken; cannot walk or even sit up on his own. Because of the curvature of the bones in his body, Thinh has to be held constantly, as he can’t lay flat on the bed. Thinh is also stricken with constant seizures.

Mrs. Thu receives $20.80 monthly in welfare from the Vietnamese government to help care for Thinh. In addition, she is also given 20 pounds of rice from the local church to feed her family. She works as a housekeeper and makes $80 per month. After paying all her bills and buying medicine for Thinh, there isn’t much left for food. She will go without eating so that her children can eat first. 

While sharing her story with me, never once did Mrs. Thu complain about having to bear all the burdens of her family as the only parent; she never made herself out to be a victim because her son was afflicted with the aftermath of Agent Orange. What I noticed was a valiant woman who has accepted her dire circumstances, yet she still gets up every day and works hard to provide for her children. What I find humbling in meeting families such as these is the lack of hatred and animosity towards the people who have caused their pain, grief and struggles.

When you look at these photos, I hope you see past the impoverished house and see an extraordinary woman capable of enduring countless obstacles and adversities, and stands tall when life has brought her to her knees.