The first time visitor to Cambodia should be forgiven for being underwhelmed at their first view of the countryside out of a plane window. Particularly if they happen to be arriving in the dry season. A quick Google image search of Cambodia will bring up scenic vistas of verdant, green rice paddies, beatific oxen pulling carts and artfully dotted palm trees. It was with these images in mind that I eagerly waited my first sighting last February. My frequent and careful glances past the man in the window seat (making sure to stare fixedly out the window so he wouldn't think I was looking at him) finally yielded some results. The image that stands out is coloured various shades of brown. Brown fields, dusty brown roads, a few bedraggled trees. The tedium was broken by a lone motorcycle hurtling down a long, straight road leaving a cloud of dust in it's wake.
Months later, as I sat on a bus bound for the coast, the images I'd seen online sprang to life as we drove by. It was true! The countryside was beautiful and green and everything it was promised.
As I flew back into the country after 2 weeks in South Africa I looked out the window again, and this time the view filled me with a sense of familiarity and joy. I was flying back to what for now at least, is home, and I knew that what once looked to me like an unwelcoming barren wasteland was in fact a land teeming with life, host to some of the kindest, most hospitable people I have ever met.