The students from the Cambodian Genocide course have been settling in nicely. Please forgive the tardiness of this letter as between jet-lag, becoming accustomed to life here and school we've been very busy.
We're all very excited to be here and for almost all of us, it is our first time in Cambodia.
I think I can say without a hint of patronizing indulgence that it is really rather refreshing to have a first-hand view of how the other half live. At best it is a sobering reminder of privilege and, at worst, an inevitable sympathy that pains the heart - the entrepreneurial effervescence of a yet destitute population and a leprous man who suffered the, I'm sure, unwilling amputation of his lips and eye-brows serve as good examples.
To paraphrase an ex-colonial subject of Her Majesty, it's "really rather Somerset Maugham, isn't it, that Country? And with every cold beer that goes down I think it becomes more so."
No matter how noble our intentions, nor how ameliorative an effect we wish to have; no matter how much we learn of their customs and culture, nor how far we abrogate our self-indulgent instincts; we are and always will be of the privileged set and can but observe from a detached vantage.
Which brings me to the title of this post.
We are, to a person, here with the sincere desire to learn of the recent, tragic, history of Cambodia as an object lesson to inform our future as jurists. However we cannot avoid making certain cultural faux pas as we find the outside limits of our wealth-induced sense of entitlement. A sense which is inescapably tied to our upbringing in the richest country the world has known.
We've created a sort of self-deprecatory joke we say in embarrassment whenever we find ourselves inadvertently being "American" - complaining that HBO shows Superman too often or of the smell of rotten Durian or that the speed our Internet connection is reminiscent of 1996. The joke begins with a pantomimed typing of a letter and the words, "Dear Dean Brand..." followed by a recitation of the offending word or action, recapitulated to highlight the relative absurdity of what's just happened.
It's an exercise in humility, one we thought would be fun to bring to this blog. Since we're here representing the USF community we thought it would be fun to write these posts as letters back to you, specifically, as de-facto, metaphorical patriarch.
We hope you'll enjoy our reports.
-Jamal, Addie, Ann, Ryan and Paige