Close to Nature

Probably the majority of humanity are feeling a closer relationship with nature these days. Slowly, unobtrusively we people have infringed upon the territory of nature and overwhelmed so much fawna and flora with air and water pollution, destruction of forests, contamination of all sorts. Now we might conjecture that nature is fighting back as so many parts of the world experience devastating fires and floods and drought as nature seeks to re-establish an equilibrium.

On a smaller scale, we might have a more personal, a closer daily experience of nature here in Cambodia. It’s very much a part of our lives. Here are three examples:

Just thirty minutes ago I was washing dishes after eating my rice and leftovers and I had my phone radio playing classical music. I couldn’t hear it, at full volume, because it is raining and the drops hitting the steel sheeting of the kitchen roof totally drowned out the music. And in the picture, the red bucket on the floor is to catch the nature–the raindrops–that are coming through a hole in the steel sheeting.

Lightning takes a huge toll on the people and cows of Cambodia. Practically every thunderstorm there are fatalities in one group or the other–or both, because daily life here is so close to and exposed to nature. In the photo are five cows killed by a lightning strike a few days ago.

We had a major power outage yesterday, caused by a faulty transformer that cut power to a large part of the country. Mechanical problems are matched by natural ones, though, as this snake on a utility pole discovered.

Trees: Struggling to live…

The trees of Phnom Penh have been tortured and disfigured over the last century–and many of them did not survive–but some are still making a strong effort to keep going with new shoots and branches. It says something about the in-built striving for life that is part of creation.


A really popular corner of our DDP compound is this volleyball court. In normal times, it gets a lot of use and the grass is worn away.
But the times are not normal now and with all our students at home in the provinces, the court is growing a new cover of grass.

Not a promising future…

Phnom Penh was once known as a beautiful colonial city with wide tree-shaded boulevards but most of that environment has been sacrificed to “progress,” more buildings, more people, and more traffic. Here is a surviving tree, minus many limbs but still leafy, but how long can it last growing up from a little square hole in the concrete?
50 to 75 years ago, this stump was one of the beautiful trees on a boulevard. Now it’s just a remnant, a reminder–for those who even see it–of what once was.

Remnant of Another Age

Probably most people passing by at street level don’t even know this tree exists. Its lower trunk is gnashed and scarred, its lower branches cut away, and it stands silently as a witness to humanity’s indifference to nature and beauty. Only its leafy crown proclaims its former glory and the long-gone stateliness of the colonial avenue that predated this now commercial strip.