I know I will have other reflections, but I want to put this down now so I will remember.
First, I appreciate the opportunity to share an experience of a lifetime with eight fine colleagues. The trip was great but made greater for the time spent with each other.
Since I was young-a while ago-I have always thought, when hearing the word "Vietnam," of war, the enemy, communists, and the Vietcong. The context for thinking about Vietnam and Cambodia has been about war and killing. Now, after spending 10 days there, I have a better more positive context-the people. They are kind, considerate, polite, and gentle. They harbor no bitterness to us for what happened in the past, at least none that I noticed. The children are beautiful, knowledgeable, articulate, and made us feel welcome. I was honored to meet them and they made me feel that they felt the same way. My son-in-law is from Laos and I now have an understanding, though limitted, of his life before he came here.
The other reflection is of Cambodia. Their tragic history and the terrible crimes committed against their people I knew a little about before going. What I never knew was how the people feel about that history now. Our guide, after showing us the Killing Fields, talked about the Buddhist tenet of forgiveness. He had strong feelings that the right path for Cambodians was to forgive and move on, but not to forget. The only way for the killing to end would be to forgive and accept even those who might have done evil. He was an impressive man and will remain in my mind the Cambodia of today. Cambodia was my favorite place and I hope to return there one day and make a contribution.
I will remember the places, the temples, the cities, the traffic, and what we saw. But, my impression of Vietnam and Cambodia will always be more about the people we met and talked to and who made us feel welcome in their country, the people who in spite of tragedy in the past look forward to a bright future.