My parents and I packed ourselves into the tuk-tuk along with our bags. It was a tiny carriage hooked on to a motorcycle, but it still got us from point A to point B with no need to lean over to find a window to peek out of. The sun made its presence known by the warm air and clear sky. Everything around us was green. Monkeys ran along beside us before giving up and rolling in the grass. Elephants shared the streets with us, men sitting on their heads leading them. We breathed in the air and tasted the natural spices of my favorite country. This was Cambodia.
The first stop was Angkor Wat where my mom claimed she needed to go before she died. The temples and palaces were made of stones and each seemed to be several miles away from each other. Unfortunately, my mom has Multiple Sclerosis which transformed the miles into a one-day trip. My dad would walk next to her and keep her balanced as she made her way slowly down the pathway and up the steep stair walls. Every step was worth it.
Eventually my parents and I made it to dinner in downtown Siem Reap where we enjoyed real Khmer food. Unfortunately, the next morning my dad had a hard time stomaching the curry he ate and became sick. Luckily, he wasn’t sick enough to change any of our other plans for the week.
We visited Angkor Thom and ran our fingers over the faces that had been engraved in the rocks. We drank coconut milk underneath the trees. We started to become tan as we walked slowly through the huts with monkeys jumping at our sides. It was a slow walk, but gorgeous scenery.
We made it back to dinner again where my parents and I shared a plate of spring rolls. Unfortunately, my dad was feeling sick again the next morning. However, the whole week still went by just as planned. We visited Ta Prohm where trees had been growing for hundreds of years, devouring the temples around them. We went to a small village and tried Cambodian palm tree sugars. We continued to breathe in the spices and started to become darker. The country never stopped being beautiful throughout the week.
Cambodia’s beauty isn’t the only reason it’s my favorite country. That was the last country I visited with my dad before he was diagnosed with cancer. My dad’s job with the state department caused my family to live places such as Qatar, South Korea, and Belgium. We were privileged enough to visit China, Egypt, Portugal and other countries. He’s the reason we were able to live different lives than other American kids.
Nobody knew, but my dad being sick in Cambodia was actually the cancer in his stomach developing and spreading to his liver and spine. He’s sick now and being treated in the states. He’s not able to travel anymore due to his cancer and constant pain. Now my mom is the one who walks by his side and keeps him balanced through the hallways of the hospital.
I remember Cambodia as amazing and as a wonderful experience, but overall I remember it as the last place I was privileged enough to spend time with my dad before he became too sick to leave the house. It’s a lovely country and it will stay in my heart forever because I will always think of the fun I had with my dad when I think back to the warm spices of Cambodia.
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