Guest Column Betsy Gunn
February 3, 2015
This past fall Jim and I decided to join a guided tour to the Ancient Kingdoms of South East Asia. Our days were filled with visiting many Wats (Buddhist temples) including the world heritage site Angkor Wat in Siem Reap Cambodia. Monks visit daily, and Buddhist worshipers pray and give alms to the golden Buddhas along with the thousands of tourists who come from all over the globe to walk on the same steps that are over a thousand years old.
We were also able to experience the food and customs of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. From eating an extraordinary Thanksgiving meal with fresh food cooked over open fires with fresh lemon grass, ginger and garlic by women who have cooked the same recipes handed down for generations to enjoying a roadside bar serving local beer and fried crickets, silk worms and
buffalo intestines. Or having a cooking lesson by a single mom who supports her family by digging up tarantulas in her back yard and cooking them in a wok while the children play with the defanged tarantulas as pets.
Traveling afar is both exciting and overwhelming but it allows one to recognize the gifts we have at home. One moment I will always remember is during our final dinner we were discussing the pros and cons of our political system and as many of us were arguing our own views our guide suddenly stood and interrupted us to tell us that even though we may not agree with our politicians or each other to remember that we are free to be able to speak our views openly and that many citizens of Southeast Asia do not have this freedom and that as Americans we should understand that the ability to discuss our views openly and without fear of being arrested or taken to a re-education camp is a freedom we should never take lightly. As a Rotarian we know that Freedom of Speech is the cornerstone of our democracy.
Author: Betsy Gunn
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