CAMBODIA BY NNEKA ODUM
I’m Nneka, a 23-year-old photographer living in Ann Arbor, Michigan. My mom, brother, and I recently took at trip to Cambodia this past September. I hadn’t been back in 12 years and with the passing of my grandparents, the matriarchs of the family, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Sure, you send pictures and occasionally talk on the phone (in mostly broken Khmer-English) but if you haven’t seen someone in 12 years you assume there’s going to be a little bit of awkwardness at first. The minute the sliding doors opened for international arrivals I was swarmed by about 30 family members. They kissed us, hugged us, held us, and told us they loved us without any hesitation. I had never felt so welcomed in my entire life.
It was amazing to see how ‘at home’ my mom felt on this trip. When my brother and I would ask her to translate she would speak to us in Khmer, completely forgetting that we understand little to none. She was eating anything and everything (family members would bring her food as welcoming gifts and all of it was her “favorite”). She laughed until she cried. She cried until she laughed. She slept in. She held hands with her sisters and kissed her brothers. My mom was a true example that your presence alone is enough for the people you love. It made me take a deeper look at my own relationships and the precious time we often spend in turmoil. That precious time we could be dedicating to enriching the lives of others, and in-turn ourselves. When you give someone your time, you are giving them a portion of your life that you’ll never get back. That’s why one of the greatest gifts you can give someone is your time, because your time is your life.
We packed a big white van with half the family, coolers of food, and cases of water. Over the next two weeks we drove a total of 24 hours to 3 different cities in Cambodia. We swam next to a waterfall on Kulen Mountain, climbed sacred stairs at Angkor Wat, and caught some mini waves at Kep beach. The ultimate purpose for the trip to Cambodia was to see family, but for me it was to capture my family. To document their laughter, smiles, stories and land. Photographs are my way of bringing the world home. The first time around I left with nothing, but this time I was able to take my family back with me to Michigan. And now they have a piece of me in Cambodia, as well.
More from Nneka HERE