One of the intriguing aspects of living in a foreign country (or even your own country) for an extended period of time occurs when you begin to learn about its culture, language, people and customs, becoming, if not an expert, at least a competent amateur. The other development, running simultanously alongside the first, is the slowly dawning realization that nobody else gives a shit.
Well, that's not true -- at least not totally.
Take Cambodia. People currently living in Cambodia, people who have lived in Cambodia, people interested in Southeast Asian cultures and economies -- they might, in fact, be interested in Cambodia. They may sincerely want to hear about its people and its plans. Just today, in fact, I received an email from an old student of mine in Japan, who is intensely interested in world politics; his field of interest largely centred around all those '---stan' countries in Central Asia: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, et al. (And, oddly enough, it was his interest in those countries that prompted me to pick up a copy of a book called Jihad the other day, which traces the rise of radical Islam in those countries.) He wrote me an email asking for my opinions about various military and political theories, and whether or not they applied to Cambodia.
But the reality is, a lot of countries are off the map. The news doesn't talk about them. The media could care less. The only time Cambodia was in the major mainstream press recently was a month or so ago when a Canadian kid was killed in hostage situation up in Siem Reap.
Hell, let's forget about Cambodia for a minute -- what about Canada? The recent passing of gay-marriage legislation has put Canada on CNN's homepage quite a little bit, but other than that -- nada. Diddly. Squat.
Which is fine. More than fine, actually, because I've realized that if a country is not mentioned very much in the news, it usually means that's doing pretty okey-dokey all by itself. Sweden, Norway, Finland, Canada -- not much fireworks going on there.
And yet, the opposite is true, too. Some countries just are not very politically relevant to the major powers-that-be, and Cambodia is one of them. I had an interview with the UN Office On Drugs and Crime a few weeks back, and the dude there told me that the entire office itself might be shut down. Why? Well, because the U.S. is a big backer of the office, and Cambodia's drug problem, as immense as it is, as tragic as it is, just doesn't affect the U.S. all that much. As Deep Throat said all those years ago (in the movie version of the Watergate affair, anyway): "Follow the money." Truer words were never spoken, me thinks.
But in the end, conversely, it's not about the money. The world and the media may not be interested in your neck of the woods, but it's your neck, and your woods. Where you are is where it's at. Nobody else in the world may be interested in the fact that you're in Phnom Penh, Cambodia or Boise, Idaho or the eastern edge of Siberia -- but you may be surprised. After all, everyplace is someplace, and perhaps the greatest legacy of bloggers and blogging itself will be that it allowed average citizens to chronicle their specific place and point in time -- and allowed others, if interested, if intrigued, to become part of that world (which is really, the more you think of it, our world too).