Once upon a time, there was a kingdom that was full of beauty and magic. It was a land of ancient stone temples shaded by enormous trees, where monkeys played and cicadas made sounds like a million tiny tinkling bells. It was a country of farmers spending their days growing rice in tranquil paddies, sunlit and green, patrolled by swarms of scarlet dragonflies. A place of shimmering blue lakes dotted with gigantic water lilies of vermilion and fuchsia. When night fell on the kingdom, mysterious flowers bloomed, sending their perfume out into the night to attract equally mysterious pollinators. Bats swooped through the starry sky, and geckos climbed up walls and ceilings making little squeaking sounds as they dined on mosquitoes. Scribes wrote in beautiful flowing script. Artists danced, sang, and wove beautiful bolts of cloth.
But not too long ago, everything changed. Sadness and misery came to the kingdom in the form of a terrible army. When the soldiers took control of the land, many people died in battle or because they had no rice to eat. Some were forced to work so hard that they lay down in the rice fields and never got up again. Families were fearful, and many tears were shed. But the people of the kingdom were strong, and after many struggles, they finally were able to send the evil army away. The war ended, and the people were once again able to grow their rice in peace. The children could smile, too because the soldiers were gone and they did not need to be afraid any more. Although the kingdom is still rather poor, the people who live there are generous and enduring. They laugh a lot now and have hope for the future.
Although this kingdom sounds like it comes from a fairy tale, it is a very real country that I was lucky enough to be able to visit. It is called Cambodia.