I braved up when days ago I entered to win a 14-day travel writing trip to Argentina!

NOTE: You can enter too, it closes on the 28th of February 2018.

The 2’500 character / 463-word story I wrote got named The Hunger. It’s published on World Nomad contest website and also below.

I stood in the center of action, starving for hunger, unable to think and act, when I saw three women approach with their hands held out. I knew exactly why and what. My worriless smile froze with ignorance. Paralyzed, I cried in desperation while I dug for hope for deeper why’s. How can this be? I thought when suddenly, I felt a touch. Her raisin hand in a skinny frame sent a sharp shock through my heart. I looked down, and in her eyes, I saw sorrow never seen before. In a drought of answers, I turned my sight, when once again, her hand clutched mine. Unwillingly I became her faith. In voiceless agony, her body screamed – “Can you help me? I need food!” With crumbling lips, I shook my head.

She was sixty. No, eighty? Her scars from genocide left room for theories. As did my foreign misleading heritage. I looked nothing like Cambodians. I had not seen millions die in my land. But I guess, she had. Not just fellow citizens, but also her flesh and blood. No wonder she swam in dark. Fortunate enough to survive the Khmer Rouge vicious four-year regime that sent the wealthy to reincarnate. Four decades had flown by, but did she flourish in what seemed an unlived life? All I knew, I was her wallet, a savior from heavens.

An hour ago, in search of a Promised Land, I left Siem Reap. With dust flying, I saw a market of a vegan dream. Wherever I gazed, I breathed poverty, all confused. This is how they feed their family, I thought, by selling some to buy some. I couldn’t ask anything from anyone. Petrified to upgrade my game, to admit, I also need help. An assumption – who travels has money – was a twisted truth of mine.

I had $900 sheltered in the 16kg I hauled. Enough to feed a herd of cries and their siblings to come but that was not what I signed up for. Days prior I abandoned money to learn lessons never learned before. Not to punish self but to awake the greater truth in it all.

It’s temporarily, I thought. Money is not a solution to everything. If I would give in to the begging nature, I would only create dependency. If I would help them today, who would help them tomorrow, and then a day after tomorrow, and so forth, in the same location? Who, I wondered? There has to be a better way to help them. A model where they could feel a part of the community, where they can contribute, not because they need to but because they want to. In it, my handout is not the answer.

With pain, I left, knowing, my hunger birthed a spiritual thirst.

I rewrote the story last week. It’s an excerpt from the book I am writing. It’s my memory from the fifth day in the utter unknown, April 2014. And it’s just one interaction from many that followed.

I hope you enjoyed it.

The three winners of this scholarship will be announced on April 3, 2018.