itineraries, or not? (travelling northwest Cambodia)

My travel philosophy is that the choices we make unexpectedly  will lead us to the best, most memorable adventures. Combined with the interest of being slightly off the beaten track, this plan can really suck, especially when you are by yourself. But, with determination and openness, the unexpected never fails to bring us wonders that go beyond our imagination; and it rarely leaves behind regret.

*****

Warning! The length of this post may feel like an essay, but I hope I’ve kept it intriguing enough to read it through to the end, or at least in parts. I’ve tried my best to keep it short without sacrificing descriptive accounts of only some of the wonderful things I saw and felt. The writing still doesn’t do it justice.

Continue reading “itineraries, or not? (travelling northwest Cambodia)”

fields of green

As a traveler, and as an expat, it’s very difficult to actually know what is going on around you. I believe I’ve come to know Cambodia as much as I probably ever will, but I recognize that there are entire dimensions of language, thought, reasoning and other cultural norms that I won’t be able to understand. It’s simply not possible to fathom the life of the farmer who walks his cows each day among deserted landscapes or growing up as a little kid playing hide-and-seek around the great temples of Angkor without actually experiencing it. This reality prevents me from fully understanding the people and their country.

But sometimes we know more than we think we do. Continue reading “fields of green”

off the coast of Kep

I still remember so vividly that boat trip back from Rabbit Island off the coast of Kep. In the early morning hue, the awakening sea that stretched itself to the horizon and the guzzling motor that drowned out all other sound, silenced us. I sat beside Emily, Joel behind us and the boat driver at the very back. We had only one other guest: an aged Khmer woman, loose pajamas and a traditional krama wrapped around her head. Everything about her was typical, except for an aura that made me as attentive to her as to the lazy beauty of the sea.

She perched on the tip of the boat, facing towards me, but not acknowledging my presence. Her eyes allured me, for they held wisdom that only comes from experience and a sort of rationality that I had not noticed in most Khmer people.  Continue reading “off the coast of Kep”

singapore / malaysia / indonesia

I can’t believe in a few hours I’ll be on a plane again. This time, it won’t be only a weekend away from the city, but a month vacation. I’m already sad that there I’ll only have two more months left in Cambodia when I return. Even now, I wouldn’t be able to leave on this trip without knowing I was coming back. I actually emphasize to everyone that I will be coming back, but it’s probably because I’m reaffirming to myself that this is not goodbye… yet.

On the other hand, I am looking forward to my first backpacking adventure! Continue reading “singapore / malaysia / indonesia”

one international internship: check.

Three months have passed and a lot of work has been done, however, I’m left with both a feeling of accomplishment and of unfinished business. I was fortunate to be able to work in a developing country and see the result of change within three months. By bringing more opportunities to students, such as an English speaking club, a language lab, and increasing the accountability of their teachers, I’ve changed (if not improved) what the university can provide to students. I may have introduced the initial phases of these projects but I continue to think of what more there is to do. I contemplate the larger context and think of how, perhaps, nothing had really changed at all. Although I did my best, managing this negative thoughts is a challenge.

Continue reading “one international internship: check.”

the concept of being rich

This concept has been a struggle to deal with while in Cambodia, but I didn’t really realize just how present the dilemma is until somebody else brought it up.  I’m quoting a statement Emily provided on the Virtual Campus forum in her contemplations  about these Cambodian-Canadian relationships.

It started when I went to get my Visa extended and it cost 72$, I commented on how expensive it was. My co – worker replied with, “it doesn’t matter though because you are rich, everyone who comes to Cambodia from countries like Canada, US and France are rich”.

Continue reading “the concept of being rich”

subtle realities

The other day I was sitting with Mony as he read news updates online in Khmer. We talked about the stories and how their aspects further related to Cambodian culture.

Our perspectives from our own culture really are biased, and as much as we think we are right about them, these beliefs can only be founded within culture, so it makes sense if others logically challenge them. It’s that question again: is morality subjective because there are different mores in different cultures? The government (and even the university) restricts the rights of black persons because they have a reputation of crime (including drug and sex trafficking) in Cambodia. Sure, this is racist. But then don’t some Westerners believe that Muslims should be profiled because statistics show they are more likely to be “terrorists”? Is racial discrimination merely a mechanism to avoid potential problems, sacrificing the dignity of some individuals for the sake of the group? When I hear the reasoning from personal stories, it makes sense, but in my own culture it would be completely immoral. What happened to having an objective standard of morality for morality to actually be possible? Can they both be acceptable because of the different contexts? How similar do such contexts have to be for the same moral standards to apply?

Continue reading “subtle realities”

30min moto to work

Today it took me 30 minutes to get to work, three times as long as usual. When we reached the Norodom bridge (less than half way) I noticed all the traffic because I the bridge rises to form a semi-circle. It seemed strange to me, but I didn’t think much of it until we were squished between two trucks for a while and the driver decided to cut around them into even more traffic.

I knew something was different this morning. All I could hope for was that it wasn’t another accident. We approached a big crowd and my stomach dropped, but turns out it was just police redirecting the motobikes to go through some side streets because of a protest. It was at (I believe) the same garment factory I had been reading about a few days prior. The factory had gone bankrupt and put maybe hundreds of Cambodians out of work without giving them any compensation.
Continue reading “30min moto to work”

happy birthday to me : )

It’s fitting to have a new atmosphere and new friends for a holiday whose precise purpose is to represent someone’s process of change throughout time. There’s been a great blend of having my comforts from home and celebrating the new aspects in my life. The day started early, with four straight phone calls in a row at 5:30 in the morning! No, it was not for birthday wishes, but from Puen! He is a friend I met in Kampot Province while dancing in the rain on Rabbit Island. Yes, it was as amazing as it sounds! We sort of made plans to see each other in Phnom Penh (hopefully on Friday at mine and Em’s big beer garden bash!, but I’m not sure if he quite understood).

Despite the early phone calls, I slept in until 7, hitting snooze a good five or six times before getting up (great morning!). I went out to coffee Brown for a big breakfast and skype chats with friends from home. It felt just like home to be drinking drip coffee and eating delicious pastries with conversation with close friends 🙂 Continue reading “happy birthday to me : )”

my morning off of work

It’s funny how I came to Phnom Penh because I wanted to slow my life down. The city is crowded and bustling with life. Everyone is always going somewhere, at any hour of the day, whether it be to school, to work, another school, out to dinner, out to drink or sing karaoke or gathering goods in the markets. Even though we share a similar “laziness” of wanting to relax and appreciate our time, I think Cambodians are very hard workers (maybe I only speak for the student population though). Many of those in the city work at two jobs or attend two different schools or do a mix of the two. Good thing the city is small. The people are very busy and concerned with acheiving opportunities; they want to work very hard for something great in the end of it all. Sort of like constantly working your entire life just to retire at 65. When they do have time off (usually the holidays), they take the time to visit their homeland and family.

I have begun to reflect on my own judgments of Cambodia (or rather, Phnom Penh) lately. Continue reading “my morning off of work”