Travel Journal: Cambodia 12.24.13



December 24, 2013 / Banteay Chhmar, Cambodia


I haven’t been around children in such a long time.  There’s so many here.  They are so cheerful, loving, smiley and enthusiastic.  And happy to learn and show they can do something.  Perhaps that’s all children and I just haven’t been around them recently to remember that.  The kids here also seem to get along better and are more loving to one another – I rarely seem them be mean spirited or bully each other.  Korean children were kind of the worst with that.  I wonder why this place breeds humanity so much kinder?


I teach an afternoon class of 3rd and 4th graders who are just learning the alphabet and are so excited about it.  After them is a group of 9 high schoolers who I’m trying to start again from the beginning with grammar and feel like it is the most boring thing on the planet, but they are so happy to be studying.  I’ve heard from many that Cambodia and especially this place suffers from laziness and non-seriousness when it comes to education or change.  Take a look around and these kids know what their life is most likely to be – rice farming.  So studying, especially English, seems completely useless and a total waste of time.  But I do believe that despite that general situation and attitude, that it is innate in some people to thirst for learning and knowledge and have ambition to be something beyond what seems possible.  But does it require the urging of ones parents or a teacher or something valued in life to pursue those ideals?  Or can motivation completely come from within?  In any case, this environment is a delightful change from stressed out Korea with parents forcing everything and depressing, bad-attitude Bulgaria where people think that lying, cheating and money is the answer.


I met an interesting pair of Cambodian travellers last night at the CBT – both entrepreneurs who came from nothing.  One runs a great co-working space called Smallworld in Phnom Penh and the other is probably one of the most successful young businessmen in Cambodia and is creating a media empire with localized content provider Sabay, as well as importing a lot of Korean trends to Cambodia.  In a country like this, or certainly Korea, it’s likely that coming into money and fame comes with selfishness and pretentiousness.  Both were the most humble men I’ve met of such success and devote a great deal of time to pursuit of real happiness and giving back and trying to change their country.


They both are super involved in non-profit and education work, most notably starting a quite successful Let’s Do It campaign in Cambodia where they organize a series of cleanups across the country to educate youngsters about waste in efforts to create more sustainable and clean living.  Perhaps it’s because the country is young and desperately in need of growth that there is a greater sense of community and duty.  I think of Bulgaria being in a similar situation, but fell down a terrible path with of a lot of selfish, dishonest and generally lazy people.  How is it that one country can go the way of progress and another can go the opposite?  It probably has much to do with the Buddhist ideals Cambodia is founded upon…


For me though, it is good to hear stories of people who just wanted something and worked for it.  Although many of these tales begin with the idea that the business was an accident or they had nothing and just started something.  That certainly is not happening to me.  But perhaps it’s not the right idea, just an idea.  I want to be creative and offer people a perceptive they don’t already have access to, but I guess I have no idea if anyone would actually be interested.  I feel like I have things to offer, its just a major challenge to shape it into something well-defined and focused.  Focus has always been my problem.  My mind, head, heart and life fly between a million different places and ideas that it is hard to concentrate on one thing for very long.  Plus I’m not patient.  At all.