Thursday, September 16, 2010

Introduction to Cambodia

Benches along the riverside in Siam Reap. Such a tranquil spot to read, or be interrupted :)
The designated "drop-off" spot with my tuk tuk driver. Also, on the left is one of the main markets in Siam Reap.

While driving between Phnom Penh and Siam Reap (I've officially seen four different spellings for that city, and so if it varies at all, please forgive me but needless to say highlights the difficulties in translating Khmer), our bus was stopped by water buffalo crossing the road. Throughout my travels I've realized how much I enjoy overland travel specifically for instances such as this. Along the road, you're bound to encounter so many more stories, rather than skipping over them to get to your destination. Also, prompted by the tales of Lincoln riding the legal circuit in rural Illinois, I'm inspired to road trip throughout America more to better seek out the "soul" of the country throughout meeting people from as varied of backgrounds as possible. Anyway, there is no picture of the water buffalo, but if happens on the return trip I'll do all that I can. Also, throughout the bus trip, I was struck by the inherent beauty in rice patties. This was first noticed while running with Pete in Bali, but it's a little different when rice patties are meticulously planned in concert with one another as far as the eye can see on either side of the road.

Anyway, throughout my time in Cambodia, I've been exceedingly impressed with the people of Cambodia. They have been extremely hospitable, earnest, and genuine. (Despite the incessant tuk tuk drivers) A couple times I've gone to the riverside to read, and high school students have politely interrupted me and asked if they could practice their English with me. Given such self-confidence, openness, and dedication to their study of the language, I always acquiesce, which has given me a better understanding of the culture. One thing that has continually been pressed upon me is the sense of duty to fellow man exhibited by Cambodians. They seem truly interested in bettering one another together and leaving no children left behind (sorry, couldn't resist that pun)

In addition to high school students, I was politely interrupted by Tola and Jothan who work for an orphanage/school about 40 km outside of Siam Reap. I was impressed that they didn't immediately go to their pitch, but we talked about one anther's lives for about twenty minutes to half an hour, they then showed me pictures of the school and the children while explaining the work they do for another fifteen minutes or so, and only after all of this, did they timidly ask for any kind of donation. I truly enjoyed our conversation and was extremely impressed with their honesty and diligence, especially when I was able to access the website of their school on my smartphone:

Me, Tola, and Jothan

Last initial impression of Cambodia, I'm sincerely intrigued by their interest in volleyball. I've seen volleyball courts throughout Siam Reap, along roads in the countryside, and in Phnom Penh. I'm a big fan of volleyball, but I was not expecting this would be the sport of choice over here.

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