Monday, 26 November 2012

Day 22: So Long, Cambodia!

Day 22: So Long, Cambodia!

It doesn't take much to keep a Cambodian child entertained!
This is such a hard country to leave, as we just love everything about it. What makes it so special? Most importantly are the lovely mannerisms of the Cambodian people. How can you not love people who put their hands together in a gesture of prayer and bow as a way of greeting? This is so endearing, and it feels good to return the gesture. A German traveler that we sat beside for a show told us to just mimic the bow and say “Tuesday”; it’s so close to their word for “hello” and it works.  They have 44 vowels and 42 consonants and a whole raft of sub- vowels and sub-consonants, so the language is tough to learn. 
The Cambodian people as a rule are always smiling and cheerful. It is hard to imagine how they can maintain such optimism when their country has endured wars spanning over 30 years. Worst of all, the last war in which over 1.5 million people (20% of the population) were killed was carried out by their own countrymen, the Khmer Rouge! Yet, with peaceful times, the locals just seem to want to work and take care of their families. Our hearts really go out to them!
Rush hour in the village
According to our tour guide, the biggest difference between children in Cambodia and children in the west is that the children in Cambodia lack electronics; 40% of the homes still do not have electricity! While we might see this as an unimaginable hardship, it brings tremendous freedom, as the children are safe to play outside for hours at a time. They have the freedom to ride their bikes to school and back on their own! It is delightful to see large numbers of kids on their bikes at the end of the day riding home without an adult in sight! This brings back wistful memories of the way that Bryce and I lived as children. The contrast shows how, in many ways, we are more imprisoned than those living in poorer countries!
They build their houses up on stilts so that they don’t get flooded during the monsoons and to keep the critters out. The village that we went to visit is doing quite well financially, as it is on the road to one of the ruins, and the people make pretty good money from the tourists.
Our tour guide told us that it is easy to get discouraged, as there are not many jobs, even for those with a good education. Therefore, many of the kids drop out of school at 10 or 11 years of age and take labour jobs for very low wages. Some will go to live with the monks because they take care of the children and give them an education if their parents can’t afford to feed them. Some children go to the monastery as young as 4 years old! They are well treated, but it is just so sad to think about them needing to leave their families! This also happens to seniors, as there is no old age pension or social assistance, so if the family can’t afford to take care of them, they go to the monastery and cook or clean for their keep. While we might complain about the high taxes that we pay in Canada, I am so grateful to have the social supports in place that we do.
Here’s Bryce’s contribution for today!
Farmer on the side of the road
Hi everybody from Cambodia and Happy Thanksgiving to all.   I'm certain a few stores in Mesa will feel the pinch with me not participating in the sales.  I did contact Macy's and mention that they might lay off an employee, as I would not be darkening their doorway this year!

We are back at the Siem Reap airport and on our way to Nha Trang. (China Beach) Vietnam. This is just a small airport, the kind of place where they have a "do not wash your hands in the urinal" signs with red slash across it.  This is no joke, and I have seen this occur, so if you’re ever in Siem Reap Cambodia, be slow on the uptake in the handshaking department. (kind of explains the reason that they bow instead of shaking hands!)

Just a great visit and really beautiful people and a wonderful experience with most of them.  The currency is US Greenbacks because their currency is so unreliable, and if it’s (God forbid) anything smaller, you get Cambodian money and no one wants it.  I just went to see the fruit peddler, and he made a great show about counting the oranges and bananas, and says to me, " one dollar!"  It's what I usually get for about a quarter of that, here everything is one dollar or two dollars.  I guess that’s my contribution to his family's dinner tonight!

Teak and mahogany is the rule of the day, and we’re not talking small pieces! These guys are likely to use the whole trunk of the tree, then spin it down to whatever they are making.  Unbelievably talented wood carvers. I wanted to bring home a piece of furniture but Arly said, “no!”
house on stilts

I will stop for now, because I feel that I can cram at least one more ice cream into me before we leave!  We head to Saigon and then catch another plane to Nha Trang and then a shuttle to the Sheraton on the beach.  The temperatures are in the low 80s and it’s been really nice; humid, but not killer humid.
Happy Birthday to our friends Will and Chris. It’s been great getting emails from all of you; please keep the emails coming, as we do get homesick now and then. Knowing that you are thinking about us helps us to stay connected! 

young monks

making palm sugar

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