Fear and loathing in Cambodia (29.06.01 - 06.07.01)
Part six: A final word
Cambodia hasn't been an easy place to travel in, not just because
of the lack of amenities or infrastructure. Frankly, I haven't relaxed
a bit since I came to the country, part of the reason being the
fact that we were constantly on the move due to the lack of time.
But even so, the covert desperation was simply overwhelming.
I am not a psychology student, but I believe there is a concept
termed selective perception. Any traveler comes to a place rooted
in his or her conceptions or misconceptions of the destination based
on acquired information from news and travel guides.
However, we must be vigilant against falling into the trap of only
'seeing what we want to see' and thus stereotyping a country.
You can easily believe Cambodia is beyond hope, but two observations
made me change my mind.
At the Tuol Sleng Museum, I seen Cambodian students hand-in-hand,
visiting the torture chambers of the Pol Pot regime under the guidance
of their teachers. No matter how many children Cambodia loses each
year to poverty, to corruption, to inadequate medical services and
to 'ten-postcards-one-dollar' sales pitches, children will always
be the future to this country.
At Sihanoukville, we met a 22-year-old Cambodian-Chinese called
Wen teaching Mandarin in the guesthouse we were staying. Just a
few years back, his mother suffered a business setback, causing
them to move from Phnom Penh to this coastal town. Despite missing
his friends back at capital city, he has made good use of the time
here by teaching young children Chinese while studying Chinese himself
(at Secondary three level) part time in a local school. To most
of our questions, he would answer readily. Those that he couldn't
answer, he would apologize for his ignorance. He is considered well
off by Cambodian standards, earning about USD$200 per month, driving
a car and paying USD$10 per month for cable TV (his only source
of entertainment). However, he would force himself each month to
save a sizable portion of his income so that one day he could make
it to university.