Traffic in Cambodia might slightly differ from what you are used to. It can definitely take you some time to get used to it. There are loads of motorbikes, Tuk Tuk’s and bicycles and comparably only few cars on the roads. All in all, it looks like one big mess, but it works quite fine.
Flat or wobbling tyres are a common sight. I’ve had twice a flat tyre. But thanks God both times a mechanic was not far away. The first time happened after having been here for three weeks. It was along a long, straight road, a bit out of town. Out of the blue came a small boy and pointed to a fixing place. Little angel. I would’ve had no idea where to go without him. Already three times I ran out of fuel – for which, of course, I have to blame my own lazyness or inattentiveness. Once it happened in the middle of the intersection. What a timing. It’s actually funny, how many smiling faces you see, when you push your motorbike back to a gas station… 😉
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“Money is numbers and numbers never end. If it takes money to be happy, your search for happiness will never end.”
Money has two sides. It can transform people into “monsters” which don’t care about anything else, but money. It can make you greedy, selfish. It can become like a deity, more important than other people and relationsships, leisure activities, formerly important values. Money has power. Power to destroy…
…and power to create and restore. it can lead to generosity. Money can change lives in a positive way. Not only is it a means to buy food, water, electricity, clothes. It can also be invested in people and organisations helping other people helping themselves.
100 Riel = USD 0.025
Financial situation in Cambodia
Cambodia is a poor and underdeveloped country. You might not realise it when you only go to the sights and stay in the relatively modern town where they have lights, music and stone houses. They sure don’t like to show their poverty. Everything is made as nice as possible – mostly for the tourists.
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Yesterday evening, I hit upon the bright idea to create a film of already existing material. For many hours, I was working and totally forgot about the time. Tiredness came, but motivation stayed. As I finished the first draft, I had three hours left to sleep.
Over the whole film I went today again – with filled energy and concentration tanks. It’s purpose is mostly to show the beauty of Cambodia. I tried, to capture the cambodian daily life. A big challenge was to make an end. I could easily expand it to three hours, however, that would cause one or the other eye from you to be tired and my computer to crash. But who knows, there might be another creative night and another sequel …?
All situations are no fake. Nothing was prepared or discussed (apart from the water buffalo which I tried to convince to walk into the water which sadly didn’t help).
It’s said that silence is golden.
Well then, I just want to say:
There they stood in a huddle in front of the entrance from the restaurant Tonle Mekong. Some had already arrived before 5 pm and since then, the group had grown obviously and uncontrollably. It reminded of an ant colony where an ant had found a delicious piece of banana and now the whole colony would gather there. Latest music hits boomed, mixed by our DJ. On the often used main road which leads past the restaurant, other locals stopped their motorbikes and Tuk Tuk’s to observe curiously what was happening. From above, the sea of people looked huge but relaxed. However, when you tried to get to the entrance, you had to realise how close together the crowd stood. A friendly “sorry” wouldn’t help, to fight your way through was more effective. Suspense was in the air. Not many could imagine what they would get to see soon. Excitement was written all over their faces. Excitement for an enormous spectacle, a different, unique celebration. Something, which they’ve never experience. Excitement for the Grand Opening of the ICF Cambodia.
Three weeks earlier, we were holding freshly printed tickets/flyers in our hands. In a meeting we discussed distributing strageties. We attached a certain value to let them know that it was something special and that the receiver should really come. Some doubted that we could give away 3600 free tickets at all.
Ten days later we ran out of tickets. None was left. A team of about 60 people had handed out 3600 tickets within a few days! Needless to say, that especially the expats asked how this could have happened. From the locals we wanted to know, who gave whom how many flyers. It came to light that everybody would give it to friends who would give it to their friends and so on. However, the question remained, will enough people actually come and fill the hall?
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Finally! Here it is – the new countdown which we made for the Grand Opening of ICF Cambodia:
– Several hours and 3 sprays I needed to find out a good way to paint the chair
– Lots of kilometers we made to get to different places
– During 3 weeks, we were on the streets and spoke to people, asked them to participate in a video and invited them for the Grand Opening
– 7 days and nights I had time to edit, cut, …, those …
– 100 films with …
– 100 different people in …
– 100 different situations and places
– 8 times I had to export the project since my computer was so slow, that I couldn’t watch the result in the programme itself
– 14 hours took the last export – and it was finished …
– 9 hours before the Grand Opening started – sighs.
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…liking what you do is happiness.”
I’m sorry for not having posted during the last few weeks. Honestly, I’ve been very busy. Not only was I trying to get very comfortable but also it didn’t take long until I got loads of new tasks and challenges. In the first few days, I thought, I will have an easy start and also will never be extremely stressed. I thought, I will have every week at least half a day time to write for my website. But that was only, what I thought. The reality was completely different. Nowadays, I write as soon as I find some minutes. Once for example, I wrote while my motorbike got cleaned or once when we had to stop filming due to rain. And now since I’m sick, I have time to upload it.
I’m sure, many are asking now, what I do day in, day out. Let me tell you.
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Alright. I don’t mind power outages. Neither do I mind it if there are four a day. I knew they would happen every now and then. That’s a thing I can live with.
But what I don’t like is, when I open my fridge a few hours after the power has come back and it is warmer inside the fridge than in my room! And there is the air which gets blown inside and that one is also still warm. Ah wait, hot! Sorry, but my fridge is not an oven.
Alright. Keep calm. Let’s not become emotional now. Breathe in. Breathe out.
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Needless to say, that the culture of Cambodia is totally different to those from outside Asia. Even within Asia itself, it varies a lot. Like in any other countries, it originates in a mix of other nations influence, history (read it here), religion, regimes and their rules. Additionally, positive and negative experiences as well as new trends can change habits in a process which takes years, decades, centuries. Cambodia’s culture is extremely complex and consequently not always easy to understand. I’ve heard, seen, experienced, read already a lot and now I want to try to give you a general idea. Furthermore, I will try to explain some backgrounds, most of those will be my personal view. Please understand, that all in all everybody is different, thus there are people matching these descriptions but also some who are in some parts visibly different.
How some characteristics are
They don’t shout at each other. The more important something is, the quieter they speak. For example, when you’re haggling over a price on the market, you’d rather lower your voice. In that way they’ll show much more respect towards you and you’ll have more success. I can easily imagine that this comes from the past: Cambodians had experienced so many different, cruel regimes and wars during which they probably always got shouted at (e.g. orders). And now, this has turned 180° – as if to set an example for seeking the opposite.
Also helpful is being patient and not in a rush. The more you wait and hesitate the more they discount for you. Time has another significance here than in the business world in the west. What you can’t finish today, do tomorrow. Or the day after. Or the week after. I love these two characteristics, they make life so relaxed. However, it also means that they don’t really care about punctuality and that’s a thing which Swiss people are famous for …
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Saying goodbye to all relatives and friends was a long process which started already one month before I left Switzerland. Personally, I think this is one of the worst parts of such an adventure. Don’t get me wrong, it sure is an important time and most of the “last conversations” were funny and encouraging. However, I sometimes wished that it wouldn’t last so long since I don’t like saying “bye”. Even though I was looking forward to this new challenge, I was sad leaving behind all these people, who I love so much. Once more, I’m thankful for our modern world. Nowadays, Skype, Whatsapp, Email and co. enable us to stay in touch.
Originally, I was supposed to fly from Lisbon (where I had enjoyed a short city trip with my sister) to Amsterdam, Kuala Lumpur (capital of Malaysia) and then Siem Reap, Cambodia. Due to the delay of my first plane, I missed the connecting flight. Fortunately, they had already changed my bookings. The new route was via Istanbul (Turkey) and Seoul (South Korea) and took ten hours more. I didn’t mind it, thus I got to see some other airports and airlines and that sounded like sightseeing to me – just a bit different. 😉
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