Only in Cambodia – Upside down world

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.

When you get saved, it is not a transaction. It is a birth because God wants to make sure, everybody has a dad.

A careful look at the culture of Cambodia

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.

Culture

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 …

Déjà-vu – déjà-écouté – déjà-senti..?!

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.

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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. 😉

Preparations – or: How it was suddenly raining solutions and people

Whoever knows me well, knows that I don’t love to organise. In the end everything works out even though I usually arrange some details at very short notice. As I came back from travelling (31. October 2013), I knew, I would have to look for a job in order to make money as well as I would need to organise a lot.

Coming back wasn’t easy at all. While I was travelling, my family had moved to another place, away from the house where I had lived for about 15 years and away from the town where I was born and grew up – to a small village where I knew nobody at all. Firstly, I had to furnish my room. My very first stroll that afternoon ended up in getting almost lost since I didn’t know the place at all. It was a crazy change for me, I was never really able to say “goodbye” to the former house. Now we had neighbors in the house itself, friends didn’t live close anymore and the familiar forest I loved was more than 40 minutes by train away. Thank God, that I am easygoing. It didn’t take me long until I felt comfortable. My motto during that time was “look at the bright side” – that’s what I did and that’s what opened my eyes to see the advantages.

You are nominated!

This video was originally for a game on facebook. You get nominated by someone and have to jump into cold, public water within 48h.

In fact, you can apply it to my life as well. God nominated me for a mission in Cambodia. I didn’t hesitate long to decide that I will follow his call. The decision has a huge effect: It doesn’t only mean that I’ll leave Switzerland, but also my comfort zone. That includes things like: family & friends, my cat & dog, a good & secure job & income, a safe & clean country, a familiar culture, many luxuries you have living in Switzerland, and so on…

From a large imperium to a cruel genocide – Cambodia’s history

The past of Cambodia is full of tragedy, war, cruelty, murder, fight. It is a true story about people slaughtering their own neighbours, about kings and their pursuit of keeping together a chaotic and restless country. Sadly, they don’t teach a lot in school even though there is a lot worth knowing. Read here the most important milestones in a summary.

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Early history
Very little is known about the early years Before Christ and Anno Domini. It is likely, that there were various smaller and bigger settlements and kingdoms scattered around South East Asia. Each was fighting against others and intermarrying with other tribes in order to enlarge its territory. Thus it more and more became cohesive. That time, India not only influenced the trade but also the religion; beside Buddhism was Hinduism widespread. Due to the development of wet-rice agriculture, the population gradually concentrated along the Mekong and Tonlé Sap banks.

Be a voice.
Not an echo.

Best of the countdown

101 numbers equals 101 people/groups of people – all locals from Cambodia. Some understood English, some didn’t. Some asked somebody for translation. Or I used gestures to explain: International language. You need no vocabulary, only a bit of training. Everybody will try to understand you. It’s fun, guaranteed. Some refused to take part. But those who accepted the challenge gave their best, smiled, posed, sang, jumped, stood still, moved, talked, cooked, played, … These are some stories.

 

DSCN0097# 6 Apart from the number this photo isn’t fake at all. They were actually standing there like this, reading the newspaper.

My next adventure: ICF Cambodia

First of all, I hope you’ve read the entry “my first time travelling” as this has to do with it. As you might remember, I spent some time in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Matter-of-factly, I visited there the NGO and Church ICF Cambodia. The Swiss family “Strupler” has been there since summer 2013 and was starting ICF Cambodia. Wondering what was happening there I met their still small team on a Sunday morning during an input from ND. I felt immediately comfortable and since I didn’t have a tight plan – or rather not a plan at all – I asked them whether I could help in any way for a few days. ND, the team leader, went he wouldn’t know yet, but tell me if there came something into his mind.

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Two days later, he called me and set this task: Print the Khmer (Cambodian language) numbers 0 – 100 and go into the city and take either a photo or a short video of each number hold by a local person. Afterwards intercut between the different scenes and create a Countdown. He didn’t mention more details, trusting on my creativity. Positively surprised, that I got such an interesting project to do even though he didn’t even know me well nor if I would like such thing or not. Well, I did love the idea!