Another Update

Another update, here we are, or rather here am I, sitting at a computer room of my small hotel, feeling a bit sweaty and warm, tanktop and boardshorts on, I think there’s a small mosquito trying to get acquainted with my feet…Ah Cambodia.

Well, after four nights in Battambang I have hopped a four dollar four hour bus to Siem Reap. For those of you that do not know, Siem Reap is home to the famous temples of ANGKOR WAT.

Wat is Angkor you ask?

Well, it is a magnificent spreadout of Cambodian temple across a few miles. It was built for a King some 800 years ago, and for as long as I can remember, I have had a desire to visit these temples.

Angkor Wat

I still recall as a young boy looking at geographical books and seeing pictures of the temples and the huge faces that were built in them. It looked quite exotic and still intact over the hundreds of years. While growing up and strengthening my travel curio, I always thought someday I will visit Angkor Wat and when my friends who had visited the temples said, “have you been there?” and “You need to see it,” I politely and calmly said, “yes someday I will get there.”

Well, my friends, the time has come!

My next post will likely be about the temples and experiences with my Tuk Tuk driver, Lee, who I got acquainted with today and who I hired in a couple days to be my driver, since these temples are spread around. Unless, you’re an avid guru hiker from say, the Northwest, I would suggest hiring a Tuktuk. Plus, I was recommended to do so by a trusted traveler friend of mine. Word of mouth travel advice from your travel friends is the best, let me tell ya.

I just wanted to let you know about some of the conversations I’ve been having while in Cambodia. Most of my purpose here is to see how people here live, how they make a living, what their dreams are, what stories of their life has already been written. People from all backgrounds.

One story I would like to share is of a girl named Tien Tien. My German roommate Hannis had returned from a day of touring and “shooting.” Yes, in Cambodia, for 40 bucks you can shoot a round of ammo in an AK-47. Wanna go bigger? Why not check out some of the machine guns, for about 100, still not big enough to satisfy your ego? Bazooka, $350.

Wow, this is the greatest thing I have ever done!

Anyways, yeah things like that can happen here. Personally, I don’t care to participate as I’m somewhat against the transportation of arms into these areas. But nonetheless, after you’ve had a nice day of shooting, you get a free pitcher of local beer at their pub which is located in the city. Since Hannis had no one to share in this ritual with him, he invited me and I hesitantly accepted.

When we walked in, we immediately noticed a few local girls outside and inside the pub and we wondered just what kind of pub was this, but we decided to drink our free pitcher and then split after that.

As I was sitting there, a girl came to sit next to me and so I started up conversation. I found out her name was Tien Tien and she was from Vietnam. Immediately my mind went to, “how did she get here?” “Was she trafficked?” “What’s the story?” She was nice enough, and I didn’t feel like she was a prostitute but more like a hired “hostess.” These are girls that are hired to chat to customers like me, and encourage them to buy more drinks.

I find out Tien Tien comes from a fairly rural area in Vietnam and works here in Cambodia to provide for her Mama and Papa back home. She is the eldest of three girls and so the responsibility to provide for the family falls on her. And when jobs are limiting to women in an area like South East Asia, you take what you can get.

As I ask questions about her family, her education, and her life, she realizes I’m not just some ignorant guy that comes to get drunk and shoot guns. She tells me she speaks from her heart, pointing to her chest and tells me her dreams to open a cafe in her area. She tells me she stopped going to school at 10 and that she used to transport large amounts of food in baskets on her head in Cambodia and Vietnam. The other Cambodian girls laugh a bit at this story and she shows me a small bald spot on her head because of the work.

I ask her what would it take to fund her cafe business and she says it would cost $4,000. I say, you’d like a nice cafe yes? She replies yes. I ask the Cambodian girl behind the bar, what is your dream? She says, to go to university, I say why not now? She tells me she need $400 to go for a year and she doesn’t have it. This is her second job, as with all the other girls.

As I continued conversation, I learned that it wasn’t that these girls wanted to be here, but it was a second job that paid all right. ($2.50 for the 8 hour shift) They work hard to move up. I couldn’t help but think, man couldn’t I get these girls a loan, could I even fund it myself for them with accountability?

It’s tougher when you don’t have male siblings to take the responsibility to provide for your parents when they get old. There’s no social security or pensions going on here. I got Tien Tiens contact info so I could forward her micro lending banks in the Vietnam area. Maybe they can help her with a loan.

Another quick story I have is of a man I met in Battambang named Tsauh. I asked him what he did on his free day on Sunday and he told me he cut down coconuts to make necklaces and earrings. I asked why? And he said that he is making the jewelry so he can make enough money to pay for his wedding, which is a requirement in order to take a woman as your bride. In a way it is a “brideprice,” but it is required that in order to take the woman as your wife, you need to provide for the wedding. You pay this to the brides family, they make the wedding arrangements.

So he needs to raise $2,500. Which isn’t exactly chump change here in Cambodia. He’s selling the jewelry for 2-3 dollars a piece. I said “look man, I can get that sold in the states for 20-30 dollars a piece, let me take pictures of your stuff with the story and you can marry your girl.” I’m all about LOVE! He was interested by my proposition, so I took photos today of his work and am looking to post it up on Etsy, Zazzle or some other art site. I may talk to my African homie who runs a shop in Seattle to sell his stuff too. Check the photos below, maybe you’re interested!

As I travel, I think there are all kinds of stories of people who have dreams but lack resources. I have seen a lot, met a lot of people and can make things happen. So, I do what I can as I travel. And I carry this mantra with me wherever I am at life. It feels good to help another, and in these parts, help is needed a lot more than at home.

It’s nice to have my own room with some privacy. Travel tip #2322, remember to get solo rest every so often. Considering I’ll be doing some heavy sightseeing in the next couple of days, it’s due.

Longer post, thanks for reading. Here are some photos~~~

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One thought on “Another Update

  1. You are a gifted writer Shawn! I look forward to reading your blog whenever you post it. What an amazing life-changing experience you are having. I am so proud of who you are and who you are becoming.

    I would like to buy some of Tsauh’s jewelry. There is one set of earrings that the color of the coconut is a blonde color. Please set those aside for me!

    Love you boy,
    ~Mama Karen

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