My first time to Asia, my first time to Cambodia
More than 16 hours after I said goodbye to “my little every things” and to my beloved Tuli, I was touching Asian soil. It looked far, but the true is that I have never been in a foreign country more similar than mine before. I came here as a Dutch citizen, but who am I kidding? I’m 100% Colombian and 150% proud of being Colombian.
We started our journey in the Asian continent with the most beautiful sunset in less than 30 minutes, we stepped over in Honk Kong the time enough to learn that all airports look the same and are the same ridicules expensive for basic drinks as water.
Our Cambodian experience is full with ginger thee, long working days, manful discussions, and delicious food. We were assigned to facilitate training for the staff in Cambodia, but also for some colleagues from Vietnam and Afghanistan, so the group was really international, as my colleague is real Dutch. This is what I enjoy more of my work, the international environment.
Being surrounded by Cambodian people didn’t feel strange at all, to the contrary, I have never felt so close to my roots in a different country than my own of course. When I was facilitating the training I felt like being at my home town. People here look so much alike to us, that this has given me great confidence. The training went good enough to satisfy us and the participants, so we score high and we are very happy about it. It was not perfect of course, but “Perfect is good, good is beter!”
We live and enjoy new things. The tuk tuk ride every morning and evening was a tour through the city center and through the cultures, their lives, their challenges. I did not see a single bus, but I did see thousands of motors, hundred bicycles and many “many” Lexus and Toyota’s. Being my first time in Asia I had to endure the hectic traffic, the pollution, I had to witness a full family in one motor, the kids without protection, babies in the arms of the mother behind daddies in the motors, old woman and men riding bicycles, people in sleepers and T-shirts under heavy rain. Thanks good the plastic was invented! It is a whole life on the motor, and it is a way of living and surviving. If you want to get somewhere, you really need to have the Dutch cyclist Philosophy: You can go anywhere on your bike, in this case, on your motor. I saw some traffic lights, but they look more like decoration than with a real purpose. Traffic in Colombia is also horrible, but this is above all my experiences. We were told today how easily one can spend one hour per kilometer in times of heavy rain, just stocked in the traffic. But what was really familiar to me was how in cases of traffic stocks, then someone would take the lead to organize the best the alternative routes.
We had our private Tuk Tuk driver, his name is Pom. I don’t remember ever seen a driver so smiling and so willing to do his job. He was amazing on his motor, he would fit where no other Tuk Tuk was and he would take care to avoid the more holes on the streets as possible.
Last day on our way to the office we saw a big tent in the middle of the street, and a big celebration going on. Then we learnt that the weddings feasts are celebrated that way. I read in a book that the Cambodians say that a wedding is the union of two paths, that’s why they have to block one. J
In general, my experience was great, I had a great companion during the trip, during the training and during our free time. We could enjoy visiting the Royal Palace when the sun was not burning your head yet (I’ve never felt so heated by the sun anywhere in the world!!), and we learnt how the two main Asian religions live together in Cambodia, Hinduism and Buddhism mixed together in the traditions, in the architecture, in the art, in the way people dress.. I learnt the story of Rashana, and even had time to watch one of the movies about it.
I cannot find something negative about the trip, not even the eye infection that I had the first 5 days or the coughing that I had the other 5 days of the trip. I used those experiences to learn that I have to be more careful when touching my eyes in long flights, and also to do not use air conditioning at night and use a kind of mask when riding a tuk tuk one hour a day for almost 10 days. So, even that was something positive as well.
I hope that my next time in Asia and/ or in Cambodia I can take my family so they can also enjoy the beauty of the country, the food (including frog)and most of all, the people.
Thank you OXFAM for this amazing opportunity!