Published: August 4th 2012August 4th 2012
I know this post is long overdue but it isn’t because I haven’t tried. Twice now I have written substantial posts filled with the meatiest most insightful intellect coming out of Southeast Asia and somehow about half way through the post I hit a key and.………….suddenly I’m staring at a blank screen. Possibly this was a sign they weren’t nearly as meaty and insightful as I was thinking. My son Jeff and I unfortunately share this need for immediate gratification and if my work suddenly disappears I’m not inclined to give it another try. So, this time I compose in MS Word were I can cut and paste. This website is totally lame, however, and I’m not recommending it for any of you who are so self-centered as to think others care where the hell you are and what you’re doing. Let’s face it, after about a month everyone’s life readjusts so you’re probably just as happy to not have to read my ramblings every week, especially if they don’t include pictures.
This edition, however will include pictures but don’t ask me to explain them. They are of a traditional Thai dance performance I saw last week in Bangkok while
doing a training program for “a major international consulting” firm that would have to kill me if I mentioned their name. I'm probably making the show sound ho-hum but it breathtaking. I'm hoping the pictures will speak for themselves because I know there is a bigger story behind them that my untrained mind doesn't know. And no, I'm not working for the United States Department of State! Apparently, rumors are circulating around the university that I’m with the CIA. If I could only be so cleaver as to figure out a way to get one of those juicy federal pensions and all U.S. holidays in addition to Cambodian holidays. If you combined the two countries calendars I’d only have to work about 20 days a year.
I suppose you could say that I’m fully settled in now. I’m trying to look busy but feeling a little underutilized at the moment but people tell me that will change after I receive my fall course load. I’m also told that I’ll probably receive this course load about two days before the start of the new semester which should give me all kinds of time to prep to teach up to three
new courses. This certainly will look like flying the airplane as I’m building it and knowing nothing about aviation you can imagine the resulting carnage. But, after 12 years of ALF classes it should feel familiar. At least now I have business cards to protect my cover as an agent. I’m told my new office is nearing completion. That means sometime before the end of 2013.
So, how about some news from Cambodia? Workers at the garment factory where your Levis and Gap jeans are made went on strike a couple of weeks ago. After much violence and injury they successfully won a $10/month raise. You might think this doesn’t sound like much and you’d be both right and wrong. $10/month is over 15 percent more than they were previously making. Their take home went from $63 to $73 a month so that’s a pretty good raise in percentage terms. But don’t sleep too well because the rebel rousers still cannot afford to buy the pair of jeans they make for you, even if they save an entire month of wages! You might also think $73 goes pretty far here and there are huge cost of living differences. A
Not just the women are pretty!
kilo of rice (just over 2 lbs.) costs about $1. A large bunch of bananas cost about the same. A kilo of shrimp are about $13 (virtually the same as back home) and squalor housing would be about $100/month. So if you eat nothing but rice and bananas you’d probably be able to get by as long as you live on the street. When I walk home at night I see men sleeping on the seat of their scooters that serve as their source of income during the day. For about $1 you can get a ride on a scooter just about anywhere in town. Food is expensive here. Almost everything except rice and a few fruits and veggies are imported from Vietnam or Thailand. I can’t say for sure that Cambodians would be better off without the textile sweat shops. But I do know they would be better off if we paid just a bit more for our Wal-Mart and Target cheap clothes and the Nike, Levis and Gap corporations insisted on a living wage for workers making their clothes. Of course the factories never have their names on them. The work is subbed out enough times to plausible
Fight for the princess!
distance corporate America from the lives of the people who give their lives to the factory. Our life styles in the developed world squarely rest on the backs of people here. I don’t know what will change this. I know my awareness is heightened.
And there is one other news item that could have just as easily come from State College, PA. I was reading in the paper today that a Dutch man charged with having sex with children was still actually living with three of those children in his home in Siem Reap. He apparently founded an NGO that helps kids in poverty. Is this sounding familiar? The big difference is Jerry Sandusky will spend the rest of his life in prison. This man has paid off the families of the raped children so they have dropped charges. When someone offers you a year’s wages, what’s a little child molestation? One family is holding out but the kids are still living in his home. No doubt some others in law enforcement are also being paid off. This kind of abuse from rich people from Europe and the West goes on all the time here. It’s sad and pathetic
Some of the most beautiful women in the world!
and sometimes makes me feel ashamed of how money can corrupt.
Still, there is a lot of magic. The difference between here and Bangkok is night and day. Government matters. History matters. People’s hopes and dreams matter. I cannot change the government or the history but perhaps can impact what people expect from their future. Today, I’ve chosen to shine the light on a couple of the darker sides of Cambodia but there is plenty of hope as I’ve posted in earlier blogs. One hope I have is to communicate that our worlds are not unconnected. One thing we can do with a global economy now is to demand that the things we purchase at the very least do not harm others. How long did it take for us to really look at nutritional labels on food to see if the contents were harming us? Given the size of America’s expanding waistline we still have a way to go but at least the information is there. So, maybe the next time you pick up a pair of shoes or a pair of pants, a jacket, sweater, or an ipad just stop to think about what “Made in Cambodia” means.
Thai ranart-ek player
And if you really want to have an impact, ask exactly that question of the store manager. Watch for the blank stare.
P.S. Promise not to stand on this soapbox for the next post.