Published: January 1st 1970October 1st 2010
Cambodia is weaving its way into my heart. The frustrations of working here pale into insignificance when confronted with the Khmer people's history and the devastation from the past that continues today.
During my Khmer lesson, I ask my teacher, Bunliang how his father is, in Khmer and he tells me he has no father. He died of starvation during the Pol Pot regime. His father was a professor. His family were forced to catch a train to Battambang to live there and work in the rice fields. Bunliang's job was to collect cow dung to be used as fertiliser. When the Pol Pot regime fell, he and his family walked for a month to Siem Reap. He was five when the Pol Pot regime came to power. The regime lasted 3 years, 8 months and 20 days. That fact is burnt into his brain. It was painful to hear but EVERY person in this country has a similar story.
The past continues to wreak havoc. A whole layer of the society is missing. The professionals - teachers, doctors, lawyers, dentists, architects, scientists, laboratory managers, engineers were executed or died of starvation during the Pol Pot regime. This means that there
is no one to pass on these professions to the younger generation. This is why it takes a year to re-build a 5km section of road and have no laboratories that can analyse a simple metals suite. This is why doctors that have graduated in this country would only have the skills of a nurse in our country. You have to be here a while to really experience how devastating this is to the population.
I am so glad to have the experience of really getting to know this country. It has been wonderful to be a part, albeit small, of helping these people, who, although they have such a devastating past, are the most friendly, patient, kind, generous and honest people I have ever met. I would a thousand times trust a khmer stranger than I would an Australian stranger. The kids always yell hello as you pass and you can always get a smile and sometimes a chat from people waiting in traffic. And yet their past just breaks your heart.
It will be very hard to come back to a life such as I had in Australia.
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