So long farewell SEA
It is now that I’ve left Asia that I find myself searching for reasons not to miss it, but the damage is done. Bangkok feels like home and the other countries, all but Vietnam, deeply touched me. I am seriously thinking of setting up a small project for Myanmar. There is this grave shortage of mobile phones as they all need to be smuggled into the country. It would be dead easy to collect our secondhand phones and bring them there, right? Such a thing would have to go through the black market and I’m sure it can’t be as straightforward as that it in theory sounds, but what’s the harm in giving it a shot?
As for Laos, I recently learned that a newly build dam in China has reduced the flow of water to Laos to such an extent that boats can no longer be used! I really need to see this to believe it, but if it’s true, which I fear it is, then Laos is in big trouble. To the Lao way of life the rivers are essential! And the people live isolated enough as it is, how are schools and medical care going to reach them now the water isn’t a possibility anymore? How is the government going to keep the country together if both mountains and water separates the Laotians from one another?
And then Cambodia, a whole country that only so recently has been gravely traumatized by their own people, is rebuilding itself from scratch. One third of the population died (!!!) during the four year rule of the Khmer Rouge. This means that almost everyone lost family. Now you have to understand that family is not just that in Asian culture. First of all you can’t, no matter what, abandon your family. Also you are expected to support your parents as they supported you as a child. And then if you gain enough to help other family members as well you ought to do so. It needs to be said though that these are unwritten rules and if you ask a Thai about it they’ll say it’s obvious for them. Family is just very important. Thai people can always rely on their family if anything ever happens to them. For the Cambodians that safety net has fallen apart. That’s why, I think, their poverty is so visible. And it’s hard to see. I have learned to look further than just that first impression. I have seen that you don’t need that much to be happy and I know life isn’t fair, but sometimes I envy them for how they live. Undisturbed, they don’t let things get to them (what’s that, stress?) and moment by moment. Don’t get me wrong though, they work way to many hours for scratch, often far away from their families and friends and I am not even sure if there is any regulation on holidays (think not). I just feel like they can still enjoy the simple things and we – sorry, I’m surely not speaking for everyone, but let’s say the average spoiled westerner – seem to overlook them, too busy looking to the future (more money, better job, better this better that). I am saddened to see how Cambodians have turned to stealing and begging by lack of help from inside. Like in Phonm Penh I was warned by my friend not to take any bag when going out at night. Especially not at this time of the year - that is just before Cambodian New Year - because the youth wants to drink and party and of course needs money to do so. As for the beggars and children selling souvenirs (instead of going to school), I think you do more harm than good by giving them money. It’s hard not to, but hawking in tourist areas really shouldn’t be profitable. As an alternative I say you’d better give food. Then again what do I know? It’s all ethically questionable travelling in undeveloped countries (although I think this term doesn’t do the countries I visited justice, but I hope you know what I’m trying to say).
I’ll be back in one way or another Southeast Asia. And that's a promise.
All my love,