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Learning from the "Living in Cambodia" Interviews

{Battambang City, Cambodia. Kids returning home from school.}

After reading the responses of Cambodians in the Living in Cambodia interviews, the questions I asked them revealed to me that they'd emerged from my Western mentality and were full of misconceptions. Forgive me. I am learning.

Misconception #1 The state of the country is so bad or it's so much better in a Western country that when one has the chance to work or live somewhere other than Cambodia they wouldn't hesitate to move even if they were from a well-to-do family. I honestly thought it would just be similar to many young American graduates who itch to live in Europe or Asia to experience a different culture. The responses of these Cambodians give me some assurance that there is hope for the future of Cambodia. In addition to Khmer people having a pride for their country and possessing an enduring quality, the educated and well-to-do youth are needed to stay and become active citizens for change.
Misconception #2 Women are not treated equally in the school or workplace. This misconception revealed assures me that Cambodia can be a great nation again. I am not a feminist but it's so important that people working to make a difference should not be stopped because of any prejudice. Daly, Maddy, and Lyda all had working mothers contributing to the household income. In my further research of the topic, the role of women in Khmer society and the family has actually been much more significant than many may know. Even in ancient times, women worked as astronomers, doctors, judges and even the king's bodyguards. Compared to her husband, the women actually were more active and ambitious in society and business. Her voice was heard and revered. In the scenario of the husband and wife differing in a decision, the woman had the final decision.
Misconception #3 It's possible to succeed in Cambodia with little money and connections. This question came from Stuart Isett's photo essay on the deportation topic posted earlier this month. A large percentage of deportees are living in poverty and will likely stay in poverty because they come with no money and no real connections. Now the question is can we change that?
"Knowing others is Intelligent;

Knowing yourself is true wisdom.

Mastering others is power;

Mastering yourself is true strength."

~ from Professor Sar Sarun article The Khmer Mentality

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