Friday, 26 June 2015

by Emma Lim, Junior 2 Higgs, Class of 2015.
All photographs by Lai Li Chan, Junior 2 Higgs, Class of 2015. 

Waking up early for the education you so rightfully deserve from Monday to Saturday, with no ounce of dread just to attend classes for a mere 4 hours, walking or cycling your way to every destination you wish to reach even if it means a pair of swollen feet. Working to your full capacity every day to earn enough money for your four siblings to get the already insufficient nutrition they desperately need. This is not my life; neither is it yours. However, it is the lives of many underprivileged children living in Cambodia. 

Nevertheless, their monetary status does not affect these children's views in life. The life in their eyes has yet to fade and their smiles have not been wiped off their faces despite the unfortunate circumstances they live in. No bitterness was found in their hearts as they wholeheartedly embraced us, the Interactors, as we fully prepared ourselves to be immersed in the culture they had to offer. 

For most of the Cambodian population, the country’s official religion - Theravada Buddhism, is the faith of choice. Theravada Buddhism has been their state religion since the 13th century, with the exception of the Khmer Rouge period. The minority religions include Islam, Christianity and tribal animism. Previously, Islam was practiced by about 200,000 Cambodians but their numbers dwindled due to the persecutions under the Khmer Rouge.

The orphanages we went to gave us glimpses of Cambodian dances. The girls performed intricate and slow hand gestures which were complimented by simple and light footwork, alongside a slow traditional song in their native language, Khmer. Dressed in the Cambodian national dress, the "Sampot", with an armful of chunky, colourful bangles, their gentle and fluid movements were executed to the best of their capabilities.

Though every meal we ate was provided by Muslim restaurants, unknowingly, we were eating Cambodia’s staple foods. As Cambodia is one of our Southeast Asian neighbours, their eating habits are very similar to ours. Most meals were accompanied by rice, with dishes containing fish sauce, which is widely used in the country, evident by the countless tom yam soups that our troop were served during lunch and dinner. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to savour the popular dishes Cambodia was known for, namely their pork broth rice noodle soup and curry, which are highly influenced by the Chinese and Indian cultures respectively.

The abundance of culture in Cambodia is meant to be indulged personally, not to be read as a mere article which doesn’t do it much justice. The world Cambodia has created is unlike any place you have been to before. Dare to throw yourselves into a journey of excitement and adventure? You will not regret it.


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