Lead an extraordinary life – 2209 Cambodia

I have been to Cambodia many many times, but its a country that never ceases to inspire me. In fact the inspiration often comes from watching the expressions of the lives of the people i take with me as they interact with the Cambodian people.

take Alex Teh for example who makes our van stop in the middle of the road in the middle of nowhere, so he can give a teddy bear to a small child who is walking along the road with her grand mother. The childs expression was priceless. Or the tears that came to Kevin Mayalls eyes as he gave a poor farmer a bag and watched the man jump up and down with excitement from recieving a gift he never believed he would recieve.

This time at our orphanage in Siem Reap we were able to paint the sleeping room, where 42 children sleep and the kitchen area. They hadn’t been paineted since the place was built during the french occupation which finished 50 years ago. I must say we were more than messy on the new floor put down last time (thanks Brad) but the Khmer people were quick to clean that up, just a by product of the painting forthem.

we normally bike across the Mekong river, to an islend where we give away books to the school, but the bridge was washed away and the ferry (two old condemed boats tied together with some board over them to make a catamaran) was really slow. We found out why. Due to the rain the on ramp was a quagmire. It looked like the Somme battlefield circa 1915. Yet it did not stop the farmers pushing fully loaded carts with bricks onto an already sagging ferry and put the horses on later. A total view of team in every aspect.

We ventured to Rabbit Island 30 minutes off the coast of Cambodia near Kep, and by the time we got on the boat it was pitch black and we were crossing open ocean. Only to have to land not near our accomodation on the other side and thus trapse through the dark jungle for 500 metres carrying everything. My arms still twinge.

Our return boat was equally as funny as a major rain storm decided to open on us half way back soaking us and all our belongings to the bone. It was hilarious.

Lessons from Cambodia this time.

– Community. Everyone pitches in and lightens the load for one person. We see it all the time in Cambodia

– Forgiveness. During the civil war, brother fought brother and neighbour made neighbour a victim of the genecide. All was forgiven within a very short time, why can the christians and muslims do that, or even us with our neighbours

– Presence. The Cambodians have a saying: ‘We will die tommorrow’so they live every day as if it were their last. That way they have incredible fun.

Finally, my highlight. Sitting in the middle of the countryside one evening at a funeral drinking beer with a poor farmer. He kept rubbing his head on mine. He said:Even if we cant communicate verbally, we can always communicate: Profound.


Author: Mike Handcock

Mike Handcock is the Chairman and Founder of Rock Your Life, a global transformational company focussing on helping everyone play a bigger game and have a more extraordinary life. We work with some incredible people globally and create the most extraordinary adventures, workshops, books and programs.

4 thoughts on “Lead an extraordinary life – 2209 Cambodia”

  1. It weems that the writer of this post has a very superficial understanding of Cambodia. Cambodians are charming people, especially with foreigners, but they have a highly honed sense of revenge, which may be held in check for many years until the right opportunity arises to exercise it. That is probably one reason why Hun Sen keeps arguning that indicting more Khmer Rouge leaders at the KR Tribunal could lead to renewed civil war, although he is undoubtely exaggerting for effect. But Hun Sen rose out of the Cambodian peasantry to reach his present position through clever, and when necessary, ruthless actions. He knows his country well. After all, the Khmer Rouge were also Khmer and some of the atrocities they commited have precedents in Khmer history and culture. One case in point is the Cambodian literature classic Tum Teav, which features a king following traditional behavior by eleminating the family of a rival suitor to his eventual wife by killing them all back to the fifth generation, much as the Khmer Rouge did when they eliminated entire families, including women and childrea. Cambodia is a much more complex place that the writer seems to realize.

    1. Thanks for the reply. Interesting opinion. I have spent many trips with all sorts of Khmer people from government to farmers. I have been to funerals, weddings, worked with them and broken bread with them. I still find them one of the most delightful people’s I have met around the world. Thank you for your opinion.

  2. I agree that Cambodians can be charming (but I know from lengthy personal experience that they can also be cruel as well as indifferent to the suffering of others). In any case I fail to understand what is profound about rubbing one’s head against another. This is basic animal behavior and has little implication beyond that as far as I can see. As far as living every day like it were the last, this is basic survivalist Cambodian behavior, which has helped them to weather centuries of hardship but also greatly limits their ability to plan for the future and pull themselves out of their subsistence mentality. Like most people Cambodians are a mixture of contrasting, often contradictory, tendencies and romanticizing their positive characteristics without acknowledging the downsides is a very simplistic, although Cambodians love it because it helps to assuage the many underlying insecurities that are carefully masked by the famous “Khmer smile”.

    1. This is what I love about dialogue and perspective. Soccer louts in the UK show more animal behaviour than I have experienced with the Khmer’s. Most Western youth show less respect. The South African, Rwandan, Serbian and Japanese cultures have proved as cruel. What I admire in the Khmer spirit is the fact that they can quickly put it behind them and move to acceptance. If we could all do that then the world wouldn’t be still fighting over a 5,000 year old war. Thanks again for your comments.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s