The children at Angkor Wat, Cambodia

August 14, 2010

Two decades ago, through Somserset Maughm’s books the desire to visit Angkor Wat was born.

I finally made that trip in 2008.

There is much to write about Cambodia – the old temples, the weavings and the society – past and present.

The temples are all mindblowing – the layout, the carvings, the workmanship, and the beautiful ladies in stone with their costumes and their jewelry.

But the social elements that usually go unnoticed, held my interest just as much…

Having been through civil disturbance for a few decades, the social infrastructure has been hurt.

But in the recent past, the nation and its people are recovering. The governance is probably doing what it can

But schools and hospitals  are largely run by social organisations, that received funds from donations from individuals and corporates all over the world. This leads to a quaint cultural jump in the children of Cambodia …..they live in difficult circumstances, but have pure american accents – through their volunteer tutors. This unexpected verbal fluency takes most tourists by surprise and brings on delighted smiles…

The motive of the voluntary organisations appears to be selfless improvement of the world (unlike that of missionary organisations) – and with that motive, the children in their care  have received the gift of a language that opens doors to the large world of books. From that point on self-education can begin.

And so today the parking lots of taxis in Siem Reap are buzzing with crowds of very bright children, in torn old clothes, uncombed hair and unbathed faces, selling their wares and making their sales pitches in perfectly polished English – highlighting the stark contrast between the many worlds that inhabit the earth today!

(Click here for an extensive photo-essay and cultural travelogue on Angkor Wat)

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