Prison was a “good experience”

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I always run into inspiring, hardworking and passionate people in Cambodia through friends and often by accident. Whether I’m talking to a friend who works at a hotel or someone off the street, in a short time they are very open telling me about their past struggles in a very casual tone. I’m always inspired and surprised by their modesty despite and persistence to push on in life to achieve their goals.

I’ve recently met a quiet, well-mannered and very helpful 22-year-old Cambodian man. When I asked him if he lived with his family he said:

“My father left me when I was a baby. I have never seen his face. My mother has been working in Thailand she is still in Thailand working in a factory. I grew up with my grandma.

When I went to visit my mom, I didn’t have a passport so they put me in prison for two days. They gave me little food and just a bit of rice. It was a good experience.”

Here is when I interrupted him and said, “It was a good experience?! Why is that?” He responded:

“It was a good experience because I learned something. I experience the good and hard times. When I was 14 and 15 I stayed in an orphanage. I learned how to be on my own and do things for myself.

I went to the Paul DuBrule tourism school. Someone I knew paid for my classes and I always wanted to learn. My mom said don’t go to school just work but I wanted to keep studying.

When I was a small boy, I listened to the foreigners and I always wanted to learn English. So I taught myself a lot.

I had a very hard time when I was working in Thailand. I worked from 11 p.m. to 11 a.m. the next day. When I came back to Cambodia I was the only one in my group to get a job after leaving Thailand.

I always feel like I get a second change and third chance. I feel very lucky.”

I told him that is a very inspiring attitude to have despite very difficult times and so many Western people complain about very insignificant things. It’s stories like these that is a huge reality check and make me put things in perspective whenever I feel the temptation to complain about petty things.

He has a very calm energy and doesn’t let his past affect his passion for learning and pushing through life. I hope to meet him again soon.

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