I drafted this post a month ago but never published it, so now I have more stories to share. It’s been a packed month!
I’m having a blast cycling different routes with friends on the weekends. We try to leave by 6:30 a.m. at the latest before the heat hits. When we go on the country roads, the people we pass and meet are so friendly and helpful. I know I’m getting repetitive when I keep telling my friends about the generous people around the country. But that is a reflection that Vancouver has some work to do to create a more helpful environment. We’re all responsible for creating our communities the way we envision them.
Whenever we take a route and just explore on the trails, we are surprised with memorable moments. The kids in particular get excited when people pass through and run out of their homes and scream hello to people. I’ll definitely miss this a lot when I leave Asia.
Two times while my friend and I were cycling, we didn’t ask for help and some people who spoke a little English asked us if we needed help and gave us directions.
Despite our language differences, many Khmer people want to talk and connect and they make a real effort to have a conversation. One woman lived in small home in the middle of the field asked us if we needed directions. We said no but we asked a bit about her house and how many kids she had and so on. Our Khmer was limited, and so was her English, but she kept making an effort to say a few sentences in Khmer to try and talk to us. She was very sweet.
My best friend was visiting me in Siem Reap and I told her, “When I pass people here, I feel it would be rude if I didn’t make eye contact with them and say hi. I’m already used to that here, but in Vancouver we would not do that.” When you try to converse with someone new in Vancouver, they often think you’re trying to get something from them or that you’re some kind of weirdo.
When my friends and I were cycling along where the Tonle Sap river (non-existent now, it’s dryish season), it was scorching hot and I was so thirsty. I was going to stop in the rural area to buy a drink as soon as we saw a stand. Then, not too long after, we came across this small hut on stilts in the middle of an open field and there were not many people around. As we passed the hut, we saw a group of young boys and one of them pulled out an iced pop and handed it to me just when I needed it the most. He offered it to my two other friends as well. This was one of my favourite moments in the hours that I’ve biked the past two months.
Shelter from the rain
When my friend and I were cycling back from the temples, we got caught in the heaviest rain that I’ve experienced in the two months that I’ve been in Cambodia. If we didn’t have our electronics with us, we would have just kept cycling.
A woman on the side of the road saw us and waved for us to seek shelter by her house and shop, which was really sweet. Like other times, I thought, “I should buy something since she let us use her shop for shelter.” But she, like the countless hospitable Cambodians I’ve met, are not kind to me and other people just to make a sale. I’ve become so used to a 50/50 give and take that I quickly default to buying something material to express my gratitude whereas here, it seems people rarely think about having the favour returned.
Now I’m making an effort to simply accept people’s kindness and simply be grateful for it.
Just last weekend, I was in the habit, again, of expressing my gratitude by buying something from a shop. Whenever my friends and I cycle around the temples in Siem Reap, we stop by one of our friend’s mom’s business next to Bayon. She is sooooo loving and motherly, you can’t help but admire how adorable she is (her business is in the picture below).
After we had another delicious meal and coconut, I told my friend to tell his mom, “Tell her, whenever I pass the temples, I will stop here and buy something from her.” When he told her that, she said, “You don’t need to buy anything, just stop by and say hello.”
She reminded not turn relationships into transactions. Thanks mom.