How is the other side of the world? Do I miss it? Not yet. Miss everyone, but not the craziness of the other side. Fell asleep so fast and could barely get out of bed. Finally woke up around 7 AM and went down for coffee and breakfast. Sampled some great local fruits. Breakfast in Southeast Asia is always special and different. Then went back upstairs and took a walk to one of my favorite coffee houses. The place is called “Gloria Jeans”. Great African coffee served by Khmer people in a relaxing setting with real dishes and cutlery. No plastic nor take out. Was then picked up at 9AM by Manin and driven to the office of Pepy Empowering Youth. This charity is a local non US charity that is the successor to the original Pepy charity that was a US charity. The original charity had served its purpose and accomplished its mission. When the original charity was completely operated and run by locals it was decided to terminate since the mission had been successful. Olivia and myself had originally helped start a scholarship program for local students to go to the University in 2012. That program first started with two students and has now grown to over thirty students. Students apply, are interviewed and then have to sign a contract to stay in the program for the full three years. The Program has been overly successful and the benefits have been huge. Some of the graduates have stayed on working for Pepy and setting role models within their local communities. I went up to meet the new group of scholarship students and talk to them. We had a long talk about many things. We discussed why I constantly come back to Cambodia, how special they are, role models and life on the other side of the world. Kimsru stayed as my interpreter since they are a new group of students and their English is not that strong yet. We talked about why an education is vital and setting goals and striving to attain those goals. I explained to them how different education is today from when I went to school. Today you google something instead of going to the library and reading about it. You also use a computer to type and not a typewriter. Spent over three hours talking to them and answering question. At first they were shy, but as the morning wore on, they became much more inquisitive. I have done this in the past and love doing these talks. It was then time for lunch and had a great Khmer lunch with the Pepy staff. It was then back to the classroom for more talking and finally got around to my photography and why I have fallen for this media of expression. Whenever I pick up a camera I become another person and see the world on a different stage. I have been learning how to see what I take before I take the picture. I showed them the whole process and demonstrated my cameras and lens for them. It was then time to show them some of my images and experiences. I showed them how I created some beautiful images out of seeing things that most people do not see or do not look for. They then asked me to see some pictures about some of my recent travels. The one trip that they all loved was my Yukon trip. Most of them have never seen snow nor even knew what dog sledding was. I explained to them the Alpha dog and how to dog sled. When they saw pictures of the Northern Lights their eyes sparkled. We talked about lots of places I have visited and what I look for when I travel. It was so enjoyable showing them places and things that are so different from their world. Their eyes could not believe Venice and the boats and gondolas. Most of them have never heard of Venice. It seems to me that this is one way that photography can be used to teach others about places they can never be able to experience. I could go on and on. How they all laughed when they saw me bungy jumping in New Zealand and saw some of the beautiful sunsets from Antigua. By the end of the day the group had grown. We could have talked for many more hours, but they had school until 9PM at the University.
I then went to dinner with Kimsru. We talked about religion and schooling. She was born in rural Cambodia. Her parents were rice farmers and her grandfather was killed during the Pol Pot years. She told me that no pictures exist of her grandfather and she only knows what she knows from other family members. Her grandfather was a government official and one of her uncles lived for many years in the jungles because he was afraid of the situation. We talked lots about religion. She is buddhist. A great conversation. I wish Olivia was there sharing it with me. Her schooling is quite interesting. She received one of the first scholarships that the original Pepy ever handed out. She went to the University in Bangladesh and lived there for 5 and 1/2 years studying and learning English. Graduated and recently received her Masters. She is now full time employed by Pepy. What a woman of fortitude and endurance. To come from where she came from and do what she has accomplished is amazing. I get spiritually uplifted by hearing and speaking to people like this.
Hope everyone has enjoyed my second day in Cambodia.