Onward to Koh Sralao – Examining the Urban Landscape

22nd Sept 2014 – departing Kampong Luong to Pnom Penh
I must always remember that even after my project and (brief) research has ended, and I have departed, their lives go on. Their everyday routines go on. This… Waiting for fish to grow, cooking, waiting for night to fall, paddling to places… (Where else?) Not demeaning their way of life, but… I have much more (to live for??) The opportunities to travel. The poverty cycle / trap is real. “What else can we do?” I don’t have an answer for that. That woman in the shaking hut, fishing one days by days – what else can she do? It is this question, and the lack of answers –  the knowing that it is not due to their laziness, or reluctance to do otherwise, but how limited they are – what else can she do?
Their stories are real. And here I am, moving on. C’est la vie. Always, always privileged to be born where I am, to be here today. Sometimes, though, I feel like… Can we really help? Yet… Still, I wish my host mother and her kind smile, and the people, children of Kampong Luong well.

Here, we worked on examining the urban landscape of Pnom Penh. Rich-poor divide, resettlement of slum communities, the new urban poor…

22 Sept 2014 – Pnom Penh – Hotel, comfy sheltered place
At this point I’m comfortably slouched over my pillow, in an aircon room and a flushable toilet. With toilet paper. It has been an eventful day. I cannot help thinking about the lifestyle the past 2 (only?) nights, and how at this point, I could picture my hosts asleep. At 5am they would awake, eat, feed the fishes, talk to other women, sun sets, eat, sleep… Or am I simplifying things? Probably am, I’m neglecting the complexities of human relations and human emotions, and all those stories. And yet, I think about how I go there as a researcher, I live their lifestyles, understand a little more, and then Ieave. And they are there, confined to the waters. I cannot help but feel like my heart goes out to them, the constraints… They are so real. I only wish then happiness, and to get by with ease. Also for good weather to weather the storms.
At night, we went for dinner at this place. Shamraz told me a story. It was a story about a girl who experienced this limbo between life and death, and within this limbo she could jump to different timelines and experience her parallel universes and multiple ways of life, bear witness to the different decisions that shaped her lives so differently.
“And then?” I asked.
“And then the story ends,” he says, laughing at my infuriating at such an unsatisfactory ending.
A ‘concept’, rather than a fiction, really. Ah, how tiny events, a minuscule of a second, a decision of whether or not to turn back, to charge your phone, to scratch your nose and sneeze – E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G – what’s that then, the butterfly effect? How some gesture, however seemingly insignificant, moments that shape your life, how different things would otherwise turn out. Everything happens for a reason – wait for the reason to emerge, to make itself known. 🙂
It was a pretty lovely night, I remembered my sociable self again. Ah, human connections and the sort of rejuvenation it gives. 🙂
I guess if there’s one thing that I can say makes me incredibly happy, it’s this – travelling.
Doing field research overseas, if I were to be frank, is one of my favoritest things to do in the world. I may not have done a lot, but thus far engaging in another’s way of life and attempting to understand the issues involved can be immensely fulfilling. I sense projects coming up for my future travels, if I’m keen.

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