These few days (Local Spelling: បុណ្យភ្ជុំបិណ្ឌ) is Pchum Ben festival in the country, an occasion where people mostly return to their hometown to meet family and preparing offering to bring to pagoda to pray and pay tribute to their ancestors. Since, I’m pretty much a city boy I don’t really have a hometown to go so generally I come along with my wife to her hometown. It’s probably one of the few occasions that we get to visit.
For my wife, this is a rejuvenating break where she is geographically away from work and get to spoil herself with food and sleep. Her simple version of escape is to get away from complex and hectic city life back to her root where things are simplified and people are simplified. Every time she comes back her mood turns cheerful, her skin turns fresh and her mind is at rest (well at least not until people start criticizing her weight, her life etc.).
For me, that was probably the only good thing of coming here. It makes her happy. The time here for me are mostly reflection time because every time I’m here a lot of thoughts never fail to cross my mind from things I hear and people I observe. It never fails to provoke me into switching on my laptop to write. Even after I’ve just recovered from heavy flu and about to pack up and go back I do not want to leave the thought hanging without penning it down.
Frankly, I don’t even know where to start or how to best describe without showing vindictive intent. 🙂 Well not exactly, but some time it really upsets me to be just a powerless bystander. There is a saying that you can’t teach an old dog a new trick. But this is more like a next level old poorly educated deep culturally rooted stubborn dog so much so that if they were reading this text they would probably stop right here and make an angry takeaway that I’m comparing them to a dog. Even when all I did was just adding more descriptive adjective to the metaphor in the idiom. Even as we were having dinner yesterday, I was telling my wife when I come here it always remind me to question myself again why did I return to this country after working so hard to leave this place and continued to stay out of it.
When we come to the province, it’s always the same routine where we go around meeting all the relatives, showing our courtesy, and endure through the repetitive generic conversations and questions. Why are you so fat? Why don’t you lose some weight? How much are you making now? The son/daughter/nephew/niece of this uncle/that auntie is making $XXX? Why you still cannot afford a car? When are you going to have kid? Why you keep so long? it’s not good. My first few encounters were excruciating. Then eventually I just learn to listen from left ear and let it out through right ear filtering for content that is worth listening to. I’m probably not the best person to rant about family value and making human connection. But I’m pretty sure that family are not supposed to be agent that apply social pressure and status quo on each other. Or probably I wasn’t brought up that way.
I understand that people here love making connection and keeping in touch. Personal relationship and friendship rules over everything. I have also observed that underneath all that is a thick layer of gossip, status quo comparison, hypocrisy and lies. This is the culture and way of life here. I can tell it’s not something that can simply change by logical reasoning. What I know is that it’s definitely something that I do not want to be a part of. However, it’s also not something I can easily distant myself from. Sometime, I don’t even know if I’m angry, frustrated, upset, sad or miserable. Probably all once. All I know is that I’ve been overseas for a very long time, I’ve trained myself both personally and academically. I have seen progressive society. Then when I have to come back to a society where majority of people still so gullible, insensible, irrational and corrupted. I just felt hopelessness. People go around throw big words about patriotism, national progress, blah blah. But in actuality, everybody is like a starving dog who would selfishly do anything to survive and keep its family alive.
I’m not a country changer, big talker and any political leader material. I know that for a fact. I’m an engineer in profession and an artist, designer, casual photographer and gamer, anime lover, movie enthusiast, book lover, board game hoarder in hobby. I’m passionate about what I do, what I love, and the people I love. I know my place and my role in society. And I believe that’s how society progresses. Everybody knows their place and play their role passionately, professionally with honesty and integrity. That’s exactly how it is when I was back in Singapore. And everything makes perfect sense. Everybody lives in harmony. But here? People want high position, bigger title, more pay, less work. And I’m not going to start talking engineer (for my area which is software) quality. It really doesn’t make sense to me at all. The logical thing is that if you’re not good enough, you be looking for opportunity to learn and grow to fulfill your role. And if I meet someone who’s smarter and full of knowledge, I would be delighted because there would be so much things I can learn from him/her. But here from my experience in working environment so far, it’s a complete opposite.
With all that said, I have also met and known truly great people. I really admire what they are doing to try to change whatever I’m complaining about in the generation to come. I really sincerely pray for blessing to their endeavor from my heart because what they do is selfless and will pave way for many people children including mine. I’m also grateful that I have known and befriend them because only the thought and connection with these group of people that keep my candle of hope for this country up and keep me grounded in this God forsaken country. And of course my most beloved family and wife.