Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Honestly, I don't think of myself as naive or extremely gullible or unwise.
But, I do think of myself as someone who chooses to believe the good in people rather than the evil. I really try not to make quick judgments or sweeping generalizations about people. I take great effort in really trying to understand people and learn rather than go about thinking I have it all figured out. Admittedly, I fail at this sometimes. Sometimes I make false assumptions. Sometimes I am sure that I know the best way to do something...and I don't. Sometimes I just get carried away.
Ok, so that sets the groundwork for my thoughts today.
I have lived in Cambodia for nearly 2 years, and even before I arrived, I was repeatedly warned about the selfishness and ugliness of Cambodians. I chose to just take the warnings in stride and employ wisdom. I had no plans of staying out until all hours of the night (or morning). I knew that I should watch my purse regardless of what country I live in. I was aware that my white skin was pretty nearly every time require me to pay more in the markets. All those things were ok.
But, as I try to be a positive person, it bothers me when I hear so many stories about people having their purses stolen or pulled off their motos at night or having their phones and wallet stolen if they are in a traffic accident. I know those things happen. I know people to whom they have happened. They happen everywhere. They happen in all big cities. And, thankfully, they have never happened to me.
Instead, I have had Khmer people run out to the street with iodine and gauze when I have fallen off my moto, saying "I clean for you. You go to doctor. Doctor help." I have had sellers in the market give me the "Cambodian price" and throw in extras because I "stay here long time." I have had Khmer friends drive alongside me to get home at night if they think it is too late. I have friends who have passed out on the street and rather than raiding their purses, people stopped, rubbed their temples vehemently with tiger balm (as you do) and called the last number dialed on their phones in hopes of finding a friend.
And just today, I walked outside the gym (sweaty and smelly) to find that my moto would not start. I tried to start it. The young Khmer girl who works at the gym came out to help me. But, our attempts to kickstart the bike were fruitless. So, I called a friend to come meet me (and bring me money because I didn't have enough to pay a mechanic on me) so I could take my bike to the mechanic. As I was waiting, three Khmer men (moto-taxi and tuk tuk drivers) came over and offered their assistance. They all looked at the bike intently, tried to start it, attempted to kickstart it, tried to push start it. They told me that in their expert opinions that it was possibly a problem with my battery. After my friend arrived, I asked the men where the closest mechanic was and they pointed to the end of the next block. (There are "mechanic" shops everywhere along the side of the road.) I pushed my bike down the street, and looked expectantly at this small man who had been changing the oil in a Toyota Camry. After a few futile efforts, he also concluded that it was likely a problem with my battery, but unfortunately, he couldn't fix it for me because he works mainly on cars. He points on down the road to the next place. So, I push my bike on. Before finding another mechanic, I get to a fairly main street and look around, not seeing where to turn. Fortunately, a group of moto-taxi drivers are gathered near the street corner and see me pushing my bike. They call to me, asking if I have run out of gas. I inform them that I have gas but that my moto won't start, that maybe there is a problem with my battery. So, with five of them gathered around, they again make several futile attempts to start my bike and conclude that indeed there is a problem with the battery. (I am still doubtful that any of these men know anything about the actual mechanics of a motorbike.) One of the guys tells me to hop on my bike and he will push me to the mechanic down the street. He is not planning to push my bike himself but rather drive his moto slightly behind me with his foot on my exhaust pipe pushing me down the street. And, hey, it was not as terrifying as I thought it might be! And, after the mechanic finally looked at my bike and changed my sparkplug (I think. I don't claim to actually know anything about the mechanics of a motorbike either.), I was out $3.25 and a good hour and a half. But, I was so blessed by those men. I was blessed with their willingness to help me, without expecting anything. I was blessed that I was able to talk to them and understand them. I was so thankful for their help because without it I may still be pushing my motorbike through the streets of Phnom Penh.
So, maybe some would call it naivete that allows me to see the good in people, to not always assume that people are out to exploit me or steal my purse, but I think I would rather be naive and thankful than suspicious and judgmental.

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE this story! Thank you for sharing so many great stories about the beautiful people of Cambodia.