A Way of Life

The last month or so of my life has been lived in the small village of Kbal Dremei. This place is about an hours car ride away from the big capital city of Cambodia, Phnom Penh.

The capital of Cambodia is populated heavily and it’s general movement is one with purpose and drive. It is at the forefront of the Cambodian corporate world and it buzzes, accordingly.

We met a total of about 12 different volunteers come and go throughout this time spent living in the house. Situated in a rural part of town called Sala Lek, we lived in a quite neighbourhood of Cambodian country folk. It was nothing but dirt roads, beautiful grasslands, lakes and small clusters of forest. Usually, you had a temple sit amongst a the forest, as it provided nice areas of shade for its visitors and residence; monks of all different ages.

We became so part of the family that little sister, Chealy or younger bro Kimhua would shout, “Eat rice, eat rice, eat rice!” every night consistently to let everyone know dinner was being served. If you were late, your name would be called. “Chris, eat rice”!

“I know, I know, I’m coming”.

We would all sit underneath this wooden hut type of thing. It had a kitchen in it and Mama and Papa would also sleep in it. They slept on a hardwood platform with a mat beneath them and bed sheets that would cover the perimeter of the platform to give them extra shelter. By no means was this an act of poverty, but simply just a way of life for these old timers. They were traditional, old school rural Khmer. They wouldn’t have the conditions any other way. These guys lived through the Khmer Rogue. They know what it’s like to truly experience an intense life and it shows through them. They both carry this sense of empowerment, peace, resilience and true wisdom.

Papa was usually the leader on the construction site. He was the one who would call most of the shots. He was the visionary and we were all his workers, collaborating as a system to get the job done. I once heard that Papa was saved from being killed during the Rogue because he had extremely good practical skills. He could build things and he was also a creative artist, selling his Buddhist artwork to the local temples.

There were about 3 properties with houses on them and all 3 properties were housed with different members of the extended family. Mama raised 7 children, so there was an abundance of grandchildren running around, constantly. Plus, all these kids attended the school in the house we lived in and at the public school next door to the house we were living in.

When school was out, I would put headphones in and jog laps of the grass paddock, sometimes having to dodge cows who were also there but for a grass feeding frenzy.

When there was a ceremony on in the village, everyone will know because the music gets played so loud. Festivities in the village are important and some are very formal events.

I was there for Khmer New year which was like a 3 day bender of events held at the temple and local park. It was like Blaxland oval in Menai on Australia Day, but it went for 3 days straight where they had food, music and games.

The bonds formed, I can’t even explain. It becomes so natural, you feel as though you have known each other your whole lives. I didn’t grow up in a huge immediate family, but this is what I would imagine it to be like.

Personal space isn’t a thing and you shower yourself by tipping buckets of cold water over your body. You squat on top of a whole to do a shit and you sleep under a mosquito net on a mattress on the floor. But seriously, once you get used to all of these changes, you realise that it’s actually not as bad as what it sounds. You just start to accept the fact that this is how life is now and you just learn to embrace it.

There are chickens running around everywhere. I would observe them constantly and I would laugh at how funny of an animal they were. They are so stupid lol.

The kids run riot, but they are just so cute. You get to know them for their own unique character. They all have their own unique quirks about them and they make you laugh.

What you decide to do outside of the hours of work, eat and sleep is completely up to you. Everyone has their own unique approach to deal with this sort of free time. It’s a lot of time and it can go slow if you don’t play with it in a proactive way. Usually, I would read. That’s what I did most of the time. I would read books and I would nap a lot. I made it a mission to just take my learning to new levels, meanwhile the reality of the life I was living was teaching me in ways that I’m not even aware of yet. I will realise these lessons as time passes.

It’s the nature and process of forming social bonds like these with such random people from all over the world that perplex me. It’s one of those things in life that make me awestruck.

The Machine

Due to a speech impediment, he makes sounds and uses his body to communicate.

Usually, he is bouncing off the damn walls all day long with energy. I don’t know where he gets it from. Maybe it’s from those cans of beers he sinks in the morning instead of the coffees we get to wake us up.

They call him the “machine”. My theory is, he is an artificial intelligence robot who was programmed to build houses and drink beer but they somehow forgot to program language into the software.

His nickname speaks for itself. He works with pure strength, technique and ingenuity. His pitfall – he is undisciplined. We never know when he is going to turn up for work. He goes off his own time.

Sometimes, we need to source him from his house. He conveniently ‘forgets’ that there is a school under construction. But then there are other days when he is the first one on site and he will tell you it’s because he needs the funds for more beer.

Yesterday, he was barking orders at us volunteers. He was not in a happy mood because he got drunk the night before and was out till early hours of the morning looking for his ox that had escaped from his front yard – a valuable asset in this village.

He is the life of the party. He loves to get everyone laughing with his funny sounds and bodily gestures.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you – the machine.

The Machine

Due to a speech impediment, he makes sounds and uses his body to communicate.

Usually, he is bouncing off the damn walls all day long with energy. I don’t know where he gets it from. Maybe it’s from those cans of beers he sinks in the morning instead of the coffees we get to wake us up.

They call him the “machine”. My theory is, he is an artificial intelligence robot who was programmed to build houses and drink beer but they somehow forgot to program language into the software.

His nickname speaks for itself. He works with pure strength, technique and ingenuity. His pitfall – he is undisciplined. We never know when he is going to turn up for work. He goes off his own time.

Sometimes, we need to source him from his house. He conveniently ‘forgets’ that there is a school under construction. But then there are other days when he is the first one on site and he will tell you it’s because he needs the funds for more beer.

Yesterday, he was barking orders at us volunteers. He was not in a happy mood because he got drunk the night before and was out till early hours of the morning looking for his ox that had escaped from his front yard – a valuable asset in this village.

He is the life of the party. He loves to get everyone laughing with his funny sounds and bodily gestures.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you – the machine.

A Road Less Traveled

By choice, I’ve decided to take a path that is out of the ordinary. I think partly, this stems from this underlying desire to stand out and be different from the herd.

Ever since a young child, I’ve always wanted to showcase my tendency to be rebellious and unique. I love to be the contrarian and to go against the grain.

I’ve always loved to challenge the beliefs that I feel society has jammed into our heads and I am always up for pushing my personal boundaries, seeking thrilling experiences that push me to the edge.

I like to do what not many other people are doing, and if a lot of other people are doing it, I like to challenge the status quo.

Why do I think this is important?

Because I believe this is how true change occurs. I believe this is where you can experience the most growth as an individual. When you run towards adversity, you run towards a path that pushes you to your edges, forcing you to solve problems, deal with people and compose yourself emotionally, physically and mentally all the same time. This is where true growth can occur. This is where true change can be made.

This is my reason for choosing the road less traveled.

This monastic type of lifestyle can take you by surprise.

You have regimented structure with a lot of free time on your hands. A lot of time to think, observe and learn.

One thing I’ve come to value in my life is Stoic philosophy, or Stoicism. The philosophers of Stoicism include men like Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus. They were men of extraordinary importance and success during the times of the Roman and Greek empires.

Due to the fact that places like Rome were so prosperous, it gave these great minds the time to think and ponder about the more existential questions of this life.

Like a monk who lives a monastic life a temple or a yogi who lives one in an ashram, this way of life has me intrigued to the bones.

When you have the time to sit and ponder and contemplate on life like you do out here, you tend to dig down to more deeper levels of thinking.

What does this do for me? It gives me insight. I get to discover things about myself and about life that I never new existed. I have the time to question and to constantly work towards seeking some of the answers that could propel me forward as a human.

It gives me time to refine some of the skills I love using when I play. Refining my content creation skills, my meditation skills, my creativity and my logical reasoning skills, my social skills and my emotional intelligence skills. I get to watch and refine over and over and over again, all day long.

Things can get monotonous and I sometimes feel sick to my stomach knowing how much time there is, plus the gruelling construction work that goes on in the blistering heat. But I’m just so attracted to the idea of having so much time to just think and observe.

These are where all of the questions are answered, because it starts from within.

Part of my promise was to deliver content that is raw and authentic.

There are pieces of content that I create that are emotionally uplifting and contain elements of joy and prosperity in them and that is well warranted. There are many beautiful moments of happiness, unity, prosperity and humour involved in this life.

However, there is a darker side to it, as with all things.

This image was taken in the male dorm room at FEFA school. Due to the fact that these students are getting access to free education, the teachers of the school and the owners of the property don’t have the means to improve conditions. So, this is how they sleep.

I lived in these conditions for a number of weeks and for someone who isn’t accustomed to living in an environment like this one, I found it to be quite a challenge.

Wanting to improve the living conditions of this place comes from two places for me;

1) I believe learning can be further optimised when students are living in more reasonable conditions.

2) The level of discomfort that I experienced while living in there gave me an itch that now must be scratched. It has made me want to improve conditions to provide a better quality of life in general.

With a small donation, we can work towards getting the students off the ground and on to a wooden platform. This is the first step, as it ensures better hygiene and helps the students with their sleeping process which is vital for learning.

The Story Brand

Human Resource Development and Language –

The brand name speaks for itself. It tells a story about learning, teaching and growing.

The organisation is built by some of the Khmer who learned about the ‘Science of Life’ program.

This program was founded because someone had a vision to implement a system of education that would break many young Cambodians out of the cycle of poverty by teaching life skills and mindset development.

As a result, there are many Cambodians who have gained a lot from this cult like system for learning and have gone on to open their own schools that teach the same principles to their students.

I have come close with many different minds in Cambodia, and I’ve been so intrigued by the ones who have been able to adopt a mindset for confidence, leadership, resilience and self sacrifice.

This program tells its own story, just like HDLF do. The school is built on people who have come from poverty and despite the intensity of their reality, they are willing to stand on the front line in order to end as much suffering as possible.

When you know what it’s like to truly suffer, whether that is physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually you develop an itch that must now be scratched. You experience a certain level of pain and all of a sudden there is this urge to solve a problem that ends the suffering or at least reduces the possibility for yourself and others around you.

That is one part of the organisations message that I am in love with. There is an underlying emphasis on mindset and wisdom sharing.

A sick roof top view in Phnom Penh at a bar called ‘Le Moon’.

Phnom Penh becomes so vibrant at night. The glamour of the Cambodian corporate world comes out to life, as you watch men and women sitting at candle lit tables, sipping red wine in their office attire.

It took me right back to those days in corporate Sydney. Those glitzy feeling Friday nights after a weeks full of hustle and bustle.

I loved the fact that we were looking down at a temple. I remember starring down at churches in Sydney. It helped me reconcile with the fact that I was amongst a society from the East.

Same same, but different 👌

The leader of the pack, you bark orders at everyone else in the gang of kids. You are the one to come up with all of the creative, mischievous ideas and you gather everyone around to help execute on them.

Around the volunteers, you are the ballsy one, literally and figuratively. You flash your private parts constantly and then you check over your shoulder to make sure your parents didn’t see your disgusting display. You aren’t afraid to push our buttons with your annoying, childish, younger brother-like behaviour.

You wake us up from our afternoon naps just because you are in the mood to play and you want attention. I have come so close to throwing my shoes at your head on multiple occasions.

At school, you are said to be the class clown. You don’t look very strained after a day at school. It doesn’t look like you do much but think about when you get to go home and getting laughs out of others.

You get worked hard at your parents shop though 😂 I love telling you to go fold your boxes while I chill with a beer after a hard days work.

You are a menace with a sweet heart, though. You have delivered plates of fruit to me before, a generous act on your part.

You will continue to be a menace, age won’t matter.

We love our Manoot 😏

When you get to experience a life of poverty and lack, firsthand;

I did an exercise recently where I was made to pick at my mind, digging deep into finding out certain things about myself that I did not know on a conscious level.

Although money and materialism means very little to me, I’ve always had this burning desire to build an abundance of wealth. I’ve had this desire since I was a child and I thought it was time I found out why this desire exists within.

After some hours of deep reflection and analysis, I brought some of these underlying desires to conscious levels of mind where I could view them clearly.

Having an abundance of wealth does not mean I can go and chase those short term highs by purchasing fancy cars and big homes.

Having an abundance of wealth to me means being able to create more opportunities for myself and those around me. It’s about having the means to create or chase certain profound experiences that can shape me as a person in order for me to improve on myself and those around me.

It means flying away on a whim, getting to enjoy life for its spontaneity, because those moments are usually the best ones that breed the most joy.

It means being able to obtain the best education and wisdom that exists currently and being able to apply that to my life and those around me in order to improve quality of life, in general.

Most importantly, it means I can give more. When there is more to give, there is more to receive and vice versa.