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Introduction to Cambodia

If someone woke me up in the middle of the night and asked:

"What is Cambodia? First thought!"

I would reply:

"Cambodia is a state of mind…"

Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm temple, świątynia, appsara, tancerka, płaskorzeźba, świątynia w dżungli
Bas-relief apsara in the mysterious temple of Ta Prohm

Until the Industrial Revolution, neither the Sumerians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Mayans, Chinese, Hindu, nor any other civilization did have such capitals and cultures as the Khmers had. I am not saying that the Khmer culture was better, more perfect, or more humane. I'm saying the Khmers had enormous momentum.

Indeed, nine hundred years ago, they showed a grandeur that would be difficult to achieve even in the 21st century.


The Series "About Cambodia"

Acquiring accurate information about Cambodia requires archangelical patience; I didn't know about it when I started this Sisyphean job. Initially, it was supposed to be one article with a handful of interesting facts. While working on this text, as later on in the entire Doctorate in Patience, I went through ups, downs, revelations, and periods of frustration because Cambodia is not easy to tell. Before I disciplined myself to go on, I wrote and paused, sometimes for months. I kept growing, changing, deleting, and regrowing the text.

I've gone through hundreds of articles, websites, and excerpts from books, encyclopedias, and blogs that are more or less credible. I sifted through countless online academic publications and recalled dozens of interviews from my notes and memory. For months I struggled with several extensive foreign-language publications; every night, I translated an excerpt from a scientific jargon alien to me. In English and Polish, bit by bit, I was learning things about Cambodia that would not have occurred to me despite moving to Asia more than half a decade ago.

My English proficiency, polished with years of working in an international field, was shamed when faced with half a thousand foreign words in a mere 100-page scientific publication from the 1940s. These activities slowed my work down by at least several weeks.

More than once, I thought it was all for nothing. I sought exciting facts and historical curiosities, only to discover contradictory information a moment later. It took me hundreds of hours to fish a pinch of solid knowledge from the ocean of disinformation. I wonder how others control the process of acquiring actual knowledge. At some stage, I put off writing "About Cambodia" to spend several dozen hours learning to verify the truthfulness of the information. It wasn't the only time I stopped writing to better prepare for it.

In this process, a bias emerged about who wrote a particular source text.

Is it a local man,

government or non-governmental organization;

whether it is a Khmer or Indian scientist

(Cambodian culture, to a great extent

is based on the legacy of Hinduism),

or a Western one;

but if it's a Western one,

is it rather European or American,

and whether colonial, postcolonial or maybe neutral;

whether he is leaning toward the theory of Indian colonization in Cambodia,

or instead, he argues that the Khmer have risen to power

without outside interference;

is this someone a missionary, a passionate,

or strictly an academic,

but if so: is he a historian, linguist, or anthropologist;

or perhaps he forgot to mention it in his professorial resume

that he is a professor of bridge building,

and writes about Cambodia out of boredom;

or maybe he is a traveler,

and then: is he or she a true traveler,

a petty one, or popularity-seeking influencer;

or is it a journalist apparently looking for sensation,

where the potential is to blow the catchy news up;

or maybe they are historical theorists-conspirators

hidden under a neatly tailored cloak of words and ideas,

who seek attention and fame

succumbing to confirmation effects

and wishful thinking.

How many times have I crossed the finish line in the glory of completion, only to realize (thanks to one additional page of source materials) that these paragraphs are biased. Maybe they hurt someone I did not give a voice to due to insufficient investigation. Sometimes being fair is just a matter of changing a word or adding two sentences. Still, sometimes you must delete a few thousand words of an article and write everything from scratch or abandon it.

There are also souls in Cambodia that are not allowed to speak about their pain and suffering, and only a handful of good people stand for them. These are brave individuals for whom the world can only be grateful, but my heart is torn apart by the burning need for their existence.

This paragraph was put here to clarify that I have not given up. I am still collecting materials for the "About Cambodia" series; they will make at least eight different articles. I divided my work into portions and will write alternately: once something sweet or bitter and this somewhat documentary series at another time. Working on this series is bittersweet torture because I would like to focus on the country's seductive, stunning miracles, pieces of paradise, and the taste of its ambrosia. I would also like to tell you about the hardships of living in Cambodia and how it revealed the echoes of its recent tragedies to me. The thought of the latter brings moisture to the eyes and causes that feeling when you want to hide your face in your hands.

This is an introduction to the series.

Doctorate in Patience will grow for a long time, and not only Cambodia but humanity will become its stage, too.


Southeast Asia

is filled with ancient relics, artifacts, secret gestures, superstitions, taboos, and social expectations. Some places in the region seem unbelievably modern, but they are only so in appearance. It is the 21st century, but even the young still succumb to tradition and conventions in this corner of the world. People's lives in local communities are shaped by surrounding conditions, and everyday human life reflects them. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that specific values have become outdated or expired in the West or that social development in the East and the West follow different paths. Asia is walking its own course, as the West does, which I am sure will level someday.

Centrum Singapuru, Gardens by the Bay, hi-tech, technologia, noc, światła, kolonia brytyjska, Azja Południowo-Wschodnia
The ultra-modern, futuristic center of Singapore at night



There is no doubt that in Cambodia—above all sanctities—the family is the most important one.

The family can do anything, but not in the sense that first comes to mind. In good times, the typical Cambodian household will receive a separate article on this blog. Meanwhile, we are in Cambodia as it really is. We will see with our own eyes how this traditional, constant and unshakable land oscillates, flashes, and transforms. You might get the impression that kaleidoscopes go to Cambodia to do doctorates in Kaleidoscopy.

Old listeners of my Cambodian stories often share with me the reflection:

— This is how the world used to be!

The series "About Cambodia" is not meant to be a literary and adventure series, although I took part in all the adventures described on the blog. The cycle will be based on facts, actual events, numbers, and personal experiences. My own opinions will be clearly marked.

Król Kambodży w Chaktomuk Conference Center na międzynarodowym wydarzeniu ASEAN
The King of Cambodia, Norodom Sihamoni, seen from my seat at an international event

I will not go into politics, although I was close to it. It will be about what Cambodia is like on the enigmatic pages of its history, what is certain, and what we only think happened. I met several government ministers. A photo of me was once posted on the official profile of the Prime Minister of Cambodia, which made some Khmers gain seriousness in my presence and keep their foreheads lower. I was seated not far from the King at the official state and international ceremonies. I used to attend luncheons and meetings in trendy cafes in the company of Cambodian princesses. Such things are not noticeable in the Western world. In Asia, gesture, physical distance, and attitude create a parallel reality and speak louder than words.

Cambodia is like Science: little is known for sure, and each new piece of information reveals an uncomparably greater field of ignorance. This stick has two ends. We can sum up what we know and analyze how we do not know other things. This way, we can build bridges connecting the islands of knowledge sparsely spread on the ocean of mystery.

The Khmer Kingdom cannot be precisely described because it defies logic, leaves a wide field for interpretation, confuses the senses, and deceives even a seasoned observer. Many reliable and thesis-based publications about Cambodia contradict and even exclude each other. Many matters of everyday life are invisible and have to be guessed. One needs to learn the specific hidden under-the-skin code of this culture.

Following the local thinking, "why get interested and ask questions if it is already "clear"?" It is that one innocent trick of Tradition and similar Things.

For many centuries the people of Cambodia were reserved in writing about themselves. Perhaps they were attached to the "here and now" and were not tempted to leave texts about their own times to future generations. Only kings and the most powerful had paeans carved with long lists of gains, trophies, achievements, and good deeds in their honor. Perhaps for kings, as gods, this privilege was reserved. However, not all got lost. The country lies in the middle of centuries-old trade routes, so the message about the Khmer ancestors reached us thanks to the expeditions from other civilizations passing through Khmer lands. Khmer emissaries were received at the courts of kings and emperors in distant lands. Foreign travelers expressed great admiration for the Khmer almost two thousand years ago.

Author's Knowledge

I self-studied Cambodia's past without the intention of writing. I am just curious about the history of this country. I sourced social knowledge from everyday life and long conversations with my Khmer employees from various local ethnic groups. I was acquainted with an excellent Khmer researcher traveling around the country. She adjusts her looks to the locals to gain their trust and observe and scientifically analyze social and cultural phenomena.

How and why does the researcher dress up to resemble the visited tribes? She simply follows local norms. She adjusts her vocabulary, accent, grammar, elements of clothing, and attitude to behave naturally to the local standard, which does not have to mean naturality in our understanding. It is worth mentioning that Cambodia's ethnic diversity is enormous. Some local groups like to isolate themselves from the outer world and even from neighboring villages. Sometimes these neighbors show hostility to one another. Trust is rare, and breaking the ice takes a different way with each ethnic group. The Cambodian (de facto Asian) attachment to family plays a central social role.

Mister Marcin z panią minister kultury Kambodży, Chaktomuk Conference Hall, ASEAN cultural celebrations, wydarzenia rządowe w Kambodży, kulturalne wydarzenie
In the company of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage of Cambodia, Ms. Phoeurng Sackona, during an event accompanying ASEAN International cultural events

I have learned many things from professors at my Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh and other Khmer people. I gained knowledge about culture from numerous spoken and written sources. Above all, I participated in the work on cultural development in the school, academic, government, and non-governmental environments. I have worked with Cambodian identity's leading creators or revivals in art.

I have devoted a lot of time to my own studies. My Khmer teacher and a few rare Khmer language textbooks provided me with a handful of curiosities. I have visited museums, visited Angkor Wat twice, read various publications, and looked at several articles in several languages. Wikipedia confirms or contradicts some information but shares interesting sources, often relevant and helpful.

Most importantly, investigating it, I lived in Cambodia for over two and a half years.

Despite its considerable size, the series "About Cambodia" summarizes what I have read, listened to, and watched. I will try to talk in an exciting way to facilitate this path so that the patient, who read articles till the end, can close the Blog page feeling a bit richer.

How to Think About Cambodia

When I write this article, I have been living on the Hindu island of Bali for a few years. Paradoxically, this is crucial to my understanding of the Khmer and their history. A close, daily relationship with the Balinese people allowed me to learn the thought of Hinduism, its customs, practices, and superstitions; this peculiar way of life. The Khmer practiced mainly Hinduism for about one and a half thousand years, and only a few hundred years ago, following the example of their kings, they began to lean towards Buddhism.

Throughout almost the entire history of the country, these two great religions have coexisted peacefully. I find pretty significant similarities (or better say: parallels) between them, for example, observing the religiousness of the believers, ceremonialism, and art, including the traditional Khmer dance, which directly refers to the Hindu tradition and derives from it.

Besakih temple, świątynia na wyspie Bali w Indonezji, niebo, wieżyczki, chmury, zielona trawa oraz piękny pejzaż
The Hindu temple of Besakih on the slopes of the active volcano Gunung Agung, Bali

One can get the impression that such a beautiful and harmonious existence of Hinduism and Buddhism was possible everywhere. We are in Cambodia, away from the Indian source of both doctrines. It created exceptional cultural circumstances in which different religions were practiced on the same ground, intertwining with primitive native beliefs. Many readers will probably think warmly about good people sharing one country despite differences, but it wasn't quite like that. I write about the legal existence of Hinduism and Buddhism in the history article; two religions just paid off. Dominant Hinduism placed the king in an equal position with the gods, the people were divided into castes, and many remained slaves. For the authorities and the powerful, this means nothing but benefits. On the other hand, followers of Buddhism eagerly made pilgrimages and created routes that favored trade and stimulated economic development. Cambodian rulers strengthened their power and expanded their empire thanks to two religions.

And then they built the most enormous and unmatched temple in the history of mankind. The kings were worshiped as divine entities in that gigantic temple. It was nine hundred years ago.

The Khmer people are now a predominantly Buddhist nation, so only the Balinese made me aware of the cultural and spiritual remnants of Hinduism in Cambodia that I was unaware of. The Balinese helped me understand critical aspects of Hinduism and its incredibly complex mythology, which they believe in like ancient Greeks followed their tale. Under the umbrella of Buddhism, both religions continue to penetrate Cambodian culture to the core. Khmer believe in ghosts, and ghosts' domain is night; I mention it in case any traveler wonders why Cambodian streets are so empty at night. Primal beliefs, animism, are still practiced, and ancestors' worship completes the picture.

My Reader now understands that I did not study history at the university but satisfied my own curiosity about Cambodia. I don't say this to release myself from responsibility for the Blog's content. I advise using reliable sources for detailed studies. However, since I dare to write and explain to MY people about NOT my own country, I should mention its genesis, history, and essential features. I try to keep the consistency of facts, but the facts are just numbers listed in soulless records. For the Blog, the most important thing is to present the context resulting from these facts.

Świątynia Uśmiechniętego Buddy Bayon w Angkor Wat, błękitne niebo, chmury, odbicie świątyni w wodzie
"Temple of the Smiling Buddha," Bayon, Angkor Wat. It has Hindu carvings and inscriptions despite its Buddhist use.

When the Reader immerses in the series "About Cambodia," I loyally warn them that the essential questions rarely have one straight and simple answer in this part of the world. It's probably more or less like in the Western world, with the only difference that in Asia, nothing is clear, and at least this one thing is clear. Meanwhile, in the West, someone strives that we see it all clearly, just not the way it is.

On a more down-to-earth side, the peoples of the East are most strongly attached to the moment. They don't embalm the past, they don't fetish it, or spend their lives planning the future.

They let some things go, and other things come.

It is part of the religion and order of the universe.

It's a way to live in the middle —

between the past and the future.


What Will Be Included In the Series

Nations and civilizations go through ups and downs. Khmer history is a testimony to this, which I express in the Doctorate in Patience.

The series includes articles about history, language, climate, ethnic groups, and art. There will be a disenchantment of Sanskrit, unnecessarily attributed to gods. This ancient Indo-European language has been mistakenly taken as the speech of gods, the language of magic, by some lovers of the so-called "spiritual path," one particular kind of spiritualism, and these particular individuals—gurus dressed in white tablecloths and searching for the energy of the universe running through them. It will turn out that an utterly alien to the West Khmer language, representing a rare Austronesian family, has mysterious traces linking it with Latin, English, or Polish. Time will show what else will find its way into the cycle.

To be exact: the word "guru" means a teacher. This term is used by children to address teachers in schools in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Khmers and Cambodians

Anticipating this common question: what is the matter with the Khmer and Cambodians? The issue of nationality is complex. In short, Cambodia is the relatively recent name of old geographic land.

The Khmer are probably named after one of the ancient tribes. They are historical people and the most numerous nation currently inhabiting Cambodia. Many Khmer minorities live in the border area in neighboring countries, and part of the population fled the country during the genocide and civil war of 1975-1979.

Cambodians are both the Khmer people living in Cambodia and people of other nationalities who became Cambodian citizens due to wars and the shifting of borders. Among them are Vietnamese, Laotians, Thais, and dozens of indigenous groups ranging from several dozen to several hundred thousand members. Some people arrived here from distant countries and islands and survived thousands of years without assimilating! They use locally unrelated languages and have their own writing, traditions, and religion. I mentioned above, many groups tend to socially isolate; Indochina's ethnic diversity is proof.

One of these peoples, the Cham, arrived at least two thousand years ago from the archipelagos of the Indian Ocean. They created their own state and operated in the area of today's Central and Southern Vietnam for over 1.5 thousand years. Currently, the Chams settle in small, scattered territories, creating ethnic islands on the map of Cambodia and Vietnam. The proof of their long presence is the name of one of the largest cities in the country, Kampong Cham. Kampong in Khmer means "port," and in Cham—"village, settlement." Their language is the closest to this of the Aceh Province of North Sumatra, Indonesia.

Traditional Chinese minorities have lived in Cambodia for hundreds of years, concentrated in large cities. In the mountains and jungles, separated from the outside world, some indigenous people have not adopted any foreign religions and profess primitive beliefs. In addition, they use separate languages and dialects.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. These examples prove how diverse Cambodia is. Interestingly, the people who consider themselves the most legitimate and genuine descendants of the ancient Khmer do not live in Cambodia. They remain seated in the Mekong Delta, the Khmer civilization's nest, occupied several hundred years ago by the influx of Vietnamese.

There is a sizeable Vietnamese city in the Mekong River Delta today, Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City).

Festiwal kwiatów w centrum Sajgonu, Ho Chi Minh City, centrum miasta, kolorowe kwiaty w fantazyjnych formach, dwie Wietnamki fotografujące się
Flower Festival in the Ho Chi Minh City center (Saigon)

On top of this, we have to add information overload in the local dispute. I met various specialists brought to Cambodia for carrying activities between mixed, regional, and border tribes and communities to enhance peace between them. Some blame others for past and current events, and sometimes aggression occurs.

Problem With Discovering History

Unlike many other ancient peoples, the Khmer are still alive. Despite this, not so much information about their country can be found in English-language sources. From the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, the French were the primary colonizer in the Indochina region. The French will argue Cambodia was formally a protectorate, but seriously, what is the practical difference? The French developed extensive Indochina documentary literature and deserve chapeau bas for this. However, their occupation of Cambodia and some of the region somehow luckily matched with the era of courageous adventurers greedy for ancient discoveries, the rise of archeology, and other contemporary modern sciences. One evening, over an elegant cocktail in Phnom Penh, I overheard some stories of French chronicling achievements. I joined the conversation and expressed regret that these works were not available in English. In reply to my word of regret, I received not a disguised suggestion to educate myself. ("Because no translation will EVER resemble the complexity and refined meanings of the French language").

Over two thousand years of history, Cambodia has gone through many stages. First, it was loose, often changing organization of tribes, a kingdom, a vassal, and a hegemon until it grew into an empire. Later, weakened, it became a French protectorate (or a colony). The discussions on this subject do not end there. A controversy still divides the sides of this conflict. Some protested against calling Cambodia a colony "because it was only a protectorate." Others, the most affected, reduce the difference between a protectorate and a colony to "a word on paper."

"Protectorate or not, the consequences are clear," a local Angkor Wat guide told me.

"See these sculptures right there?" he asked me.

"Where?" I asked.

"Here," he points the finger at an empty lot.

"Which ones?" I didn't know if he was joking or making a fool of me. Khmers are not likely to joke. It's too close to losing face for them.

"Why can't you see them?" the guide pushed me further.

I was dumbfounded. The guide clapped hands and exclaimed:

"Because they are all in France!"

There is no doubt that in one form or another, the country was part of French Indochina from 1863 until gradually reclaiming independence in the 1940s and 1950s. The older Khmer generation speaks French, just as Eastern Bloc children understand Russian.

This subject gets more difficult since the leader of the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot, was educated in France. He undoubtedly brought his interest in revolution from there. Yet, to be fair, the incomplete French education of the dictator and murderer of the nation does not prove the role of France in the tragedies played out under Pol Pot's auspices in any way.

Cambodia's revival has been going on for several decades. The country has been recovering since 1979 from an agony close to total destruction. The last few centuries have not been favorable to Cambodia, and the last half-century has been the hardest. The Khmer national heritage has been accumulated for over two millennia. I learned that the lion's share of what survived centuries of invasions, political changes, and an attempt to final extermination by the Khmer Rouge is rarely in Cambodian hands.

Migrations, demographic and political changes, and a greedy jungle that covers abandoned human settlements within several years cause another difficulty in researching history. There are remains in southern Laos of what is likely the legendary ancient capital of the tribe known as the Khmer. The Khmer probably started their expansion there. The appearance of this Laotian settlement somehow resembles tales and legends about the nest and the "beginning of the beginnings" of the Khmer tribe. We have insufficient and imprecise information to confirm this as fact. There is, however, no doubt that the region and settlement were Khmer in antiquity.

The Khmers further complicate the matter. Many told me, with complete conviction, significantly different versions of their history. Some French argue about France's irreplaceable role in saving Cambodia. In contrast, others emphasize the exploitation, injustice, and harm done to the Khmer. For some reason, the professors of Phnom Penh universities limit themselves to expressing only general opinions. They refer to commonly known facts and share very few thoughts. On the other hand, some shared knowledge and understanding from the Khmer perspective. I learned an interesting approach from a different point of view from a genius dancer. This remarkable individual excavated the ancient traditions of court dance by studying thousand-year-old writings and masterpieces of art enchanted in stone.

I am repeatedly amazed by the lack of historical knowledge of well-educated Khmer. I have never met any educated person who simply appeared knowledgeable in this matter. It might have been a lack of luck, but believe me, I have worked with Cambodians for several years and asked them these questions. I worked at a Fine Arts University. Some of the professors working there were educated in Europe. Yet, even they could not explain traditional art with terminology familiar to me. I owe a better understanding of art to the outstanding Khmer painter Dina Chhan.

płaskorzeźba naścienna w kamieniu w Angkor Wat, kambodża, trzy appsary tańczą na owocach i kwiatach lotosu
Apsaras dancing on a lotus fruit, wall relief, Angkor Wat

Khmer are reluctant to talk about their feelings, thoughts, customs, and culture, and I like to refer to this with a pinch of humor. Showing emotions don't fit a decent person, and ordinary life matters are obvious things (so why would we talk about them).

People of local nature are not able to compare themselves to others. They cannot realize their own qualities that are apparent in foreign eyes. They don't know about their otherness because that would require a point of reference, which they don't have. Possibly, they can compare themselves to their neighbors, whom someone like me, from a far culture, cannot know and understand at first, too.

Some things belong to the unspoken nature of things. They are specific to life and existence, so people hardly acknowledge and discuss them. Therefore, asking the Khmer about their culture, country, and relation with the rest of the world is like asking a fish what it means that the water is wet.

The reader should know that this is what Cambodia is like.

Just as you find it.

Just as you take it.

How It All Really Was

History and truth, let alone true history, are one thing; find it, dear Reader! Secondly, everyone has their own Cambodia, which is, to a large extent, the result of curiosity and experience. You must bring a blank sheet to Cambodia, draw a table, and starting from square one, arrange things from the beginning into two rows entitled "as it should be" and "as it should not be."

The Khmer Empire's great rulers (9th - 14th centuries) had the power and nearly insane call to build vast monuments of architecture in the middle of the jungle but left few writings and documents behind. Perhaps kings considered themselves divine enough to believe their history would survive in human memory. What was not carved in stone was likely written on materials available in the era. These writings had a natural right to decay and decompose in the humid, malarial atmosphere of the jungle without special care. The finds suggest that hundreds of libraries may have been full of religious texts, philosophical treatises, and literature a thousand years ago. But they are gone. After 1431 neighboring countries began dismantling the Khmer Empire, yet its dying power remained long admired. In 1860 the French explorer Henri Mouhot wrote about how low Cambodia fell. He claimed that the Angkor Wat construction "stands in a sad contrast to the state of barbarism into which the nation is now plunged."

The new research was carried out using modern airborne laser scanning techniques. It suggests that a thousand years ago, in this wilderness, a vast civilization could have been thriving at a level of development unknown to any ancient and medieval powers. Khmer nomenclature of the epochs may mislead. In Western science, antiquity ended in the fifth century AD. The Khmer Empire existed from the 9th to the 15th century AD. Still, the Khmer like to call it so proudly ancient, even though this period covers the second half of the Middle Ages in the West.

Moving On to Doctorate in Patience

Angkor Wat, Kambodża, mała kapliczka z kwiatami lotosu, ozdobami, płaskorzeźbą appsary, dywanikiem na kamiennej podłodze, złotymi modelami roślin
A tiny shrine commemorating the victims of genocide hidden in the ruins of an ancient temple in the jungle

My trip to Cambodia is as much philosophical as it is physical. This country is not only a place but also a state of mind. On the one hand, it is indigenous people's state of mind, and on the other hand, it is the one I achieved living among them. The new situation forced me to seek patience and inner peace, which I could not source outside. Cambodia can be what you want, and you can be whoever you wish to be there. The point is that you have to get to know Cambodia first.

It is worth knowing that it is challenging for people of such a culture, recent history, and social conditions to open up. Do not be surprised when they answer simple and general questions about life or the philosophy of existence in a roundabout way. They are great at it. Sometimes, however, this roundaboutness is a way to actually answer while it seems confusing at first. Sometimes, as Indians in the Charles May novels did, the answer does not seem to relate to the question but carries a hidden meaning. Sometimes silence is the answer.

I did not understand the local mentality, culture's intricacies, and communication nuances for a long time. I was like a blind man in the dark. I am always eager to listen and observe, and it helped me. When I could gain someone's trust, I turned into all ears to give the other person space to open their mind and heart.

Progress is a new idea in Cambodia. It is disliked by older generations, severely experienced by genocide and longing for the times of the old order. Nobody can monopolize the saying, "these used to be the times." People said this thousands of years ago and still say it today. Anyway

Someone's "times" always happen here and now.

The Khmer Rouge ruined Cambodia (1975-1979). Traumatized people resort to the known and proven to maintain the illusion or at least a delusion of control. When in fear, God is near. In countries of a living tradition, one does not need to seek anything because everything is already known.

It is enough to comply with expectations, and everything will be fine. This approach is already an outdated, old memory for us, the people of the West,

Isn't it?

Cambodia is a state of mind. I have no better name for it. Even when I lived there, it was hard for me to believe that such a country even existed...

And yet, for many people, it is the place they know and will only know as "this one," "the one and only" - world!

Walking through the streets of Phnom Penh, I already had the impression that Cambodia would become an ephemeral memory on the day of my final departure. It will be like clear fragments of a dream between the blobs of oblivion. Even while living there, I wondered if I would remember this country. Therefore, I carefully took notes and, with the help of local residents, translated its quirks and features into terms with which I was familiar.

So I could look at the world through Khmer eyes, listen with Khmer ears, touch the world with their touch, taste it with their taste and think with their thoughts.

Sometimes it seems to me that Cambodia miraculously confuses the arrow of time. This is just an illusion because the country keeps up well with the rest of the world. Cambodia has its own idea for the world solution or a total lack of that vision; choose what you think is true. Exclusively and uniquely, the old combines here with the new. If you ask me, the more I open my eyes to it, the more I refrain from judging whether it is right or wrong.

Let this serve as an introduction.

See you in the following parts of the "About Cambodia" series!

P.S. Articles in the "About Cambodia" series may be subject to corrections. I keep finding sources that change or enrich the previously gathered knowledge.

English edition subtitles:

Kaleidoscopy - In my native Polish language, a thing that often changes without control can be described as "changing like in a kaleidoscope." The word kaleidoscopy, as a profession, science and discipline, is my own invention.


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