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Shake'n it Up

Made in ___________ .

CAMBODIA | Saturday, 11 April 2009 | Views [404]

If you're wearing GAP or Old Navy fashions, please take a moment to identify the birthplace of your garment. Does your tag read "MADE IN CAMBODIA?"

Based on the 1996 Trade Agreement between the US and Cambodia, textile factories started popping up all over Cambodia. Working conditions and wages increased and created much-needed jobs for the Cambodians. Below is my fictional interpretation of the early years of the life of a Tshirt:

A clear spring evening, 12 years ago: The Khemai gather in the marketplace, crack open their Angkor beers, turn up their TVs and celebrate their new jobs in the factories.

Humid summer morning 10 years ago: A truck and it's driver carrying loads of GAP labels breaks down just meters away from an International Primary school. Children, with their freshly pressed uniforms and backpacks strapped on tight, are arriving on the back of motorbikes. The truck driver, a bit concerned about his valuable load of goods, runs for help. What should he do? His truck will not make it to the port on time! He rushes into the first open door to find a group of children gathered around a single table, sketching out beautiful designs of the country, the people...and what's this...a beer label?

The truck driver's entrepreneur side was starting to shine as he observed the art. What if these beautiful sketches were screened onto the Tshirts in his truck? He'd be able to sell them for loads of money to the wealthy travelers passing through town! And so...he did.

A couple of years later: 10 Tshirt designs are chosen and printed in mass-quantities

Yesterday: These same 10 Tshirt designs still exist.

The story may be fiction, but there is truth behind the design. There is no originality. Every market in Siem Reap sells the same Tshirt design. It's a shame that graphic design is not highly regarded in these parts. But for $2 a pop, I couldn't resist.

Shopping at the night markets in Siem Reap was similar to Thailand. Shop owners trying their best to draw you in with their "special prices" or "quality goods." My only other purchase was a very unique and stimulating experience. A sign reading "guaranteed pleasure or your money back" instantly peeked my interest. Molly and I decided to go for it. Two ladies approached us with warm rags and thoroughly cleaned our feet. We were ready...ready to be eaten alive!

We dangled our feet into the pool below us and within seconds, hundreds of tiny little fish attacked our feet. They nibbled away at every part of my foot causing a tickling sensation. This stimulation at the bottom end of my body was more intense than a shot of espresso. I felt an instant rush of energy and couldn't help but laugh. Hundreds of fish were swimming head first towards my bare skin, eating away all of the dead cells. Eight minutes and $1.50 later, I was fulfilled.

Siem Reap was incredibly beautiful and full of adventure. Other than the ruins of Angkor Wat, I spent my days riding along the side streets on my bike, observing the everyday life of the locals. I often stopped at schools, observed, shot photographs, talked to the kids...it was so fulfilling. I'd browse the day markets, walk through the parks and shoot more photograph of the French Colonial architecture. During a delicious breakfast of yogurt, fresh fruit and muesli, I started chatting up with three guys next to us. They were all from the states, (of course, I met more Americans) but were volunteering for the Peace Corps in Thailand. It was refreshing to this dynamic trio and we ended up spending the rest of our time in Siem Reap.

It was very difficult for me to say goodbye to Siem Reap. I recommend this humble city to anybody traveling around SE Asia. Accommodations and food are more than affordable. Our guest home was only $10.00 a night (total) for three girls. The French-inspired guest home couldn't have been more than a couple years old so it was very clean and was almost too good to be true. Their amenities included free bike rentals, internet access and bottled water. That alone would have cost more than the room!

Hannah, Molly and I weren't so lucky when we arrived in Phenom Phen. I spent less than 24 hours in this city and couldn't wait to leave. We were all cranky, tired and mentally drained from the 6 hour bus ride and Phenom Pehn was pure chaos. Eight lanes of traffic, pollution, humidity, filth and locals that were incredibly rude. I'm sure Phenom Phen had much to offer, but I wasn't in the state of mind to explore.

Before my flight to Bangkok, I had a few hours to educate myself on the genocide that spread throughout Cambodia just thirty years ago. I visited the killing fields and the Tuol Sleng Museum. Their history is really worth investing a few minutes of reading time. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuol_Sleng_Genocide_Museum It was a tragic episode in history and I was deeply moved. The information was displayed well at both the killing fields and Tuol Sleng, but I was frustrated when I read a sign that compared the Cambodian genocide to the Holocaust, explaining that what had happened to Cambodia was much worse. How do you compare two separate genocides? What makes one worse than the other?

I kept asking myself that question on my way to the airport...I had an entire hour in a tuk tuk to process the genocide. Farewell Cambodia. 

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