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Posted by on Feb 27, 2013

Random Thoughts by Dave – Construction Workers, Garment Workers and Going Barefoot


For those of you following along, you can find my entire collection of ramblings here.  Welcome to part four.

  • I’ve now had the pleasure, on a couple of occasions, to interact with the students who attend empowerment training at the organization where I’m volunteering. It’s probably not good to make broad generalizations, but I’ve found the students, who are all attending various universities, to be extremely bright, not afraid to express their opinions and are getting a lot out of the guidance they are receiving here. I am hopeful and confident that this group of leaders will be a positive force for change in Cambodia and can truly make a difference in society.
Group of students from my NGO on a trip to the Killing Fields. Luckily they are studying French so I was able to communicate with them a little.

Group of students from my NGO on a trip to the Killing Fields. Luckily they are studying French so I was able to communicate with them a little.

  • They’re constructing a 9-story apartment building right next door to my office. From what I was told, unskilled laborers are paid $4 a day, while the few skilled laborers might get double that. The project also has enlisted the help of children, who should be attending school, but are instead doing some of the more heavy lifting for the project. Also, someone I work with just told me that a man in his 20s who was doing similar work in her neighborhood was just found dead in his room. apache web server . The man was from one of the outlying provinces and was working extremely hard and only spending around $1.50 a day for food so he would have more money to bring to his family.
The construction workers on the building next door.

The construction workers on the building next door.

  • Things are just as bad, if not worse, for garment workers here. This 2009 survey found that garment workers in Cambodia made an average of $79 a month, barely enough to live on.  This recent video captures the plight of workers whose factory was suddenly closed. They are owed money in back wages that are unlikely to be received.  The factory they worked at made underwear for stores like Walmart and H&M. Take a few minutes and watch the video, it’s very good and may make you think twice about where you buy your next pair. (Update as of March 2, 2013 – Walmart and H&M have agreed to pay the back wages of workers after a two-day hunger strike.)
  • Jill and I rarely argue. Both of us are fairly non-confrontational. But if there’s one thing that has been an ongoing conflict, and something that’s managed to find its way to Cambodia, is how loud music is played. Whether in the car or at home, Jill will oftentimes ask me to turn down the music. I’m chalking the issue up to my having a few years on her and attending a few more rock concerts than she (I no doubt suffered some damages at a Stevie Ray Vaughn show at UIC Pavillion in the 80s when I was right next to the speakers – thank you Ticketmaster!!!). Anyway, for our trip we packed as lightly as possible, so no portable speakers (though a friend of ours here has these and they’re great!), so I mostly play music on our iPad. Jill last night asked me to turn the music down. If you’ve ever seen an iPad, the speakers are a slightly larger version of what you would find on most smartphones, barely able to carry much sound through them even at the highest setting. So now, I hold the iPad in my lap while doing other things on it so it’s loud enough for me and she can still hear it across the room. Marriage is all about compromise!!!
  • Seems I’ve put back on a few of the pounds I lost early in the trip!!! Why am I so excited? Well, I finally found a couple of stores that sell cheese here, so I re-introduced it into my life. I was all set to believe that drinking less was responsible for me shedding the pounds, but now it’s obvious that cheese is the culprit to weight gain.
  • One of the best perks from my job – I get to go barefoot at the office!!! Phnom Penh is too dusty and dirty to have people wearing their shoes in the office so the tradition is to not wear shoes. It’s the same thing when you go into a home or any temple.
The sandal party at the stairs leading to the office.

The sandal party at the stairs leading to the office.

We went to see a movie last night at a local volunteer-run theater called Flicks (which has a great schedule, good food and cold drinks). You even take your shoes off before going into the screening room.

Shoeless life continues...even in movie theaters.

Shoeless life continues…even in movie theaters.



  1. It’s not so much the volume, for some reason the sound from the iPad hurts my ears. I know it’s strange.

    • I know what you mean. Pour quality sound is irritating. Also, Nate uses the same excuse of age and too many shows in his lifetime as a reason for being hard of hearing. But I think Nate really can’t hear and Dave just likes loud music. Now I’m going to watch that video…

      • I knew if anyone would understand, it would be you Kristina.

  2. Wouldn’t some ear buds help? Again, a most enjoyable and interesting article. You two sure keep me entertained and I must say educated. Miss you.

    • Good point Patti! Although Dave told me today that he plays it out loud because he assumes I want to hear it too. Which I mostly do. Miss you too!

  3. Dave,
    Big Al says he feels your pain, and understands your love for loud music! On the other hand I understand Jill!

    You have really open my eyes about the poor living and working conditions in Cambodia, and yes I will think twice when I am at the store, or when I complain about my job.

    Love you both and miss you more than I can say!

    • I definitely thought of you and Dad when I read that section of Dave’s post. What was the saying that you had about becoming your mother that was in the front bathroom forever??!

      • “Mirror, Mirror on the wall I am my mother after all”!

  4. I’m digging that you saw Stevie Ray live…Little Wing, I hope, was on the playlist….

  5. Umm, please keep your vicious attack articles to yourself and steer clear of my client, WalMart. We have a whole staff of people who can make your life VERY difficult…wait, you’re in Cambodia…

    • Perfect, they’re your client?! Talk to them for us!