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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.