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CAMBODIA

Learning Khmer

Story by Jesse Morrow October 29th, 2013

KIDS, STREETS, MONKS, TEMPLES, VILLAGE & CITY

I had the chance to travel to Cambodia in August, 2013. My trip was based around shooting a short film for the Portland Non-Profit Courts For Kids. We were building a court in a small village outside Siem Reap. After shooting was completed I had the opportunity to travel across the country to Phnom Penh. These are the images that were captured.

THE KIDS

A short walk down the dirt road you see below took me to a school where I had the chance to see young Khmer kids in their learning environment. In Cambodia these schools are a huge beacon of hope for the future. You see from 1975-1979 during Pol Pot's regime, the Khmer Rouge emptied these classrooms and forced the children into intensive labor. Education was abolished and the previously educated were killed. Many of the children pictured here had parents or grandparents who were not only encouraged to be uneducated but forced.

We handed out toothbrushes to children in 7 or 8 classrooms. Each time the children were asked how often they should brush their teeth. Every student raised his or her hand and was able to answer: three times per day. The students were then asked to raise their hand if they owned a toothbrush. In each classroom not a single hand was raised. This is because they cannot afford one.

The price of a tooth brush at the market just down the street from this school was around $1.00

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THE STREETS

Riding down the streets of Kralahn village on the back of a scooter was quite exhilarating. My eyes jumped back and forth from each side of the street focusing on small markets selling gasoline in glass jars or hand made baskets. All the while more scooters instinctively moving around me in every direction with no real organization.

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THE MONKS

Buddhism is the religion of about 95% of the Khmer population. Temples like the ones you see below were sprinkled all across the country. These young monks were a bit shy but they agreed to let me take photos of their morning routine.

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THE TEMPLES

Outside of Siem Reap I took in the sites of several ancient temples including Angkor Wat. The structures and intricacies in design were unbelievable. Walking around Angkor Wat at sunrise felt like going back in time or being reincarnated as Indiana Jones.

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THE VILLAGE

During the rainy season this fishing village near Kampot will essentially flood almost up to the bottom of each house. It was incredible to see the locals preparing for the season. Men working on boats and women balancing down steep ladders are a few of the images I captured. I had mixed emotions while boating through this village. Coming from a week of living with a community and building a sport court with locals, it felt wrong as an American tourist to be taking photos of people I didn't know and didn't share any commonalities with. I still took photos, in part because I couldn't resist the selfishness of capturing the beauty of this place. As a relatively new photographer this is something that I continue to battle with. My hope is that in sharing these images you will be moved to find out more about this interesting place and the people who call it home.

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THE CITY

A 4-6 hour bus ride from Siem Reap will take you down a very bumpy road and eventually land you in Phnom Penh. Anna, my friend from Seattle moved to Phnom Penh about a year ago. The excitement of seeing her thriving in a new environment was an inspiration for me. Being in the city during an election was a little scary as riots broke out on a few occasions. Luckily I was safe and sound and watched from a distance as a military truck was burning. Being more populated, moto rides and market places in the city were also more intense. There are no traffic rules and I found my self on several occasions holding on the back of a strangers scooter going down a 4 lane road on the wrong side of the median. Then again, what did I expect paying only $1 for a ride across town. The opportunity of experiencing Phnom Penh is one I hope to repeat in the near future.

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FROM MY PHONE

Below are a few images from my iphone. You can see a glimpse of the market places, children holding up toothbrushes, a school converted to a prison during Khmer Rouge and 3 men on a scooter.

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Footnote: Big thanks to Courts For Kids for bringing me along & my friend Anna for showing me her new world. Take a look here to see the video that I shot ---------> https://vimeo.com/75807269
Cambodia
LICENSE PHOTOS FROM THIS TRIP