Overheard is our series of snippets/conversations that we have with other travelers and/or locals along the way.
The best part of our day at Bun Lung's crater lake was huddling with the locals during a torrential downpour that quickly turned the lake grounds into a mud pit. While several people were incredibly friendly, we were most impressed by one boy who had just finished med school.
He grew up in an indigenous village by Ban Lung and was mentored by a German man from a local NGO. Instead of working the rice fields with his parents, he decided he wanted to be a doctor. He just completed med school and is doing his residency at Phnom Penh, with hopes to come back to his village and bring modern medicine to his former neighbors.
Though his parents still don't understand what all the studying is about, he completely gets it.
"I can offer a lot more to my village if I'm a doctor than if I'm a farmer," he said to me, over the pounding rain. "Instead of just helping my family, I can help everyone."
This long-term outlook is missing in most developing countries, but young people like this, who are inspired to see a different world, are certainly the best hope for a new future.
The other boys with him either worked for NGOs or were nurses. Like him, all spoke French and English and those who'd gone to university had grants from NGOs or government officials. None of their parents encouraged them to do what they were doing, perhaps because the "American dream" didn't ever make its way to Cambodia.
Interested in reading more about backpacking Cambodia? Check out our Cambodia destination pages.
What Do You Think?
Stories like this make us feel very fortunate, both for our parents' sacrifices and America's education system. Leave your thoughts in the comments.