Saturday, 29 January 2011

No Sleep Till Phnom Penh ....

Notice: Navel gazing has been temporarily suspended on this blog. Disruption is likely to last until the 14th of February.  We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused. The author would like to assure readers (if there are any) that every effort will be made to continue the same low standard of waffle despite the adjustment in subject matter.  Thank you for your patience during this time.

Today we fly to Phnom Penh ... a city I know so little about I don’t even know how to pronounce it.  Capital of Cambodia, some obscure travel blogs have suggested that its only been recently that murder and rape have become social taboos there.  I suspect this information is unreliable in the extreme ... but just in case ... I’ve taken some body armour and a male chastity belt.

I have told a few farmers where I’m going and the looks in response have varied between incredulous to social black balling.  “What are you going to learn there?”, they say adding at least one more adjective than quoted to add emphasis.

As I’m effectively in middle age (... something I’m struggling in my brain to accept ...) I can vaguely remember the pictures on TV of the horrific famine there ... I can recall a film called “The Killing Fields” achieving Oscar recognition ... and - based on limited information - Pol Pot still makes it onto my ‘Top 5 Bad Blokes that used to run countries’ list.

Cambodia has a significant part of its history written in blood with a pen of misery.  That history centres on agriculture. Our history centred on agriculture once too ... but that was four centuries ago, not three decades. Pol Pot’s version of Agrarian Communism put the farmers as the saviours of the country and intellectuals as the curse [interesting you can’t be both].  It didn’t work. People starved to death.

We live in a country where often agriculture is perceived as tenuous, adjacent to the core wealth and prosperity of our nation. In Cambodia - where 70% of its population are farmers - agriculture is everything, crucial, central. Almost the inverse reflection of ours.

To recover from the horrors of the past requires an extreme resilience that our generation, in our country, in our industry have thankfully never had to look for.  I know I will learn things in Cambodia that I won’t learn anywhere else.

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