In 2002, I still study at High School (Grade 12) and during the school vacation, I taking a bicycle
and cycling to Temples (Especially to Angkor Wat), just to practise the language with the Foreigners at
the weekend. At the Temple, I saw many tourists there and I did not care who they are, where are they from
as long as I seen White Skin, Blone Hair, Long Sharp norses as many Cambodian will call Barang. Barang
mean a direct translated to French people as Cambodia used to be a French Colonial for more than 80-
years. Then I just ran to them and start a conversation:
- I said: Hello, my name is Ben, I am a student, i'm here just to practise English, what is your name?
and some of tourists wouls spend a few minutes to talk with me and some of them will spend 10 or 15 minutes talking and teaching me with a new vocubularies as well.
One of those they, I did the conversation as usual, I saw a guy who standing in front of the water lyly pound talking a pictures with his big camera, tripod to get a good picture reflection from the water. Then I started to talk to that person the same conversation as other tourists before.
- I said: Hello, my name is Ben, I am a student, i'm here just to practise English, what is your name?
But that person did not talking to me at all, he only just turn his head and looked at me, then he look back into his camera and continue clicking his photos, not even one single word respond to me. I stood there for 3 to 5 minutes and I thought that I disturbed his work and I decided to walk out from there.
I climbed up to the middle tower of Angkor Wat (at that time there was no wooden steps at all), i was eating lunch with salted dry fish up there and I heard footstep walking behind my back, I looked up and I saw that guy (the man who took picture at the reflexion place), then i was thinking of myself (This man, i tried to speak to him when he was out there but then he did not want to talk to me as he was busy with his work, and now I am busy with my lunch, and i don't want to speak to him then.). I was just thinking of myself only. But then for a little while, he decided to talk to me:
He Said: Is it a good lunch?
I Said: Yeah..... for me.
He stood there for alomost 10-minutes, as I was not feeling comfortable that have someone standing behind and watching me eating lunch, then i decided to talk to him:
I said: Would you like to join my lunch?
He Said: Oh, yeah. If you don't mind.
I Said: No, no not at all. Please come in.
Then he told me his name, is John. And our conversation / friendship start from there. Then he asked me:
John Said: Why are you here at the temple?
I Said: I am here just to practise my English as I have studied and I don't want to forget it and plus it is a school vacation and we have no classes on.
John Said: Then i can teach you some new vocubularies, grammar & sentenses, is that ok?
I Said: That is awesome. Let's started then.
We had a great time together by learing from each other from 12.30pm afternoon until 5.30pm at the evening and he left from the temple back to his guesthouse. And he gave me his email address and we keep in touch with each other.
3: Ben's Live, Works & Saving
I start working from 6.00am until 3.00pm for the hotel reception, and also from 4.00pm until mid-night for
kitchen helper. I worked two jobs in one day and still doing this for 4-years in a row. In the hotel reception
i also help to carry clients lagguages to the room when they come to check-in, room down to the lobby when they
check-out, clients give me a tip $1.00 or $2.00, i keep in side my pocket, when i reach home, i roll it and
put in my piggy banks. I have done that for 4-years. In these 4-years, all i have eaten is instant noodle.
I spend $5.00 per month to buy a big box of instant noodle, it containing 50-small packages inside,
everyday (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) instant noodle for me.
Until 2009, John came to Cambodia again to celebrate certificate with me at ACE. After the ceremoney done, he said: You were mentioned on email that you have rent a room in the city to stay in as your parents'house is too far for you to cycling to and from, is it possible to visit your room rent?
=> I Said: Hummmm, but it is very small and don't laugh at it.
=> John Said: Well, I just want to see how and where do you live, that is it.
=> I Said: Yes, sure. Can.
When we reached at the place where i live and I asked him to come in and he looks around the places, and he asked: Is this the place you stay in?
=> I Said: Yes, this is it.
=> John Said: Are you sure? Is this the place you staying in?
=> I Said: Yes, this is a place where i rent for $45.00 per month and i have stayed here for 4-years already as you can see the Shirt you bought for me is hanging there, the bicycle you bought for me is still here too. Why it could not be a place where i rent?
I can see his mouth shaking, his eyes turn red and tear dropping down, he crying and walked outside. I see he walks outside and I quickly come inside to take off the mosquito net, floding the blanket, and put all of those on top of each other nicely, brushed a little bit and I call him to come in.
=> I Said: John, what are you doing out there? Come on in!!!
=> John Said: Yeah, give me a second.
When he came in and he talks to me, I cannot believe that you can live in such a place like that. You see under your sleeping bed, there is a running waste water, the smell, the trush & the mosquitos. It is not healthy at all Ben.
=> I Said: Yes, i know it is not healthy but what can i do? I just want to save the money to pay for the 50% school fee.
=> John Said: Let get out from here and I will find you a better place to stay in.
=> I Said: No, John. This is enough for me. Come on, you are not come here to cry, right? I have something for you. Come in. I took the three piggies bank under my sleeping bed and broke them all. John, help me to count this money from my saving for 4-years.
We both counting it and it went up to USD1200 from all three piggies bank. I have an envelope and I've written on it (John's school fee), then i put those money inside the envelop, I knee down and pass this to John and i say, John, this is a school fee for the 50% that we have agreed together, I knew it is not enough for now, but at least i can pay some to you and the rest i will pay later. It could help me to releast some of my streess as well.
John doesn't want to take it, but he known me from head to toes then he decided to take that money.
=> John said: Thank you so much for the school fee, I taking it now. Get up, please.
In a few minutes later,
=> John said: Ben, since I know you in 2002 until now, i did not know who is your parents. Is it possible to visit them?
=> I Said: Sure, but can we go tomorrow?
=> John Said: Yes, brilliant.
The next day, i took him with a scooter drive from Siem Reap city to my parents house located 13km away from city center. Once we reached at my parents house, My MOM & My DAD cooked the food for John and we all having Lunch together there. During the Lunch time, John was mentioned that:
=> John Said: Ben, the food your MOM cooked is very delicious. There would be something for us to do, is create a Cooking Class, because Tourists always looking for something else to do before or after the temples. I think it is a great idea of running the class Ben. What do you think?
=> I Said: Yes, we could. Why not?
We all having a great Lunch together and we shared fun with my parents as well. At the end of the day
=> John Said: Where is Mummy?
=> I Said: She is up there?
=> John Said: Ok, then i go to see her and you wait for me here then we will go back to city.
=> I Said: Yes, ok, no problem. Take your time.
John came towards my MOM and he gave all the money from the envelop to my MOM and MOM did not know what was inside, she quite happy and she said Orkun (Thank You). When John came down almost get on the scooter, my MOM ran very quickly toward Me & John and :
=> My MOM Said: Ben, why is this Foreigner gave me lots of money?
I Said: John, what are you doing? Why you gave all these money to my MOM? This is the money that i've been saving for 4-years in order to pay for the school fee. Why?
=> John Said: One day you will understand, Ben. (He put his hand on my head.)
=> I Said: I don't need to know one day John. I want to know now, why?
=> John Said: Ok, if you want to know then nothing can stop you from that at all. Yes, i gave all these money to your MOM because they are a most Friendliest people that i ever met, Very helpful even they don't speak English, They have made a very DELICIOUS food that I ever tasted, and I don't mind to pay for a Lunch?
=> I Said: Oh my god. A USD1200 for a Lunch is very expensive. No you don't have to pay for Lunch at all. And MOM, please don't take any 1-single dollar from there.
=> My MOM Said: No, No. I did not take any money out from that at all.
=> John Said: Hey, MOM. Then i will give you $100 for the Lunch then.
=> My MOM Said: Ort Yok Te, Orkun (No, Thank you)
=> John Said: Here is the $50 then
=> My MOM Said: Ort Yok Te, Orkun (No, Thank you)
John was very mad at me and he said, You are Bad boy. Let go to the Bank. We went to the Bank and it was not a complete day Bank for him and he have to come back for the next day to make a deposit. I did not know that he open an account for me and he deposit the $1200 into that Bank account for me, until now, I did not take any one single dollar from there at all. I make a deposit $100 or $200 each month deposit instead. We will use that money for an emergency for the orphan kids need only.
In 2005, i found a job at a hotel and I worked as a hotel Receptionist from 6.00am untill 3.00pm
and i get pay $65.00 per month from this hotel reception. Then i rent a small room in the Siem Reap
City for $45.00 per month and $15.00 extra for the Electricity & Water.
John, came from the US and asked me to staudy at one of the good school in Siem Reap as he have found it, call (ACE - Australian Center for Education)
=> John Said: I will help you to pay the school fee for 50% and the other 50% you have to respond by yourself, would that be ok for you?
=> I Said: It is a good opportunity for me to have a chance to study and develop my speaking skill, but how can i find the 50% to pay for the school fee? As my salary from the hotel is just enough to pay for the rent.
=> John Said: Ok, let make it this way as it could be much more easier then. I help to pay everything up front and you can payme back later when you have money, how about that?
=> I Said: It is a great deal but I did not accept his offer as I still could not find a way to pay off the school fee due to the low salary work. Plus i will have to support my youngest sister for her study and my parents too. So i rejected his offered.
=> John Said: Ben, if you don't got to study, your life will not be improve. Your life will be event worse. Only education can change your life.
=> Do you want to have a better life in the future?
=> Do you want to have a better job in the future?
=> Do you want to be a leader in the future?
=> Do you want to have a well pay job in the future?
I Said: Yes, of course i wanted, but that is in the future. As currently, you known that i only get a lower pay for $65.00 per month. I spend for the rent, electricity & water and it's gone. I have nothing to save.
=> John Said: I knew about that, but that is the only thing that i can help you, Ben. Think about it.
It took me 3-days to think about it and I get back to him with the answer,
=> I Said: Yes, i accepted your offered.
=> John Said: That is great, let's go to the school and registered then.
John paid everything up front for my school fee and i only go to study. Then John back to the US. For a month later I knew that my expenses is very high and i did not earn any money to pay for the school fee at all. Then i was cycling around the city to look for another job. It took me about more than an hour to cycling and asked around but no luck. And very unfortunately my bicycle was flat tire, then will have to find the place to fix the bicycle, i only have 1000 Riel ($0.25) in my pocket, lucky enough the bicycle fixed was only 500 Riel, so then i have another 500 Riel left. While i was waiting the bicycle to be fixed, I looked around then i saw a white paper stated on the tree and I was wondering what was that, then i came to have a look then i saw a job offer for a Kitchen Helper at one of the restaurant in Siem Reap, I was so happy. I took the paper and the bicycle cycling toward that restaurant and I spoke to the owner
=> I Said: Excuse me, Sir: Is your restaurant looking for a kitchen helper? And I think, i could be suitable fo this job as I cooked at home for my family and i also know how to speak some basic English as well. Please give me a chance.
Restaurant Owner: Where do you study English?
=> I Said: I study at ACE.
Restaurant Owner: Really? Are you sure?
=> I Said: Yes, here is the payment invoice from the school.
Restaurant Owner: Yes, you can work here at our restaurant. Since you are a beginner, then we will pay you $55.00 per month. Would that be ok for you?
=> I Said: Yes, that is very kind of you. But I will have to ask a permission for two hours for study at ACE from 6.00pm to 8.00pm, would you allow?
Restaurant Owner: Oh, then we have to minus your salary. Because this time is a busy time for us.
=> I Said: Oh, so then how much will you take it off?
Restaurant Owner: Well, so let minus $5.00 per hour then. So in total is $10.00 out from your salary.
I was thinking of myself that, So $55.00 per month and now he took off $10.00 out from it, then i only have $45.00 per month. That would be better than nothing so then i can save a bit from that. For a few minutes later, i respond to him.
=> I Said: Yes, ok. I agreed with your offered.
Then, i work with this restaurant for 4-years as a kitchen helper.
4: Ben Run the Class on John's Behalf
In 2009, after John was mentioned about creating a Cooking Class, and he try all his best to promote the class
but at that time we don't have TripAdvisor, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and we had a difficult time to
promote and we do not have many customers at all. We only do through hotels and many hotels in Siem Reap asking
for commission. As we are a not for profit cooking class and we do not give the commission to any of these
hotels and those hotellers said (no commission, no customers). And at that time, i still working at hotel too
and I did not have much time to run the class, I only run the class at the Weekend (Sat & Sun).
=> John Said: Don't worries Ben. The time will come by. So no pressure, just focus on your job and once you known that you would have enough time and experiences then you can carry on this.
Then John go back to United State since then and I still working at the hotel. Until 2012, John return to Siem Reap and he brough his Children come long as well. One Man (Jammy) and One Lady (Alice). We have had a good time together and sharing lots of fun with my family & John's family. Until the end of the day,
=> John Said: Ben, i have something wanted to tell you.
=> I Said: Yes, tell me. What is that.
=> John Said: I wanted to tell you since the early of the day, but i am not brave enough to say it out until now, if i don't tell you, then i will regret forever.
Ok, listen: I have plant a crop in Cambodia, and now my crop is growing well and healthy and my crop is old enough to give a shade to other people who need help.
=> I Said: What are you talking about John? I don't understand.
=> John Said: Ok, what i am saying is:
1: (I have plant a crop in Cambodia) Mean: You are the crop that i have planted. I sent you to go to school, I pais for your school fee and I gave some cash at the end of the term, that is how i feterlize my plant.
2: (Now my crop is growing well & healthy) Mean: You got a hotel work experience, Restaurant work experience, You use your knowledge from your study to gain your work expereiences and the speaking skill, You also grow up and become a mutual person, You also be able to save the money to pay for the dept which i was asking for your to pay 50% for the school fee and you save for $1200 which is very impressive.
3: (The crop is old enough to give a shade to other people who need help) Mean: In total, you have what it takes Hotel Experience, Restaurant Experience, You growing older, You are mutual, You are a man, You able to save the money for what i asked for and now you have the COOKING CLASS and this Cooking Class is not for me and it is not for you either. It is for your own people who are hungry for EDUCATION, FOOD, HOMELESS. That is the Cooking Class for. Please run this cooking class on my behalf to support all those who need help. Can you promised with me to carry on my vision?
I was thinking of myself that: I am not going to promise with anything at all as i, myself did not know what i am going to do in my life, I did not figure our of what i want at all. I am about to say NO, but then my mouth did not open at all. I think again, if i am going to say NO, then i will become a bad person to him, and he will be very disappointed for me because he help me lots for my English, touch me lots of life lesson, I learned lots from him as well. So it will not be appropreated. Then i have my habit must do something. I start to count from 1 to 20 and from good to bad for 20-times then it was stopped at the GOOD point then
=> I Said: YES, I promised.
John, was sitting on the chair and he was able to stood up without any support and
=> John Said: That is my boy.
He huged me very tied (and he also crying lots too).
We had a great time together there and he spend a month staying with us and he decided to go back to United State. Two month later in 17th October 2012, i have got a phone call from the United State from Alice & Jammy saying that PAPA passaway. I want to go to the US to join the funeral but the visa application was very hard to get and i did not join the funeral.
After John passaway, I continue my work at the hotel as a Hotel General Manager until October 2014, I decided to quit my job and I took two months vacations for travelling around South East Asia (Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Singapore & Malaysia). Then i return home, I try to figure out of what i am going to do, then i remembered of John as I have promised with him and I start this cooking on 07th January 2015 to support the orphan kids on his behalf.