So, back from the sunrise at Angkor Watt, which was amazing, and which I fully intend to blog about at tedious length later, and quick breakfast in the hotel. I was starving. Had fried eggs and weird chip things and some porridge oats with yoghurt. There being no actual porridge despite what my scheming travel buddies would have believe. That thing that looked like custard? Not weird porridge, but some sort of pumpkin soup. Maybe. Anyway, on duty, as he is six days a week was my new best friend.
He the waiter who had shown me to my room when I was lost on arrival, and practised some English with me earlier. We had a bit of a chat when I entered. As I left breakfast, with two in tow to view my room, my waiter friend was very insistent about whether or not I would be swimming later (erm, no). It turned out he had a question for me. ‘Ask me now‘ I said, but no, he was shy. I said I’d come back in a bit, as I did having shown off my outside shower unit to travel companions, I then traipsed out to the pool side, somewhat intrigued.
It turned out that what he wanted was for me to write a letter of recommendation for him for the manager of the hotel. Although he is now a waiter, he really wants to be a receptionist. I think it is more money, and of more interest as well as higher status. He is saving for university, but also pays for his younger brother’s education, and gives money to his mother, who is old. ‘as old as me?’ Older. Turns out in fact she is only fifty. However, she has had a hard life, working as a farmer in the sun has aged her. It was a strange feeling. In a parallel life I could be her. Honestly, I sometimes am (not very) secretly pleased for being taken as being younger than my chronological age. Here, this is put in context. I have a very unfair advantage of a privileged life and an ability to avoid the sun. It brings perspective.
It was a fun project, though I wished I wasn’t so sweaty from the temple trip. Fair play to him though, it takes courage to ask for these things, and he was helpful to me. We worked together and this involved some sophisticated improvisation re communication. I said I would do this, but needed paper and pen. He came back with a single sheet, something to lean on (an English text-book) and a pen. I said I needed more paper to do it in rough. Which I did. I’m good at writing references, so did something that I hoped was suitably gushing without actually being completely untrue based on such a brief acquaintance. I just said I’d enjoyed my stay at their lovely hotel and special mention to … for being particularly friendly, helpful and polite (these were qualities he wanted emphasised). I said his English was excellent (which it basically is. Some vocabulary wasn’t there but it was amazing how well we did understand one another) and I appreciated him taking time to tell me about Khmer culture and language. I wrote it all out in rough, and then, as my writing is illegible even to me, I read it back to him. He was so overwhelmed it was unbelievable. Apparently, this is the kindest thing anyone has ever done for him (not stricly true as he also said a guest wrote a reference for him a couple of months ago), and that I remind him of his mother! He went on to say how lovely she was though, so it isn’t just because of my age (or indeed wisdom through years lived).
I then suggested he make a copy of the letter so he could keep one, and said I wanted an envelope too. It was hard communicating about a photocopy, but we got there in the end, and he thought this a genius idea. I asked if in return we could have a photo together. He agreed, so whilst he went in search of envelope and copier, I went and got my camera. We each returned brandishing our respective finds. He was beaming. A colleague who is a receptionist was delighted for him that he has this letter, and will help him to become a receptionist. It was very sweet and supportive, I was impressed. She was also enlisted to undertake photographic duties, hence we have the shot of the two of us together.
Better yet, no sooner than one shot was taken, her colleague rushed in to join the shot, and then the two women got him to take a photo of us together like three muses! I am the sweating westerner in the middle between the two stunning and petite Cambodians in case you can’t work out who is who… it reminds me of Vietnam. Once the ice is broken, no opportunity to appear in a photograph should be allowed to pass by. It was very funny and very fine. Much as I’d been craving for a nap earlier, this interaction was priceless. People are so friendly here, and ultimately writing a brief testimonial is such a little thing to do, but could make a real difference to him in terms of gaining promotion.
The next challenge was how to share these. Facebook? He wrote his name down, but when I checked on the computer there were about 68,000 people with the same name! No idea who he was. After I’d showered I found him out. He couldn’t find me on Facebook either. Eventually we went for email option. This was quite a palaver as my regular Gmail account isn’t working, so I fell back on using a dormant Plusnet account which I’ve never used before but came free with my internet. Then the photos were too big to send, so had to be resized, it was a pain, nevertheless, 90 minutes later we got there! I did fist pump of appreciation, and he did likewise. He was so chuffed, you’d think what I’d done was much greater than it was. I was so pleased, and he was too. Good karma all round. I really hope his dream comes true, he would be a great receptionist, and I’m sure when he gets to university he will make the most of that too. What a lovely young man!