Brothers From A Different Mother

My chameleon color is blue…the color of trust.

Traveling the “big bad” world can be intimidating for most people who think this planet is flush with widespread criminals and violence they see and hear about on the news. Most of these incidents are isolated and quite small when you think of mankind and daily life on planet earth, yet it seems that this perpetual worldview is the fear that drives opinions of foreign lands and cultures. I only bring this up because of the gentleman pictured in this post and my initial apprehension in getting to meet him.

The day I arrived in Siem Reap I went in to town to look for a driver that I could hire to take me around the temples of Angkor Wat the next day. I approached some unsuspecting guys who were posted up against their mopeds and asked them if they could they could take me on a tour. Their English wasn’t very good however I was able to negotiate them down to $8 for a full day 5am to 7pm. I met my driver, Vesna, and agreed to meet him in front of my hostel at 5 in the morning.

Though by this point in my trip I had already trekked across 12 countries and traversed through some of the most impoverished corners of the world, I was still acted as an alert traveler as I never let my guard down and was always aware of my surroundings. That being said I approached my day excursion with Vesna with caution…for what reason?…none.

Vesna was in his early 20s and didn’t speak a lick of English. He picked me up at the time we agreed upon and took me from place to place throughout the day. I didn’t really talk to him and when I’d finish checking out a temple he would be there waiting, smoking a cigarette. Finally around lunch time I decided to invite him out for a bite to eat and a beer. We went to an outdoor eating area that caters to tourists however I’m sure he wasn’t so comfortable with it, not because he didn’t like it but because he looked like he felt out of place. As we drank beer we watched a monkey jump around and steal bread from the food vendors while cicadas drowned all other sounds out. Considering the language constraints, we tried to communicate the best we could. Vesna kept insisting on going to his house to drink beer however I didn’t feel comfortable riding off with a stranger to an unknown place so instead I asked him to take me to the remaining temples. I was able to see the rest of the sites quite quickly so by the time I got back to the moped we still had a ton of time to kill before sunset at the last temple. Again Vesna asked if I wanted to go hang out at his house. I was still skiddish about the thought but it was at that point I said, “fuck it…why not?” I jumped on the back of the bike and off we rode.

The moped sped down the road, zipping by the beautiful temples, following the green waters of Angkor Wat’s moat. Just as we turned away from Angkor Wat, Vesna took a little side road through the forest in to what seemed like a little village of huts. We kept going down the road until we finally stopped at his residence. Two dogs greeted us at the metal fence as he turned of the bike. There was his house – the place I was so hesitant of visiting – a little hut on stilts. Vesna’s family, his two sisters, and nieces and nephews all came to welcome me to their home. The hut was just one room where they all slept together. There was no electricity, gas, or running water. Their living room comprised of a bamboo board and a couple of hammocks that sat underneath the hut. Contained by bricks, there was a small fire burning just outside they used to cook with which was located next to a large clay water pot.

Vesna stepped away for a minute and returned with a full liter of Angkor beer. The beer was warm but it didn’t matter…I was happy to be offered a drink. In the end I spend several hours with Vesna and his family hanging out underneath the hut drinking warm skunky beer. We had fun trying to communicate, teaching one another different words in our languages. His little nieces and nephews giggled at all my attempts to speak Cambodian as they shyly tried to say words in English. Time flew by so fast that we hardly noticed the sun setting. I didn’t want to leave but the sun was pushing us to go. It was unbelievable to think that just through the trees and a stone’s throw away from Vesna’s house lay the beautiful and majestic ruins of Angkor Wat. Once a empire grand with riches and power, now just a victim of time, modernity, and poverty.

I had one of the most fulfilling life moments visiting Vesna’s home. I put my faith and trust in the unknown only to realize that it really wasn’t any different from what I’m familiar with. Vesna was like me and me like him. As humans we want the same things: laughter, company, food, family, love and joy. Doesn’t matter what language you speak or where you come from we are all the same. I had many moments like this on my trip however this experience with Vesna reinforced my worldview perspective that the world is actually a very good place and that we should live our lives like it is.

No Responses to “Brothers From A Different Mother”

  1. […] A shot of Vesna’s house right outside of Angkor Wat, Cambodia. Read more about my experience here. […]

  2. […] Kicking it with Vesna and his family under their hut just outside of Angkor Wat, Cambodia. Full story here. […]

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