Cambodia is a poor country. A lot of what I saw in this Southeast-Asian country was very similar to what I'm used to back home in Brazil. The similarities are amazing, starting with the vegetation, the climate and the way people live. If I didn't know I was in Cambodia, just looking at the landscape, I'd say I'm somewhere in the Brazilian Mata Atlântica.
One thing impressed me the most: the exhaling happiness of the Cambodian people. We're talking about a country that spent decades under dictatorial rule, barely survived extermination in a war that only ended less than 20 years ago. Their wounds are still fresh. Our tuk-tuk driver said his father, a school teacher, had to pretend to be a farmer to escape execution.
The times of terror under Pol Pot devastated this country. Pot and his Khmer Rouge persecuted intellectuals and artists, practically causing the extinction of dances and oral traditions.
And still everywhere you look you see people laughing. You point a camera at virtually anyone and you get this big wide smile.
After spending three years in China I had almost forgotten what that was. Don't get me wrong, some people in China do appreciate having their picture taken, but more than any other place I've been to I was met with displeasure and sometimes anger.
Not in Cambodia.