Trip and Surf Journal: Thu 5.23 (no surf — Siem Reap Day 5)

The Tank Mine Paradox, Education, and Tech/Mobile — Do the MATH.

Note: this morning we worked with the Ponheary Ly Foundation for a 2nd day here in Siem Reap — this time traveling out from Siem Reap ~40k to one of their schools and visiting and delivering lunch/food, and backpacks.  Please see this more detailed post on the Service Project experience and aspect — below you’ll see a bit more general spray on the day and beyond . . . 

I am not going to recount the Cambodian history in this post (again, many have done it better :) but the Wikipedia article is a great leaping off/background source for those interested.  Today brought it into super sharp focus.

The net is this is a very undeveloped country with extreme poverty.  Electricity is along a couple of main highways and in major cities like Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.  Get outside those cities or major tourist areas and you are off the electrical grid.  But not the mobile grid, know this please all of us and esp goons like me who build businesses/platforms looking to “disrupt” based on innovation and tech and looking ahead of the curve.  So significant.

My understanding of what is needed here is huge after 1 week in country — or I should say it was lame 1 week ago and now something slightly less than lame.  It is simple but it makes sense.  I won’t go deep on it here and right now.  But it is not western tourists hanging out w/ local peeps and “spending time” or what not on quick hitter visits or giving money to beggars or maimed or whatevs (side note: Scott fam philosophy is if you are providing a service like playing music or painting or doing something we will consider ‘paying’ for that, but straight beggars = philosophical sorry, good luck, get a job / if the guy w/ one arm can play an instrument you can do something too, etc).  Terrible move to give money to any Cambodia child “mercy” scam-y thing, heart wrenching and gut wrenching stuff going on but rewarding child exploitation and/or labor just brutal.  All that stuff is pissing in wind.  Platform level change needed.  Platform change probably = generation roll over on some level and probably are empowered w/ cheap and ubiquitous access to information.

The challenges facing Cambodia are amazing, and I think captured well in this generalized story.  Landmines (triggered by humans) are a huge deal in the country.  Again I won’t net it out it is well understood and reported on and a huge deal.  But it is a platform issue, overall, the mines.  Not about one guy losing a leg (tragic), but about putting a YOKE on 15m people here who want to make progress.  This story/fact base brought it home.

1. The country is being demined of “foot mines/land mines” for peeps, current estimated completion at current rate 92 years.

2. 92 years is a long time, but at least you are making progress and you clear an area and cool you can walk around for tourism and more importantly where there is not temple put the land to work (farm), etc.

3. You clear an area of pedestrian focused (i.e. infantry/walking peeps) land mines awesome, you do more farming, you get more $$ from farming, you are ready to buy a tractor to increase your yield and efficiency overall

4. BUT WAIT : if you buy a tractor you may well set off a whole other class of mines — anti tank mines (which of course won’t blow w/out proper load which a human footstep does not provide blah, blah) .  . . but a tractor on your lands suddenly is a decision beyond economics it is about risk of death/injury for  you and your family.

So, solve that one. It is a real decision and conflict.  The going metric says in 2013 dollars it cost $1 to get a mine in the ground and $1000 to remove it!  No grids for these things, many who were planting were teenage soldiers and this was about seeing another day in your life not issues for farmers and peeps in the future.  The zone we are in is one of the most heavily mined and last to be rolled out from the civil war — all the messaging is “temples are cool, beyond that yikes!”.  It is a right now issue, too.  Like we see signs for schools proudly noting (sic) “This area was demined in 2011 so we are stoked we put a school in”

Anyway, the tractor/tank mine paradox sums it up . . . a boat anchor on development, complexity.

We get back from the Service Project in the 1pm time frame and minds are spinning.  We cool at the pool and get some lunch and later I grab a Kmehr massage and we work, plan, chill, digest.  Overwhelmingly, I am having a hard time w/ going back to Indo in a week and surfing and island hopping and exploring (although by no means is Indo “developed” as a whole!)  . . . but, feels too frivolous.  I push the idea of getting Laos and Vietnam and more continued “travel and discovery and learning” (and attendant stress) . . . and I promote the idea that although we are fried and have young kids on board and this and that damn, maybe we are not ready to be back in Indo which is chillaxing on a relative basis depending on where you are . . . more to come and stay tuned for where we net out :)