Our homes say a lot about our values and our lifestyle and the interior spaces of others are so fascinating that entire industries – glossy media empires – are founded on the vicarious pleasure we have in walking around somebody else’s Home & Garden. I share the same fascination when I’m in Cambodia.
With permission of the owner I took this photo when visiting the family of one of the children sponsored to go through school and living at the SOC in Bakong. Here we are in Kampong Kdei, 40 kms away from Siem Reap and outside the rice farms are a bounteous bright green of promise. What do we see here when we examine this living space?
The home has stood on stilts for more than a century I’m guessing. It would have been built with thatch roofing originally, but today the house enjoys the advantages of a tin roof (weather proof) alongside the stifling disadvantage: iron roofing is baking hot during the middle of the day.
Here, everyone shares the same space. It is one big open plan laid out on floorboards worn smooth with age. There are beds over on the left, covered with pink mosquito netting though some members of the family sleep on mats on the floor. Clothes are hung out in the background – this is one of the few rural households I ever saw with a full-length mirror. There’s a clock also, though local life truly is governed by the rise and set of the sun, and by the crowing of the local roosters.
In the foreground are some modern items including a filtered water dispenser, a thermos flask and a plastic food storage container: to keep the food hot, or perhaps cold – but definitely to keep the food away from insects.
In the background this family has furniture which proudly displays homewares for entertaining including cushions and a set of bowls. Cooking is conducted outside over a smoky charcoal fire but the glass fronted wooden cabinet stands ready for when visitors or distant family come visiting.
I was struck by the colours of this home: the deep hues of the local timbers complemented by the reds and pinks of the cushions and the Buddhist shrine that hangs above all proceedings, as it does in Cambodian society. Elsewhere there are photos, a precious commodity in rural areas, and these bring ever-present those members of the family who now reside in Phnom Penh or Siem Reap. Religion and family.
Many young working aged people leave the countryside in search of work in the city, and their living conditions – compared to this rural home – are brutal by comparison. Factory workers in Phnom Penh often live 8 to a room; a cramped concrete box. Come New Year, or Pchum Ben in October, when families and individuals return to their homelands to celebrate, how they must miss the warmth and memories imbued in the country homes such as I’ve pictured here. How they must feel torn between new Cambodia with its cashflow and sacrifice, and the old Cambodia – cash poor, but with an aggregate of love, of memories and solid core values.
For a look inside another simpler home (again, I asked permission) click here.