The colonel has come to Cambodia. That’s right, you can see Angkor Wat in the morning and have a KFC Zinger Burger with a side of fries in the afternoon. I’m not sure how I do or should feel about KFC being here. The truth is I’m mixed. When we first moved here there wasn’t even a mini-mart, let alone fast food options and I liked that we really were living in a very basic town that was always an adventure. But…at the same time, Popcorn Chicken is so delicious!
The first time the idea of progress really made an impact on me was when Brandon and I were staying at a longhouse in Borneo with a local community. It was a homestay setup and we were there with a group of travelers. The concept of a longhouse is fantastic, they have one long living room and balcony and then each family has their own sleeping area and kitchen built off the back of the long living room. The chief of the village had shown us some heads that still hung from the rafters, prizes from the days of his great-great- (used in reference to generation, not quality of profession) grandfathers head hunting days. We were then invited to visit the living quarters of one of our guides. In it Brandon was thrilled to see a satellite TV, DVD player and PlayStation…keep in mind we were a five-hour boat ride from the nearest road, let alone the nearest town, but there it was.
The British couple immediately lamented the loss of culture and the horrible influence the West is having on Borneo and these people. Brandon, as always lacking a certain amount of tact, asked them if they still used latrines and how their local playhouse was doing. His point was that the West and developed countries are always pushing for development, things that not just make our life better, but just more fun, yet we frown upon “indigenous cultures” doing the same thing. Who’s to say that the people in this longhouse shouldn’t enjoy some Madden and Friday night movie night…I’m sure none of my ancestors did, yet I don’t think anyone begrudges me that right.
From that day on I have looked at development slightly differently. Last night in KFC we were the only foreigners, everyone else enjoying dinner was Cambodian and who am I to say that I have the right to enjoy the Colonel’s secret recipe and they don’t. They also have a team of young adults working behind the counter who, fingers crossed on this one, have gone through a great hygiene training and are now able to get a job that supports them and their family and allows them to be in a safe and empowering workplace. Yes, for Cambodians that think everything from the West is good there needs to be education about nutrition and the value of tradition and culture, but maybe there’s also room for a little Popcorn Chicken and some PlayStation.