Saturday, 27 August 2011

Wiinnii – My young Cambodian friend

                                     Wiinnii posed happily among
                                      a group of Asean students
                                         Exchange participants   
I first saw her in November 2008 when she came to Malaysia as a member of a 100 over strong Asean Students Exchange Program. Kanhary Heang a.k.a. Wiinnii was one of the brilliant students among the group. The students were their countries’ proud goodwill ambassadors as they took part in stringent selection exercises in their respective Asean nations so as to be chosen among the brightest. The countries that were taking part were The Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Loas, Brunei and Thailand. Surprisingly I did not see any Myanmar students. Three coaches were engaged to provide transport for the cheerful students when they went sight seeing in Kuala Lumpur, Malacca and the surrounding areas. For their exclusive experience they also spent a night at a home stay facility in a Malacca village to learn about the Malay way of life. Together with another two fellow tour guides, a man and one lady, I was roped in to provide information and to answer their endless questions. At the hotel in Kuala Lumpur where they were accommodated for few nights, we were introduced to the students on the first day as we mingled with them to get ourselves acquainted before we started the tour de mission. I was very impressed with their proficiency in spoken English, especially those from Cambodia and Laos 

She was just a sweet little 16 yrs old girl then
                   Moment of happiness captured with her weeping a bit
                              She boarded the bus to talk to us further
                                  You could see that we really liked her
                 A wave of goodbye before we parted    
I found Wiinnii the Cambodian girl intelligent, inquisitive, and polite yet determined to know the answer when she fired a question. Physically and on her outlook she was  petite and demure, dainty and sweet; rather cute for a 16 year old girl. Her English language ability was superb and she sustained a high level of writing skill for the language. We got along fine even though she was not on board my coach when we went from one landmark to another.

                         She totally enjoyed her stay
                              with her friends in Singapore

When it was time to bid farewell to all the participants after a very fruitful stay of five days in Malaysia, the mainly teenage students from various countries queued to present us with unique gifts and souvenirs from their respective nations. We tour guides were caught unprepared as we were unable to return the gesture. The Asean students were courteous and respectful when they showed how much they appreciated our companionship and service. Wiinnii and I exchanged e-addresses before we said goodbye as I told her about my wish to visit Angkor Wat ruins at her home country in the near future.
                                  Wiinnii and her friends in Singapore
                           They're no difference from
                             other pretty Asian faces   

In the month of March 2009 three of us, the same tour guides for the Asean Student Exchange Program 2008 group flew into Siem Reap for our visit to this Indo-China country. After a day of exhaustive tour of the Angkor Wat, we left for Phnom Penh 400km away on board an express bus; the rough riding journey took us 6 hours to reach the capital city of Cambodia. My colleague Dennis had arranged prior to our arrival for a local tour guide to bring us round. We visited the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing fields at Choeung Elk, 15km away from the city. At the end of the day I requested the help of Dar Ing the tour guide to call Wiinnii on the phone. Arrangement was made to meet her but she was held up with her studies and her parents would not allow her to be out of the house after 6pm. Eventually she turned up at the bus terminal before we departed for Siem Reap for our final day of stay in Cambodia. Her best friend Molly brought her over on a motorcycle with Wiinnii riding pillion.

                               She's the tiniest-Wiinnii's mom
                                    reminds her constantly about
                               their Khymer roots and culture        

Meeting her was really exhilarating and Wiinnii was so touched for the fact we came so far to see her, she wept in happiness. When she regained her composure, we exchanged gifts as she boarded our bus for some words before the bus moved. I took some candid shots of her before she alighted from the bus.

              A group picture shot to mark a special day 

By early 2011 Wiinnii had already enrolled in two univeristies with scholarship to study business administration and English Language (Two universities? I wonder how she does that?). Her father is a secondary school physics teacher and her mother a humble housewife who prepares candies for sales to supplement the household income. In our numerous exchanges of e-mails she addressed me as Dad; I was a bit bashful with that but on the other hand it was most natural as that was what we felt for each other. In later part of February 2011, with some savings she had diligently accumulated and some help from her parents, Wiinnii flew to Singapore to meet some of her best friends who were studying there. There were words of us meeting again in Kuala Lumpur before she left for home but that did not materialise as her friends were preoccupied with coming examinations.

                               Young children were eager to begin
                                       their task-Tree Planting             
                     That's how it's done for a start 
With her travelling experience and her exposure to the modern world, Wiinnii has set her sight on a wide scope of choices in her studies and future endeavour. She intends to continue her masters program in a foreign university after her first degree in Cambodia, possibly in the US, or else where. With her excellent achievement records, securing a scholarship for an overseas stint will not be a hurdle to her, I strongly believe. After her pursuit of higher education, Wiinnii intends to venture into business. Dear Wiinnii my friend, I want to wish you sincerely that may all your dreams come true; the future is yours to realise, the sky is the limit, your energetic heart knows no bound, you have been a great achiever as always, you sure will make it big someday. God bless you.

Alan CY Kok
Aug 28th 2011

Footnote: In August 2011 she led a group of 38 primary pupils during a Ford & JCI Tree Planting Exercise. The meaningful event would see trees grown in the future 10 years from now along a stretch of road 700m long in Siem Reap. She had been interned at Ford International Inc in Phnom Penh for the past 1 month to learn about management skill. Her internship at Ford was beneficial and relevant to her degree program.

1 comment:

  1. I've never imagined that my life journey would be written down in such an amazing way!!! Thank for remembering every single thing about me. Thank you so much (Dad)!!! :)

    Wiinnii (^w^)