1. Very similar
2. Somewhat similar
3. Somewhat different
4. NOT THE SAME AT ALL. NOT EVEN A LITTLE BIT.
Last night I was enjoying some local Cambodian cuisine (delicious fried rice, the best) when I was approached by two young boys selling postcards and books. After 3 minutes of their attempt at salesmanship I began asking them about school, where they lived, etc. They sat down at the table and we chatted for a bit. They sang me some Justin Beiber. I requested Britney Spears and they looked at me blankly then starting singing JB again (side note: I called him Justin Beiber, they corrected me. Apparently it's just JB). Out of the blue the boy sitting the left of me put his arm next to mine and poking me shouted, "Same Same but Different!" Every once in a while I have a "huh" moment. For example: "Huh, how interesting that he should point that out." Obviously he is much darker than I am and was amused (sigh) by my freckles. But there seemed to be a bit more to that statement. My interpretation of traveling as a "Bonderman Fellow" means one must understand how privileged westerners are and have a constant awareness of and respect for the cultures you visit. The "same, same" statement was interesting because we were talking about what they are learning in school and what I learned in school. Our experiences were very much "same, same but different." Then I thought about my life at home, my day to day, my culture, etc. and what these boys were telling me about their own lives: "same, same but different."
I'm sure I'm not articulating this idea very well but I think doing the "tourist thing" at Angkor Wat also made me realize how "same same but different" every traveler experiences these countries. To many this is just a photo op., a way to brag to their friends and family, another country they can add to their list. For others it may be a way to gain new perspective and genuine cultural understanding.
And that, friends and family, is as deep as it gets (for me). Tonight I'm heading to Vietnam. Hopefully I'll make it to the coast for Christmas! Cross your fingers and pray to whatever higher power you believe in that my bus doesn't break down from here to the coast.