Host Christian Pearson welcomes guest Oliza Loy, a Cambodian citizen and Khmer translator, to the podcast. Oliza relates her experience growing up in Phnom Penh, and she and Christian discuss some of the most significant differences between Cambodian culture and Western norms. They conclude by reviewing some of the biggest misconceptions about Cambodia, and Oliza shares her favorite part of her country.


Inside the Cambodia Project Episode 4 Podcast Transcript: Insider Perspective

with Oliza Loy

[00:00:00.410] – Christian Pearson
Hello, I’m Christian and you’re listening to inside the Cambodia Project, an educational podcast where we discuss cutting edge research on sustainable business in an emerging market. In our last episode, we talked with Kylie Fox, a student, researcher, and aspiring changemaker who is well acquainted with Southeast Asia and the United Nations SDGs, or Sustainable Development Goals. She shared some very valuable insights for anyone interested in doing research abroad or in their own community, and it’s definitely worth a listen. Today I have the opportunity to speak with Oliza Loy, a Cambodian citizen and translator for most of our research. She is also instrumental to our research in that she serves as a cultural attach√© for us, ensuring we are considering important cultural implications. Oliza Loy was born in Phnom Penh, which is the capital city of Cambodia. She has two sisters and is right in the middle. In 2007, her family moved to live in Siem Reap, home of the famed Ankor Wat and nearby Ankor Tum, temples that were made famous as a main setting of the movie Lara Croft Tomb Raider. It was in Siem Reap that Oliza’s family’s religious devotion contributed to the development of the first two congregations of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in that city.

[00:01:32.830] – Christian Pearson
After high school, Oliza served a proselytizing mission for the Church of Jesus Christ in Tacoma, Washington. Upon her return to Cambodia, she worked extensively with the local hospitality department, primarily because Siem Reap is a popular city for tourists. Later, she began working for the Cambodian Job foundation, which is the same partner organization that helps with our research today in Cambodia. Oliza currently lives in Provo, Utah, where she studies English as a second language at the Brigham Young University English Learning center, or ELC. Thank you so much for joining us today. Oliza, it’s great to have you on the podcast.

[00:02:12.100] – Oliza Loy
Yeah, thank you so much for having me today.

[00:02:15.130] – Christian Pearson
Super excited to talk with you. Yeah, Oliza, usually I like to come prepared with a quote or something like that to discuss with you just to kick it off. But today I thought I’d kind of shake things up and so I asked you to come prepared with your own quote or a mantra or saying from Cambodia. So I’d love if you could share it first in Khmer or in Cambodian, I guess, and then in English.

[00:02:40.390] – Oliza Loy
Yeah, sure. So nikuchiya bit moita bim bong minaitai moiku yung tour eyes and sums and some hypotoma guyong to do manda pal natangai namoi. Okay, what does that mean? It’s like drop by drop. Water fills the container. Have you ever heard a bell yeah.

[00:03:09.200] – Christian Pearson
I feel like that definitely rings a bell. I’m not sure that sounds familiar. Yeah. What does that kind of mean? Or where does that come from? It’s so cool.

[00:03:19.700] – Oliza Loy
It’s like the quote from someone in Cambodia. So we used to have all the quote on the wall when we go to study, like in primary or high school. They all over the quote, like all the.

[00:03:33.880] – Christian Pearson
Oh, it’s always there.

[00:03:35.000] – Oliza Loy
Yeah, it’s always there. So I always remember that quote and helps me to remember that we do something we have to do step by step and little by little and one day we can achieve.

[00:03:48.370] – Christian Pearson
Wow, that’s so powerful. I love that. That’s such an integral part of even elementary schools. Something to remember, right? Drop by drop. What was it? Drop by drop.

[00:03:59.650] – Oliza Loy
Yeah, drop by drop. Water fills container.

[00:04:02.740] – Christian Pearson
Drop by drop. Water fills a container.

[00:04:04.740] – Oliza Loy
Yeah.

[00:04:04.990] – Christian Pearson
I love that. Just because it’s true. We have these big dreams, these big visions. I’m sure you probably had, like, I don’t know, you wanted to be something or someone when you were a child, just like me. But then it’s not like you can just snap your fingers and make it happen, right?

[00:04:22.920] – Oliza Loy
Yeah. We have to be patient.

[00:04:24.790] – Christian Pearson
Exactly. Little by little. And also every drop counts.

[00:04:28.330] – Oliza Loy
Yeah.

[00:04:28.950] – Christian Pearson
Right.

[00:04:29.400] – Oliza Loy
Yeah.

[00:04:29.800] – Christian Pearson
Everything’s important. I love that. Thanks so much for sharing. That’s so much cooler than anything I could have brought.

[00:04:35.280] – Oliza Loy
Yeah, my pleasure.

[00:04:36.470] – Christian Pearson
Yeah, really cool. And I love hearing your Khmer language. Hopefully I can learn a little bit of that. So speaking of Khmer and of Cambodia, I know you grew up in Cambodia, right? In Kampay and then later in Siem Deep. I’d love for you to talk. Just tell us a little bit about your experience. What were the highs and the lows? What’s it like living in Cambodia, growing up there?

[00:05:02.160] – Oliza Loy
Yes. So I grew up in a positive environment. So as a child I live with my parents and we live in a big house and like three family living together.

[00:05:15.770] – Christian Pearson
Okay.

[00:05:16.280] – Oliza Loy
So I remember maybe around 17 people living in the same house.

[00:05:21.500] – Christian Pearson
17?

[00:05:22.300] – Oliza Loy
Yeah, 17.

[00:05:23.450] – Christian Pearson
Okay.

[00:05:26.810] – Oliza Loy
They are my mom’s sibling, so yeah, I really enjoy living with all my cousin. And it is normal for asian people to live with their family altogether in once.

[00:05:45.500] – Christian Pearson
Yeah.

[00:05:45.730] – Oliza Loy
With the whole extended. We call that extended family extended family. Yeah, three. Three big family together. And in 2014, no, in 2004, my parents decided to move to Simbry because we have land over there, so they want to build our own house. So by that time, my parents, they both moved to Simrip. So I have to stay in Penampin with my sister all by ourselves.

[00:06:16.300] – Christian Pearson
Oh, my God.

[00:06:16.810] – Oliza Loy
So I remember I was only, like, ten years old, and my older sister is, like, 15 years old. So we have to move out and rent a small room to stay with my sister. Yeah, that time is really difficult for us because we have to do things by our own, even go to school by our own, and then cooking food. But I have learned a lot from that situation because I learned how to manage the money that I got from my parents because my parents always give us the weekly income every week. So we have to learn how to save the money and learn how to solve all the problems by ourselves.

[00:06:59.290] – Christian Pearson
That’s crazy. So from a young age, you said you were, like, ten years old. You had to basically live on your own.

[00:07:06.380] – Oliza Loy
Right.

[00:07:06.890] – Christian Pearson
Be self sustained and learn how to manage a budget, take yourself to school, cook your own food. That’s crazy. What a unique experience. I could see how that would be something that would be really hard. But I’m sure you’re thankful for it now because it teaches you things you otherwise wouldn’t learn, right?

[00:07:25.540] – Oliza Loy
Yeah. It’s like preparation for me in the future to help me learn how to be on my own, how to be self reliant, even though we have parents to support us, but we cannot ask them for help every time we have to know how to solve the problems on our own.

[00:07:45.640] – Christian Pearson
That’s crazy. Would you say that your experience is common? Is it normal for younger children to just live on their own?

[00:07:56.910] – Oliza Loy
No, it’s not normal in Cambodia.

[00:07:59.910] – Christian Pearson
Okay. So that was kind of an exception.

[00:08:02.160] – Oliza Loy
Yeah.

[00:08:02.880] – Christian Pearson
Okay, well, very cool. Thanks for sharing that. I guess talking more about Cambodia, just in general now, what would you say? Because how long have you been in the United States?

[00:08:15.520] – Oliza Loy
Two months.

[00:08:16.300] – Christian Pearson
Two months.

[00:08:16.900] – Oliza Loy
Okay, awesome.

[00:08:17.550] – Christian Pearson
So you got here in, like, August?

[00:08:19.160] – Oliza Loy
No, in September. Okay, 1 September.

[00:08:22.090] – Christian Pearson
So cool. What would you say now that you’ve been here a little bit, what are some of the biggest differences, I guess, that you’ve noticed in life in Cambodia and then life in the United States? How are they different and how are they similar?

[00:08:37.270] – Oliza Loy
So the difference, the first one is, like, time.

[00:08:41.610] – Christian Pearson
Time.

[00:08:42.310] – Oliza Loy
Yeah.

[00:08:43.080] – Christian Pearson
Like the time zone.

[00:08:44.330] – Oliza Loy
Yeah. Because in Cambodia, it’s 14 hours ahead.

[00:08:48.060] – Christian Pearson
Oh, my gosh.

[00:08:48.930] – Oliza Loy
Yeah. When me and my family got here for the first time, it’s really hard for us to adjust the time because at night here, so we all stay awake during the night, and in the morning, I go to school and I fall asleep all the time because the.

[00:09:08.340] – Christian Pearson
Time, I’m sure that really tough.

[00:09:11.530] – Oliza Loy
A big adjustment.

[00:09:12.890] – Christian Pearson
I know when I went to Taiwan recently and I had the same issue because I don’t know if it’s 14 hours. There might have just been twelve, but it was still like when I was going to bed, I would usually be waking up, vice versa. I was waking up when I normally go into sleep and I get that I was really tired for the first few days.

[00:09:33.100] – Oliza Loy
It took us like a week or something to adjust that.

[00:09:38.410] – Christian Pearson
What else? What are some other, I guess, big differences? You’ve noticed the foods?

[00:09:43.390] – Oliza Loy
The foods, yeah. Foods here is really different for us because we don’t usually eat sweet thing in the morning. Just like. Yeah. We have a conversation early. Yeah.

[00:09:54.320] – Christian Pearson
How breakfast is so different.

[00:09:56.110] – Oliza Loy
We usually, most of the time we eat rice a lot. Like every day. Every day. If I don’t eat rice, I will go really tired during the day. Yeah. Another one is traffic.

[00:10:13.110] – Christian Pearson
Is there more or less here?

[00:10:15.370] – Oliza Loy
Less here, yeah. And if you ever go to Cambodia, you’re like, oh, the traffic in Cambodia is crazy because sometimes people don’t stop if there is a stoplight, but people keep going in Cambodia. Oh, my gosh, I love the traffic here in the United States. That’s great.

[00:10:37.390] – Christian Pearson
I don’t love the traffic here, but I guess you have a better perspective. You can be thankful.

[00:10:43.460] – Oliza Loy
Yeah, it’s better. And another one, the education system.

[00:10:49.150] – Christian Pearson
Okay.

[00:10:49.620] – Oliza Loy
Yeah.

[00:10:50.140] – Christian Pearson
How is that different?

[00:10:51.400] – Oliza Loy
In Cambodia, if you don’t have money to pay to go to the private school, you don’t get a good education because the private school, they also provide good education, but not really.

[00:11:10.820] – Christian Pearson
Right. It’s not. Probably not the same calendar as some of these private schools you have to pay to go to. That’s really interesting. I know we do have private schools here in the United States as well, but I think the majority of people go to the public school.

[00:11:27.660] – Oliza Loy
Yeah. But in like, the private school is more common right now. Really?

[00:11:34.510] – Christian Pearson
Cool. Would you say that most Cambodians go to private schools then?

[00:11:41.740] – Oliza Loy
Yeah, because all the parents try to save up the money so they can be able to pay for the tuition for the kids to go to the private school because they will get better education. They will speak English very well. So most of the new generation in Cambodia, they know how to speak English now.

[00:12:03.080] – Christian Pearson
Oh, wow.

[00:12:03.720] – Oliza Loy
Yeah.

[00:12:04.790] – Christian Pearson
Is that important to Cambodians, would you say?

[00:12:07.290] – Oliza Loy
Yeah, because if you know how to communicate in English, you will get a better job in Cambodia.

[00:12:14.320] – Christian Pearson
Wow, that’s really cool. Is that because of the tourism?

[00:12:18.350] – Oliza Loy
I don’t know, like the system or something? In our workplace they use English.

[00:12:24.820] – Christian Pearson
Oh, they use English a lot.

[00:12:26.110] – Oliza Loy
Yeah.

[00:12:26.610] – Christian Pearson
Very cool. What would you tell people like going to Cambodia for their first time, I guess the english speakers. Right? Going to Cambodia. What advice would you give them or what would you tell them to expect?

[00:12:41.970] – Oliza Loy
I would tell them that all the people in Cambodia, they are really nice people. So I just want them to expect that they will have to try all the food in Cambodia. They have to try it because. Yeah, don’t be. And Cambodia also use the US dollar.

[00:13:04.580] – Christian Pearson
Really?

[00:13:05.420] – Oliza Loy
So you don’t have to exchange the money when you go there. You can use your us dollar over there.

[00:13:14.140] – Christian Pearson
Very cool. What are some things that I guess surprised you that they were similar, like between United States and Cambodia? Are there any things that kind of stayed the same for me?

[00:13:27.090] – Oliza Loy
Like people. People, yeah, people are friendly because Cambodia, they also good. I met a lot of people in the US. They are. Yeah.

[00:13:39.140] – Christian Pearson
That’s really good to hear. I’m glad you met some nice people. Yeah, I think there’s good people in every country always. But that’s great. So Cambodia, honestly, Oliza, it sounds wonderful and I can’t wait until I have the chance to actually go there. But shifting gears somewhat to more, we’re going to talk more about our humanitarian research project now. I’d love to ask you specifically if there was a humanitarian group. That’s like a group of people that want to help people. Right. If they were going into Cambodia to do a project, how do you think the general cambodian, like the average person in Cambodia, how would you guys measure the impact and how would you know if it was effective? What would an effective humanitarian project look like in Cambodia?

[00:14:33.030] – Oliza Loy
I think it’s when cambodian people know and clearly understand about the purpose of the project that we are doing for them. And also I think most cambodian people enjoy learning new things from others country and they will be really appreciate for all the project.

[00:15:01.440] – Christian Pearson
So if we’re bringing new ideas, that’s a good thing. Yeah, we just have to make sure that we’re communicating what’s going on.

[00:15:08.920] – Oliza Loy
Yeah, I think the first thing is they have to understand about what is the purpose of our project. How can we help them if they really know and understand that they willing to participate with us.

[00:15:24.870] – Christian Pearson
I love that. Yeah. And I think I’m hoping that we can successfully communicate our purpose and why we’re there doing the things we’re doing. I’m hoping you can help us do that.

[00:15:38.140] – Oliza Loy
I’d be happy to do that.

[00:15:39.840] – Christian Pearson
You’re a translator. You’re a foot in the door. Yeah. I feel like it’s really important sometimes in any research project when you’re going to a new community or a new country. Sometimes we go in and we know what our goals are or our expectations are, but we don’t necessarily communicate those. I was just reading factfulness, it’s a book by Hans Rosling, and I think I mentioned it in the last podcast, actually. But this guy, Hans Rosling, he was a global health administrator, and he was in a country somewhere in Africa, I don’t remember where, and he actually went to a village to do some blood testing, and it was specifically so that they could develop vaccines, vaccinations for a disease specific to that region. And so that’s a really good thing that he was doing. But he told of an experience where he went into the village with his centrifuges and he was getting the blood test done. And as he was setting up the centrifuges, they’re really noisy and he didn’t notice, but he turned around after he turned off the centrifuges and he heard a bunch of yelling. And so he left the tent that he was in and the whole village was outside.

[00:16:58.820] – Christian Pearson
And they were angry, they were scared, really, is what it was, because they didn’t know why this man from Sweden had come all the way to their country with some really loud machinery. And all they knew is that he was going to take samples of their blood. They didn’t know why. And that was a really powerful experience for him because it taught him the value of explaining. Right. Of really communicating why he was there and what he was doing. Because once the people understood, once they realized he’s not trying to hurt us, he just wants to help us, then that’s when everything changed and they became much more supportive.

[00:17:37.160] – Oliza Loy
Right. Yeah.

[00:17:38.180] – Christian Pearson
But it was a little scary for. So that’s something we should definitely focus on when we do try to implement our research in Cambodia.

[00:17:48.160] – Oliza Loy
Yeah.

[00:17:50.630] – Christian Pearson
I guess for anybody, not just for us, but for anyone trying to do work in Cambodia. What are some tips you have for, I guess, engaging partners, organizations, citizens in your country? How can we get the people to help us with what we’re trying to do?

[00:18:13.470] – Oliza Loy
Like what you said earlier, communication is very powerful, so we have to make them trust in us because most of cambodian people, when we go to talk to them, because some of them are afraid that we are the scammer or something.

[00:18:34.090] – Christian Pearson
Okay.

[00:18:34.860] – Oliza Loy
Yeah, I think maybe they can help us by knowing how to use the resource that they have got you and willing to give us the information about their businesses.

[00:18:49.510] – Christian Pearson
Okay. I guess you talked about this a little bit, but what would you say is the best way to gain trust and help establish a friendship in Cambodia. How can we help them trust us, know we’re not scammers.

[00:19:08.760] – Oliza Loy
So first, I think we can become friends with them to make sure that they know, just like, what we say, they really know about why we are here and what is our project. And we just explain well to them how our project will help their business in the community.

[00:19:34.710] – Christian Pearson
Right. Yeah. Just helping them know we want to make their business a better place.

[00:19:40.070] – Oliza Loy
We want Cambodia a better place.

[00:19:42.090] – Christian Pearson
We’re not trying to impose our own culture or country or anything. I really like are just one more question about the whole humanitarian thing. What are some of the, I guess, some of the common misconceptions or stereotypes, things that people think that aren’t necessarily true, that you would say people have about. Did. What have you heard people say that’s not true about Cambodia?

[00:20:12.520] – Oliza Loy
I heard a lot of people say that Cambodia is not safe. If you go visit there, it’s not a safe place to go. And they would sometimes say, this is like I heard from the, like, the seller in Cambodia tried to add up their price when there is a foreigner to come and buy something, so they add up some price. It’s really expensive. Yeah.

[00:20:42.110] – Christian Pearson
And that’s not true.

[00:20:43.340] – Oliza Loy
Yeah, it’s not true because I’ve heard those, too.

[00:20:45.950] – Christian Pearson
Those are rumors then. Gotcha. Would you say that Cambodia is a very safe place?

[00:20:53.910] – Oliza Loy
Yeah. Especially in Simrip.

[00:20:56.030] – Christian Pearson
Okay. That’s good news.

[00:20:58.180] – Oliza Loy
Yeah. Because Simrip is like a tourist city. So, yeah, it’s a very safe place. Like, compared to other provinces in Cambodia. So, yeah, Simri is the best place to.

[00:21:10.400] – Christian Pearson
I imagine if every Cambodian is as nice as you are, Oliza, it’ll be a great place to visit.

[00:21:16.830] – Oliza Loy
Yeah.

[00:21:19.050] – Christian Pearson
Would you say that some of those misconceptions about being dangerous or maybe the people upselling, not being honest, have you seen those come more from westerners, like people in the United States, or do they also come from some of your regional neighbors, like Thailand and Vietnam? Do people over there also have weird ideas about Cambodia or is it just over here?

[00:21:44.080] – Oliza Loy
I don’t like? Maybe they have some because I used to visit Thailand, but the people in Thailand is really nice. If I don’t speak thai, if I want to buy something, they won’t add up the price. Yeah. They will sell me with the normal price. Okay.

[00:22:08.070] – Christian Pearson
I really love, I guess, that distinction that you just made about how there are some really good people and good cultures in Southeast Asia. The fact that people have the integrity know, not change a price based on the language someone speaks or the color of their skin. In many ways, that’s, I would say, better than some of the practices that we have here. And so I hope that even as we try to teach people in Cambodia, we can also learn from your people and from your culture, because I think that just like we said, there’s good in every country, and I think it’s more about learning from each other than really anything that we can give or teach. Thank you so much for those comments. That was really helpful. One more question before we just. I’ve been loving this, but I’ve heard Cambodia has, like, a certain charm. Right. And that when you go there, you can’t help but fall in love with it. That’s something I read in a book, actually, about Cambodia called Cambodia’s Curse. I was wondering if you could share, just, like, off the script, what’s your favorite part about Cambodia or a favorite memory or a story?

[00:23:36.570] – Christian Pearson
Just tell us something to help illustrate how beautiful your country is. Help us to see it through your eyes. Could you do that?

[00:23:46.460] – Oliza Loy
Yeah, sure. So my favorite place in Cambodia, obviously in Simria, I like to go hiking. We go up on a mountain and see the sunset. Yeah. And the sunset will go down if we go, the view is like, the sunset will go to the uncle Watt. So we can actually see that.

[00:24:10.380] – Christian Pearson
And Uncle Watt is roaming. What that is.

[00:24:14.210] – Oliza Loy
Uncle Watt is close to the mountain. It’s called Bakai Mountain.

[00:24:18.360] – Christian Pearson
Okay.

[00:24:19.080] – Oliza Loy
Yeah.

[00:24:19.600] – Christian Pearson
And it’s a temple.

[00:24:20.990] – Oliza Loy
Right? They have a temple on the top of the mountain.

[00:24:25.070] – Christian Pearson
Oh, wow.

[00:24:25.780] – Oliza Loy
Yeah. And sometimes people can pay to use the elephant to ride on the elephant and go up to the mountain.

[00:24:35.520] – Christian Pearson
You’re kidding.

[00:24:36.370] – Oliza Loy
Yeah.

[00:24:36.700] – Christian Pearson
You can ride an elephant to the top of this mountain.

[00:24:38.900] – Oliza Loy
Yeah.

[00:24:39.260] – Christian Pearson
And there’s a temple up there.

[00:24:41.450] – Oliza Loy
So people go there to see the sunset. It’s really nice.

[00:24:45.760] – Christian Pearson
Yeah.

[00:24:46.970] – Oliza Loy
And my favorite part is when I get off from work, I have a scooter. So when I get off from work, I always go ride my scooter around ankle ward area because a lot of big trees on the road, so we can ride, feel the fresh air. And some monkeys. They have monkeys at the side of the road. So people give them, like, banana or, like, pineapple to the monkeys.

[00:25:22.400] – Christian Pearson
Oh, my gosh. That is so cool. You’ve got monkeys on the side of the road feeding them all these things. That’s just fantastic. Thank you so much. The picture that you’re painting of Cambodia does sound amazing. It sounds serene and just exotic and so different from what we’re used to here, but it sounds beautiful. And I really do hope that we’ll get to experience that someday soon.

[00:25:52.260] – Oliza Loy
Yeah. I hope you could visit Cambodia someday in the future.

[00:25:57.330] – Christian Pearson
Let’s go. Well, thank you so much. And for those listening, thank you for your time and attention. I feel like we’ve had a really meaningful discussion today, not just about the culture of Cambodia, but also about just culture in general. And I think that if there’s any one takeaway I have from today talking with Oliza, it’s that there’s good in every country, there’s good in every place. And so, as always, no matter where you are in the world, remember that you can make a difference, that you have the power to make meaningful change. In other words, lift where you stand.