Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
About Livelyhood Livelyhood Episodes Livelyhood Site Index Teacher Guides Feedback
Surviving Globalization Your Planet Work World Gone Global Message Boards Classroom Resources
World Wide Work Home
 
Slow Food
Fair Trade
Hell No We Won't Sew
Stories from the Field
Diaries from the Road
Travel Tips
Durst's Quiz
 
 
 
 

Read associate producer Joanne Shen's Diary from Cambodia

June 6, 2001
It's about 5:08a.m. and I haven't slept a wink. We flew from San Franciso to Tokyo, that was about 12 hours right there. Then our plane got delayed and so we sat around Narita Airport for about five hours till we caught a 7 hour flight to Bangkok. After clearing 9 cases of equipment through customs, we checked into our hotel around 2:30a.m. I've been too worried about oversleeping and missing our early morning flight to Phnom Pehn to allow myself to unwind. I'd like to order some room service but breakfast doesn't start till 6a.m.--by then we'll be on our way to the airport. Again.

June 6, 2001
It's about 5:08a.m. and I haven't slept a wink. We flew from San Franciso to Tokyo, that was about 12 hours right there. Then our plane got delayed and so we sat around Narita Airport for about five hours till we caught a 7 hour flight to Bangkok. After clearing 9 cases of equipment through customs, we checked into our hotel around 2:30a.m. I've been too worried about oversleeping and missing our early morning flight to Phnom Pehn to allow myself to unwind. I'd like to order some room service but breakfast doesn't start till 6a.m.--by then we'll be on our way to the airport. Again.

June 7, 2001
Jetlagged again. Went to bed at 11p.m. and woke up after only five hours of sleep even though my body is definitely screaming for more z's. It was an interesting scene at the airport this morning. When we got off the plane, there was a mad scramble by all the passengers to get their visas. You have to huddle around a counter--no, there's no line--and hand off your visa to some semi-official looking type. Then, it gets passed around between about a dozen bored looking guys in uniforms who flip through the pages. When the passport passes through all hands, they hold it up in the air waving it with the photo side out. Then what you have to do is pay up and you get your stamped passport back.

For dinner, we went to the home of a friend who works for US AID, an NGO. He had a dinner party and invited a bunch of expats who work for various NGOs in Phnom Pehn. They were able to give me an idea of what to expect in the factories. A few of them worked in health and social services for Cambodian women, many of whom are at risk of exploitation and infection by HIV. They come from the countryside to the capital in search of factory jobs. Sometimes, they end up being prostitutes in order to make ends meet. Supposedly there are about 10,000 sex workers in Phnom Pehn at present. Garment manufacturing is the number 1 growth industry here but prostitution is on a related rise too.

June 8, 2001
I spent all of my first day in Phnom Pehn running around trying to meet all our primary interviewees. Thankfully, our main character, Jason is charismatic in a quiet way. Over the phone, I had a hard time gauging his personality but in person he's got some engaging quirks. Apparently, he's going to the Cambodian countryside this afternoon to buy a piglet. I thought about tagging along to get some footage but he seemed to want to keep his porcine purchasing a private affair. Plus, I wasn't sure how pig-buying would fit in with the piece on a whole. Viewers might confuse him for an animal husbandry expert rather than a labor rights organizer. We wouldn't want that to happen. After hobnobbing with Jason a bit, I went over to the headquarters of the International Labor Rights Organization where I tried to persuade them to give us more access to their monitoring program. This U.N.program, which trains Cambodian nationals to be independent monitors, has only recently been implemented and they'll be making their first practice visits to factories while we are in Phnom Pehn. They're a little suspicious of tv journalists. I left them a tape of Livelyhood and tried to reassure them that we were going for an optimistic angle on the future of Cambodia's labor laws.

In the afternoon, we were driven to a factory about twenty minutes outside of Phnom Pehn. It's on a stretch of road called Vreng Sreng Highway which is really a bumpy dirt road. Actually, all of the roads in Phnom Pehn are unpaved except for a few of the main ones. I have yet to see a traffic light. Still, traffic seems to move along at a fairly relaxed pace unlike other Asian cities I've been too. Our driver is a Zen master at weaving his way through the motorbikes, flatbed trucks, minivans and bicyclists.

We arrived at the factory around 4:30p.m. which must have been a shift break at several factories because there were hundreds of women with badges walking down the "highway." I'm glad we scouted; we gotta get this shot for the segment.

June 9, 2001
John our producer and Gary our cameraman arrived tonight from Korea where they were shooting something else. Our interpreter came over to the hotel to meet the crew. His name is Kola and the best way to describe him as a Cambodian style raconteur. He's a short, slightly pudgy man who looks slightly grim even when he's smiling. Over dinner, he regaled us with stories about everything from how he survived under the Khmer Rouge to anecdotes about Cambodians' current leaders. Everything he said, funny or sad, was conveyed in the same, even tone punctuated only by ironic giggles. According to Kola, the keys to success in Cambodian politics are: to have a beautiful wife or better yet, several wives, to be able to sing, dance and write poetry, and to never, ever, be photographed wearing Western clothes on state visits abroad. The larger Cambodian populace, according to Kola, likes their leaders to have all the trappings of success like an old-fashioned king. None of us could get a word in edgewise. I can already tell it's going to be interesting having Kola intepret the world around us.

June 10, 2001
Day 1 of shooting.
We started with the heart of the piece, by interviewing with Jason and filming his Sunday routine at the Solidarity Center where he meets with Cambodian garment factory workers who want to start their own unions. Most garment factory workers are women who work to support children and husbands in their home villages. We interviewed one woman who seemed very angry at the conditions at her factory. She told us that the $45 a month minimum wage she makes is not enough. It costs her about $30 a month to live in Phnom Pehn. She sends the remaining $15 home. We also met Dara, a 27 year old factory worker who lives in a tiny shack with his wife. It started pouring as we filmed and the rain was coming through the planks of his flimsy home. Amazingly, after working from 7a.m. to 9p.m., 6 days a week, he studies English every night.

June 11, 2001
Day 2 of shooting
We got up before dawn just like the factory workers so we could get those shots of them starting their day. The factory we visited was pretty modern and clean by even Western standards. Nevertheless, I don't think I could survive a day of working in such a hyper-efficient environment where the machines drone on endlessly. Hundreds of women producing thousands of pieces each day to be ready to be shipped off for stores all across America this fall.

June 12, 2001
Day 3 of shooting
The first day we filmed the activists at work. Then, the workers at work. On Day 3 of shooting we lucked out and managed to capture where the two meet sometimes in real life--a strike! They had banners, signs and megaphones but not as much marching in circles as you see in American strikes.

In the afternoon, we visited the ILO office and filmed the Cambodian monitors preparing for their first practice visit to the factories. In a practice drill, some monitors pretended to be factory owners trying to thwart the monitors from entering their factory for an inspection. One of the monitors, playing factory management, was pretty effective at throwing up obstacles to his fellow monitors. Maybe understanding the mentality of the other side will help him be a more effective monitor. Let's just hope he doesn't decide to go into business!

June 13, 2001
With a few hours to spare before our flight, we decided to go see Tuol Sleng, a school turned torture prison camp during the Khmer Rouge years. It was very difficult to handle, with blood still staining the walls and the photographs of all those who had been executed, from toddlers to grandmothers. Cambodia is an intriguing place where progress and hope seems to be in a half-step forward, half step back dance with a very sorrowful recent past.

  Surviving Globalization | Your Planet Work | World Gone Global |
Message Boards | Classroom Resources