The greenest grass of all

By Brianna Randall

During the long ride to Banteay Srei, the reoccurring topic of education arose between us, two American college students, and Santhou, a college graduate from Phnom Penh.

“In Cambodia,” he explained, “there [are] very little chances to go to university.” He expressed the small number by holding up his index and thumb fingers and peeking at us through them. Coming from a small village just outside of the country’s capitol and born the oldest of nine children, Santhou worked many hours each week to pay for his college education. “The government does not help,” he added, looking down and tracing his fingers along the deep scars still present from his grueling labor in wood factory.

Not able to relate at all, we explained that, for underprivileged Americans, the government provides scholarships and grants, especially if they are minorities.

“So,” he uttered in confusion, “these poor people don’t have to pay them back?”

“No,” we quickly said.

Santhou stared at the floor of the tuk-tuk for several seconds, trying to make sense of this generous concept. “Oh wow!,” he finally replied with a forced smile.

As the tuk-tuk slowed down to our destination, the interpreter took the last few moments in silence. Studying  his face, I could see him struggling to imagine this opportunistic land of which he had only heard. It was then that I suddenly appreciated America, home of the greenest grass of all.

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