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Yesterday I finally bought and began reading Paul Theroux’s ‘Ghost Train to the Eastern Star’. Today words from his opening passage rung in my ears as the brain in between them began formulating a blog. “Most writing about travel takes the form of jumping to conclusions” Theroux writes; both an admission a warning.

The words came back to me as I sat down to process my thoughts on half a day spent in Cambodia into a blog post.

My thoughts, primarily, focussed on children. I had seen children everywhere in hoards; riding bicycles on major roads, selling origami for a pittance or sitting naked in dusty doorways. They are not well taught but they sure do learn. Knowledge of languages and sales techniques buys their dinner, so they aquire such skills fast. Just as I found in India, it becomes natural to shoo the young beggars and sellers away, but such actions haunt you later.

Thoughts in themselves, but I had also recognised an absence which concerned me further. I had seen no teenagers, or young adults to speak of. Despite seeing incredible numbers of under-11s, I had seen few children above this age.

I jumped to a conclusion. The atrocities of Cambodia’s recent past have left a gaping generation gap, I think to myself. This teenage void, perhaps, is filled by the younger group to their group credit but personal detriment.

Wary of this jump, I felt the need to research more fully, and do so – of course – by turning the the ‘Population’ paragraph in my Lonely Planet. “40% of Cambodians are under-15” it helpfully informs. Considering the inevitable inaccuracy of a census here, even this conclusion isn’t exactly assured, but it provides an indicator nonetheless.

My search for sturdier ground from which to launch my conclusion jump took me next, in the direction of some 12 to 15 year olds – the ones who fall within the LP statistic but have not so far fallen under my gaze. MTV is here, and so is it’s music; I could hear it in the distance and so headed in it’s direction.

Sure enough, here, at a riverside rave, are the age group I hunt, drawn like rhinos to a watering hole by bass speakers pumping out some semblance of JayZ. Brilliantly, the standard dance is a hand-by-the-sides head pump, and everyone does it facing clockwise in a large circle. Other than this oddity, the teenagers here are recognisably teenage in discovering a life without parents.

Now, on barely padded evidence and experience, I feel ready to make a conclusion jump:

Cambodia’s adult generation – partially, of course, wiped out during long political strife – carries an immense weight of memory. Events and experiences are inevitably afflicted such memories, as in the aftermath of any pain.

Cambodia’s young generation do not carry such memories. They were born, in huge numbers, into a place of relative peace. Their majority among this population therefore brings optimism to a fore. An optimism I see in bucketloads at Siem Reap’s annual River Festival (the occasion that inspired a rave.)

I don’t feel too guilty for having made this jump. My evidence may be sketchy, but I’m not trying to write a cultural profile – I’m not even writing for the lonely planet.

In fact, to sidestep Theroux’s point entirely, I shan’t conclude anything. Instead, I shall hope for truth in my thoughts based on brief observations.

[This post needs revising. But then I thought that would defy the point of talking about jumped-to conclusions. So I’ll publish it in confused form and think about a more considered approach later!]

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