The life of a loving Father, Husband and a Tuk Tuk Driver

I spent the first 2 weeks of December in Cambodia with Engineers without Borders for the Design Summit. It was a very intense couple of days there, getting to know the culture, meeting new people, learning new things and then finally saying goodbye to all the new friends that I had made. The Summit focuses on Human Centred Design, that we use during our visits to the village.

This Post is regarding one of the workshop excercise that we had to do during the program.

As soon as I landed in Cambodia, I noticed a couple of distinctive features about the country, which were the vibrancy in building colours, the friendly faces and the thousands of Tuk Tuks!

In our first week in Cambodia, we had to attend multiple workshops arranged by EWB. One of the workshops was regarding community and cultural sensitivity. This workshop’s main objective was to help us improve our communication skills whilst speaking to the locals in a respectful and sensitive way. This was really important as there maybe a language barrier between the locals and us, so we had to be as respectful as best we could.

After attending the Community and Cultural Sensitivity Workshop, we had the task of interviewing a local Tuk Tuk Driver and finding out more about his life. The objective of the interview was to determine an issue the Tuk Tuk Driver might have and then as a team, we would have to come up with possible solutions for the driver. For this exercise, I teamed up with Kevin, Jeremy and Lukas. We then sat down and discussed possible questions which were respectful and culturally appropriate to ask the driver. After the discussion, we set off to find a driver and this is how we found Narin.

At first we asked Narin if we could possibly interview him and he gladly accepted the interview, he was very well spoken. We started off with Ice breaker questions and we found out that Narin is your typical Cambodian man who wants the best for his family. He has been driving a tuk tuk for the past 15 years and he absolutely loves his job. This is because he loves meeting new people and loves getting to know more about them. As a joke, we asked Narin if he “liked racing with his Tuk Tuk”, to which he replied “No I don’t like it because it is dangerous and I am a safe driver!”. Shortly after speaking to him, our team quickly realised that Narin was very sensible and was very alert about his job, which was a very good start. We then asked him “What was the hardest thing about being a Tuk Tuk Driver?” to which he replied “The lack of customers and the maintenance costs”. There is a lack of customers for Narin as he waits for customers in a dead spot, an area which he has been advised to stay in.  He says he gets frustrated when there are not too many customers as he cannot earn the money for his family and that he can’t raise enough funds for the maintanence for his Tuk Tuk (which is about $20 every 2 months or so). Narin says he wouldn’t mind working long hours as long as he had customers, he once had a shift for 24 hours straight! But working long hours is very rare for Narin, he typically works from 7 am to 6 pm everyday.

Narin’s typical day starts off with a dollar breakfast, he then goes to his spot and waits for customers. He then works until lunch time where has lunch for a dollar again! After lunch he likes to go back home for an hour to exercise then he’s back at work until dinner. Food wise, Narin enjoys eating Fish but he doesn’t mind eating meat such as beef or chicken. All though his days might be repetitive, he doesn’t mind it. We asked Narin if he had any wishes, to which he told us that he would like to visit Thailand for and work there but he can’t do so as it is very expensive for him to get a passport, visa and an air ticket. But he assured us that he is more than happy to stay and work in Cambodia as Cambodia is his motherland after all!

We then proceeded to ask Narin about his family. He told us that he has a wife, a son and a daughter. Narin’s wife works at a factory but he doesn’t like that as his wife is not appreciated in her job as she is heavily underpaid ($5 a day!). Narin loves his wife very much, we were sure about his as we asked him “What is the best thing about Cambodia?” to which he replied “My Wife!”. Narin told us that he and his wife works very hard to provide for their children’s education as they don’t want them to struggle like they did. He and his wife want their children to be either a doctor, policeman/policewoman or a teacher. Narin and his wife strongly believe that education is the way for the future for his children and the country, this is because all the intellectuals that were supposed to move the country forward in the 1970s were killed under the Pol Phot Regime. He strongly believes that his children and the children of other Cambodians who will be educated will be way forward for a brighter future for Cambodia.

We were really inspired and touched by the interview that we had with Narin, although it was an interview, it felt more like a causal conversation between friends. After our talk we gave Narin $7 for his time and effort and then he wanted to take a picture with us and we gladly took pictures with him. It was hard to say goodbye to him as we found out a lot about his life in a very short time. As we were saying our farewells, Narin gave us his phone number so that we would call him if we ever needed a friendly face in a Tuk Tuk to take us around Phnom Penh! (I called him for a ride to the airport at the end of the program :)).

My Team with Narin

Ali Arman Khurshid


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