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The luxury of leisure

  • Story Highlights
  • Many Khmer people work more than eight hours a day, seven days a week
  • Working for Homeland, Cassie has lots of free time to spend at home
  • From her balcony she sees building work taking place opposite her flat
  • Construction workers --young people and women -- work in flip flops and hats
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(CNN) -- Cassie Phillips is in Battambang, Cambodia, where she will be working with the NGO Homeland.

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"Women and young people make up a large portion of construction workers doing manual labor in flip-flops and large straw hats."

Homeland is a Cambodian organization that works with local underprivileged children to give them some of the advantages they may have missed out on in their early life.

Cassie will be meeting and helping children from the region who have suffered from a range of afflictions. Keep up with her experiences in her blogs and video diaries.

March 26, 2008
Most Khmer people I know and meet work very hard, all day, every day. For example, many of my co-workers work full time and allocate all of their free time to their jobs as well.

When they are not at work, some go to school on weekends or at night, helping run the family small business, or trying to make money in some other way.

My work schedule ensures that I work eight-hour days, Monday through Friday. While this is a typical full time schedule in many countries, full time work here is more like seven days a week and often more than eight hours a day.

There are many businesses open seven days a week, many from early in the morning until late in the evening. Relatively speaking, my job allows for an in impressive amount of leisure time for which I am very grateful.

I am most acutely aware of my leisure time when I try to spend it at home.

I live on the top floor of a very large house in a space comprised of a bedroom, bathroom and a small open space that gives way to a large balcony. On the balcony there are some chairs, a hammock and a small table.

When I first arrived, I enjoyed reading or relaxing on this balcony. However, this has become less and less comfortable as the humongous guesthouse that was just two stories high when I arrived, rapidly grew to the five-story monstrosity it now is.

Construction workers begin work at 7am sharp and finish work at exactly 5pm, every day of the week. To my surprise, women and young people make up a large portion of construction workers doing manual labor in flip-flops and large straw hats.

The rapid growth in Battambang and prevalence of construction sites on just about every street provide plenty of job opportunities. And many Cambodians are working in construction where non-skilled workers make as little as $1.75 per day.

Keeping all of this in mind, I often catch myself sitting in my room at four-fifty-something counting down the minutes until five so I can sit out on my balcony without feeling guilty about the people slaving away for less than $2 a day, the people that have to work all day and stop at 5pm and not a minute sooner.

Call it proximity but I know there is something more to my wrong and bothered feelings spurred by the idea of sitting around reading, writing, and relaxing in plain sight of people performing manual labor fewer than 20 yards away. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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