For many older Cambodians, life is centred on family, faith and food, a timeless existence that has stayed the same for centuries. Family is more than the nuclear family we now know in the West – it’s the extended family of third cousins and obscure aunts (as long as there is a bloodline there is a bond). Families stick together, solve problems collectively, listen to the wisdom of the elders and pool resources. The extended family comes together during times of trouble or times of joy, celebrating festivals and successes, mourning deaths or disappointments. Whether the Cambodian house is big or small one thing is certain: there will be a lot of people living inside.
For the majority of the population still living in the countryside, these constants carry on as they have: several generations sharing the same roof, the same rice and the same religion. But during the dark decades of the 1970s and 1980s, this routine was ripped apart by war and ideology, as the peasants were dragged from all they held dear to fight a bloody civil war and later forced into slavery. Angkor, the Khmer Rouge organization, took over as the moral and social beacon in the lives of the people and families were forced apart, children turned against parents, brothers against sister. The bond of trust was broken and is only slowly being rebuilt today.