For much of the time I lived in Kompong Chhnang I was a volunteer English teacher. My students held me in some sort of awe, perhaps because of just one quality—that I was a Westerner. They didn't get to see too many of us there. I was a curiosity and so, from time to time, I would be invited home to meet their families.

At one such visit I was introduced to a woman who worked for an NGO. The sole purpose of this organisation, she explained, was to install septic toilets on farm properties. The reason this was necessary is that without them, people would simply go into the bushes. Most of these farms had free-range pigs. Perhaps the pigs were short of food or perhaps they were not fussy about what they ate but it seems that human excrement was part of their diet. And so there was a cycle that assured the spread of intestinal worms.

Some time after this I was invited to spend a weekend at a farm owned by the family of one of my students. The farm was in the district of Preymool which was a pleasant ride from town on my bicycle through farmland and beautiful scenery. I always enjoy travelling through rice fields. The rich and changing greens are particularly beautiful to me.

The homes were very simple, mostly made from bamboo which was grown on the property. They gave shelter from the rain and the open weave of the walls and floor ensured good ventilation in the heat. Cooking was done outdoors or perhaps under the house. It was a pleasant weekend for me and reminded me of when I used to go camping in Australia. After that I joked that people in Western countries go camping so they can experience something similar to the way Cambodians live all the time.

When I first arrived they showed me around and very proudly showed off their Western-style toilet. I appreciated that it was available but I have to say that it looked like it had been rarely used and perhaps swept out especially for my visit. I suspect that old habits don't die easily and they were mostly still using the bushes as before. It is one thing to install new toilets but unless this is accompanied by education about why they should be used, then perhaps nothing much will change.

My observation from my time in Cambodia is that education is what must change more than anything else. Government employees in Cambodia (and in some other SE Asian countries) are payed a pittance. It has become part of their cultural expectation that if you want a service from any government employee you have to pay a fee. This includes schools. Teachers expect a fee each day or the child does not attend school. It doesn't matter how smart the kids are, if they can't attend school they can't learn and they will never gain the skills and knowledge to help bring their country the benefits of development.