Fried tarantulas!

Cambodia – what an incredible place!

The first day I said: “I could never live in a place like this.” By the end of the week, though, I was fascinated by the green colours of the rice fields and the dark blue sky before the storm.

A journey like this one can change the way you look at things once you get back home. In fact, it has left me with some huge question marks about big issues like development and education.

©Mark Lanza Wallace

The country has abruptly opened up to the world after a harsh communist regime, and to the free market, with unpredictable consequences.

Wealth isn’t well distributed at all, and technological innovations, like mobile phones, have a strong impact on people’s behaviour.

©Mark Lanza Wallace

It was impressive to see, while crossing the green forest, huge concrete damns built by Chinese companies, where most workers seemed barely to be teenagers.

©Mark Lanza Wallace

Despite the language barrier (we had a translator) it was great talking to the children.

It is surprising what the encounter with people from different cultures can generate: nothing is taken for granted and details are important. Misunderstandings can be hilarious.

“You can ask any question you like,” we were told while standing in front of a classroom of about 30 children who had been waiting for us and were standing in their uniforms staring at us with curiosity.

©Mark Lanza Wallace

There are no “intelligent” questions with children, just questions. And answers.

“Do you have any brothers or sisters?”

-Yes,seven. Five brothers and two sisters.

“And you?”


“How long does it take you to get to school?”
-Two hours.

We were asked what we have for breakfast. While answering, we realised nobody knew what a croissant was! Our explanation must have seemed very strange to them, just as strange as it was for us to find fried tarantulas at the local street market!

©Mark Lanza Wallace

Having said this, I think some things are universal: respectful attitudes, curiosity, humour – some behaviours defy all cultural differences.

The humanity shown by the Save the Children organisation is admirable.

I was impressed by their way of working: I saw great commitment, a very efficent organisation, but especially people guided by ethics in the things they do.

For me this was a great example, something I would like to apply to my daily work in IKEA.

Someone once said: “Values are good for business.”

Let’s talk about it!