Spotlight: Narith

Sometimes, people come along in life that surprise you with their abilities. You probably know a consultant who's a closet painter; maybe an advertising desk jockey training for a marathon; and let's not forget about your new intern who is much better at your job than you are. Meet Narith: field engineer for our project, and all-around nice guy.

We first met Narith at the site, where he was diligently engaged in something other than what we needed him to do. This moment expressed a more general challenge with the project - how to persuade a group of people, to whom we were total outsiders, that the methods they've been using all their lives are flawed at best, possibly even dangerous. How do you tell a crew of native-born construction workers and engineers, through a language barrier, that a pack of post-pubescent kids who grew up listening to 2 Live Crew knows embankment construction better than anyone else around? It wasn't the easiest thing we've done.

We all came to Cambodia having cut our teeth on the New York City design and construction scene, where showing up to a meeting without your guns drawn means you'll be serving coffee to the big Italian contractor for the remainder of the project. But there's a different feel in Southeast Asia - rather than fight you, these people would rather be your friends. Only a few days after our first meeting, our team was sharing a hot-pot with Narith and his wife at a local barbeque restaurant - a few days later, we began to introduce some of our methods, and found them gradually breaking through the language barrier and into Narith's project routine.

By the end of the trip, it became clear that Narith had a burning desire for us to leave behind our level, the piece of equipment he is shown holding. While we would normally return with any equipment we brought with us, his winning combination of Khmer charisma and gravity-defying mole hair (So Pheap: "It's lucky!") eventually won us over. To this day, Narith remains our eyes and ears in the field; our project, with all the bumps along the way, is certainly fortunate to have him.

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