Course, he’s an excellent driver …

As he puts the van in drive, he typically calls, in high-pitched, nasal voice, “O-kay, O-kay. Le’s go.” He helps the students with their various packs and accessories. And he plays CD mixes he gets from groups from all over the world. He is particularly fond of the song whose chorus goes, “We had joy; we had fun; we had seasons in the sun…” The song makes the students groan, though some of them sing along.

So Tola is a good guy–one of the best people I’ve met in Cambodia. He lives in Preyvang Province with his wife, Sok Pher, and his three boys–“So many boys!” he told me–but he doesn’t see them a lot. Mr. Tola, as Uncle Brian and I call him, is on the road a lot. He’s been driving a van for 11 years.

Three years ago, his pastor led Mr. Tola to Christ. “I change all,” he said simply about that event.

A couple of years ago, he bought his first van, then his second. He hired another driver. He hopes to buy a third. “I have to pay the incident on them,” he said, shaking his head. He is studying English, using a Khmer/English dictionary and a Khmer/English Bible. (And he likes to learn words from Uncle Brian.)

One day, as we were talking, he started laughing, “When you say, ‘Yup, yup, yup,’ I’m thinking you say, ‘Jap, Jap, Jap …” he said.

He wants to be a tour guide and to work in development. In a society still struggling close to the ground, Mr. Tola is determined to rise. “It’s because I understand the book,” he said. “It’s good for everything.”

While studying, Mr. Tola keeps on driving. If you sit up front, he’ll make sure to let you know when you’re driving through the Muslim section of town. “Muslim!”he calls out. Or “Wedding!”when you’re passing one of the pink-and-gold wedding tents that are set up right along the road. When Mr. Tola is driving, every cow, dog and chicken yields the road. He is the only Khmer person I have ever heard mutter (in Khmer) about traffic.

You can’t remember everything about a place. Only the things that have a profound impact, for good or ill, stay with us. But I will remember Mr. Tola. When he drove us to the airport, he slid a CD into the player, and “We had joy; we had fun; we had seasons in the sun …” came singing out. The students begged me to change it. I told them, “Mr. Tola handles the music.”


2 comments so far

  1. Ann DeRooy on

    Joy, fun, seasons in the sun…
    …I think it’s the perfect theme song for this Interim trip! Way to go Mr. Tola!

  2. Phil de Haan on

    Good song. I hope it was the Terry Jacks version; that’s the best one (I think). Terry Jacks is Canadian you know. 🙂 Good job Mr. Tola; good job Mrs. Anderson. Blessings,


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