Tuesday, February 26, 2013
The Un-glorified Truth.
I've been in southeast Asia for four nights and three days now. I feel like I should sit here and glorify every aspect of things up until today for my readers, "Amazing, beautiful, tropical, adventurous." All those things are true of course, but, that's not how I'm currently feeling. I could write all of these things but then I wouldn't be honest in my words and to me, writing is about what I feel and experience on paper... the truth, not the glorified version.
The truth is that I have been feeling a bit broken for the past two days. I spent two nights in Bangkok before heading to Cambodia on Monday morning. In Bangkok, it's obvious that there's no such thing as rich, however the things I saw there were not quite as painstaking as what I've seen my last two days in Cambodia. I knew I was coming to third world countries, but perhaps I didn't prepare myself emotionally for the things I would see.
In Cambodia children are without shoes. Their feet are dirty and they walk the streets trying to sell things to tourists to help their families. Whereas some people shrug this off as a scam or, "their parents send them over to guilt you into giving them money," I just cannot find it within me to continue walking and shake it off. Little 8-10 year old Khmer girls who speak next to no English but can perfectly say, "postcard, ten one dollar, lady," approach you around every corner. Little boys are carrying around baskets of cheap souvenirs in Angkor Wat trying to sell them to the crowds of tourists passing by. Families of four ride through town on one motor bike with no helmets, fathers driving while mothers hold their infants close. There are stray dogs everywhere, some so unkempt that they barely have any hair left. Garbage lines a lot of the country roads. Contrary to what people say, Siem Reap is not just a big touristy area that boasts one of the biggest attractions in south east Asia. There is a lot of struggle at the heart of the city that people fail to mention, and part of me feels that my heart wasn't built strong enough to take it all.
This brings me to my next point. Although this is the poorest and most heartbreaking country I've ever experienced, they have one thing that changes it all: happiness. In a place were struggle is a part of every day life, I never would have imagined to see so many smiles. These people are happy. Children might be running through the streets shoeless but they are many times laughing and giggling as they do so. They play on dusted side streets with nothing more than sticks, dirt, and a small ball. Their simple smiles and beautiful bellows of joy are enough to both melt your heart and make you reevaluate your life. Khmer men and women try desperately to sell you fruit, massages, cold drinks and souvenirs at unbelievably cheap prices, a dollar here two dollars there. More often than not, tourists try to barter them down to a lower price. Many tourists keep walking without even acknowledging their presence, but rightfully so as the haggling can get a bit overwhelming. The thing is that we all look rich in this country, because in reality we are. But, even as we pass by these people ignoring them or saying no, they will STILL offer you their sincerest smile. That is something about this place that I will always carry with me.
And so, as I sit here, reflecting on this, and a moment away from tears, I feel as though my heart can't take anymore. I would be lying if I told you that I haven't actually considered cutting my trip short because I honestly feel broken hearted. Being here makes me want to go home and hug my mom for the life she gave me. It makes me want to cry as I sit and ponder the fairness in the fact that by the hand of God, I was blessed to be born into a family and place that would provide me with all that it has, while others are born into conditions that I couldn't fathom. Then, I have to remind myself that just because I feel sad for them doesn't mean they need my pity. They have the two richest things in the world keeping them together: love and happiness. That is something we can all learn from in a world where we often take things for granted.
Posted by Mrs. Misialek at 5:37 PM