Relaxing on a rattan couch with the Gulf of Thailand extending into nothingness there is a feeling of dislocation from what had appeared to be the real ”reality” , a harsh but gratifying one that we seemed to integrate and come to appreciate. Life had taken on a different meaning. Colours and experiences were intensified by a strong sense of impermanent- ness. We had adopted a ”that is exactly the weather or type of day that we had wanted! Thank you, Thank you!” type of attitude, one that works very well in Cambodia and to be honest, in life in general. This new easygoing attitude just seems easier to apply in Cambodia where so often the forces lie beyond our western control. Interesting enough, things had never moved so smoothly in the lives despite the bumpiness of the unpaved roads we travelled upon. Within the tangled web of what appeared complex, relinquishing all expectations, things suddenly became uncomplicated, enjoyable and light. Who cares if yesterday our guest house served ginger coffee and today they had nooooo idea what we were asking for.
Today, our first day in another world, one far away from the trials and struggles of a good 85% of the Cambodian population living a poverty stricken life in rural areas with a daily income that wouldn’t even buy Noa a gum ball, we find ourselves in a semi-pseudo world of luxury. Our plane fare alone to reach Cambodia we embarrassedly calculated, cost more than the equivalent to 6 years of income for one Cambodian and, be assured, we flew economy, a grey market ticket. And what about the CO2 that our plane spit into the air? Something comparable to 24 years of daily commuting of one car. These uncomfortable statistics are quite a deterrence in themselves and weighs heavily on our mind. How does one justify?
But below, without a care in the world, the 4 boys play on the white sandy beach. The sun glistening in their hair, imagination comes alive as they search for odds and ends of broken shell, bits of wood and coconut creating a magical kingdom founded in nature. It muses us to witness the change in a child when removed from the material world of ”wanting” and placed into the beauty of nature where they suddenly have all that they desire to be truly happy. I often ask myself if it is not us, the western world, that needs the assistance of the disadvantaged and not the contrary. I think that in truth we could all learn a lot from one another how to live with more joy and less fear.
There is a poignant quote that I read while reading ”Three Cups of Tea” that sums it all up in a few short simple words that I don’t exactly remember but the gist of it goes something like this. ”It isn’t the gross national income that determines the happiness of a country but better the gross national contentment.” And one could add, being in harmony with one’s community, one’s land and one’s heart. Sounds bit simplistic for our modern techie minds to grasp? Maybe, but try it it might just work.