Today we started our trip by going to a monastery early in the morning. To get there, we had decided to walk down a typical street on the outskirts of Siem Reap.
Once again, we found ourselves surrounded by extreme poverty. Kids wearing little clothes if any (some were naked), with barely anything to eat or toys to play with, but still carrying big smiles ear to ear when they greeted you from their homes. Families were doing all they could for a couple bucks; From painting tuk tuks (little carriages attached to scooters) to selling dried fish from a dirty river, the average income is about 40 dollars a month.
I found it fascinating that one of my favorite iPhone game, Angry Birds, has merchandise that has made it to Cambodia and covers young children. These kids have probably never held an iPhone but happen to be wearing one of it’s highest selling apps. Once again there were nice houses on the street too, the fifth picture in is a house that is fully furnished and comfortable, yet across the street (photo 7) is a house with barely any insulation. These nice houses cost about $25k.
If there is one thing that I have learned from this trip it is that in the states, we have convinced ourselves that through consumerism we can purchase happiness. Yet in cities and towns like Siem Reap, people have nothing yet are still able to smile and live a happy and fulfilling life. Nobody honks a horn in traffic, or screams and curses. I have spent days outside looking at locals, I haven’t seen one person visibly upset, angry, or sad. It has become clear to me that we don’t have the right definition of happiness, nor the knowledge to bring us there.