I speak of promised lands
Soil as soft as momma’s hands
Running water, standing still
Endless fields of daffodils and chamomile
Rice under black beans
Walked into Apple with cracked screens
And told prophetic stories of freedom
~ Chance the Rapper
The village I volunteered in was located in rural Siem Reap, Cambodia.
To be specific, it was located in the district of Puok – which according to Vin (our cab driver from the first blog) was one of the poorest and most underdeveloped districts in all of Siem Reap.
I mean, look at this map provided by the orphanage to locate them:
It was no surprise our cab driver didn’t wanna take us there.
No one knew where there, was.
And as we made our way there, underdeveloped did not begin to describe what we saw.
The roads – were not really roads.
They were more hastily cleared dust paths, littered with potholes that made for bumpy driving.
Surrounding the roads were what can only be described as swamps, where wild vegetation was allowed to grow freely – sprawled across the landscape creating a beautiful mess of roots, leaves and cloudy water.
But, the real shock was yet to come.
When we arrived in the village, and spent a couple of hours simply walking around Puok – it truly became clear how little these people had.
Homes were packed to the brim.
Some couldn’t even be called homes.
Some were simply makeshift shelters.
It was explained to us, that often; the smaller the house, the larger the family.
Water was also a huge issue.
Take a look for yourself:
Everywhere you’d look, there would be plenty of water.
But the water was contaminated to the point of no return.
There was stagnant water – where mozzies would make their home.
Then there was the water that mozzies wouldn’t dare touch too.
So that’s the kinda spectrum we were looking at.
But if my time in the village taught me anything – happiness and contentment is simply a mindset.
Because, by golly, were these people some of the happiest that I’ve ever met.
Parents would work away in the heat for hours on end – with a smile on their face, always willing to help out others when they can.
Kids would run around, rolling with the dogs that roamed the streets or make up their own games.
They’d rope together makeshift volleyball nets, and ball for hours.
Or get together for a refreshing swim in the village pool.
Then they’d all return home.
All 3 or 8 or 15 of them – to sit down and share a meal together.
To check in on each other.
And strangely, I think they’ve worked it out.
Our intrinsic human happiness has become tied to material goods.
You feel good when you consume a Big Mac.
You feel great when you get the newest COD the day of release.
Oh man, cant wait for the iPhone 8.
On Christmas Eve, I saw a kid (about 12 years old) in TED’s Camera Store, raging at his Dad for not buying him a Joby Tripod (you know, the one Casey Neistat uses).
His dad tried explaining to him that it was too expensive – his son told him that it was his Christmas present and therefore, he could have whatever he wanted.
Contrast that with this once more:
Now I’m not saying that we should turn back time, and live in villages with the bare minimum.
But I think we require a mindset change.
A shift in perspective.
Because when you look past the screen of materialism – you’ll find a ton of blessings to be grateful for.
Ryan Cheng is the founder of The 88, and is passionate about telling stories surrounding travel, culture and identity.
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