Friday, 24 May 2013

How To Be Happy

This week I was in a conversation with a lawyer and a government official. They were chatting about level of happiness and how this differs depending on a persons economic standing. They chatted away in Khmer together and then when they’d come to a conclusion, they translated to me.

They said, for the poor, it is very easy to be happy. All they need is food and sleep, and they will be happy. They then said that for the middle class it is a little harder because they want more, so they want a good house and a good job also to be happy. And then for the rich, “Oh” they said, “it is very difficult for the rich to be happy. For they want the food and sleep and good job and good house, but they also want power and control and respect. Without all of those things they are not happy. So maybe, it is better to be poor. Maybe then we would be more happy.”

I sat there stunned. Here were two Khmer people doing fairly well in a country that is struggling with poverty. And yet here they were almost envious of the poor.

In none of my writing do I ever want to make poverty seem glamorous or something that’s not deadly, painful, and just plain hard. But I think we can all learn a lot from those who do live in poverty every day. I know that I learn a lot from those people. I question what I believe to be things I need. I question how much I buy in to commercialism. I look and examine myself.

Poverty is not something I seek after, as I have seen firsthand the absolute horror of what those in poverty live through. But maybe there are things in the mindset of the people in those situations that I could adopt. How could I become more appreciative of what I have, and less worried about what I don't? How could I be more content, no matter my circumstances? How could you?

Monday, 20 May 2013

Perspective... Again

Last weekend I was out in the province. Not a 'go to the province and stay in a hotel and swim in the pool the whole weekend' kind of trip. But a legit stay in a village, sleep on a mat, pee in a bush kind of trip. It was awesome. And humbling. And challenging.

We arrived in the village and quickly unpacked the truck before the giant storm that was rolling in hit. As soon as the truck was empty, we turn around and the back of it is full of kids, climbing in and playing... In the back of the truck... With nothing. They were having the best fun ever!

As the storm rolled in, half of us started cooking and half of us kept the kids entertained... Which of course I happily volunteered for. I pulled out my giant bubble wand and none could predict the entertainment that it brought those kids. Absolute sheer joy. The squealed and ran and laughed for what seemed like hours. And then the bubbles ran out. So we taught them dances and we sung and we stomped around in the mud until I couldn't see my white skin anymore under the dark mud. My heart was happy and full.

We then ate our fried rice that had been cooked over coals and fed the rest to the kids, who crowded around and fed their siblings and friends because we didn't have enough spoons for them all. For once, most of these kids would have gone to bed with a full belly.

Our beds were inside a local house, one with one wall with a big opening and the door left open at night. The twelve of us all slept in there with mats on the floor and mosquito nets above us. Sleeping local style. I must say it was one of the most uncomfortable nights sleeps I've ever had.

As I was laying there, I was challenged again. Here we were, sleeping in a house that was the size of my room in Cambodia. Which in no way even compares to what my room in Australia was. This house were the only things inside were our sleeping mats and mosquito nets and a couple of sets of clothes hanging up and one cooking pan. The possessions of a whole family. A whole family who lived in that tiny house. A whole family who every day is survival. I spent one night there, but I went to bed with a stomach full of food, a body that had at least been cleaned with baby wipes, and a overnight bag that contained more possessions than this one family had in their whole house.

I don't know how to reconcile these things when I'm challenged by them. I wonder if I ever will. I can have a small, brief experience of these people's lives, but in no way do I presume that I know what it's like. And in no way can I presume that my way of life is better, despite it seeming to be much easier.

So I came home. And I beyond appreciated my shower and my toilet and my bed. I loved that my fridge had food in it and I had a big bottle of clean water to drink. I initially appreciated everything. I was so grateful. Since being back part of the gratefulness and appreciation has gone, because it has become normal again. Showers and toilets are again the norm, as it a comfy bed and a cupboard full of clothing. But I don't want to forget that. I want to hold on to that gratefulness and let it continue to challenge me. I left a piece of my heart in that village and I don't want to forget that.

I took very few photos due to just wanting to be present with the kids, and also because my camera died a quick and untimely death. But here are a few:
The village.

Kids using our truck as a jungle gym

Cooking breakfast.
Spot the white chick.