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We’ve been fortunate enough to go to Cambodia every year for the last three years now. In that time, we’ve found that Cambodians have something very special about them. While we in the western hemisphere stare at ipods and play xbox, they play communal games like volleyball and marbles. We sleep in comfy bedrooms in weather sealed houses and they live in huts completely open to the elements (there’s nothing wrong with living in weather sealed homes and owning xbox’s — that’s not my point). We ask “what sounds good for dinner?” while they make soup all the time because it’s what they have. Not to mention the fact that a significant percentage of the entire population (some 20- 30%) was slaughtered by an evil dictator (Pol Pot) not that long ago.
Cambodians have figured it out. They’ve found the key, so it seems, to living simple, content lives. Every time I return home from Cambodia I am completely inspired — almost feeling rejuvenated and ready to see the good in life and appreciate all that I’ve been given. Being that the novelties of Cambodia have sort worn off for me, I was able to concentrate on how beautiful life is in Cambodia more than ever before. I’m becoming used to being around elephants, monkeys, bamboo huts, and ruins to where I am more aware of the little things in Cambodia. More than ever before, this was made aware to me by my friends, the tuk tuk drivers.
Seeing all my tuk tuk driver friends was a great reunion. They met me at the border (6 hours round trip from where they live), picked me up, swung me around, patted my butt (normal in Cambodian culture ;)… It was so great seeing them all again and spending time with them.
Now, to give you an idea, the going rate for a tuk tuk driver all day is $15 (Cambodians use USD’s as their currency). That includes them sitting around all day waiting for you, the petrol used for their tuk tuks, their food that they purchase since they are out and about… So let’s be VERY conservative and say that they make $10 for an entire day’s work. And that’s if they are lucky to get a full day of work. Tourism has gone down in Cambodia (not for any reason other than other western economies being hit and therefore less westerners traveling to places like Cambodia) so many times they don’t get the full day’s pay.
With all of that, these are the happiest, sweetest, most charming guys you could ever be around. Every person that was a part of the trip can attest to our tuk tuk drivers being a huge reason why Cambodia was so enjoyable. Playing jokes on each other and on us, laughing at every thing you could possibly laugh at, setting up hammocks during break time, smiling at you everytime you make eye contact… these guys have figured out life. They may live simple, humble lives, but they live deeper and more enriched lives than most in the west, I’d bet.
Bottom line? Life isn’t about how much money you make. It isn’t about having the nicest bathroom with a beautiful, elaborate sink. It isn’t about a fancy car (or even owning a car). It has nothing to do with starbucks or iphones. It’s about connection — with humanity and with nature. My Cambodian friends have figured this out. I feel so fortunate to be reminded of this more and more with each visit to Cambodia.
Mr. Marom, Mr. Thy, Mr. Sola, Mr. Don, Mr. Sith, and Mr. Kun. Some of my favorite people on earth.
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