Oudong, So Wrong?

Trip Start Aug 19, 2012
1
19
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Trip End Ongoing


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Where I stayed
The only guesthouse in Oudong
What I did
Tang Khiev

Flag of Cambodia  ,
Saturday, October 6, 2012

It's so wrong.

That's what I kept thinking in my head as we spent time in Oudong at a slum village called Tang Khiev.

It's so wrong on so many levels.

From that fact that this community has been inhumanely, forcibly, and suddenly relocated TWICE by the Cambodian government, to the fact that they still don't know that filthy water is the source of a lot of their illnesses.

It's still hard for me to reconcile my own life, and even elements of my travels (including the gorgeous upgraded resort room we got for one night in Macau - albeit only because of Adrian's hotel points) compared to the normal lives the villagers of Tang Khiev live on a daily basis.

How do I reconcile the fact that even the simple guesthouse room we lived in while we were in Oudong is large enough to house a family of 8 based on the size of their own homes?

How do I reconcile that even though my shower water was dirty, it's still running water which nobody has, and it's cleaner than what they drink?  The irony is that rain water is the cleanest water they encounter.  Downpours are celebrated joyously, and with little qualm.  Children run elatedly back and forth between homes, and jump in knee/waist deep puddles, sometimes clothed, and often naked.  Adults quickly "shower" in their clothes as the rain collects in their water basins.  Neighbours share water as their own basins fill up.  Soaked to the bone is not a problem for most.

How do I reconcile that I eat so much food that I need to go to the gym to keep up with my caloric intake, but locals are "naturally" skinny because their lives are based on subsistence/survival, even if it is partially genetic?  Most don't even make enough money to get into town 1 hour away to make a proper living.  Many live on or make a few dollars a day.  It's a difficult cycle.
 
It's been a challenge to understand myself and another culture through my time at Tang Khiev.  I hear the expression that the poor seem so happy despite their lack of material things.

In a way, I would agree.  But more from the perspective that they can still experience happiness despite the lack.  However, if you asked them, the grind of life is so difficult because of their poverty, that they would prefer to not live such a life.  In that regard, they may not be happy.  

One of the beauties of Tang Khiev is that the community is learning to share.  I don't mean this in a condescending manner.  Culturally, because survival is so difficult, the poor often fend for themselves, sometimes resorting to tragic measures.  But with the encouragement of our friends, Kevin and Leakhena (our friends who live in the community because of their passion and love to serve this community), they have decided to support one another.  In the process, they are discovering hope.

In a time when they don't know if they will have a home when they return from work (twice, their homes were torched or bulldozed without warning, and many returned after a work day to find everything destroyed by the government), hope is a difficult word to utter.  And yet, with the help of Kevin and Leakhena, and the involvement of the community leader (Sokren), they have built new homes for over half the community in less than a year, have started English classes, have planted mango trees, are building a school, will run literacy and computer classes, and will start a farm.  And yes, all because of two people.

I wish I could write more about our brief time there.  But I'll let the pics do the talking again...
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