I wrote this on my phone two days into my trip to Cambodia...
Man, these kids can smile!
I'm talking glued on, make your face sore kind of smile. They smile
while doing the dirty work of preparing bags for mushrooms to grow--one
of their only sources of income. They smile while studying and learning.
They eagerly raise hands to answer questions. I think I grew out of
that phase by age six...
In comparison to what I seemingly have, they have nothing. And yet
they smile, they laugh, they dance, and they play. There is no hint or
sign that they are missing out on my entertainment or living essentials.
I'm left to think: what am I doing wrong?
For all that I have, I don't think I've shown the amount of genuine, true happiness in a month that these kids live every day.
They have no x-box, no computer games, and almost no prospects for the future.
They have a couple of beat up sports balls for entertainment. I've
spent the hours in between my sight seeing, research, and interviews,
joining in their play and their work.
You know what? I've spent a lot of time smiling. A ton. My face hurts I've smiled so
much. A part of me wants to stay forever and de-jade-ify myself.
My greatest worry about returning home is letting myself slip back into my normal routine. It never made me smile this much.
I was never this person before. I laughed when people mentioned these types of experiences, dismissing them out of hand.
What was I thinking?
I'm standing in extreme humidity, sweat running down my back, the sun
scorching hot, the bottoms of my feet charring on the rough concrete.
A dozen kids, from 4 to 15 stand around me laughing, shouting in heavy accents, ”You monkey! You monkey!”
Ordinarily I think I would've been too tired, too hot. Today
though, I growled and smiled. ”Me big monkey. Soon, you monkey!” And I
swipe the ball that was thrown inches too low over my head.
An adorable little girl breaks into a fit of giggles. ”Oh no! Me monkey now!”
I tickle her before taking her spot in the circle around her.
At least I'll get a chance to breathe!