Saturday, December 24, 2011

Kompong Pluk Floating Village

One of my best days in Cambodia consisted of a private tour with Sosune, a Cambodian local and Sol, a lovely girl from South Korea.  We went through the market and she described the different kinds of vegetables and fruits while locals were selling fresh fish and meats and kids were playing in wheel barrels with bright smiles.  We then headed on a boat to the Kompong Pluk, which is a floating village on the Tonlae Sap lake.  We chomp on fresh rice that tastes like corn flakes while soaking up the sun and discussing our varying perspectives from US to Cambodia to South Korea. 
There are 32 families that live in Kompong Pluk and they make most of their money through selling fresh river fish in the rainy season and working in the rice fields in the dry season. It is really something that one has to see for themselves in terms of the way they live.  Within in the village, there is a primary school and the kids take the boat to school and many people sell fish, pigs, fruits, and even ice cream on the boats.  Most of the huts do not have electricity and are built on stilts high above the ground to avoid flooding.  We stopped and had some tuna sandwiches and watched the kids come back from school. We also went into the Jungle forest floating through trees-quite amazing. 
My talks and many questions for Sosune created such moments of appreciation and enlightment for me.  Basically Sosune is another “Grade A quality” human being.  She is the same age as me and told us her story of working and living in Cambodia, addressed the stereotypes, and really made me feel like I do not deserve all that I have.  She is so appreciative of her job as a tour guide because she gets to interact with other cultures, learn English, and she gets to “talk and smile.” Two of her favorite things to do=) She used to work 20 hour days at a restaurant where she was made to do everything imaginable and made $60 a month.  Many young people in Cambodia work in restaurants, hotels, and have more opportunity if they speak English-making more money.  On average people make $60 to $80 a month.  If you work at a nice restaurant, you may be lucky making $150-$200 
As I listened to her story, I started to tear up and cry because of her beauty. She makes very little money and it does not matter to her.  What is so beautiful about her is her appreciation for her learning and working.  It made me feel like such an ungrateful American and I was angry at myself for what I did make and what she did not.  If I made $60 on a shift waitressing, I would be pissed off and probably would be complaining with another staff about how it was a slow night.  This girl makes $60 per month working 6 days a week 12 hour days.  Wake up and smell the coffee Priscilla. 
In America we always seem to make room for materialism. If we do not have the cash, just charge it. This option not available to Southeast Asia yet why is it available to us? Why are we so privileged? Why I am I privileged? I can borrow thousands of dollars from the government and rack up all sorts credit card debt to support my needs and wants, but these people barely live to support their needs. How is this fair? We are both living, breathing human beings, but the only difference is our environment. I grew up in America and she grew up in Cambodia.
But hard work is a principle of the Buddhist culture. A person works hard and they appreciate the work that they are given.  It seems the less you have, the more you appreciate. With Sosune and many locals, I spent a lot of time learning about Buddhism and how the core principals impact their daily lives, beliefs, and interactions.  The principle of karma exists with people believing something bad will occur if they act negatively towards others.  Sosune was discussing fortune tellers and how they will tell you your fate.  They can tell you if bad spirits are present and how you then go pray to the monks to release the bad spirits.  Those with bad spirits present listen to exactly what the fortune tellers tell them to do.  A fortune person may tell someone their death is approaching as well and their may not be anything they can do-quite scarey to hear, but honest.  This greatly differs from my belief that my fate is in God's hands as I have surrendered to him.  I will not know my fate rather it will just happen in the course of life.  There is no revenge in Buddhism as if someone has a negative interaction with you, you do not continue this negativity or be venegeful.  The Cambodians go to temple once a month for the Full moon, which varies depending on the lunar calendar. Their relationship with their higher power is so open and honest and present in their interactions. They follow their beliefs in their interactions ignoring negativity and staying positive and happy.  
I am a proud Christian, but I am interested in learning about Buddhism and taking away some new principles to my spiritual path.  

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