Pity

We visited the floating village, which is a village made of boats. The lake that it rests on expands and contracts 4 kilometers during the rainy and dry season, making it essential to have floating houses and stores. We took a tour boat throughout the village, and this time I really felt like a tourist coming to look at something “exotic”.

The floating village was an interesting experience for me. Many students felt guilty for going through the village and taking pictures of the people, their houses and their lives, making it like a zoo. This village is one of the poorest places in Cambodia, yet our guide told us that a few years ago, researches did a study and found out that this village is happier than the average person. Although they are poorer than poor, they are happy.

I also enjoyed looking into the houses as we went by because they were all full of stuff. Some people had hammoks, t.v.’s, tables, etc. while others had many trinkets stuffed into their house boats. I imagine that some are known as the rich folk and others as the poor folk, just like Grand Rapids or any other city.

Many people said “I just want to take that child home with me.” They felt an immense amount of pity for these people because of their extreme poverty. Yet they are happier.

Do I pity the people of the floating village? Yes and no. Yes because there are some sanitary issues that could improve their overall health. But I do not pity their poverty and lifestyle. What is wrong with having a lower life expectancy? What is wrong with living your life paddling down the river in a tin bucket with your friends? What is wrong with never owning a pair of shoes? Yet they are happier.

So who do I pity? I pity the other side, the side who goes into the market and barters down until the vender makes less than a 1% profit. The side who pities the poor people yet takes advantage of them with manipulation and persuasion. The side who complains and complains about the heat, food, hotel, water, etc. The side who wants to “save” Cambodia by bringing them to America or imposing American beliefs on them.

The “saving” should be the other way around. The saving needs to happen to the children who sit in a large house full of toys and games and say “There’s nothing to do. I’m bored.”

Alison DeRooy

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1 comment so far

  1. Ann DeRooy on

    Ahhh, a child after my own heart!


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