The people of Tonle Sap Lake do not have land to live on. They have lived on the water for decades moving when the water level changes. The extremity of the poverty experienced here has led to aid projects including a floating hospital, floating school and a fresh waterline from the city. From the river you can see a lot. It feels like you are ease dropping into the lives of the people. Some are cooking, some are washing clothes, or washing themselves with water from the river. One boat that approached ours had a women and her four children. The oldest daughter carried a python which she offered to us to hold in exchange for a dollar. The oldest son jumped in the river to look for frogs to sell. The women placed her baby on the deck of the boat and tickled him, hoping we would give her some money. A toddler slept on the boat behind her. If you are ever in a situation where you are tempted to give money to begging women and children, stop yourself and give your money to a charity. I feel very strongly about this because your money actually encourages them to
continue begging. This is a huge problem for children in Cambodia. Parents put their kids on the street to sell trinkets and beg instead of sending them to school. Yes school costs money but what incentive do the kids and families have to strive towards school if they make more money from tourists? Anyway, we didn’t give the women money so she picked up her baby from the deck, called her daughter onto the boat and placed the python in front of the baby for him to play with the way westerners might do with a puppy. The culture shock of this image was really strong.
Traveling for me is the opportunity to make up the rules and boundaries of life as I go. To know my own privilege, to know my own disadvantage, to know myself and to uncover some of the mysteries of the world. When I return from a long trip I find that I feel a little bit different, because I am. I love the transformation that comes from travel.
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