Thursday, September 18, 2008

Buying beds in Phnom Penh... (was going to be about yoga but turned into an expat ramble...)

Bella and I had a great morning in the mattress shop today. She spent it bouncing and contorting her body in ways that barely looked possible, even from a relatively-but-not-very-bendy-yoga-teacher’s perspective, while I tried to find a mattress that did not contain (what smelt like) deadly toxic poisons within. There is no way I would have Jemima breathing in whatever was in some of those mattresses for 12 hours a night. Really, the things people have to put up with here that would not be legal in any of the rich countries in the world.

Yes it was one of those mornings when I struggled to reconcile the life I lead here with that of so many Cambodians around me. Anyone living here understands. How do you feel when you have just spent close to $100 in a shop, while playing with your baby, watching everyone else play with her and love her and try to feed her nice things etc, and the next thing you do is meet a six-year-old boy, in the middle of one of the busiest highways in Phnom Penh, with his brother, the same age as Bella, strapped to his body in a Krama, telling you his mother and father are dead?

They are not dead. They have sent their children out to beg... for – if you believe most locals – money to fuel their drinking and gambling habits. But maybe not... maybe they need the money for food and rent. The older boy’s clothes were completely torn and his younger brother was naked, with something like scabies on his face and arms. I didn’t give him money because the biggest street kids’ organisation in Cambodia, Mith Samlanh, asks us not to - it just fuels begging. As long as their parents think they can make money from the streets, these children will never get the chance to go to school as. Try explaining that to the boys though. I felt horrible as the tuk tuk tried to move forward in the traffic and the boy held on for as long as he could.

I have been through all this before on Motherland I know. It is just that same old story of feeling guilty because instead of spending all my time trying to make my own children’s life lovely, a bit of me feels I should do more to try to make life happier for Cambodian children. Last year I did, and next year maybe I will. But right now in my life all I want to do is be there for my girls and study and teach yoga. The latter takes up enough of my time for me not to want to spend a minute of the rest of it on anything other than my family. Oh to live somewhere back in the UK where this decision does not make me feel like so uncaring and uncompassionate. Instead I live here, and it could almost be anywhere. (Actually I am sure my Cambodian friends and helpers, Sophy (cleans and looks after Bella when I work) and Sokhun (our tuk tuk driver) would beg to differ. I do spend half my days with them speaking their language). But you know what I mean, the things that make me feel happy and fulfilled these days are joining in circle time with Jemima’s class, or teaching Bella to swim. Neither of these things have much to do with Cambodia, let’s face it.

Really I am just indulging in a little off loading because I am not planning to change anything about my life right now. In fact the reason I first sat down to write this post is because, despite the nagging conscience, I am blissfully happy with things at home at the moment and wanted to share some of the stuff we’ve been doing recently that has been so lovely for the kids. But because this has turned into a ramble (and one barely worth publishing but I have written it now so I may as well!) I will finish here and link you to a new post which I shall now write called Yoga, meditation and other lovely relaxing things to do with children.
P.S. If you got this far thank you!

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