- Parkin Fellows
by Scout Sprong
My guides introduced us to a book today, titled The Book of Joy. I was immediately intrigued due to one of my biggest influencers, Desmond Tutu, being a co-author. We read several passages, writing brief notes about our experiences on the island and in the bigger cities of Cambodia. One stuck out to me the most, “We create our own suffering.” I began contradicting it in my head. I made up scenarios, trying to disprove the saying, but everything came back as something I had caused myself. For example, I thought about losing weight and how people can be so upset and obsessed about the topic. But if you take a step back, you cause that suffering. You, as a human, feel uncomfortable with new diets and forms of exercise, but overall your mindset is what forces you to suffer. The negative thoughts in your head make you think of losing weight as a horrible process, but if you just change your attitude, maybe you will have the most positive results.
While this scenario helped my understanding a little bit, I also tried to simplify it more as I was still confused about how I could make myself suffer. I decided to relate it to my backpack. I created my own suffering because I decided to pack things that would make my pack heavier. I created the back pain and fatigue that came with carrying my pack around. I even packed little things like a sentimental stuffed animal. Still, I would create suffering for myself if I packed too little with not enough clean clothes and supplies. So, in packing for the trip, I try to aim for the perfect compromise, for my pack at least. Unfortunately, I packed a lot of useless things that I had thought would be necessary until I arrived and experienced the extreme climate and different cultural norms of Cambodia.
While packing my bag, the children from my homestay family were playing around the house. I knew only some very basic Khmer words and they knew about the same in English. I communicated with the Khmer that I knew along with pointing and playing games that required no communication except for a smile and some repetitiveness (a lot of Rock, Paper, Scissors!) They were still full of energy even though the sun had gone down, though it was only 7 p.m. So, I joined my homestay family in the main area of the house and started to play our usual games of hot hands and monkey in the middle. The little girl cried several times because her older brothers and I were much larger than her, so we could not directly play with her. I remembered the small stuffed animal I had in my bag. I brought it out to her and she was quiet, admiring the soft fur and the beaded eyes. She quickly grabbed a blanket, held the two items out to me and I proceeded to wrap the stuffed animal like a baby. She picked up the bundle, ran to the other side of the house and plopped on the ground, cradling it close to her. Her three brothers gathered around her to see the new toy. They began playing together with the toy dog, making it walk around the house.
I grabbed my camera to show that this stuffed animal looked similar to my dog at home. They gathered around me and my digital camera and while I flipped through photos, identifying people using the English word. For example, I showed a picture of my family, pointing to each member, “Mama, Papa, Sister, Scout.” The eldest boy repeated after me, still confused. I then pointed to his little sister and then back to him, “Sister.” He nodded and translated the word into Khmer for his younger siblings. We continued like this until we came across a picture of my dog. “Boone,” I said while pointing to the stuffed animal that was clutched tightly to the young girl’s chest. The other kids repeated after me and they looked at my dog with amazement. The little, white, fluffy thing was unlike the village protector dogs that stayed below the house to keep intruders away. We continued looking at pictures, getting to the point that the eldest boy could pick out each one of my family members in the photos. It was a small moment, but it made the homestay aspect of my trip even more fun and meaningful.
It also helped me realize the true meaning behind, “You create your own suffering,” because my giving some of my things that were weighing my pack down, brightened another person's day and allowed me to connect with my homestay family as well. It is a very small example, but it allows me to bring back this experience to my life in the United States and focus on bettering my own life as well as those around me.