Two months in Cambodia and I still cannot believe how beautiful this country is. Yet I don’t mean its landscape or nature which are truly and unquestionably stunning. I don’t mean the ancient Angkor temples with their amazing energy which I have the privilege to live so close by. I don’t mean the food which is very decent or the party which in Siem Reap goes on night and day. I actually mean Cambodia’s tissue, its core, which to me is its people.
When I first came here while still on travels, crossing the border from Vietnam just felt good. It felt familiar, warm, kind-hearted. There was something in the air that made me feel at home. Or maybe on the faces of people? Now, when I returned to live and study pneumatherapy here, it still feels the same. Just good. There are many absurdities in Cambodia, no doubt about it. High prices compared to other SE Asian countries and the low quality you get for the money. A lot of scams that, as a foreigner, you probably sooner or later will fall victim to, no matter how long you live here and how familiar you feel. Extreme poverty stemming from a genocide that left most of the people living below the poverty line. Prostitution, abuse and exploitation of children. Poor sanitation, lack of clean water, pollution. Limited education opportunities for the young. And I could carry on listing all the drawbacks of Cambodia, all the inconviniences of living in this country. But I won’t.
I won’t because there is one evident convenience of living in Cambodia. Its people and their smile. A smile that can make your day. A smile that crushes prejudice and intolerance. One that dispels anger. A smile that does not ask for anything in return. A smile that is so kind and sincere that changes your mood for good no matter how low you were feeling. A smile that makes you think who the hell you are to be complaining? A smile that forges gratitude and appreciation for everything you have. A smile that is so scarce in this world of money, material possessions, titles, brands and plastic. Where authenticity is undergoing a major crisis because nobody knows any more what authenticity is. And here it comes: a smile of Khmer people. Genuine, warm-hearted, prisitine. There is healing in this smile. It is a healing smile that is worth more than all the medicines of the world.