Same same but different

By Cindy J. Austin

On this day in Cambodia, among men with tattoos of war, meant to ward off evil spirits and promote immortality, a young, shirtless man wearing a sarong as a skirt walked into the room where I was sitting. The mix of Americans and Cambodians provided a stark contrast for the children’s amusement and the children provided a landscape for photography. But I was watching the young man.

Tattooed on his right shoulder was the thin outline of a heart. A sign of his soul, I thought. It must be to keep him strong in tough times or to warn evil of this man’s inner good.

I earnestly asked the guide to question the man about the meaning of this heart. Surely it would blow my mind.Waiting eagerly, I watched as the young man babbled in Khmer and laughed.

“His friend did it,” the translator says. “He didn’t want it, his friend just did it for fun one day.”

And we are different once again.

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