Friday, November 21, 2008

SE Asia Day 9 (part 2) The Kids of Angkor

One of the things that I realized right away when I was in Cambodia is how much I loved Khmer people.  They were warm, friendly, and interesting.  Back when I was doing my student teaching, I had some Cambodian students.  I saw them definitely “out of their element” they were facing some of the difficulties I faced in Korea: being immersed in a foreign culture.  Except for them, it was on a much larger magnitude—they had immigrated to America for good.
The kids that I met in Angkor, and everywhere in Cambodia, where witty, happy, and definitely in their element.  The kids in Angkor are pros.  Their job is to get money from cash-flush tourists.  They sell ice-cold bottled water, bamboo flutes, post cards and other tourist trinkets.
They are experts at sales techniques—using the same techniques that infomercials use.  For example, they offer a bamboo flute for $1.  If you don’t seem interested they say, “Okay, okay mister, two flute for $1.”  Then, if you really seem disinterested, they offer you three for a dollar!  Its the same method that guy uses to sell rotisserie ovens.
At first, I tried to ignore them or to keep on walking.  I wasn’t a huge target since the kids usually gravitated toward the groups, but still I was approached more times than I could count.  Then, I flopped the strategy on them.  I started talking to them.
One kid asked me where I was from.  I told him America.  Then he said that he knew five American capitals:  Juneau, Sacramento, Albany, Austin, and Washington DC.  So, I taught him the capital for Missouri:  Jefferson City.
The next kid I talk to at another temple was a girl selling jewelry.  She said, “Oh, some pretty necklace for your wife.”  I told her I wasn’t married.  then she said, “Oh for your girlfriend.”  I said I didn’t have a girlfriend.  So, she said, “Well, if you buy necklace, you will get girlfriend!”  Hah.  I loved it.  I said, “Wow, is that a magic necklace.”  Then she said, “Oh yes, magic.  It will get you girlfriend.”
The next group of kids I came to were probably about five or six years old.  I had just come from teaching kids that age in Korea.  There, families spend a big chunk of their income paying so their kids can learn English in a nice school from foreigners.  In Angkor, Cambodia the kids are learning English from foreigners for free.  Obviously, the setting is very different but the irony wasn’t lost on me.IMG_2169
These kids were playing around near a little mud castle.  The castle was a rough form of the nearby temple!  They had a small bag for people to put money inside.  I couldn’t resist taking a picture—they were so cute.
I don’t know the guy in the picture.  He had taken a picture and was showing the kids.
The next girl I came to told me she was 16.  She was selling table clothes.  They were very beautiful but told her I didn’t have enough room in my back to take them back.  We talked a bit on the way to the temple.  She made one more push and I finally said, “Sorry, I can’t.”
She quickly told me, “Take your sorry back mister.  Take your sorry back.”
Kids are resilient.  They are flexible.  Even as they live in tough conditions that I have never experienced, they find a way to play, to laugh, and to joke.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I appreciate comments. If you have a personal message to me, then e-mail would be best.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...