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.
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.
My average day out on the town.
1 hour ago