Monday, May 24, 2010

Cold-Hearted

At Angkor Thom

This little girl is probably five years old. Granted, I am very poor at guessing the ages of the Khmer people, everyone between the ages of 12 and 40 appear to be about 16 to me. However, I am going with five. She was outside the Baphuon temple and was one of several children with baskets filled with wares for sale. There is nothing unusual about this. Outside every temple there are vendors hawking souvenirs, food and bottled water. It is easy to get quickly irritated when you are constantly harassed as you bike down the street and as you enter and exit every temple.

"Laaaaadyyyyyy. You want cold drink?"

"Buy my postcard. Ten for one dooooooooollaaaaar."

For some strange reason, all street vendors use the same sing-songy voice when hawking their wares.

However, it is the kids that I have the hardest time with. It is hard to say no to a tiny, adorable, five-year-old over and over and over again. At some point you have to just switch into ignore mode and just pretend they are not there anymore. It sort of breaks my heart a little. I prefer the grown-ups, I don't feel as bad saying no to them or ignoring them when I have already conveyed my disinterest in what they are selling.

It is harder on the touristy streets in Siem Reap. Sitting on Pub Street, the people who approach you are all children or disabled. Some of them are disabled children. I feel like such a cold-hearted bitch turning down the blind man being led from table to table by a child of about six or the one-legged youth selling books.

Clem comforts me by pointing out that there are enough NGOs in Siem Reap to take in every street kid and assist every disabled person. If I give money to the street kids, I am only encouraging their parents (or whoever they are working for) to keep them on the street instead of letting them get assistance from an NGO. Just the other night Clem ran into a young girl on the street. This girl's older brother is being helped by an NGO and this girl was once there too. However, her grandmother pulled her out to have her sell bracelets on the street. Buying a bracelet from her would only encourage the grandmother.

None of this logic really makes me feel better though. I still feel heartless.

— Sara

PS. I don't really have any pictures of the street kids because I don't want to take pictures of them like they are a tourist attraction.

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