Children are everywhere. There are so few old or even middle-aged people. And that’s because of the genocide by the Khmer Rouge during the 70’s as well as the decades of civil war. And I wonder how it could’ve happened to such a gentle people.
Like most developing countries, children have to work to help support their families. These were the ways children made money, that I observed. Selling books, postcards, bracelets, flutes, fabrics and clothes. Peddling drinks. Giving ad hoc tours. Putting a flower ring on tourist hands and asking for a donation. Posing for pictures. Outright begging.
On the first day of the new year, we went to Sras Srang, a ritual platform overlooking a baray, or reservoir, to watch the sunrise. We were beset by children trying to sell us coffee, postcards and bracelets. The sunrise was lovely despite the commercial atmosphere. We walked along the stone-lined reservoir and sat down at various places, to get away from the crowds and view the sunrise at different angles.
There was one boy who sold books who had a smile like one of my friends. He had an open inquisitive confident expression and I thought at that moment that I should talk to him. His name is Chani. And this is part of what transpired. Continue reading Chani the Bookseller: Khmer Notes no.4