The bus pulls off the road into a dusty stand booming with activity. Young kids with bags of fruit immediately flock to the bus and poke their heads in expectantly calling out well worn phrases “Hello, sister! You want to buy banana?” They respect the boundary of the bus’s interior but are unafraid of bombarding visitors once they cross this threshold.
“Sister! If maybe you want to buy pineapple later, maybe you only buy from me, OK?”
Cambodia feels very different from Thailand and Laos. Yes, children try to sell you things there, especially in the more touristy areas and markets, but here, the sense of poverty carries more substance.
I shuffle past the heap of cooked tarantulas, and smile at the squeals of my students interacting with the live version as I make my way to the bathroom. A tiny girl of perhaps 7 years old is perched upon a red plastic chair and greets me warmly. “Hello sister! You are beautiful!” She then proceeds to wiggle her tiny fingers through the crack in the broken stall door and hold it shut for me.
The children here in Cambodia are heartbreaking. They are adorable. They are aggressive. They have been taught that tourists mean money and they’ve learned how to appeal to their pocketbooks. I don’t know what to think about it still.
Nevertheless, the country has been a highlight for me. I knew I would love Angkor Wat and I wasn’t disappointed. The ancient temples cast a spell and the inner tomb raider is easily invoked- if only all the other visitors could somehow vanish.