This morning on my walk, a lanky boy of about 10 years old joined me and introduced himself with the usual “Hello, what’s you name?” Part of my personal mission in Cambodia is to say “hello” back to every child that says it to me. No easy task some mornings when I get gang “helloed” by a group of 3 and 4 year olds near our house. So I smiled and said “hello and how are you?” This usually stumps them when I ask a question back as most kids just know to say “Hello” or “Where you go?” but not any more English than that it seems. But this young man struck up a pretty good conversation with me. Enough to where between my limited Khmer and his better English I could find out about his family and he about mine.
It turned out that he was from a nearby village and had walked to town to buy some sugar cane stalks to resell at home. He told me his dad was dead and he had 3 sisters in the capital Phnom Penh but he lived with his grandmother and 2 sisters locally. He said his grandmother worked hard everyday to make enough money so they could eat. He was going to try to resell sugar cane to make a few pennies. I say pennies for my North American readers as with the price of sugar cane and the competition I know he can only make a few cents for all his work. But it all helps and it was good to see his good natured ambition to contribute to his family. It must be a big load on a boy his age. On my way back I followed him from a distance pretending to just be sightseeing as I didn’t want to appear to be stalking him. He was stopped while in route by some young girls whom he sold a couple of canes to and hopefully made a little profit. Then I walked on and was once again mad at myself for not bringing my good camera.
Just had my old cell phone but at least it gives a little visual for you. He obviously had someone looking out for him though because he said he was studying english in school and had the vocabulary to prove it. School here, even public school costs money. He was also a smart cookie as he could actually have a conversation with me which is more than most kids I’ve met who have studied a lot of English.