The Meanderthals

Comfort factor: 10%. Experience factor: 100%

There are two moments that stand out in my mind from my trip to Siem Reap province last week with DPA (the NGO where I work).

The first was during a meeting with a group of villagers inside a wooden hut on stilts, where I sat on a hard wood floor while a tremendous thunderstorm crashed around our ears and torrential rain cascaded from the sky. Buried among the mass of rural people attending the meeting was a tiny girl, her small brown face framed with long black hair, wearing only a pink flowered skirt and plastic necklace. She can’t have been more than four or five and she was stunning.

I caught her eye and, unlike many Cambodian children who are afraid of westerners, she beamed back with a smile that wrapped itself around my heart, and continued to peek at me and grin throughout the next three hours.

After our meeting, I beckoned her over and, in awkward Khmer, told her she was beautiful and gave her my beaded sunglass string as a gift.



  • fbk

    Surely one of your finest, Gabi. And the child with the necklace? Beautiful, haunting … you are capturing an essence that we in the West often cannot (or will not). A wonderful piece.

  • Terri

    You have a way of connecting people, Gabi. You surely do. Although we in the States may not know firsthand about the Cambodian people–their way of life or customs–you help identify in each piece that you write–our shared human nature–our need to depend on others–oftentimes for simple, basic needs. Thank you for sharing your experiences, Gabi. I hope you’ll continue to do so because they are honest, enriching and eye-opening. Love, Terri

  • This is such an amazing article, Gabi! I love the last line – that things we perceive as simple inconvenience mean life or death to others. I think about that with things like bottles of water I throw away or iPhones that use the minerals in Africa that whole communities live and die to mine so I can have a faster load time on my smart phone…great piece!

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