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.