Tevy's Burden


When you are anywhere near a temple in Cambodia, you will be surrounded by around a dozen kids selling crap. Sometimes they are selling something you want, sometimes they are not. Luckily the temple people do not allow these kids to enter most stores or any of the shrines, so there is a bit of a safe haven at times. However, there are several open front restaurants where the kids will come in and try to sell you things while you eat.

That really bugs me. Not just there, but all over the world. In Japan, I want to eat quietly. I don't want students or teachers talking to me when I am clearly trying to eat.

So in the picture above, I am taking a break at Angkor Wat. The temple would be straight ahead in the picture, and off to the left a bit. We had been there all day and I was hungry for something to eat, and more importantly to drink. I had just sat down and ordered when this little girl came wandering in.

When the kids are selling something of interest I might buy it. They always sell them for great prices. To the kids the things are marked up a billion percent, to us they marked down a billion percent. It just shows how different our lives are. This young girl was selling bracelets. I really had no need or desire for this so I tried to get her to leave. I have a really hard time just ignoring people, but that's what you have to do. If you say anything they have a response. They also have very good limited English. Anything related to a tourist buying or not buying something, they can say. I would say "no that's okay" when they would ask if I wanted it and they would reply "it's okay for you but not for me". I don't even know how "that's okay" is a decent reply to them anyway, but apparently everyone says it so they have a response. Sometimes they get really mad and stomp their feet and say you are mean. That tactic really works on me sadly. They have been thoroughly trained in how to get people to buy their stuff.

This little girl asked me a few times, and I said no. Then she lowered her price and I still said no and started to ignore her. Then she sat down at the table with me and just stared at me with her pouty face. I can never tell when these kids are scamming and when they are sincere. Some of them are broke I'm sure, and many others are loaded. So she sat there for a minute and I figured she was hot and thirsty so I bought her a water, hoping she would go away. The water cost about 20 cents so I didn't care.

She drank it fast and said thanks and that she hadn't had much water in a while since no one was buying her bracelets. She explained to me that there is a hierarchy within the children sellers and she was at the bottom and had to sell the crap things no one wanted so she didn't sell many. Whah whah sob story not working on me.

She said in return for the water, she would give me a bracelet for free. I told her I didn't want one since I don't wear jewelry. She responded that I could give it to my wife or girlfriend. It was fast and witty English, I was impressed. I told her I didn't want one. She said she would give me two bracelets if I answered a few English questions for her.

I said I really didn't want a bracelet, but she could ask anyway. She asked me how to reply to "no mersi". I told her it was French, and I didn't speak it. She said when she asks some people to buy a bracelet they say that and then walk away. I told her the best I could do was tell her to say "see vu play" which I think means please in French. She wrote it down on a napkin and said thank you. Then we sat there for a few minutes and she didn't say anything. Later I figured out she was thinking of what else to ask during her free English lesson. A few minutes later I asked her how to say "no thank you" in Cambodian. She explained it was "de ookun". The "de" sound was no and the "ookun" was thank you. I asked her a few others things as well. I decided to take her picture mainly because she was cute and I wanted to remember the time we shared with her telling me secrets of the Cambodia souvenir  selling trade. She stood by the table and I snapped it. I asked her name and she said it was Tevy. I told her I would buy one bracelet since she told me some Cambodian.

After a while my food came and I ate most of it and then gave her a little. She said she hadn't eaten much either recently. She wasn't bone thin, so I found that hard to believe. I gave her the "you are lying" look and she promised it was true. She said anything she gets she gives to her little brother who has something wrong with him and has to go to the hospital. She said the money she makes from the bracelets will go to help her brother because they have many bills related to his sickness.

I started to get mad here. I knew the children's hospital was free so what bills did she have? I told her about that and she said it costs money to get to the hospital and to feed him and take care of him. At this point I was a little put off that she would resort to lying like that about a sick young brother. She went on to say her father was dead and her mother was too sick to take her brother to the hospital so when he needed treatment she would go with him. When she had to go she could be here selling things to tourist and she lost money. She was only about 8 years old. I can't imagine an 8 year old being adult enough to take a younger child to a hospital.

Then she saw a few taxis pull up and decided to go try to sell something. I just stared at her leave and felt a strange connection to her. I couldn't tell if she was lying to me or not, but my gut told me she was. That was cruel to say things like that just to make a sell.

I went on with my sightseeing and later returned to the hotel. That was Sunday and we had already been to the Children's hospital to see Dr. Beat Richner, the Swiss doctor, play cello and talk about the free services of the hospital. The next day we had various little sightseeing things lined up. One stop was the children's hospital to give blood. I didn't think they would take my blood since my liver isn't great and at one time the Red Cross said I shouldn't give blood. Later the RC came back and said they had reduced my status and I was allowed to give. Plus the hospital tests the blood so I could give and if they couldn't use it they would throw it out.

They gave the four of us a long questionnaire about our health and I answered everything truthfully. They took our weight and height. They tested the girls for an Iron deficiency and something to do with their menstrual cycle. I went first and they stuck the needle in and it started to drain. It did hurt a bit and I noticed it was a large needle. Normally it takes about 15 minutes to give blood, but here it was only 5 minutes. I guess they don't mess around and need things to go fast.

We all finished after a good hour and a half and they put the big bandage on our arms to cover the blood. They said leave it on a while, I guess because the holes were so much bigger than normal they needed extra time to clot. We all gathered our things are started leaving. On the way out they handed us a thank you bag with various things in it. One was a shirt that had the name of the hospital and a blood mark. It's cool though blatantly too small for me. Then there were some tasty crackers, though they call them biscuits. Finally there was a brochure and some Iron vitamins. We also had a sweet drink either Coke or Fanta Orange. I went with FO since I can't drink Coke out of a can. Too much carbonation for me.

As we are walking out we see about 50 kids and their mothers sitting on little floor mats in the open space of the hospital. They are waiting in line for the free service I guess. The kids are usually asleep and their mothers are fanning them. This part of the hospital is virtually outside since there are no walls, just a roof. I think about the girl that said her sick brother needed the money from the bracelets. I get a knot in my stomach and decide to flat out ignore the kids selling things from now on. That was low. Too low.

Then time slows down. I can see something out of the corner of my eye. Someone staring at me. I slowly turn my head as I am leaving, though I feel like I am in slow motion. I turn and see Tevy sitting there. Just staring at me. With that same smile she had in the picture above. She recognizes me and smiles. She isn't thinking "HA HA I told you so", she's just smiling. She is just happy to see me. She remembers me. I remember her. I felt like we stared at each other for 5 minutes though I was still right behind the others and they were walking full speed. I wanted to wave, but I didn't. I wanted to go over and talk to her, but I didn't. I wanted to give her all the money in my pocket, but I didn't.

Then she tapped her left arm with her hand. I looked down and knew she saw that I had given blood and was saying thank you. I reached over and tapped my bandage as a way of saying good luck and see you later.