Angkor and the tourist dollar

At Angkor, there are a great variety of ways that the local people appeal to the tourist to leave behind dollars. Some of the ways get to you after awhile, the learned pathetic looks on the children’s faces, the endless and draining persistence which turns you from feeling compassionate to regarding them as locusts. It is a very bad feeling when empathy is replaced by such disdainful annoyance.

The land mine victims who play music and sell cds to support themselves is a more pleasant and non-aggressive method. And the students who sit and paint or draw to earn money for their educations are also far more appealing than the ones who chase you and follow you and try what you eventually understand as a repertoire of tricks.

Most of the art is not particularly special, but this boy’s work had me coming back repeatedly. Had I been able to safely transport one of his drawings, I’d have surely bought one. When I found myself returning for the fourth time, I instead paid him what a drawing would have cost to allow me to photograph him with his work. Best yet, he still could sell this drawing to someone else who would be more able to carry it home unscathed. It is a lovely reminder of the Bayon, where he had drawn it, and of Preah Kahn, where I found him diligently working on his sketch of the Aspara.

I hope his talent and his dreams can take him into a future with promise and some sort of comfort, something in short supply in Cambodia.

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