» Three cheers for Japan!

Three cheers for Japan!

Maybe it is not appropriate that I write about my clients and I don’t often post photos that include kids either, but today will be an exception, because my experience yesterday was something of an exception.

We are in the middle of the tourist high season in Cambodia so I am quite busy with photo tours. These can be tiring, because some tours start as early as 5am, lasting all the day until sunset. When I arrived at the hotel of my clients yesterday morning the first surprise of the day was when it turned out that they were in fact 3 females and not 3 males as I was told would be my clients for the day (I was managing this tour on behalf of another operator). Now, I should point out I have had fantastic tours with both male and female clients so do not accuse me of being sexist. It is just this particular morning it was refreshing to be greeted by the warm smiles of these three young ladies.

The day proceeded really well and it was an absolute pleasure and a joy to lead them on the photo tour. I could see that they knew what they were doing when it comes to photography which further enriched the experience. It was funny to hear them refer to me as “Sensei” – teacher – but this was all in good spirit.

In the late afternoon we visited Angkor Wat for the sunset. The light often is beautiful during this time of the day and a favorite photo spot for tourists is at a pond close to the temple where one is able to see a perfectly reflected image of the temple. We were in this area when the ‘local sales force’ engulfed us: Japanese tourists being a particular favorite and prime target. For those of you that don’t know or have not been to Angkor Wat: the ‘local sales force’ comprises of an army of kids ranging from as young as probably 8 or 9 years old up to young adults and they try and flog anything from fridge magnets, other ornaments, postcards to scarfs and paintings of Angkor Wat.

The common belief is that kids are more successful sellers, because when they stand in front of you with a sad look and torn clothes persistently asking you to spend a dollar that would help them go to school most tourists eventually cave in. The problem I have with this system is that I think this encourages further bad practices and I am not sure how much of the profits actually end up with the families in need in any case… However, the point of this post is not to go into a lengthy discussion about this.

Back to the story: The sales team was pulling out all the stops to sell to my Japanese clients: sad faces on the brim of tears almost begging the girls just to buy a single item. Then something changed. I am not sure what exactly had happened, but it seemed as if somehow the girls had broken through the hard front put up by the kids and reached inside their hearts and brought out the child in each of the children! The atmosphere changed in an instant. The looks on the faces of the children had been transformed and suddenly they really were children again: laughing, smiling and playing! The girls were drawing animals in the sand and by now 6 or 7 kids completely forgot about selling as they looked on with fascination as the girls drew the animals. This quickly became a game of who could identify each of the animals first and then the kids got in on the act and started drawing too. More sellers came round, seemingly under the spell of the laughter that the Japanese girls spread and they also quickly forgot all about peddling their merchandise and joined in on the fun.

From drawing the girls then moved on to games of clapping hands and dancing that again had the kids in fits of laughter with excitement and I was astonished at how quickly the kids grasped the new game and learned the dance routine.

Following drawing-class a game of hopscotch ensued Following drawing-class a game of hopscotch ensued

...and a clapping hands game …and a clapping hands game

By now the scene was causing quite a commotion and many of tourists that were around taking photos of Angkor Wat moved in for a closer look too, but this did not faze the girls or the kids, because they were really in another place and probably didn’t even notice the small crowd!

Initially some of the older sellers (they could have been parents) tried to get the kids back to selling, but even they gave up after a while and just stood there smiling.

More dancing, a game of hopscotch and other games ensued and continued until after 5:30pm until the guards eventually came to kick everyone out because it was time to close the area for the evening. By now all I could see were beaming smiles: the girls, the kids and even the crowd of onlookers all wore great big smiles. It is as if these three girls had somehow managed, at least for a few minutes, to solve all the worries, concerns and problems of everyone that was present. It was something magical.

It really was time to go back and after bidding our farewells we headed back down the ancient causeway of Angkor Wat. As we walked back over the bridge, crossing the moat of Angkor Wat: a bridge that is also symbolic of crossing from the spirit world back to the world we live in; stepping back to reality, the girls were thanking “sensei” for a day which they said they had really enjoyed. These girls have no idea and they would not have noticed the lump in my throat either: on this day I was not the teacher, but I was the student; their student. Out of nowhere they had brought a freshness to this day. Without realizing it in a moment they touched the lives of so many: not only that of the kids, but also everyone that was in the vicinity and saw this. Each and every person that was standing there wore a big smile! There were Koreans, Chinese, Eastern Europeans, Western Europeans and probably many other nations represented and EVERYONE smiled the kind of smile that you only see when something has really touched hearts.  From the nation that brought us the magic of Ghibli this was such magic, except only that it was actually real.

To the three girls: thank you so much for this experience. Thank you for allowing the kids to be kids again, albeit briefly; thank you for allowing grownups to be kids again too as was evident from their smiles. Thank you for helping me to continue to believe in the good that can be achieved when something is done with a pure heart. May many others be touched by this pure innocence that you have touched my heart with.

Angkor kids 7 Angkor kids 8 Angkor kids 6 Angkor kids 5

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