“To keep you is no benefit. To destroy you is no loss.” The horrific motto of the Khmer Rouge, the movement whose guerrilla forces lead a genocide killing and torturing one fifth of the whole population of Cambodia in the 1970s. Cambodia had the misfortune of giving residence to the monster of war that tours our planet taking away innocence and leaving only death in its wake. But as is always the case, out of the greatest darkness, the brightest of lights is born. From those dark times comes a new age to Cambodia and in the new generation lives kindness, pride, strength, brightness and a promise of a much better future.
In Cambodia, like in many other developing countries on our planet, children find themselves needing to sell things, beg, wash car windows or do a multiple of other tasks for some extra money that could mean a meal for the day. It is always heartbreaking to see, no matter what country I was in to see children subjected to life’s hardships at such a young age.
This little girl found another unique way to make a living, her own creative way. She became a snake charmer and she would let visitors to the floating village touch or go near her creature for a few coins. She had pride radiating from her and she knew she was just different. And she was!
I was riding a boat on the waters of the Tonle Sap around sunset. The sun was shining a very bright gold and there was light breeze that gently toyed with the surface of the water. It felt as though I was transported to a strange future, a post natural disaster of some sorts, where all around me were stilts, make shift floating homes and boats, humans in rags smiling wistfully and surviving with the bare minimum. Then I felt a face gazing at me from a boat passing nearby, and there was this lady with her beautiful kind face and her warm smile. She allowed me to keep her radiance and to share it with you.
There is a magical thing about children, which is the ability to use anything around them for creating a unique playground. I remember playing near our house in a Lebanese village jumping down a terraced field from one level to another hoping that no bones were broken, and making glue from tree sap and flower milk, and creating a small world from moss, stones and twigs. It is no different in Cambodia. I saw children creating games that fit their environment and adapting to make the most of what is available to them. The children I saw in the floating village had not heard of ipads or nintendo yet, and their fun appears to be just as great if not greater than our children’s in the west.
photo taken: boy running back on forth between the stilt raised structures in the Tonle Sap floating village
Imagine a life so simple
life in a little house on the lake
it is warm enough not to need any clothes
your toys are a little boat and a stick
no television, no video games, no ipods,
your school is on a boat and it floats
your playground is made of water and sky
your world is empty of complications,
you are not nagging to get the latest toy,
you don’t even know that it even exists,
because your life is so unimaginable simple…
Photos taken at sunset on a little floating village on the Tonle Sap in the kingdom of Cambodia