Monday, October 13, 2008

Phnom Penh Part 5 - Regrets and Apologies


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My motorcycle was running along this wide avenue in the heart of the city when I spotted the colonial façade of the Post Office. I tapped my driver Tei’s shoulder and told him I wanted to mail a post card. He parked beside a Volvo delivery truck. As I stepped in, I noticed a tiny half naked figure sitting on the floor, just beside the door.
It was a Khmer child, almost stuporous and oblivious to the goings on. He was hardly moving. There weren’t a lot of people inside. Just me and some 3 others. After mailing my card, I started to leave when I noticed the child moving ever so slow. I was at the last step of the stair outside when something prodded me to get right back in. So I went back and stood over the child. I said, “hello”. He raised his gaze on me. I saw the saddest pair of eyes silently pleading for something. Was he hungry? Or hurt? I don’t know. At the back of my mind, I was a little scared to approach him, as there were warnings about children being used by hoodlums to snag tourists; some syndicates maybe. But what kind of world is this where grown-ups are scared of helpless children?
I sat on my knees and handed him money. He wasn’t even begging, coz if he was, he wouldn’t stay where there are hardly any tourists - or even locals. I told him to buy food, moving my hands like I was eating. He took the money and held it with his right hand; his face never wavered from that pleading gaze that shall haunt me in days. It just broke my heart. But I was a stupid tourist with fanciful dreams and places to go… and I left.
As I sit back in front of my computer, looking at the photo of the child’s face, I am awash with regrets. I could have done a little more; maybe buy the food myself and watch him eat; maybe get him a shirt or a pair of slippers. But I did not. I chose to fraternize with other globetrotting brats who didn’t have a care in the world, except moving on to our next destination. And I regret that with all my heart. His image would intermittently cross my mind, and I couldn’t help but wish for a better world where children can smile instead.
And I am sorry that this world isn’t.
This is the Eye in the Sky!



Phnom Penh Post Office Building


Tonle Sap river folks





8 comments:

lucy said...

that made me cry. :-<

hay naku, ang babaw talaga ng luha ko. thats a very sad piece.

Twin said...

eye, don't feel bad. you did what was best at that time. there would be other opportunities to show your kind heart. you're a good person.

eye in the sky said...

hey lucy, it was a sad experience and i shall always remember the child. :-<

eye in the sky said...

hey twin, thanks for the nice words. i know i am not a bad person, but you just wonder if THAT is enough sometimes. anyway, i hope, i pray that that child will find his way and grow up well despite whatever it is that's troubling him.

jepayuki said...

hi eye, the face of the khmer child would be ingrained as well in our minds as much as it is now in yours. in this world where we are not offered many choices, we can only fervently hope and pray that guidance be with him and like you said, that he may grow up well amidst a chaotic universe. very good post! =)

Lawstude said...

arrgh. the pic is soooo haunting. it would be better if he just begged for money like every other kids in almost every tourist spot i have gone through but no... it seems like the kid's problem is far beyond simple alms. really heart-breaking.

but, you did ok. in a given circumstance in a stranger land, that would be the wise or logical thing to do.

eye in the sky said...

thanks, jepay. we can only pray that he grows up well to live a full life. i shall look forward to visiting PP in the future and who knows.

eye in the sky said...

hey LS, yes I know exactly what you mean. it would have been better if i saw him beg the streets, that way i'd know he fights for survival instead of looking so dejected and completely lost. it's rather painful to see children feeling a sense of hopelessness around them.