Monday, 23 February 2009

I thought I'd focus on the children who live in the villages along the Mekong Delta. They live in bamboo  houses built on stilts. At high tide and during the rainy season their houses are at water level so they step out of their front doors directly into their boats. During the dry season and at low tide they walk down the wooden steps onto dry land.  They are very poor. The river is their life. They fish, they dredge, they harvest silt, sand and wait for tourists to disembark from their luxury Colonial River Cruisers and sell them stuff. These children are irresistible. 

"Hello. You have dollar? You buy my scarf?"

I bought seven scarves for twenty dollars. I asked our guide if they were made locally. She said


Back on the boat a fellow passenger said she'd bought identical scarves in TopShop and they were made in China. 
These little boys were selling a tray of six homemade cakes for One Dollar. I said I wasn't hungry.

"You not hungry? I'm hungry. Baby hungry. Buy my cakes. One dollar"

I didn't buy their cakes but I gave them five dollars.

I didn't buy their cakes because there was a sign at the entrance to their water village on the Mekong saying

"Do not buy cakes from the children because they are made with out of date ingredients and you will get colic if you eat them"

I did give them five dollars because my youngest grandson is about the same age as the oldest little boy in this photo. This Christmas my grandson bought himself an electric guitar with his Christmas money. It cost him £175. He still has to learn how to play it. 

This little boy has nothing. He's trying to sell me cakes that could hospitalise me. He, and his sisters, is likely to be sent away to work in textile factories in Cambodian cities. Sent away to work in a tourist hotel in Ankar Wat. To clean hotel rooms. In the kitchens. They are children. I try to imagine my grandsons being sent away from home at this tender age to work in a factory. I can't visage this without hurting.

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These two pretty little girls were eating raw sugar cane for their afternoon snack. They are poor. As we approached their village they ran up to the men in our group, all aged over fifty, and asked them if they could teach them English and "Have you got a wife?"

The men felt uncomfortable. Understandably. 

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