Young Khmers—Anina

Stole this one from flickr.

I had never felt the urge to write a song about anyone until I met a young girl named Anina, whom I found working near one of the stone gatehouses made of serene faces somewhere in the vicinity of Angkor Wat—a bikeride away. Underneath her dark bangs she was selling some combination of the usual gewgaws, which at the time of this writing consist of guidebooks, musical instruments, postcards (which they always count for you, one to ten), bracelets, t-shirts, water, food, and scarves, though in the past the children evidently tried to peddle crossbows. Anina was about twelve years old, very beautiful even in the heat of that yellow furnace, and had become so used to rejection that she immediately began to converse with me when I refused to buy anything, displaying a wit beyond her years in the English language.

I remember I told her about a saying of Alberti’s—“All men can do all things if they will”, which she disagreed with, probably thanks to the twenty dollars a month she makes working through every afternoon of her childhood. At some point she reached up and squeezed my nipple, and I told her not to touch me; despite similar annoyances, such as a relentless drive to sell, the people around the temples were often more interesting than any sculpture of the Naga-hooded Buddha, any Garuda and fighting, four-armed Vishnu. She asked me why I was sunburned, I said it was because I was white, and she said, no, it’s because you don’t use sunscreen—I asked her what she thought of the work of her ancestors, and she told me she didn’t care about them, and then ran off to sell something to another American, who walked past me quickly and said he wouldn’t buy anything because Anina had forgotten his name.

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One thought on “Young Khmers—Anina

  1. eksparsh says:

    Child labor is very much in the fabric of our cultures…so much that we don’t give it a second thought at times… I hope all the ‘Aninas’ of the world have an opportunity to enjoy the childhood. Thanks,

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