In Cambodia, you have groups of white tourists coming into tourist areas like Angkor Wat, the Floating village, the markets, and the local kids flock to them. They see them and try to sell bracelets, books, and postcards. Tourists buy from the children and they visit orphanages taking pictures with the children. In one of the billboards, it actually said “Children are not tourist attractions.” This whole idea of helping them by buying from them and spending a few minutes with them taking pictures. Is this helping or harming children?
I will give an example of the young girl about 10 years old selling bracelets. Yuskay and I were at dinner and she came to our table trying to sell us a bracelet. Yuskay and I were astounded with the way she spoke, her mannerisms, and behavior. This girl spoke like she was 20 years old and after all her talking, I was persuaded to buy a bracelet from her. She is selling on the pub street with many tourists so with those strategic, persuasive selling tactics definitely make her money.If she is making good money on the streets, what will motivate her to go and get an education. She has built up street experience (alternative education) and I will argue that this is real life experience and learning. She will just keep selling on the street leading to potentially other money making careers like prostitution.
This girl is like many street children who continue to engage in the street life rather than pursuing an education. Tourists who are coming in thinking they are helping kids purchasing from them are actually harming them. At the temple, I saw an American couple buy a few things from the girls and then they took a picture with them. I agree with the billboard that children are not tourist attractions and we should think about our helping when we buy something off the street or when we are coming in as volunteers.
Volunteering is another issue where as Americans we come in wanting to help and implement our own ideas, goal, and plan instead of listening and learning about the needs of the community. Who are we to come in and try to create change and make a difference when maybe we do not really know how?
People living in these villages know how to survive and live without excess wants and focusing on their real needs. What do we even know about how a community exists? Do we know how to live off basic needs without electricity and technology? Would we be able to survive?
Sosune and many other people I talk to speak about their own experience with such doubt and they speak of Americans so highly as if we are superior. This is not the case as children develop a work ethic at a younger age, they are nurturing, help with domestic tasks, and can do many things that Americans can not. Sosune said she wishes she knew how to type faster and learned more about history. I told her that she could do 10 things as a child that many Americans could not do. What about skills, trades, and manuel labor? That is not an American specialty. An American may know how to work an iphone, but a Southeast asian knows how to stay warm, cook, clean, or take care of their sibling. (This was a very general statement, but it is just to demonstrate the natural abilities of human beings that are utilized).
We are dependent on electronics and technology as those in Cambodia spend time outside talking, socializing, interacting with tourists, working outdoors, and having skilled trades, which is diminishing more and more overtime in America.If 80 percent of our behavior is learned through interpersonal action who is really doing the learning? Americans sitting in cublicles, watching television, and movies. Sosune said she can only watch a maximum of 15 minutes of television per day. I had lazy days where I would watch TV for hours and that is such a lazy behavior. It can all be debated, but it is interesting to think about and I just like to remember that we are all equal and although some may think it-Americans are not superior to everyone else.