I guess the title refers to yesterdy and our cycling trip to Tonle Sap (lake) It was ridiculously hot and shadeless along the lake road. On the return trip we stopped at a stilt house which was displaying a rather beat up sign in Khmer which looked to be advertising the place as a cafe or something. Anyway we stopped and were sourly invited in to the place- which consisted of a floor overhanging -at the moment -a 25 foot drop into stagnant waters and some muddy pools with some chickens pecking around (no doubt in a few days or weeks the rains will come and the house will be above the lake water) The floor was made of halved bamboo canes nailed to a rough wooden frame on these tall stilts. The place noticeably moved as we wandered in (bare foot as is right and proper in someone's home) There was a group of about 5 women sitting on a mat playing cards and about 9 children - 7 of whom were under the age of 5 & a couple of mankey looking dogs panting in the shade. There were no walls - all was open at the sides and no concrete or cement or stone (everything was grass roofs and wooden posts) The lady threw a woven mat on the floor and went off to buy us the drinks borrowing money from one of the card players. Amongst the children crawling, rocking and lying face down on the floor was one little tyke about 3 who stood near us, leaning back on the "fence" that protected him from the 20 foot fall out of his home. We were immediately hit by the complete deadness in his eyes. It was heart breaking! My smiles and silly faces didn't raise a flicker of anything which you would associate with a toddler. All the children were completely left to their own devises and there was not a ball, a crayon or anything bright or soft or shiny for them to respond to. Eventually Si gave me one of his postcards (on one side a pic of the College in the snow and on the other a colourful pic of a Thai chap painting a Fly Tail boat in Phi Phi island.) I made a little hat /sail boat thing out of it and tried to engage the little guy. He was interested but obviously didn;t know how to respond to my giving this to him. He still didn't smile and still his eyes were blank. After a while he climbed in to a hammock (the place was full of hammocks were they clearly sleep) and I gently placed the boat on him before turning away and pretending to ignore him. The moment I did that he rolled out of the hammock and ran to a quiet corner of the room clutching the boat. We watched him as he opened up the folds and looked at the picture of the Thai boat..... The smile that cracked his face had us both in awe. He then ran smiling and then stopping to look again at this picture. Heartbreaking but so real - what you always hear about such a little thing making such a difference. After about five minutes he brought the other little kids around and they stood by tentatively as our pal came forward and stuck 3 fingers up - so we gave him three more cards. By this time we had to go - it wasn't a very happy place. The little boy ran after us as we put our shoes back on and put his little hand out so Si did the high five for him - he was clueless so we spent some time teaching him up above down below you're too slow. When we finally started to wave good bye his face crumpled and we were worried he may cry- it was absolutely horrendous just how they had no stimulus or anything at all. Now staying another day and plan to take some things and leave them outside their place tomorrow (just some picture books or a ball -anything really)
Another long day on the bikes today cycling back along to the temples area. We have a bus ticket booked now for Saturday to travel to Campot in South East (near seaside place called Kep famous for Crab) Will spend some money tomorrow on tcrayons and paper etc and run back up to poor places by the lake ..probably just leave that little boy and his siblings some stuff by the door but there's also a temple school where we stopped and spoke to a young trainee buddhuist monk and they could use some resources too.
Hope everyone is well.