Day 86: the danger in assumptions


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Asia » Cambodia » North » Siem Reap
January 30th 2019
Published: February 13th 2019
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We had a volunteer tell me a story of how he was brought to tears by a man who was selling books from a cart in front of the restaurant he was eating at. At one point, the gentleman was chatting with a Tuk Tuk driver who helped him open his bottle of soda because the gentleman selling the books had both arms amputated above his elbows. On our opening tour and everything we read about Cambodia it gave a strict warning ”Please do not buy items or give money to children peddling or begging.“ This is because they do not want parents to think their children can be more valuable to the family by being on the street during the day than at school. Our volunteer left me some money to give to the man he saw and asked that I please make sure it got to him. After a lot of thinking, I realized why this request bothered me so much. The man wasn’t begging, he wasn’t asking for charity, he was trying to do his job. How insulting of me to give him money. How would I feel if someone walked into my workplace and handed me money because they assumed I needed it or my life was miserable...one a little weird because I work from home, but two probably insulted. Instead I bought a book and was surprised when he spoke very fluent English, gave me change from his wallet and went back to reading something on his phone. I understand the request not to buy from the kids because school attendance is not required, but about the kids who are selling things outside of school hours to earn money for their school uniform or supplies? What about the 7 year old outside of Pre Rup making the most beautiful puppets in front of our faces? We are not suppose to buy from him because he is a kid. But what if he is training to be a puppet master and revitalize the art and preserve his culture. Now I understand that general rules apply because it is for the good of the majority and we want to be conscious travelers/people, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t give pause and examine our biases and assumptions both in our daily lives and our out of the ordinary experiences. I am certain I still don’t know the answer.

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