On our first night in town, Anna (pictured here) came over to the group and tried to sell us some of her photocopied books. We tried turning her down, but she was far more persistent than some other young vendors were; she challenged Nick to a game of tic-tac-toe - if he won she would give him her book for free, and if she won he would have to buy her book.
Needless to say, she beat him soundly. The next night, she found us again and asked us to buy more books from her. This time we sheepishly turned her down, but the next day, brainstorming of what to do with my story, I realized that she and the little boy she walked around with, Same (pictured above), could have some incredibly valuable personal insight into the child education/labor issue that I was trying to cover.
That night, I went back to Pub Street to look for them. I couldn't find Anna, but did find Same, who said he would bring her and some of his friends back the next night to talk to me. So the next night, Wednesday, I showed up at our designated meet-up point to chat. It took us a little while to find each other, but eventually we did; I asked them if they wanted to eat some dinner and they led me to this place called the Temple, which has live dance performances every night.
We sat down and I started asking them a couple questions about their families and lives and whether or not they get to go to school. They started talking, and the stories they were sharing were, for lack of a better word, unbelievable. Anna is the eldest of seven kids, and her father passed away earlier in the year, so she dropped out of school to try and earn money to support her younger siblings. She sells books at night on the street, but sometimes can't because when the cops come around; they'll chase after the kids and detain them if they catch them.
Which is actually what happened to Same, who was held in jail for about a month before his father came to get him. He said that while he was there, the cops hit him often and kept him in close quarters, and that now that he is out, he runs away quickly whenever he sees the police heading his way.
They talked for nearly an hour, interspersing eating and playing with the camera along the way. The dance performance started then, and the two of them moved toward the front to watch for a while. Then, we got some ice cream and headed back downstairs.
I wanted to trail them for a bit to see what kind of reception they got by different tourists, but didn't want to get them in trouble with the police (or hurt their sales), so we said goodnight. There's so much more I could write about this night, but this is probably a long enough 'caption' as is. As might be already evident, their stories absolutely blew me away.
Third day of shooting for the workshop, and certainly the most varied thus far; started at the Ministry of Education in Siem Reap, then on to the provincial teacher's training college, and finally spent the night talking to Anna and Same, two kids with incredible stories who sell books to tourists in the city after dark to support their families. See set for full description.