A Bag of Rice A Day


Everyone living in Tonle Sap Lake, Siem Reap is equipped with rowing skills, as a pre-requisite. Living in stilt houses on the waters, the boat is the only mode of transport. The image of a little girl rowing a big wooden boat all by herself is forever stuck in my mind since I visited Tonle Sap 3 years ago. I was so fascinated by it that I had her picture developed and it has inhabited my wall since then.
On my second visit, I asked the boat driver, Nett, a widow who brings her son with her on every trip, to dock at a small sundry shop on the lake. A small family lives there. Hong, who owns the small store, lives with her husband together with her 9 month old daughter.

Her husband, Yang volunteers as a teacher daily at a nearby school that provides free education for poor children. "What would the school be needing the most?" I asked Hong and my guide, Pol. Rice, they answered. We were already standing in Nett's sundry shop so getting a bag of rice wasn't a problem, There was only one problem, The only 100 dollar note I have with me is slightly torn. Nett volunteered to drive her boat over to a nearby restaurant which also provides money changing services. We stayed behind and waited.

Hong came back and told me to follow her back to the money changer who wouldn't let her exchange on my behalf. Off we went while, Pol stayed behind at the shop. I made a small loss of 10 dollars and we went back to get Pol and the bag of rice from Hong's shop.

At the school Hong's husband was teaching a class. Some boys were helping out at the school kitchen, slaughtering a goose to prepare lunch for the kids.

A bag of rice per day, Pol told me. To feed 200 kids.

(Scroll to the right)

Hong drove the boat back with her son.

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