…I had my Xe Om driver stop at my favourite Banh Mi stall on the Dien Bien Phu end of Vuon Chuoi St so that I could buy myself a baguette with pate, cold meat, salad and chili which makes a delicious breakfast. As usual the two ladies who run the stall were very busy with a long line of customers and as I stood patiently waiting my turn three young girls dressed in very ragged clothes approached and began to beg for money.
This is not the first time that these girls have taken advantage of the fact that I am stationary, I’m buying food and of course I have money in my hand. They collectively nod their heads at me with their hands held together in a praying position while holding a plastic bucket in which I should deposit some cash. The nodding of the head and the pointing at their mouths are both very clever marketing ploys. Nodding is a positive affirmation of course and the mouth pointing indicates that they are hungry. The girls are dark-skinned and filthy with the dirt and grime of the streets and I gaze at their feet where the black filth is so ingrained that I doubt it could ever be washed out.
My Banh Mi’s are ready and I give one of the girls my change. As we drive drive off my driver comments back over his shoulder to me, “Kampuchea, Kampuchea”. Hmm, of course, these children are refugees.