The little boy’s face in front of me is smeared with dirt, coupled with snot. But, he doesn’t care. Instead, he pushes his tiny, dark face closer to me. Closer to my lens, and smiles big.

A little boy from Ratanakiri

Click.

I turn the camera towards him, displaying his chubby little face for him to see and he erupts in a fit of giggles, delighted at seeing his image on the display.

As I move from him and towards other children surrounding me in this dusty village in Cambodia’s Ratanakiri Province, he follows me, jumping into every photo I take and then standing there after, waiting anxiously for me to turn my camera around so he can see his face once again.

Ratanakiri is far off the tourist path (for the most part). It is a bumpy ride 11-hour ride from Phnom Penh, and an even more tretchreous 16-hour drive on mostly dirt roads from Siem Reap. Unexpectedly, I find myself in this village, which has a fine layer of rust-covered dirt blanketing everything from the trees on the side of the roads to the quickly put-together wooden homes on stilts to even the people, including me.

Armed with a bag of clothing and snacks to give to the children, it is only a matter of moments before my boss and I (who are here on an entirely different mission) are surrounded by the village’s children.

For an  hour, we snap photos of them before we head out and stop in another village.

As night falls and my boss meets with someone, I wander off towards a small group of kids. They run around me, laughing, mimicking my movements. At one point, I crouch to the ground with them and place my hands over my mouth, over my ears and then, over my eyes. They do the same.

Speak no evil. Hear no evil. Speak no evil.

I sit and stare at them as they follow my lead, marveling at the lives they lead. There is no electricity in this village. There are no iPads, no televisions, barely a radio. Instead, these children live with nature. They live a far simpler life than the children I have met in my days. And, it is a beautiful thing.

I find myself back in these two villages a month later, as we are en route to rescue elephants. Once again, the children crowd us, fighting to see my camera, to play with my iPhone. And, once again, I feel this sense of peace come over me as I sit and am reminded of the little things in my childhood that would make me happy: afternoons sitting outside with my friends, dancing into the sunset, simple moments of nature.

Despite their dire conditions, despite the fact these children will never know Facebook, or Twitter, or likely Gangam Style, they are happy. Even living in poverty, these children sparkle and exude a warmth I feel very rarely with little ones.

Here are their moments:

IMG 6752

IMG 6748

IMG 6747

IMG 6739

IMG 6738

IMG 6737

IMG 6736

IMG 6724

IMG 6723

IMG 6720

IMG 6717

IMG 6716

IMG 6711

IMG 6709

IMG 6667

IMG 6650

IMG 6634

IMG 6620

IMG 6619

IMG 6618

IMG 6610

IMG 6593

IMG 6592

IMG 6589

IMG 6581

IMG 6579

IMG 6554

IMG 6548

IMG 6539

IMG 6536

It makes me wonder: if kids in first world countries who have those iPads, the cell phones, the video games, could come here and see how these children live, I wonder if the next generation would be different?

11 comments

  1. You captured some wonderful images here, not just of the children, but also the composition of the photos. I saw my son in some of those photos–I have a hard enough time keeping my younger son’s face clean, so I can imagine that for these people who don’t have access to washing machines like we do, it would not be so easy. And the kids’ eyes are stunning!

    Like

  2. Love these D! Taking photos of people is something I really struggle with. It’s tough to get in there and capture such honest expressions of complete strangers. Nice work!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s