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Sunrise at Angkor Wat

Sunrise at Angkor Wat

Silent Child: hungry and invisible  

My first glimpse of the young, slender and sadly withdrawn girl is before sunrise at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia. She meanders about far away from the chaotic and excited crowd cuddling a small, black and emaciated kitten.

She appears to be oblivious to the many tourists gathering around the pond to see what everyone talks about: the magnificence of sunrise over the mystical temple.

Today, there is no glorious image for people to see. The fog is thick and the reflection of the temple on the pond is undetectable. The photo frenzy dies as the tourists scurry away to walk the grounds of the world’s largest religious building: the jewel of all temples. Curious, I stay to observe the site.

I remain perched on an uncomfortable fragment of the ruins: cold, wet and rugged.

The fog mysteriously lifts and immediately a fight for my attention between light and shadow begins: beauty and splendor embrace the temple and the surroundings. With a sudden flash, I see much more than I anticipate: the many hungry children of Siem Reap.    

Again, I notice the aloof girl. Instead of clutching the kitten, she is grasping bags filled with thrown away food. There are packs of children, running around the pond picking up the leftover food the hotels prepare for their guests. It is with the finesse of an orchestra that they run from one pile of discarded trash to the next. Delicately and methodically they select the uneaten food and organize their treasures into numerous separate bags. The lost innocence of so many children escaped long ago.

This is their reality and my heart is broken: the peace of the morning is shattered.

  • Post author
    Debra Levine

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