I sat on a bench on the side of a river running through Siem Reap in Cambodia. Most people come to Siem Reap to see Ankor Wat, then head to Pub Street to see Ankor What? bar. I’m not a big drinker, and though the temples were beautiful, my legs and my budget couldn’t handle another day. I decided to read my book near the river.
As I read “A Farewell To Arms,” I took time between pages to watch people pass by. Runners seemed to love the path, both local and foreign alike. It was nice to watch the people run.
As I came to the last five pages in my book, I decided in my head I would go to back to my hostel after the book. Before I could do it, though, an elderly Cambodian man sat down at the bench next to me. He said hello, and I replied. He seemed to want to chat.
After exchanging subtleties, he began to tell me about life in Cambodia. He said it was hard, and said he had been forced to move from Battumbang to Siem Reap for work. As he spoke, his left eye would open and shut. I wondered if it was a mild case of turret syndrome. He spoke English wonderfully.
He began to speak of his dreams of farming, but how he didn’t have the money to do it. I couldn’t help but start to put up my guard, thinking he would ask me for money. My guard took away from my ability to make conversation, and after a few moments we went silent. I bid the man farewell, and went on my way.
He never asked me for money, I thought, as I walked the dirt road back to my hostel.