My friends and I went to the Kulen Mountain area close to Siem Reap. We were by a beautiful river and forest, so we took our time to soak in the scenery. Unfortunately, the environment was contrasted with some of the dangerous practices among families.
We often smile and talk to children when we’re out in public, but always when their parents are around. While we were by the river, one of my friends noticed a young girl who was about eight years old, staring at her. Then when we tried to say hello to the young girl, her mother, who could not speak English, gestured to us and basically said, “She can take you through the forest and be your guide,” in exchange for money.
Of course we said no and we wouldn’t leave on our walk until the young girl stopped following us and stayed with her mother.
I couldn’t process how people can let their child go into the forest alone with strangers just like that. I know about these practices and that it happens every day around the world. But when you experience it yourself, it is another level of shock.