“I would have been a Snail Seller”

“I would have been a Snail Seller” he said in the most straightforward way. I was not sure I understood him and asked him to repeat.
He repeated, “Snail Seller”. And then went on to give me a detailed explanation. “It’s like on the street. The carts. The snails you know – to eat.”

Ah! The image came flooding in and I knew exactly what he meant.

All sorts of food carts, fruit carts, fish carts and yes snail carts roam the streets of Phnom Penh looking for hungry customers that might need a snack.
The Snail Sellers literally sell snails. Either plan or seasoned in a spicy red sauce.

We westerners who panic if anything is left out of the refrigerator for more than an hour fearing it will develop some deadly bacteria or mold cannot understand the street carts. With no refrigeration, no protection other than a small fan to keep away the flies they walk the streets in 90 – 100 degree weather. The snails exposed to the heat all day still seem to be a yummy treat for the locals.

I admit I am still a bit of a squeamish expat. I am happy to by a cooked snack of noodles or freshly cut pineapple from my street vendors but have yet to try the snails or the carts of deep fried crickets and bugs.

But here was this little guy in front of me who only a few years ago was being trained at the age of 8 to take over and run his mother’s snail business.

His story of how he got to CCF is like all the kid’s stories a mix of apprehension, resistance, Scott’s determination and ultimately a child won over to dreaming of a future never imagined.

My former little “snail seller” is 12 years old. He admits to resisting the idea of CCF because he was lazy and the idea of school all day did not appeal to him. In fact, although he had a sibling in the program he failed his first interview for CCF. But after watching his sibling grow and prosper he was determined to pass the interview and now some years later he is without a doubt a star student.

Not just academically, but in every way. At 12 he has the social skills and confidence of someone much older. He is a star performer in the “Monkey Dance” troupe and a leader in everything he does.

I am currently training him and a couple of other students to be Tour Guides. So they can take VIP visitors on tours of their facilities. He is of course one of the best. Now, I am teaching some older students about Global Human Rights. And although this formerly “lazy boy” could be off doing anything he is begging to be able to learn as well.

So this little charmer has gone from snail seller to top student. He usually has a huge smile on his face but is playing it cool in this photo surrounded by the girls.


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