It’s unthinkably hot today.

Five children descend upon us in front of the cavernous, dirt-floor restaurant, one of those places within the Angkor park grounds that serves heaping bowls of greasy fried rice. They tell us we’re beautiful and where are you from?

America. India, originally.

One kid says, I am from New Delhi.

Another says to my husband, Where is your bindi?

A third corrects: Only ladies wear bindis.

The kids’ faces are younger than their voices. We buy three postcards, but no bracelets.

In the evening, at a restaurant with plastic chairs and buy-one-get-one-free $1.50 beers, a boy comes around with a box of books. We leave out the India part this time.

He says, The capital of America is Washington, DC, and America has 300 million people minus two. He flashes a dimple, and continues: Obama is the new president and before him it was Bush, but nobody liked him.

There’s some sort of training involved in this type of work: current events, capitols of the world. Intensive English followed by a lesson in turning on the charm.

Well past midnight, in a bar with a microphone and drunken singing, a six-, maybe seven-year-old girl squeezes between chairs and around tables hoping to sell us her flowers.

About the author

Born in India and raised in New Jersey, Pallavi Sharma Dixit earned her MFA in fiction from the University of Massachusetts and has recently…

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Issue 06 · August 2009

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