A tiny girl that only comes up to my armpit shows me her hand. But when I look in her eyes, I see she is not a child at all but a tiny elderly woman. Malnourishment has stunted her growth and she is only about 3 ft. tall. She has a few grains of rice in her hand, points to them and then indicates her mouth. I am on a day tour of Bagan which has been organised by my cruise line, Voyages to Antiquity, and we have only a limited amount of time to visit this wonderful rural market. I quickly walk on in order not to lose the group, enjoying the colours of the vegetables and admiring the handicrafts but, all the while, I feel guilty leaving this woman with nothing.
Ki Ki notices that I like one of the lacquer boxes she is selling. I now know that an amazing amount of effort can go into making one of these but still only offer her $4 hoping that this is a mass market version.. She immediately starts showing me her other wares and insists that if I buy two items she will give them to me for $20. I try to explain that I do not have any more money and she clearly does not believe me. ‘Ask your friends. They will lend you money!’. ‘I am on assignment’, I reply. ‘These others are tourists but they do not know me and will not lend me money.’ She acquiesces and our transaction is completed.