From the first day that our paths crossed, and our eyes met, they stopped being monks and became, in our words, ‘the boys in orange’, as little Mia sees them and says.

On that morning it was raining in Phnom Penh, and we discovered the city along its narrow streets, hidden from the great Sisowath Quay. The boys in orange walked with us on that early morning: our footsteps followed theirs, or their footsteps showed us the way. We were silent.

We got used to seeing them, to having them with us: sometimes close, sometimes far away, but always part of the fabric of the painting of our days here. The faces, the wrinkles and the streets that welcomed them changed, but there was always that orange covering their skin.

On that day they brought umbrellas that seemed to store the light all day long, shining down on them: enlightened, as Buddhism desires. At 6 am they would have left the temple just like every morning, to receive the offerings – alms giving – from the community.

As they passed, people bowed down, their eyes lowered, and their hands, after offering food, joined together across their chests, while the monks blessed them with words.

We saw all of it – Mia with us.

They never touch each other, the gift – as the offered food (rice, fresh fruit…) is called – is placed in a bowl or cloth bag, opened by the monk to receive it.

The monks never ask for anything, and those who give never see it as a form of charity. It is a bond reinforced here between the monastic and lay communities. It is about humility and generosity and not begging and pity. An exchange where each part offers what they have, where each one receives what they need: physical nourishment for spiritual nourishment.

We saw all of it – Mia with us. We didn’t know how much of everything we saw had- also been seen by her. We didn’t know how much of everything she saw she had understood; and we never asked her. A few days later, we were walking along the Royal Palace walls and crossed paths with three orange boys (as the picture shows), after smiling she stopped, and as she saw them going on their way, she said: – It is the boys in orange; they are very important.

And, I have come to be sure, only the size of our eyes will be larger than hers, but not what they see.

* This and many other stories are seen through the eyes of little Mia are on the blog: Menina Mundo. She is also on Facebook & Instagram. Thanks to this beautiful family for sharing this story with us.

P.S – The authorship of the post (photographs and text), as well as all its rights, belong to Menina Mundo.