Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cambodia Kids and Geography Skills

Have I mentioned the Geography skills of the Siem Reap children? If I have, I'm sure I didn't do it justice. These kids are fact retaining geniuses. And it's all part of their game to sell you postcards, photocopied books, or bracelets.

By this point in travelling I've gotten over my annoyance at them, and I've started to have some fun. The same type of fun that I intended to have with the gypsies in Europe if ever they came back to me once I'd made my own informative postcard for them (check my France posts for more information on this.)

The wee little darlings (back to the Cambodian Kids, not the Gypsies here) will come up to you and try to sell you things. If you don't respond they'll ask where you're from. I'd been told this was a trap, but at some point you just need to know how it plays out.

Kid: Where you from?
Mistah Bee: America
Kid: America, capital – Washington D.C., president – Barak Obama
MB: Actually I'm from Australia
Kid: Capital – [insert capital here, you know, the boring one? Starts with a C I think?], president [hell if I can remember], population [sounded right].
MB: What if I told you I was from Germany? Canada? Sweden?

And so it went on, with this child being able to tell me oh so much about oh so many places.

At the end I refused to buy from him. When he asked why, I told him – because then you won't go to school, and you'll have no life outside of selling. The more people that buy from you, the more you'll be entrapped. He'd heard all this before, of course, and changed to the “I don't have money for school” line – but this is a lie. School is free. Then he admitted that was true (this is a rookie mistake – never admit you were lying if you plan to continue) and told me that he would be going to school tomorrow, there was no school today.

I saw him the same time the next day, “Would you like to buy a postca... oh it's you?” and then he ran away.

But these kips – smart as whips, if whips are to be considered smart. And yet here he is, retaining knowledge that would win him thousands on North American game shows, but will do nothing for his life. What are his choices? To make enough money selling trinkets for his family, so he can – do what with his life?

It's a hard choice. I didn't buy into his, “you buy me food then?” line either. But if you do anything, choose this option. He will eat with you, you know your money goes to something worthwhile. Just be cautious, as he has friends around the corner that will try to come and join. “Just a dollar more, just a dollar more.” Still – it's not so bad?

It's these little street scenes that I think I'll miss most about Siem Reap. But I know that I'll be back here. And maybe sooner rather than later (though I need to know how long I need to be out of country before I can enter with another tourist visa.) There is so much more to this country that I think two weeks, three even, would be required to properly explore. Having spent my time at the temples already, Siem Reap may only be worth a couple of nights, to share the experience with whomever travels with me then.

Odds are most people won't stand for three days of temple crawling. And this will fit my finances perfectly.

I shall miss the tuk-tuk drivers yelling at me to jump in their cart, so as I can be transported far away... right as I'm sitting down in a restaurant. I mean, really people, has this ever worked? And oh how I would have liked to have been there when it did.

I'll miss the people in the markets humming and hawing over all sorts of ridiculous clothes that they'll probably never wear outside their one week abroad. Think of the people who buy kilts in Scotland and wear them while they're there – thinking it makes them blend in? How many more chances do you reckon they'll have in their life to don it again?

And I shall miss Blue Pumpkin, which waned in the final days – but was still a delight that I was glad to have come across. That an Ice cream cost more than two meals still rubbed me wrong. And I shall miss the meals.

I left the hostel but once today, and it was for the purpose of nourishment. I spent the morning into early afternoon reading – finishing The Two Towers, you'll be glad to know. And then I headed out to grab fried rice with sausage, and friend spring rolls, with a mango shake.

For mango shake, think smoothie. And the spring rolls? It wasn't that they tasted good, as much as the sauce, of which I have no clue how it was created, was amazing. And the fried rice with sausage? I have had this three or four times this week. And I will miss it sorely. It is the best fried rice I've ever had. If it were laid down beside Combo C – well... I'd have to think about it. Combo C would win my heart at first, being so long from my belly, but after a few meals of it, I would switch back to the rice with sausage. Combo C would no longer be the clear winner than it had been for the past many years.

Combo C...

This sausage is the most delicious pork I've ever had. And I've had pork in many delicious forms, I'll tell you what. To this point the best pork came in the form of a pulled pork burger created by none other than world famous (well city famous (well... house famous)) Matty P. But on the day I bit into this one dollar fifty cent meal – all that changed. It was a paradigm shift of flavour explosions. A new challenger had appeared, and from Cambodia it reigned.

With my belly full, I retired back to the hostel, where I began reading my next novel (To Sail Beyond the Sunset.) Any novel that begins with someone waking up, having found a dead body beside them is aok in my book. And being written by Heinlein, who wrote my favourite book (Starship Troopers – I make no excuses here) I was quite delighted to finally break into something else that he'd written.

At five thirty I closed the book, grabbed a balcony pack, and sat down in the hostel to watch The Killing Fields.

It seemed a good place to watch such a movie. Is it wrong that I found it somewhat boring though? Having little to do with the Khmer Rouge and more to do with an American journalist, I felt that I was missing out on some of the education I had expected from it. Was it a good movie? M'eh, it was alright.

I would have liked to know more about the Khmer Rouge rise to power, and their downfall, and the economy of a country that quite literally has no currency. What I did learn was the USA bombed Cambodia, a journalist stayed, as did his Cambodian counterpart. USA evacuated, the journalist and Cambodian stayed. They hid in the French embassy. Due to the inability to get a fake passport photo, the counterpart was sent away. The American won an award. After three minutes of seeing the Cambodian toil in the Khmer Rouge fields as a slave labourer he escapes, and is reunited with his family.

It was this toiling that I would have liked to learn more about – and what I really do think should have been the focus of the movie, more than the American writing letters, and winning prizes. But there it is, there you have it. Any movie then that showed Americas war crimes was going above and beyond for the time. So one can't complain that much.

And then I read some more, and headed to bed. My final night in the country. And my stay? Enjoyable. I really do wish I'd managed to see more of the country. But that time will come, I feel quite sure of it.

1 comment:

  1. When I traveled to Vietnam, I had hoped to make it to Cambodia. Unfortunately, it didn't happen. Your writing makes me remember Vietnam fondly and anxious to explore Cambodia...hopefully, soon.


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