“Hello, Sir!" "Tuk-Tuk?" "Boom-Boom?" "Massage?" "Marijuana?"
These were the chants I heard stepping off the bus in Siem Reap. --and these would be the same chants I would hear in EVERY other city would visit. Every single city. I won't lie. it was a bit shocking, it definitely let me know that I "wasn't in Kansas anymore."
A couple of dudes and I got a "Tuk-Tuk" (scooter taxi) into the main part of the City. We all went to secure rooms in guest houses and/or hotels...and then met up later for dinner and drinks.
"The People" and "the Tourists" are EASY to differentiate because it is simply based on the Color Line. For all intensive purposes. Westerners are White. Cambodians are dark-skinned Asians. Westerners have money. (not necessarily; but they DO possess the semblance of money) Cambodian are poor. (But, they HUSTLE HARD) for the little money they DO make.) Westerners get serviced. Cambodians do the servicing.
** But, I'll be writing more about these issues in further detail at a later date. It's not as simple as what is stated is this paragraph. **
"Food, sir?" "Massage, Sir?"
"No, that's okay, Buddy... I'm just going to this bar."
"Boom-Boom, Sir?" "We have Pretty Girlz? You choose. Room-Boom, Sir?"
"I'm sure, Buddy. Thinks, I'm just going over here."
"Smoke. Sir?" "Want weed, Sir?"
I'll be honest. Early in the trip. I was torn. Seeing the people. Smelling the city. Witnessing poverty like I had never seen. All this tugged at my heart, I felt like one of the Powerful. I wanted to patronize all who asked to sell me a good or service; but immediately understood that could not work.
-- and char's when if happened.
I understood "first-hand" how die average White person must feel. To have the SEMBLAXCE of Power in the eyes of those with less--but in actuality, you aren't as Rich and Powerful as they might think. (-which can take quite a psychological toll.) This might have actually been the first time I EXPERiENCED this in my life. To be one of the Powerful; in a racial or cultural sense. This alone, shook me at my core. Quite humbling.
In the midst of drinking ;ind dancing, I decided to leave one of the clubs to get some fresh air. I stepped out into the warm night air of the Mekong Delta, and caught a vision that literally forced a smile upon my face. Two young Cambodian girls, who couldn't have been older than ten were dancing the night away. They were putting on quite a show, too! This particular club was an open-air establishment; so even it you were in the street, you could look right into the club and see the dance flow and hear the music with no problem. So, these girls basically brought the party outside with them. --and right there, in the street, at 1:00 AM, with nothing but drunk Westerners around, these little girls danced. Danced, as if, they had no care in the world...
I started to walk toward my hotel room... I was tired.
Something hit me hard on the leg. I turn around quickly to discover it was a LittleHand. I see this LittleFace smiling up and me, and she hits me again...and then does a little pirouette and smiles at me. *I'm dumbfounded. I've been attacked by a ViolentBallerina.* Her brother starts giggling...most likely because his little sister has rendered me speechless through her combination of Violence and Dance.
The Westerners I'm with are now starting to join in the laughter...and her Littleface is lighting up-- I can see her enjoying the attention. She sees the crowd forming... and then she rums up the heat.
"Oh, you weakling! That didn't hurt."
"Girl, So find your Mama! It's past your bedtime..,"
"No, it's not. Plus, you can't tell me what to do, Weakling!"
**WTH?! Realization: I'm no longer in Korea. These people arc NOT shy."
"Girl, if you don't go find your Mama, then I'm going to be one to "put some Heat on that Meat!"
[I make hand motions that simulate a spanking.]
"You don't scare me, Man! Plus, you just got hit twice by a LittleGirl!"
I could not stop this particular child. She eventually wins the " back-and-forth" between us; which had grown into a bit of a public spectacle.
So, I did only the honorable thing.-- I got a picture with the victor.
That interaction epitomized my experience in cambodia: BIG, things jumping our of SMALL packages and surprising me.
By eRic Durham
Prof. of English Language & Literature
GOODDOCTOR'S LETTER -
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