A Postcard from Battambang: 3February 13, 2006
Tourist season here is in full swing, a conspicuous manifestation of which is the number of redfaced people charging around town in their holiday socks and sandals talking loudly to one another. They even appear to outnumber the enthusiastic hot gospellers and, being an expert baiter of evangelists, I notice such things.
But where, apart from your most totally drug messed up dreams of living in a straight-jacketed and controlled society, could one possibly hear the following conversation acted out?
Scene: A popular, good value locally owned restaurant, well known for its fine sour soup, fish amok and other Khmer delicacies.
The participants are as follows-
Backpacker number 1 is a native English speaker in his mid 30′s and is festooned with fake Diesel products and other assorted phoney sidewalk trash acquired on his Asian travels.
Backpacker number 2, a woman in her 30?s, is also a native English speaker and presumably the ‘partner’ (not girlfriend – the ‘thought policemen,’ Dr Weird Beard and his ideological confederate, ‘Gecko Boy’ might be reading this) of the above. She wears a small tattoo of a bird on her left shoulder and has had her hair recently plaited.
Meanwhile a good friend is of mine and long term expatriate is sitting at the next table awaiting my arrival. I’ve been held up at work and am running late. Whilst sipping on his Black Panther stout, my friend receives a text message from his family in Kampot and then overhears the following conversation emanating from the next table??..
Backpacker number 1 – (Pointing at my friend) ”Oh look, he’s getting a text message on his mobile phone.”
Backpacker number 2-“Good gracious. That’s not the sort of thing we want to see in a poor country like this.”
Backpacker number 1 (Realising he’s been overheard, face reddening slightly), “Well, I suppose we do it in England.”
Somewhere high above in the restaurant’s rafters a gecko is heard laughing.