Memoirs of a Grizzled Expat 15: Not a Straightforward Love Story

Posted on by Andy Ahmed


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This is by no means a straightforward love story however; do you still think I’m exaggerating when I perceive her and her family as the very personification of the troubles that beset this tragic nation?

Fast forward to the next morning when I was awoken by an early call and a request to come straight round; I’d asked her to help me pack and move to my new apartment but not at such an unholy hour. She arrived, trying to put up a chirpy front but I could immediately detect a troubled heart. I naturally assumed she was having second thoughts or had heard something about my misdemeanours but I was off the mark.

As we were getting it on the previous afternoon, four police cars packed with mean cops swarmed over to the house of her elderly frail mother who is nursing her sick ex-husband and mad son. They were sent to evict her.

She’d bought the property over five years ago but being illiterate had no documentation. The man she’d bought it off was allegedly managing for a French couple and wasn’t the owner. It had been jungle but her mother had had the land cleared and created farmland and built a house on it thus its value had risen.

Now I don’t know, and neither can they, whether these French people exist or not; all that’s known is that nearly twenty heartless cops took residence in the house, refusing to budge and demanding constant feeding until the matter was ‘resolved’.

Evidently the fuzz can amicably and magnanimously go to great lengths to procure the missing title deeds within a day but naturally this feat would involve the hard labours of many officers and the necessary gratuities would not be slight. Furthermore they had two days to come up with the arbitrary, outrageous and extortionate sum of $500 otherwise the family would be homeless.

Yes, I’d said before that I wasn’t going to support the entire family through their misfortunes but heck, I wasn’t in love and committed at that point and it occurred to me that if I can’t save Cambodia per se including the thousands of families on my new doorstep facing the same fate in a month, I could at least make the gesture to help one family, one representative of the endemic greed that is the cancer running through the body of the country.

I also said previously that I hate being the fairy godfather making everything okay with the wave of his magic wad but there was really no alternative option; having strived so hard to piece the girl together after the last expensive family disaster I couldn’t stand by and let her fall apart again and anyway, having made an assurance that as her boyfriend I would care for her I couldn’t put a financial ceiling on such a promise.

She returned two days later after I’d all but given up on her and was building myself up to another night out alone and all the risks that entails but fortunately she turned up while I was still procrastinating and yet again the reason for her non-communication was that she was having a torrid time.

It turned out the $500 would keep the provincial filth off their backs but it was the city police who could produce the document and their fee was a further $200. Corruption is a fascinating and amazingly precise science you know; it’s not as if somebody produces some arbitrary sum out of the air.

The precise number of fingers in the shit have to be counted, along with the respective ranks and an exact fee is arrived at which allows little room for negotiation. Besides, the other party had also handed over a wad to the country cops and so if the city police didn’t intervene they’d still be evicted. She was so upset about this that it took me two days of patient love and reassurance to get this out of her (man, I’ve come a long way); when I finally got her to look me in the eyes I saw in her soul something I (and presumably no one else) had ever seen before.

Whilst it frequently gets buried under various distractions, I have to remind myself that my central purpose for being here, foregoing the comforts and accoutrements of living in the West is to make some contribution to the alleviation of suffering and here the overriding cause of suffering is poverty. Pretty much all the problems she and her family face along with countless others in similar straits can be solved with money. I used to have a real aversion to money but now I see my hatred was more of materialism and even that was based more on the injustice of the haves and have-nots. Here the basic necessities of life such as food, medicines and shelter are never guaranteed if you lack the security that money brings.

There is another dimension that makes no sense in the affluent West but is a massive learning curve for me. She tells me that she now knows that I truly love her and am committed to her. I asked her what caused her to come to this conclusion and her answer was that it was when I insisted on stuffing the wads in her reluctant mits – in other words when I put my money where my mouth was. We’re not talking about “If you really love her buy her a diamond” obscenity here; the money saved her family from destitution, but at the end of the day it still equates to loving me because I have money but here it makes perfect sense and it’s alright.

And so everything worked out and she helped me move into a new apartment which is very nice and she never quite moved out which is absolutely brilliant, not simply because I can keep an eye on her and ensure a full recovery but more because I love her company and I feel like I have a home and I’m all settled now.

She’d taken any number of quantum leaps over the space of a few days which is probably not what she needed given the extremely traumatic issues she had to cope with at the same time; then again it was due pretty much in whole to my cash and care that she came through. She’s utterly paranoid about what people might think or say about her to the extent that I insensitively tell her that she allows people who she doesn’t even know including ignorant hookers and neighbourhood gossips to control her life.

It left me with an interesting situation when the lady came with the contract for me to sign; as my sweetheart hid and subsequently fell asleep in the bedroom I found myself having to explain away my penchant for very small girly platform shoes.

Andy Ahmed

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3 Responses to Memoirs of a Grizzled Expat 15: Not a Straightforward Love Story

  1. Greg says:

    No Khmer…….no matter how poor, buys property without at least getting soft title from the local Sangkat. This is commonly done for every real estate transaction at the local level. You…..are being played. This is on the same level as the “sick water buffalo in the village”.

    But, It is entertaining reading your self delusion. I can’t wait for the installment where you realize how the game works.

  2. andyinasia says:

    I WAS being played – and for a painfully long time. I’m not sure I can condense the story into one installment where a light came on – it didn’t happen like that. There were so many blindingly obvious signals that I missed, and doubts that I harboured then dismissed – until even to this day, I have no idea how many of these episodes were scams and how many were genuine!

    • Alan says:

      “to this day, I have no idea how many of these episodes were scams and how many were genuine!”

      And that’s the catch! And why it’s still interesting to read all these years later.

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