Monday, July 11, 2005


Cambodian kick-boxing was on the TV. I watched and waited for my happy pizza, minus the 'happy'. ('Happy' being a little marijuana sprinkled on the pizza. 'Happy happy' being a lot of marijuna sprinkled on the pizza.) Tourists strolled by the river. Children begged. The restaurant had a good crowd for a Sunday night, three or four tables full.

A bored waitress was sitting next to me, watching TV.

"Do you like boxing?" I asked.

"I like boxing very much," she said, both her English and enthusiasm surprising me. I didn't expect a positive response; what woman likes boxing?

"You like it?" I said.

"Yes," she said. "In school, I used to box in school."

"They taught boxing in school?"

"Yes," she said, nodding, the words coming quicker. "I was very good. My teacher, he boxed in Cambodia and Thailand and Laos and Vietnam. Now he's very old, eighty, so he doesn't box anymore. He teaches."

We watched the TV some more. I waited for my pizza. A slight breeze came, went.

"You from Phnom Penh?" I asked.

"No, Kompong Chhang province."

"How often do you go back home?"

"Three days every year."

"That's it?" I said. "Only three days?"

"It's okay," she said. "I like to work. I don't like to go back home. I don't trust my parents. They say bad things, they lie, they take things."

"You don't trust your parents?"

"I don't trust anyone," she said. "My friends, they call me, they want to go out, but I don't go. I stay here, I work. They do bad things, sometimes. I don't trust anyone."

"You have any days off?"

"No days off. But that's okay. I don't trust anyone. I trust myself." Pointing at her chest.

My pizza was ready. I had already paid, so I stood up, smiled, asked her her name. She told me hers, and I told her mine.

I went outside to get a moto. She turned her attention back to the TV, to the boxing. I felt a little sad. The air was cool and the sky was a little gray and I hopped on a bike and left.


Amanda said...

this IS sad. do you think a lot of people in that part of the world are sad like this? and untrusting? do you think that a lot of people are not to be trusted? because of their poverty or whatever they are forced to only look out for themselves?

Scott said...

Amanda, the answer to all of your questions is: Yes. After living here, I've found that very few people trust anybody outside of their own family -- and sometimes not even their own family. I think a lot of it's because of what happened during the Khmer Rouge era, where you really COULDN'T trust anybody. As a foreigner, too, everybody is always trying to get money out of you in any way they can.

And yet, at the same time, I've had a street kid collecting bottles run up to me and hand me the dollar I accidentally dropped without knowing it. So, there you go -- just when you start to make generalizations about a people and a place...

bethanie_odd said...

regarding the abover comments...

do you think that most people you know trust others? do you think that most people are generally happy? i don't think that money has that much to do with it.

i can say similer sentiments of Thais when I was living there and now of the yacht club folks on cape cod.

it is just more obvious when we are looking at it from a lens that isn't our own.

daria said...

indeed...i also do believe that distrust isn't settled only in one corner of the world but has absorbed all of it. just ask yourself how much do you trust the others? don't you feel unconfortable because the guy next to you in the subway looks very arabic and has a strange package in his hands? i feel ashamed when i have to admit that i do - though my boy-friend is from palestine and i know that a drunk white man who cast an eye on you is probably much more dangerous.
when i was working at the cash desk of a petrol station i noticed something. the richer a customer was the more distrust i've seen in his eyes. i guess the more you have to lose the more you start to mistrust the people around you. this is really sad. it seems like the world doesn't suffer from distrust but a wrong moral concept. because the more you have, the more you can give to others and the more you would start to trust, the more you would earn trust from others.
well, sometimes i feel these are naive visions...but i learned they can cheer your heart - and that of others.

Muktuk said...

I'm in the minority, but after reading this post, my general feeling wasn't one of sadness. My feeling was one that this woman has made the best out of her situation. While her family and friends seem negative to her, she retreats inside and finds strength.

She has likes and dislikes and may not even be aware of all that she's missing. Why should we super-impose or ethnocentric sensibilities to feel sorry for her that her life isn't different.

While it's the lesser of the evils of being poverty-stricken and overly-defensive, I'd rather see a woman reacting this way than being a pawn of life.

Urban Barbara said...

I have mixed feelings on this. Parly, it's so damn realistic, and the other part is it's so damn realistic.

I'm a believer in those who say you can trust them, are the worst.

I also believe that sometimes, people who I wouldn't expect to be trustworthy are.

And, I find it so interesting that sometimes, our lives are so narrow and small that it is just about taking care of ourselves.