It’s Just Me and My Russians on a Rainy Afternoon

I ducked into this place because it started pouring all of a sudden- pro tip: tropical rainy season is not a great time to dress virginally and then take a walk- and it looked nice enough to take my only form of payment, which thanks to being debit burgled in Indonesia (still worth it) is a credit card.

It was an appropriate time for lunch, so I did that. When it was still raining after noodle completion, however, I deigned primly to order a drink.

“Just one?” asked the inexplicably puzzled waiter.

“Yes, that will be all,” I replied politely, while wondering what about my damp white clothes scream “double-fisting at noon”.

Turns out, though, these Black Russians are a dollar-ish apiece, which in the current administration seems like some kind of political arrangement. It’s been steadily raining and I’ve been sitting here for hours- so at some point I decided my own kind of collusion would be in order. I have nine novels downloaded to my phone and a full and friendly charge; book it and bring me another.

“You are very strong. Very strong,” says the waiter after four. I don’t have the heart to tell him that four of these over as many hours is the Grittys equivalent of one trivia question.

“You are so strong. Look at your face! It is normal.”

“False,” I think as I outwardly agree. A remix of the Macarena is playing so I am assuredly not normal. My ankles are crossed and my torso is steady but my hips are chairdancing really hard and I’m grinning like a goshdarned fool.

“Do you like this music? I can play you anything you want.”

“This. Play this,” I say, delighted.

He does. On repeat, even, and then Havana plays for a third time as he indicts me with another glass of collusion, stays to chat about rice farming, and adds himself to the Facebook.

More of this, please, in the world. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in tourist sites that I forget how much I adore a lazy hideaway, slow drinking, and a pop rock friendship.

Cheers, Siem Reap, and cheers, hospitality on a terrace with the Russians.

Casual diplomacy triumphantly trumps again.

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I Learned a Lot (and Linga!)

A good example of a reasonably priced meal is when you can eat a delicious lunch of shrimp amok (a spiced Cambodian coconut milk dish with garlic and shallots) capped by a mango milkshake for lunch, and then are forced additionally to have three adult beverages in order to meet the credit card minimum of $10.

“It is happy hour,” said the waitress at the Paper Tiger.

“It is one p.m.” said I.

“It is always happy hour,” she replied.

And so I caved.

I had had a productive morning at the Angkor National Museum getting brainy and answering long-held questions like “what was seriously up with all those penis carvings on that Thai beach in 2013?” (see archival exhibit A here:) 

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I decided that the discovery had earned me a quaff or three.  

So, here’s what I pondered over my gins: the Hindu religion is similar to Catholicism in that people are supposed to believe there is only one divine entity, but it’s sort of also split into three parts.  Catholics have the father, son, and holy ghost, one of which we’re supposed to eat on a weekly basis, and Hindus have Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.  

As the story goes, Brahma and Vishnu were arguing about who created the world when this fiery shaft of light appeared.  It went so deep into the underworld and so high into the heavens that B and V each traveled over a thousand years in opposite directions in search of an end, but couldn’t find one.  Then Shiva appeared from within it and was like, “without me, neither of you creates anything.”  This phallic shape, then, came to represent fertility and how life cannot begin without that precious seed.  In Hindu artwork, it’s often set into a base with a trough from which water can flow and feed it.  

So there’s a female aspect, too.

Interesting, right?  I liked the museum.  Turns out Cambodia has this fascinating history of which I had zero knowledge pre-Pol Pot, which is a shame because the first two thousand years are filled with all the art, architecture and mythology of ancient lands… and Pol Pot?  Well, he was just an extremist maniacal asshole. 

For hundreds of years and through the building of Angkor Wat (literally “the temple of the capital”) this vast kingdom covered modern-day Cambodia, plus much or most of Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, and even into India and China.  

So why did I never learn this stuff?  Worse, why have I never taught it?  As a direct result of Pol Pot’s atrocities, I have ethnically Cambodian students every year.  They were really excited when they found out I’d be going to “their” country, and there’s no question about them being eager to learn and connect.

It makes me want to reach back a dozen years, to when I realized that nobody gives a damn about social studies and I can teach the vague standards with any content that engages my students.  

I probably won’t tell them about the penisy stuff, and maybe leave the booze prices for their college economics.  Ancient Asian history, though? 

We’re hittin’ that.

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The Tyler Story, and a Call for Recommendations

“Is Tyler here?  Tyler?” I asked the class.  I was substitute teaching second grade at the beginning of my illustrious career, and I thought I knew everything- including that Tyler would be a boy.

“Here,” said a voice, and I looked up.

“You absolute magnificent badass,” I thought at the kid, stunned but smiling at her placidly.  Tyler was a girl, and I wanted her name.  

Oh yes, I would have her name.

Fast forward to adult nights in the Old Port, and Tyler would become my bar moniker.  You know the deal- the one you give to people when you’re not really interested.  When the guy is drooling the Bud Lights he ordered at the microbrewery onto your toes, or when instead of buying you a drink, he buys you spinach artichoke dip.  Or oh!  Just hands you his lease instead of trying a line.  

Those cobblestones get weird in summer.

Anyway, Tyler became my bar name, and when this real guy named Tyler joined our staff after a few years of doing Peace Corps stuff in Cambodia, I noticed he had some abstract art instead of a human profile pic so I started using his last name, too, in hopes that dudes would send him hilarious off-color messages while looking for me.  

This did not happen, but I like to think it cemented our friendship.  

I reminisce fondly upon those glory days, as I age gracefully into not getting hit on in person a single time in five months of Asia.  (Stricken from the record: the guy in the karaoke booth who snuck in and ran his hand up my leg.  It doesn’t count because before I even know what had happened, he was stumbling into Katie for a post-Celine Dion ballad mammary honk.  Clearly I could not take it personally.)

Anyway, the point is that a few weeks ago I asked Tyler what to do in Cambodia, and he responded with some recommendations that I hope do not turn out to be revenge for all the bandying about with his birthright.  So bam: here I am.  I’m booked for a week, then wide open until July 1, when I head back home to see if I’ve still got it.  

Now, y’all- same question to you.  What (literally on earth) should I do?  I’ve got some work left to finish so wifi is a must, but outside that I’m free to roam.

Suggestions?  I eagerly await.

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