Tuesday, September 26, 2006

What are the rules?

It’s 2:20am. First time I have been up in the middle of the night in a while. Just heard the sound of someone throwing cans about. Must be the Korean restaurant two doors away. It’s such a noisy street during the day it drives me crazy. I’m also constantly worried that Alan will not be able to put up with it especially coming from Scotland, where there’s plenty of personal space and quiet.

During Pchum Ben, some Vietnamese kids and their chaperons somehow decided to start playing badminton on the street just in front of the house. I don’t even know where they came from. For three days they drove me crazy with their screaming. It is easy to identify the Vietnamese language because it is so distinctive. Sunday was the worst and I had to lock myself upstairs in order to stop myself from battling with the noise-makers. I am still unsure about personal space in this country. You often see people playing badminton in the streets in the evening, but don’t they usually play outside their own homes? Or can people play anywhere they want and the rest of us just have to put up with it? What are the rules?

I remember being very miserable that day, wondering how I can live here. Maybe it is just the location. The posh NGO area of BKK1 is probably quiet enough. Thankfully Alan called. He suggested I get Boret the guard to speak to them. Good idea, why didn’t I think of it? Except Boret is back only on Wednesday. I gave him a week off to see his family in Kratie. Everyone tells me it is too much, everyone gets only 3 days at the most and everyone starts work on Monday. It’s the Singaporean in me. I give Boret 2 weeks holiday a year as per Singapore standards. And anyway, he works 7 days a week (if you can call it work, because it mostly entails sleeping!)

There are two types of guards here—the professional ones (MPA is the biggest and most established and rumour has it, has the backing of the government and therefore the Cambodian police) whose guards are on 2-hour shifts, ensuring they are wide awake. It’s relatively pricey to engage their services, about US400 a month, I was told. The big NGOs and restaurants employ them. Then there are the house guards, local men who sleep within the compound of the house (Boret sleeps in the car port). They act mostly as deterrents because none of them has weapons in case of a real break-in. In fact that was our first concern--“Does Boret have a weapon?” I asked Tra, Dr Thadaran’s son. (Dr Thadaran, a dentist, is our landlady and Boret is her stepbrother), “Because I don’t want him to get hurt in an attack.” Tra seemed genuinely surprised by the question. I guess attacks are rare because it’s mostly petty thieving that goes on here. Riverkids just down the road, for instance, lost 2 bicycles and a ladder.

Have barely been here in the hall downstairs for 10 mins and have been bitten to buggery. Damn mozzies. Another thing I dislike about Cambodia. People here just do not have a clue and I can hardly blame them. Even squeaky-clean Singapore has a mosquito problem. Poor Alan and my mom contracted dengue fever last year. I remember feeling so horribly guilty for Alan’s dengue. He would have never got it in Scotland.

The neighbour behind us here has a huge jar that has filled up with rainwater and plastic bags and other litter. Dad went to check and found it full of mosquitoes. What to do? Speak with them and explain how mozzies breed? Or just take a hammer and smash the jar? I don’t know. I want to talk with them but I can just see their expression—it’s just mosquitoes, you dumb barang. Most Cambodians believe adults do not get dengue or malaria and certainly do not die from it. Mozzies are just a minor nuisance. Whenever I complain about mosquitoes, the people who work with me just look at me like I’m mad and making a mountain out of a mozziehill.

I have just been absolutely exhausted. I seem to need a lot of sleep here. My friend Jacq was telling me about some virus making the rounds in Singapore that leaves you exhausted before striking again and repeating the cycle. Sounds exactly like how I feel!

Oh well, time for bed. Will try to get some sleep because tomorrow I have to speak with one of the women who did not turn up for work today and did not inform anyone of her absence. I've had a gut feeling she would be trouble since day one. I still hope I am wrong about her.

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