Since hanging around Barry and his girlfriend, I have a adopted a new attitude toward aggressive local hawkers, particularly tuk-tuk and motobike drivers.
For a Westerner, being constantly hit up for money while you're in a restaurant, at a bar, or walking down the street can be pretty annoying. (One time, time I wasn't feeling well and a driver kept pestering me. I snapped at him and he snapped back "You be more polite me, sir." I apologized.)
At other times, having a begger with no legs scuttling around next to your dinner table can be just plain disturbing. Then there are the 6-year-old kids out begging or selling copy violation books and DVDs at 11:00 at night.
Remembering that some people are living on less than $100 a month, sleep out in hammocks in the middle of town, and are just plain poor doesn't help much because you're not going to save them with a $5 donation. (Though it will help and I've started tipping generously.) A tuk-tuk driver may get $1 for a ride and I've watched drivers not get any rides for half an hour or more.
I generally offer a polite "no, thank you," even if I have to say it 5 times in a row to different people offering the same thing.
-For tuk-tuk drivers offering girls, drugs, and visits to naughty bars, I'll try and joke with them if I have the time. "Would you like to make mad, passionate boom-boom with ugly American girl? You pay me $2." Or if they insist on asking me what I'm doing tonight, I'll say: "First, I'm going to buy some opium. Then I'm to the Chicken Ranch to find a couple of nice girley boys."
- For kids begging: General consensus is to not give them money because it encourages begging and may keep some of them from going to school. Give to an orphanage. I gave one persistent kid half of my cookie. Another one I took into a bakery and let him pick out whatever he wanted. (see below)
Other Western visitors have done things like buy a driver a new tuk-tuk (A tuk-tuk costs about $1000. The driver supposedly paid him back for it.)
No Good Deed...
Yesterday, there was a 6 or 7 year old munchkin begging in the sidewalk in Phnom Penh. I'd seen him operating before. He has a rat tail haircut, so I'm guessing he has someone watching out for him. So, I waived him over and made a gesture, asking him if he wanted something to eat. We went to the local bakery. I went in. He stood outside the door. I waived for him to come in. He didn't move. The counter person went and opened the door and told him to come in. I motioned for him to pick something out. He picked out the most expensive item. (a piece of strudel, $1.50. I got an Indian pudding, 50 cents.) The clerk wrapped up his strudel like a present. We walked outside. He didn't open the package. He started talking to an older boy who looked to be about 12 years old. Next he pointed to a hole in his t-shirt and pointed to a clothing shop. I gestured for him to eat his strudel. No response. He gestured toward the clothing store. I gestured toward the strudel. No response. I waived good bye.
For some reason, I didn't feel particularly good after my small good deed. I was probably just another white tourist falling for the old cute-street-urchin-routine. So where is that strudel now?
- the kid may have gone back into the store, exchanged it for 50 cents, of which the clerk kept the rest of the money. In this case, the strudel would be put back in the display case.
- the strudel became another inventory item for an international organized crime syndicate, which also probably also controlled the waterfront, longshoremen, and peanut oil importing in Cambodia.
A large majority of the young (20-something) Western women I've seen on my trip have been fun and nice but very unattractive:
- almost half are extremely overweight
- many are covered in tattoos
- most wear next to nothing, so when you look at them, you don't miss a drop of ink or an ounce of fat.
- many are heavy smokers.
(So competition for the attractive women is stiff and, as an old geezer, i'm not even in the running. Probably more reasons for me to stick to women my own age -- not that a 20-something, even a gross one, is not going to be interested in me.)
A friend bought a Cambodian/English dictionary featuring common phrases, their phonetic pronounciations, and Cambodian spellings. I was joking around with a local girl at a hostess bar asking her essential tourist questions such as:
- does your hotel accept seeing-eye dogs?
- can you fix my brakes?
- can I get my squid well-done?
- my nose is very large. Can you make it smaller?
My pronounciation was terrible, so I showed her the phrases in Cambodian. She hesitated and became a little embarrassed. She couldn't read the phrases. She was illiterate. My friend Barry said many of these beautiful "hostesses" are right off the farm and can't read or write Cambodian. (However, they don't seem to have any trouble reading men.)