IN MEMORY OF MY MOTHER - Nng Thet Borey 1931-2008

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Reader discretion is advised: I was almost in my first moto accident today and I realized that no matter how much I hate helmets I need to get one ASAP.

Don was taking me to the supermarket this morning and a Hummer came out, full speed, from one of the side streets on our right We managed to swerve around it and avoided a crash with just cm or two to go.

You will find a couple of Hummers on the streets of Phnom Penh and they are always driving full speed, expecting everyone to get out of their way. And why wouldn't they care about others? They are driving a car that will obliterate anything smaller than a brick wall and turn into pulp anyone not driving an army tank; without them even feeling it.


I've only seen black Hummers so maybe it is just this one jerk driving around all day making life miserable for half of Phnom Penh. If that is the case I wouldn't mind bumping into him and giving him a good verbal beating. But Isabelle tells me that is a bad idea unless I'm keen on getting shot.

Finally at the supermarket, nerves in a mess, I started finding little signs of Sweden everywhere. I found Wasa knackebrod bread, Arla feta cheese and in the background the store was playing a flute version of Hooked on a Feeling by Bjorn Skifs on the stereo.

The bread you'll find a little here and there in the world, especially of you go to IKEA, but Arla cheese I didn't expect. I also found Danish Thai milk, whatever that means. I wonder which part of the world the cow is in?

In general, I've found a lot of familiar brands of food in Cambodian supermarkets even if most of the imported stuff is ridiculously expensive.

A lot of French food, including something Isabelle calls pate, which looks more like something we feed our cats but tastes great on my bread.

I bought the knackebrod to calm my nerves and think about how safe Sweden is. The only drivers you have to worry about there are the BMW drivers who drive like maniacs but wouldn't risk crashing into you since they don't want to ruin their precious.

Don keeps saying that he drives slowly when I'm with him but that is to stretch the truth, or I don't want to know how fast he goes when I�m not there.

It isn�t so much the speed that makes me nervous though it is the breaking bit of it and he always breaks too much too late, we were lucky to get away from that Hummer today.

On our way back to the house, there was a huge banner hanging across Norodom Boulevard saying something like: Tourism generates jobs and national revenue.

That was the sum of it anyway, and I think it was put there by the WTO, but it flashed by so fast I can't be sure. As we drove past I couldn't help but thinking that Cambodians don't need to be reminded of this at all. They don't need to be more hospitable or service minded.

There are crowded restaurants in the West where you can wait for hours trying to catch the waitress attention just to get another beer and, if you are in the US at least, they will expect you to leave them a tip even though the service was horrible and the food just barley edible.

These places don't exist in Cambodia. Most places I have an abundance of waitresses and waiters tending to your every need when it arises.

I'm being pampered everywhere I go and even though I know they are doing it for a fee, I'd rather pay $1 for good service than 20 percent of a $50 tab for average service.

The food is cheap, and although they appreciate a tip, they rarely seem to expect it, also they are too polite to chase after you. I think that they should put that tourism banner across Oxford Street or some big street in Paris instead.

About this article: This article appeared in the Cambodia Daily on Nov 1-2, 2008.

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