Geckos are everywhere in Cambodia. No home or office is complete without them.
One of our best friends in the tropics, they play a key role in mosquito control
and other pest management, and are always on the lookout for a tasty snack.
Geckos are also privy to an endless array of tidbits on the events taking place around
them. From their lofty perches they've become keen, if not mildly amused observers
of the human condition.
The Phnom Penh Post has consulted with the major domo of the gecko community here
in Cambodia and, after lengthy negotiations, he's agreed to contribute to a regular
column in the paper. Although unfamiliar with such mundane implements as pens or
word processors, The Gecko prefers to pass on his observations, insights, comments
and other assorted if unrelated musings orally.
For the inaugural edition of the Phnom Penh Post, we share with you some of The Gecko's
more recent tales and curiosities.
Not surprisingly, much of what The Gecko tells us relates to a recent influx of foreigners
to Cambodia, a minor tidal wave of men (and a few women) in strange uniforms with
different flags on their sleeves, speaking a variety of indecipherable languages
and exhibiting a plethora of cultural habits too numerous to keep track of.
The word "UNTAC" is buzzing through the gecko grapevine. The Gecko says
he is learning quickly how varied the human species is.
The Gecko notes that these UNTACs each have their own ways of entertaining themselves,
some of which are quite unique and have, in short order, made Phnom Penh one of the
most multi-cultural cities on the face of the globe.
He encourages one and all to try and catch an adhoc performance by the Irish police,
most recently heard at the Rock Hard Cafe, singing gentle odes which carry one back
in spirit to the Emerald Isles so many miles away. Irish eyes do shine, especially
when the sweet songs of home fill the air.
Boules or as some call it Bocci? In Cambodia? The Gecko is still trying to figure
out the rules of this game seen on a quiet Sunday morning on Boulevard U.R.S.S.,
with a group of Khmers marvelling at heavy lead balls being tossed to and fro.
We hear that UNTAC is taking on strange forms as well. Beyond the influx of an army
of vehicles painted white with "UN" on the side, we hear a cow was sighted
painted white with "UN" on the side. Totally unconfirmed, of course, although
resident expat photographers spent a whole day, to their great chagrin, unsuccessfully
chasing down the report.
The varieties or vagaries of UNTACs' driving styles are also under scrutiny, fortunately
by UNTAC itself. They've instituted a process of testing all those who plan to sit
behind the wheel. A Perm Five member's contingent of 20 such hopeful motormen was
recently tested, only to have the first 10 fail. When the Brit supervising the process
called for Number 11, the officer-in-charge said they were calling it a day. "You've
already seen our best drivers" he quipped.
The Gecko asks us to give a hearty round of applause to the recent rapid response
by UNTAC German medics. It was only by chance that they happened to be in the same
neighborhood when a young lad on a moto ran head-on into a parked car, leaving him
unconscious on the pavement.
Within ten minutes the Germans had an ambulance at the ready. With the boy's leg
enclosed in an inflatable cast, he was whisked away to the German field hospital.
After an x-ray of his skull and a battery of other tests he was released the next
day and is now recovering at home.
"The boy was lucky," the attending German physician said. "All he
left with was a few stitches. We've had several motorcycle accident cases brought
to us and one person died. We do the best we can. That's why we're here."
The numbers of buildings being rehabilitated are easy to spot but have you noticed
all the new toilets from Thailand? They're environmentally friendly. . .sort of.
The flush handles have two blue arrows underneath. The arrow pointing left says in
Thai "nam maak" (big water) while the one going to the right says "nam
noi" (little water). The Gecko is confident that this is just the beginning
of Thailand's contributions to environmental awareness in Cambodia!
Speaking of appropriate technology, Phnom Penh will soon be the recipient of 20
shiny new ice cream machines. Sam's International House will have the first. Keep
your eyes open for it.
The Gecko's eyes and ears will also be open. He'll be back next issue with more.