Heard any good Khmer jokes lately? The Gecko heard one that is currently making
the rounds in Phnom Penh.
A high school teacher asks his students "How many days are there in a month?"
The best student in the class immediately raises her hand and replies "forty."
The teacher, a bit confused, says, "Forty! Why forty?" The student replies,
"Because that's how often my father receives his monthly paycheck!"
The Gecko has been wondering about flying recently and the safety of air travel in
Cambodia. Pochentong airport is due for an upgrade, one which includes more than
a new duty free shop and a cafeteria.
The control tower doesn't have any radar so the only way the flight controller knows
about an incoming airline is by sight or radio.
Without an automatic backup system to switch over to a generator if the juice stops
flowing, someone from the control tower has to dash over to a storeroom 250 meters
away and crank up the power to keep the radio working. Good thing the electricity
never goes off in Phnom Penh. Keep your seatbelts fastened.
The Gecko finally heard the details of what happened to a few of UNTAC's Russian
flyboys. After depositing their passengers in Koh Kong the Afghan war vets decided
to fly to Kompong Som for a swim and a few too many early cocktails.
After picking up a French padre and several other hitchhikers, the combat aces headed
back to Koh Kong. Somewhere along the way back they ran into more than one tree;
in fact two. With a hasty landing to pull some branches from the landing gear and
a quick scrub of the underside, the whirlybird was back on track.
Upon arrival in Koh Kong the explanation proffered to less than amused UNTAC officials
was that they had run into some other birds of another feather.
The high-flying aviators have now been downgraded to passenger status, with their
most recent flight being a one-way economy trip back to their motherland.
Speaking of appropriate altitudes, or is it attitudes, for flight paths, the bar
at the Royal Hotel is sporting a new altimeter of its own.
Dubbed the "Trevometer," this novel atmospheric measuring device is used
as a model for appropriate conduct by the distinguished UNTAC field service staff
who frequent this most favored watering-hole.
Inspired by the wisdom of one regular customer at the Royal, the sage's devotees
felt the least they could do to honour the master was to codify his teachings so
that others might aspire to similar lofty heights.
Alas, while well-versed in the basic tenets, the acolytes are still trying to unravel
the riddle of their guru's yet-unfathomed consciousness.
On the subject of more down-to-earth travel, the Gecko has heard through the geckovine
that the Ministry of Transportation is about to issue a decree making left-hand drive
vehicles the order of the day. A small but reasonable step towards safety on the
roads, and a boon to whichever car repair shops are quick enough to grab the business
in steering wheel switches. The Gecko heard they're going for $300 a pop. Watch the
inflation factor on this one.
As an additional measure which may help cut down on traffic congestion, the UNTAC
Electoral Office has issued an order to its field staff to stay in the provinces.
Apparently, too many provincial electoral officers were drifting back to Phnom Penh
for the weekend to enjoy the city lights. They can now come into town only with the
permission of their superior, and have also been admonished to use UNTAC vehicles
solely for work-related purposes.
The Gecko often finds himself musing over the influx of western culture which has
accompanied peace. Will Michael Jackson videos inspire Khmers to put two decades
of warfare behind them once and for all? How about some of the lesser known stars
on the video circuit?
One purveyor of fine Khmer cuisine by the riverside has been known to run an American
culture classic during regular dining hours: women wrestlers! And mind you, this
is not just the tame genre with gals preparing for the Olympics. Rather, to the amazement
of all viewers, scantily clad belles from Las Vegas covered in shaving cream snarl
and thrash at each other, finally ripping off what few threads cover their soaped
But hold on, there's more to come, this time in living color. The Gecko hears that
Goldfingers à la Patpong in neighbourly Thailand has secured a lease on a
building in town and plans to set up shop soon.
This must be an outgrowth of former Prime Minister Chatichai's "battlefields
to marketplaces" foreign policy. The owners have scouted out the market here
and were wondering whether they could find Khmer women to dance the night away or
whether they need to import some of the more experienced disco queens from Thailand.
Finally, the Gecko notes with some regret that the purveyors of firearms, both large
and small, are tapping a new and expanding market. With the business sector growing
by leaps and bounds and banditry on the rise, it appears that after a telephone,
one of the items high on the list of required office equipment is a weapon.
Smith & Wesson pistols are much in demand for the average entrepreneur. AK-47's
are sought as a back-up by the bigger boys.