Stupid White Men…

29 Mar

I would like to believe that traveling the world provides one with knowledge and understanding of diverse peoples, cultures and politics that cannot be gained from merely reading books (armchair tourists). This theory of travel = intelligence helps me to justify spending so many unproductive months on the road.

Yesterday I met a couple of travelers who proved this notion wrong.

I shouldn’t use names because you never know who may stumble across this blog. The internet has few secrets, right?

Anyhow, yesterday, late on a Sunday afternoon in Siem Reap, Alex and I were sitting in a cheap restaurant lunching on cheap noodles and loklak (a Khmer specialty of beef and egg in a peppery gravy). I first noticed the two middle-aged Canadian women sitting next to us when they were audibly rude to the small troupe of Cambodian kids who were trying to sell postcards and photocopied books to the tourists in the restaurant.

One of the pair of women, lets call her Idiot A, argued with a small child who was maybe ten years old. She told him that if he was really hungry he should ask the restaurant owner for food because surely the manager would feed him if he were starving (yeah right lady!). She proceeded to offer the little boy her dirty leftovers – an uneaten prawn or two – from her plate. When the embarrassed child declined her invitation to finish her lunch Idiot A loudly observed to the child and everyone else in ear shot ‘if you were really hungry you would have eaten what I offered’. Idiot A clearly isn’t aware that in Cambodian culture it is rude to eat directly from another person’s plate. And I don’t think anyone, including children, (in any culture), appreciate being publicly humiliated. When the kid moved on to try and sell his wares at the next table Idiot A proceeded to inform this group of tourists that the kids weren’t really hungry and she knew this because they wouldn’t eat her scraps. I wonder if they were thinking the same as we were?

After this incident the other Canadian woman (Idiot B) started taking to us across the room (okay we were only a metre or so away). First she enquired about what we were eating. The Idiots were interested in the Khmer food we were eating as they explained for the past three months in their travels around South East Asia, they had only eaten green beans stirfried with garlic (a dish called Morning Glory) with rice.

Idiot B continued to share with us. She and her partner / friend had come to South East Asia to find peace. Neither had completed a great deal of research before they left Canada, she told. Both had imagined South East Asia to be a sea of serenity – rice paddies, simple people, small villages, clean mountain air, gentle smiles and conical hats. Boy were they shocked when they disembarked from their Airbus at Bangkok Airport!!! Who would have thought Asia was so densely populated!!! So shocked was Idiot B at this revelation that she had to spend several days in her hotel room recovering from the news that Asia was in fact crowded, crazy, buzzing, dirty, hungry, loud and very much alive.

How did Idiot B move on from this catastrophe? She meditated for a few days asking for guidance, and the universe answered. The pair soon met an old German couple who directed them to a peaceful volcanic lake in Sumatra. They went and found what they were looking for. See how the universe provides? We nodded (laughing on the inside).

How the hell could anyone living in a western country in 2010 believe Asia to be a quiet and calm world? What we would have paid to see the Idiots in Bangkok.

Finally, I asked the women whether they had quit their jobs in Canada before they started their six month long search for peace in Asia? Idiot B told us that in fact, they hadn’t worked for two years before leaving North America. This pisssed me off even more. How can two adults, who haven’t lifted a finger for more than 24 months, be so nasty to kids in a developing country trying to make a buck to support their families?

Over dinner last night we recounted this story to our new Chinese friend New Moon Zhang. He laughed with us and concluded that some naieve people live in incredibly resilient bubbles.

2 Responses to “Stupid White Men…”

  1. Sarah March 29, 2010 at 11:53 am #

    Those silly canadians sound so frustrating! I don’t think I would’ve been able to control my temper around them.

    I’m loving this blog Kristie, I’m subscribed to it on my reader- keep updating! (I’m living through you guys right now haha)

  2. drew March 30, 2010 at 5:55 am #

    why did you have to travel all the way to south east asia to discover there adults who are idiots? surely your experience in canberry would have firmly established this…

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