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Tag Archives: Greeks

Travels with Pavel: 23 February 2005

I haven’t spent 20 days at a stretch at home in a long time – I have done that in Cambodia. My last full day in Cambodia was spent finishing King Arthur’s Legend and reading a very interesting series of essays on taxation by Alexander Hamilton in The Federalist Papers, a book I’d picked up from a second-hand bookshop in Sihanoukville. Pretty heavy stuff for a tourist to be carrying around.

Lunch was a long-drawn out affair as I quizzed Sreenivas-ji on a number of matters and fell to talking later with a Kashmiri who called himself Jim and whose home is on the Pakistani side  of Kashmir. He was last in Kashmir in 1998 and presently holds a British passport. Seven years is a long time away from home, especially when home is Kashmir. Jim is in the IT field and works in Holland while his family lives in Britain. Circumstances might differ but he’s another of the dispossessed who haven’t the freedom to return home when they like. Jim still talks about “probably be[ing] arrested” even if he ventured into the Indian side of Kashmir with a UK passport.

Among other conversations I had over lunch was one about the differences between butter, cheese, paneer and the like and how each was produced. The Swedish guy at the table didn’t seem to know it nor the Irishman who’s been teaching English in Busan in South Korea for the last two years. And the EU spends the largest amount of its subsidies supporting the Common Agricultural Policy. And driving a lot of farmers in Africa out of business in the process – surely the average European ought to know more. Both Swede and Irishman were agreed, however, that the Greeks probably knew best about the secrets of making cheese. And so we come back to the “southern peoples” again.

Travels with Pavel: 5 February 2005

0805hrs

For a 7:40 bus we were picked up at 7:35 and with three stops in a space of 150 metres, we are transported to the bus station not a kilometre away where we are left to our own devices by the driver who does nothing but point at a bus with a line of tourists already in front of it. And so comparing Khmer character for Khmer character on the bus with our ticket, we figure out that it’s the bus we’re supposed to board but it’s too crowded and we switch to another bus of the same company which the driver tells Pavel is departing in 10 minutes. Well, as soon as the first one leaves, the time increases to about an hour. Mystified, Pavel leaves his seat to find out from the driver what’s happening but returns soon enough with the acquired wisdom “nobody wants to talk to me.” Meanwhile, we hope nobody will evict us from our seats which we’ve comfortably occupied towards the middle the bus instead of our original numbers at the back. Phnom Penh is six hours away, or so they say.

1224hrs

Lunch break. Mashed meat with a complicated name that as usual I didn’t even attempt to remember. Instead, I ask the girl again, “chicken?” which promptly sends her into hysterics against the nearest pole.

This place also sells deep-fried spiders as a culinary delicacy. Sukhon in the Lonely Planet, Suk Heng is this place. 一樣嗎?

2248hrs

We arrived at Phnom Penh sooner than expected and quickly found ourselves a room at Same Same But Different which the Lonely Planet describes as “same same and the same.” It’s an ok place, so far and overlooking the Boeng Kak, Pavel and me stretched our legs and talked about various things through a long walk through the city and dinner. Saw the Wat Phnom and Wat Koh and the confluence of the Mekong, Sap and Barsac rivers – the Quatre Bras.

Pavel at the Same Same But Different guest house

Saw an Indian couple at Wat Phnom and a very bored looking Indian youngster apparently waiting for somebody by the Indian flag on the promenade at the Quatre Bras. Contrary to the common impression that Indians are outgoing – the come-up-to-you-curious-and-smiling-all-the-time types – Indians out of India can’t wait to get away from other Indians soon enough. Or maybe that’s an attitude of city-slickers generally.

Today’s topics for conversation between Pavel and me included the attitude of “these southern peoples” particularly the Greeks with their siesta times, and that consequently they were likely to be left behind in economic development even by the newly-joined EU members from Eastern Europe as they had been already, by Ireland. Hmmm… us Malayalees/Keralites, we are a “southern people,” too. And I’d quite agree that we’ve been more or less left behind by the rest of India as far as industrialization and economic development were concerned but on the bright side, we got lots of greenery to show for it. And Mallus like Greek shipping tycoons have always made their fortunes under any flag but their own.