Saturday 14 July 2012

Day 470: Crazy things tourists will try

The Cambodians are super nice, but as everyone knows who has tried it, being deluged by tourists has its pros and cons.  I want to talk about some of the more serious cons further down, but in the meantime, here's a few ways they get back at us.

Antonia suffers:

Those are deep-fried tarantulas with a light dipping sauce

Verdict on tarantulas:
Antonia finished what was on her plate and called us mean, cruel parents.
Penny would eat one again.
Mike thought they were delicious, better even than soft-shelled crabs.

Penny suffers:

Those are deep fried crickets, fresh off the stall.

Verdict on crickets:
Antonia seemed indifferent.
Penny got a cricket leg stuck in her teeth for several hours which is something that never happens to her.
Mike was disappointed he couldn't buy more of them.

Mike suffers:

Those are piranhas - well actually, they just feel like piranhas.

Verdict on 'fish massage':
Antonia was disappointed she wasn't with us.
Penny thought it was a blast, but unlike the crickets, she is sure this is 'just for the tourists'.
Mike said it was the most horrible thing that had ever happened to him in his life, bar none.

And now for some of the much more serious ways in which some tourists are annoying the Cambodians, in increasing order of magnitude:

1.  I'm sorry to say that at Angkor, the kind of coalition between parents and tourists that's so common in India is in effect.  There are a lot of very persistent children wandering around trying to sell junk. They are no more 'cute' in the tactics they use than our kids when they're using pester-power to get treats in the supermarket. I'm sure the local adults don't tolerate that kind of behavior in other circumstances. So who's supporting the racket in child labour and fostering of rude behaviour? I think parents AND tourists who have homed in on this as a method for transferring wealth that's working for them.

2. I've run into far too many people lately who are combining some form of aid with Christian missionary activity.  The usefulness of the aid provided may vary, but in combination with the promotion of a religion that by all reasonable measures (believability, ethical value, cultural interest,...) is certainly no better than the local one?  I can hardly say how much I disapprove.

3. I met an Australian woman who drew my attention to a campaign they have had to mount here to discourage tourists from visiting orphanages. As the campaign points out, children are not tourist attractions and in the best of cases, repeated visits of this kind don't contribute much to their development.  The worst of cases is that the only reason they're there is to make money by being tourist attractions and that the 'orphanage' is basically a front for another particularly noxious form of child labour.  Apparently this is happening.

4. Worst of all are the campaigns they have had to mount in Cambodia to protect children from sexual tourism and to make people who work with tourists aware and alert to this possibility.  The mind boggles.

When I think that the worst thing that's ever happened to my baby is being made to eat a perfectly acceptable spider!  It makes me sick to think what some kids lives are like. I was going to link to some of these campaigns individually, but I think this site has it covered.