Yesterday we took J to the carnival for the first time in her life. What’s available here is old-school and pretty derelict. We went on four rides. The first one consisted of old helicopters spinning slowly around an axle and being raised a couple of meters by a mechanical or hydraulic system. Next we got on the bumper cars. Third was a ferris wheel on steroids which J loved but my wife had to shout for me to tell the bong to stop the ride. The last was a merry-go-round. J loved the experience and we enjoyed watching her face light up.
Coincidentally, this morning I was reading Data-Free Disneyland, a story about a parent trying to circumvent the boundless data collection schemes while visiting Disneyland (including using a burner phone, face paint to disrupt facial recognition, pseudonyms, and more), and considering how lucky we are here not to have the fancy aspirational stuff people have in the “developed west,” that treats customers like the product, or like shit, or both, and where customers still give their business to these abusive corporations. Blows my mind.
Sometimes I wish we had clean, uninvaded sidewalks here. Sometimes I wish we had sidewalks, period. But then I realize what we do have, still, is a chance to live in a country that has not been destroyed by the corporate empire. When I want to buy a drink I go inside a mom and pop shop (Seven Eleven started its invasion last year and there are a few other chain minimarts, but we still have variety and we still have micro entrepreneurs). Same goes for supermarkets. We have at least 10 or 15 brands of supermarkets, each brand with its specialties. There’s one place, Super Duper, that has a bunch of imported stuff. The first time I walked in there I saw a soda bottle and told N it was a Mexican Coca-Cola. Sure enough, I lifted it and read the label: “Hecho en Mexico.” I don’t drink soda. I’ve heard people say Mexican Coke is better because it’s made with cane sugar. I don’t know and don’t care, but it was nice, even though it was still a product of the soda oligopolists of the world, to find out it was made in Mexico. There’s tons of other products you would never find anywhere except in their country of origin, and in Cambodia.
Banks. We must have 30 or 40 different banks here. It’s insane. Banks and financial corporations I’ve never heard of. We don’t have the ones you do in your country, the ones everyone does: HSBC, Santander, Bank of America, City Bank, Scotiabank, American Express. We have Bred Bank and Panda Bank, ACLEDA Bank, ABA, Canadia, etc. Regular banks. The way I remember it was in Mexico when I was a kid, at an even smaller scale. Banks whose owners you might meet. Banks that are not too big to fail and who don’t own the world.
The list goes on. Cambodia feels real. I’ll take real over fancy any day.