“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Friday, May 16, 2008

Trader's Hotel Bar

I felt like I had entered a war movie. In all those hot shot, star
journalist, CIA agent, war correspondent, NGO/UN worker movies, they
always have a bar they go to for relaxing and resuming the normal,
albeit usually alcoholic party-animal,
we-live-hard-lives-so-we-need-to-socialise life. This is what Trader's
felt like tonight. Normally it's mostly empty and the clientele are
Chinese businessmen and the odd sad, dirty old man. Tonight it was
hopping and busy, and this time it wasn't just YIEC staff! Sure, the
dirty old men were still there, but this time they had jobs to do that
made them feel super important! The NGO/UN/journalist crowd are all
put up in Trader's hotel (and don't even get me started on the
disgusting logic that's putting all the aid into the most expensive
hotel in town), and it becomes a who's who list at the happy hour (for
us, it's more like looking over a the nearest table and whispering to
seat mates and taking bets, "I wonder who THAT one is...".

I've never felt so ordinary and unimportant (yet shoulder-to-shoulder
with the big guys) in my life. So close and yet so far! In Cambodia,
it happens at the Foreign Press Correspondent's Club, in Beirut, it
must've been one of the clubs or hotels, in Casablanca the entire
movie set is the bar, in Vietnam, no doubt Saigon had a fancy club,
and every crime novel has one. In Blood Diamond the bar was on the
beach, and James Bond always goes to an exotic locale. Ours is a bit
ordinary--certainly no ambiance! It was truly bizzare to have them
mixing in the same place us ordinary teachers hang out in for a Friday
night margarita.

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