Getting friendly with the local law enforcement.
25.03.2012 - 25.03.2012 33 °C
Later on my first Sunday I met Buon Thoeun (pronunced Bong Tung), the maintenance and security man. A diminutive man with a slight slouch and stubble, he seems to like walking around in little more than a tiny sarong whilst blaring out jangly Khmer music on his phone. Apparently he used to be a monk, but I find that difficult to believe as he seems to enjoy rice wine and dossing in his hammock more than anything else.
That evening, the other volunteers and I were playing a few light-hearted drinking games when a silver Toyota with red and blue flashing lights pulled into the entrance of Hope Agency flanked by two scooters. 6 figures walked into the light dressed in combat jackets and caps. The girls were unnerved by this, and not without good reason: for slung around their shoulders was that oh-too recognisable symbol of the militia in the developing world - the ubiquitous AK47. I wanted to have my photo taken with them, but this didn't go down too well. A few minutes passed before the group dispersed among the huts in the area, clearly looking for something - or someone.
We asked one of the local teaching assistants what was going on - they said that the police had been dispatched to look for a group of local villains roaming the area who were responsible for a number of recent thefts and crimes. Apparently the chief of police in the area (a good friend of Jason's) had detailed a few of them to make sure they didn't bother us.
A slightly chubby police officer decided to sit down with us at the table and read our magazines. With a half-maintained Gomez moustache and jeans, this PC seemed a little more casual than the others and I felt less worried when I noticed he had a Winnie the Pooh keyring. After giving out a few of his cigarettes however, he started writing a note on the back of a magazine which he handed to Eve (who had the pleasure of sitting next to him). After reading it, she looked very worried, and nodded when asked by the group if it was a love-letter. Words to the effect of "I like you, I love you, I need to have you" followed by "I Love you, I will have you for a long time". Somehow Eve managed to resist this silver-tongued romancer and politely decline his advances.
When the girls had excused themselves and hurried off to bed, PC Casual sat slumped back on the chair facing Sav, David and I with his pistol on the table. He slipped the clip and began removing the bullets and laying them out on the table facing us. The three of us just looked at him then each other and laughed a little at this clumsy attempt at machismo - I couldn't help but think "Since when are you in a position to play who's the bigger man when you drive a little scooter and have Winnie the Pooh on your keys? Pull yourself together..." Eventually he gave up trying to impress us and went to bed on a mattress outside next to Bong Tung, who laughed and elbowed him in the ribs when he started snoring.
So, a pretty eventful first day!