Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Dr Jekyll exists, and he lives in Phnom Penh - Cambodia

(From my 2004 diary)

The traffic light turns green and our bike gains speed but after few meters we come to a stop. We have been around for eight ours at least and we got caught at dusk, when we were almost back. The policeman smiles and approaches us. We already know what he's looking for and we decide that first he will enjoy our show.

He throws a glance at Lorenzo's licence, then ask if we have an international one. We pretend that we can't speak a word in English, that we are also quite nervous and rather dumb. When he asks for the papers we look at each other, we slowly translate his words in Italian, then finally grin and hand in the same licence. He points out again that this one is not good, that we need to have a document written in English. Once more we throw amazed looks at each other, then we patiently explain him that this one is Italian.

After five minutes of this slapstick show he finally invites us to make a donation. When we hear the word “dollars” we smile and yell, as if we had finally understood what he means. A beam of satisfaction brightens his face, as he sees his efforts bringing back a reward. But it's a short-lived joy and his frustration is back when we pull the rental contract out of our bag.

After a few more more minutes of this back and forth, we decide it's enough and we bargain the price. He pockets the money without writing a fine. You can tell by the way he's greeting us that the daily sum was a well-earned one.

The next day we're reading a local paper in English. A journalist writes about corruption and bribes. Part of the article is an interview with an officer, who explains that the problem is a serious one. At the end of the column there's a photo of the cop. The man is proudly standing next to his bike. A shiny white helmet, U.S. Air Force shades, a confident smile and a thin black mustache.

We look at the picture and try to make out that face. We wonder if the author could possibly know that the nice Dr Jekyll who was talking to him, is the same Mr Hyde who entertained us.

Image: Richard Mansfield in The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Henry van Der Weyde (PD), circa 1895, from Wikipedia.org


L'osang said...

This is the first time I visit your blog, pretty interesting. We had some interesting stories that you haven't written here, oh China.
I hope everything is going fine, good luck Fabio.

Fabio said...

Thanks Losang!
Just remind me of the stories and I'll write about them...
Good luck to you as well.