Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Canadians Aghast, Things aren't quite right here

An otherwise peaceful afternoon was disturbed by an uninvited meeting with Canadian embassy security officer. Actually, the Canadians closed up shop here a few years ago, so I guess the Cambodians didn’t like afternoon disturbances either. Just flown in from Bangkok, a high-pitched woman and aggressive note-taker, her face kept an aghast expression for the full hour. Did I know what was going on in those casinos? And in the boats? And if you’re serious about laundering money, this seems to be the place to do it alright! She was a 60-minute barrage of shock and awe, to which I could only insert the occasional approving grunt and nod.
I poured myself a coffee after that meeting, and loped back upstairs to my office to continue reading emails.
Well if you’re going to get bent out of shape every time things look odd, you’ll burn a hole in your chair around here. Everything’s a little off. Take this meeting for instance. I’m sitting in another horrid pleather furniture set at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, small-talking with junior supervisors while we wait for the director to get off his phone call. It’s a meeting geared at getting a signature, and just a signature on a preliminary expression of interest. We’re smiling and nodding, and I notice three things—first the glinting diamond ring on the director’s pinkie, then the framed diploma from Harvard Kennedy School in his bookcase, and then the small safe under his desk. I guess I could also have noticed the bad furniture or the plastic bucket of mentos on his table, but those three things seemed to tell me a story. And another 'what the #$!*?'  moment. I rode back in the office Land Cruiser wondering if Federal Reserve supervisors keep wads of cash under their desks, or if US senators score brownie points for flashing jewelry at constituents, and I was pretty sure they didn’t. But then I sat on some emails at the office and started feeling badly for being high on my horse, because I am not that Canadian lady after all. I am not always with my finger pointed and my eyebrows raised.