Friendships that Cross Class Boundaries? (Tuesday 1/4)

Tuesday.  I’m starting to like it here.  To the point where at times it seems like being anywhere else.  Yesterday, I stepped outside from my air-conditioned breakfast and thought of the heat, Oh, this isn’t too bad.  Lasted for 20 minutes.

I let my first tuk-tuk driver, who took me from the airport, befriend me.  I’m starting to think that was a mistake.  I called him again to take me from the $40/night hotel to the $7/night guest house.

First he had the idea he’d take me around and help me buy stuff — like a cell phone.  Well, I ended up buying the cheapest cell phone I could find and paying over three times what Tom paid for his.

Then Thea, the tuk-tuk driver, was dead-set on taking me touring the ancient Buddhist city nearby (for $40).  And when I turned him down, he wanted to take me on a tour of the orphanages.

It seems he thought I was here to do charity-work, and he talked with the staff of the guest-house, incomprehensibly, for a good long time — about me.  Later I found out they all thought I was here to do volunteer work, and apparently that I was rich.

Thea thought I would teach English in the orphanages.  These were very poor schools.  He was grinning while he said it.  I explained to him that I needed to make money to pay my bills.  He nodded, grinning.  I said that maybe the poorest schools weren’t the best place to go to make a good salary.  His smile kind of died and he said, “Yes…  I understand.”

Now he has my cell phone number, because he “helped me buy it” and for that matter he knows where I live.  Most recently he texted me offering me free rides all day, and saying he wanted me to be his older brother (and, is everything okay?)

I invited him out for drinks, and I’m going to wrap up things with him and tell him that I’m moving to the capital, Phenom Phen.  Or Korea.  I’m thinking about ditching the cell phone, but I already put the number on my C.V., which I’ve handed out.

And the bitch of it is, I still don’t think he’s a bad guy.  He just sees me as a wealthy foreigner who’s his ticket to the next rung on the social ladder.  And I’m not any of that.  And I can’t afford to be friends with him.

Published in: on August 18, 2009 at 3:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

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