For my last night out on the town, a group of friends and I decided to try out the pre-opening party of a new café bistro, Simply Blue, in Phnom Penh. The place actually has potential, good location, nice atmosphere—the opening however was over crowded with people, many of whom would not be coming back once there was no free food or drinks. Also, the place was overcrowded with children—many of the children were there with parents; since it was like a bar opening I can’t say I was trilled with this. However, it was the kids who made it there on my own that got me, hoards of 8-14 year old boys who wandered in searching for alcohol.
A group of the kids came up to where my friend Steph and I were sitting. She was smoking a cigarette and they asked for one. She said no and told them that they were still just babies and that it was a bad habit—for the record it is a bad habit. The boys started to talk to us. One boy, who looked about 8 but said he was 11, was holding a beer he had picked up. I asked to see it and then refused to give it back. I told him he was too small to be drinking and offered to get a soda or juice. He pouted but did not put up much of a fight.
My friend Christina found it very funny that I would just take alcohol away from a child. I would say underage child, but there appears to be no rule about drinking here. She called me the beer buster and in general gave me a hard time about it. Later on, as we were leaving, the boy grabbed his beer back off the table where I had put it. This time it was Christina that took the beer and dumped it on the ground. Having lost their beers, but found foreigners who spoke Khmer to them, the boys came to talk to us. Here is the gist of the conversation we had:
Boy 1- Why did you take my friend’s beer?
Clare- How old are you?
Boy 1- 14.
Clare- How old are you really?
Boy 1- 13. Why did you take my friend’s beer?
Clare- Because its bad for him. You are probably growing a lot right now.
Boy 1- Yep.
Boy 2- Me too. I am 10. He is 11 (points at boy 3).
Clare- Well, if you want to grow up tall and handsome you should try not to drink beer. It makes you not grow (technically it stunts your growth, but I can’t say that in Khmer).
Boy 2- I wanna be tall.
Boy 1- Tall and get all the girls.
Clare- Really? What kind of guys do girls like?
Boy 1- Hot girls.
Clare- What kind of guys do hot girls like?
Boy 1- Tall guys.
Boy 1- You are hot. So is she (points at Megan).
Clare- What kind of guys do you think we like?
Boy 1 and 2- Tall guys. Handsome guys.
Clare- See? So now you get it.
Boy 3- How old are you?
Clare- How old do you think I am?
Boy 1- 34.
Boy 2- 16.
Clare- Yep, somewhere in there.