I was about three months into my journey, sitting at an outdoor cafe in Phnom Penh and drinking a beer, monopolizing the wifi. It was rush hour, 5pm, and as I was hanging out I saw a full-grown elephant come walking down the street, minded by her trainer and wearing shoes made from recycled tires.
The same thing happened the next day. And the day after that.
And that was when I realized how much my life had changed: I no longer thought “Holy #$#!, there’s an elephant in the road!” but instead: “Oh, there’s the elephant. It must be five o’clock”.
It’s a wonderfully weird world.
I’m sitting in a farang restaurant in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I’m there for the fast wifi and cold beer, eating a cheeseburger. An American man sitting next to me decides to chime in: “I see you’ve come halfway across the world to eat American food.”
Now, this is a tourist place — their Thai food sucks. It’s toned down for Westerners. If you want real Thai food, you go to a place with plastic tables and chairs and sit in the heat. He’s eating what appears to be the worst plate of pad thai ever made. They don’t even have chili in this joint. If you ask for chili, they bring you a bottle of tabasco.
“How long have you been in Thailand?” I ask.
“The wife and I have been here for six days now. We’ve got a couple more before flying back.”
“Oh. That’s nice.” I just let the comment hang there — I’m not going to give him the satisfaction of explaining my story.
And, of course, after a minute he takes the bait. “How long have you been traveling?”
“Four years. I’ve eaten my body weight in Thai food. And sometimes I just want a friggin’ burger.”
That pretty much ends the conversation.
I wish I had better news. I’ve written about my experience of being offered an 8-year-old girl for the night at my hotel in San Pedro de Atitlán from a man named Pedro. I sent the guy’s photo to over twenty agencies and eventually heard from a man at the embassy in Guatemala.
Six weeks ago they’d sent an undercover agent to the hotel and he was given the same offer: “Do you want an 8 year-old girl for the night?” My contact told me they were organizing a raid but had to wait on the government to authorize it. I hadn’t heard anything from him in awhile but got in touch last week. I had to email him a few times but he finally responded back: “Pedro got fired from his job — too many complaints about him overcharging and stealing. He’s driving a tuk tuk now.”
And this is why I didn’t go to the local police: someone in the force heard that Pedro was being watched and warned him. Agents have tried twice to bait him but he’s laying low. The fix is in.
It’s so frustrating and it makes me sick but it’s become a waiting game.
You can find the original post here:
So I Almost Murdered Someone Yesterday
Follow Up Part 1
Follow Up Report on Guatemalan Child Trafficking
He invites himself to my morning coffee and sits down at the table. Nice guy, on holiday, who has been in the Philippines for a week (an incomplete sentence but you’ll have to deal with it).
We chat and swap tales and he says “you have to meet Mary — she’s a 60-year-old South African and she’s been biking around the world for three years.” Ten minutes later, Mary walks by and we wave her over.
She’s a delight. Full of stories, full of life. At times I catch myself thinking I’m a badass and then I meet people like her and realize I’m just playing the Game. She’s OWNING it.
She invites me to join them the next morning to go swim with whale sharks. The Brit, John, says we’re meeting at blah blah blah, around the corner at 8:30. When I ask him for details (I’ve just arrived), he says “I’ll come collect you at 8:30, mate.”
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