Outsider’s perspective

Today has been great. We met with a local woman named Mane (pronounced “Mah-neigh”). Someone gave Jimmy her contact information in the states.

Jimmy gave us the impression she was a Montagnard and would be sympathetic to our cause. She would be able to help us to find local Montagards in Phnom Pehn, and help orchestrate necessary meetings with local officials.

This is not the case.

It’s true. This woman is willing to help us. But she has no contacts at the U.N. nor does she have an idea where the Montagnard refugee camp is located.

But, Mane speaks great English. She speaks Vietnamese and Cambodian. And we learned today that people are “sensitive” to the word “Montagnard” and that it shouldn’t be used. “Indigenous” is a better option.

I think Jimmy’s tail went between his legs.

We know there are 72 “Indigenous” Vietnamese living here in a camp after Pieter talked directly to the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok. That’s literally all they know.

Today is Sunday and businesses shut down in Asia too, so we went sightseeing. Mane went with us so that she could drive us past the U.N. buildings where we might be able to talk to the officials. She also did a little research and we tried to drive past the camp. No luck. We had to do quite a bit of driving around. There was definitely time to chat.

Jimmy’s a preacher. He preaches almost incessantly. I don’t believe there is any use antagonizing him or responding to him. It seems that even my dad tends to tone him out at times.

There we were in a cab driving with my dad in the front seat. Jimmy, Mane and I were in the back. Jimmy asks Mane if she was a Christian. She said, no, she’s involved in a sort of ancestor worship common among many of the indigenous people from where she originated.

You could practically hear the chainsaw start in Jimmy’s mind.

Jimmy starts preaching a mile a minute. And I don’t mean just talking about god and Jesus. This was a full-fledged, scripture-and-verse, reading-from-a-script, you-listen-and-don’t-respond preaching.

After listening to Jimmy ramble for a while, Mane politely said, “That’s not what I believe.”

That didn’t matter. Jimmy’s was on a roll.

He was saying things like, “Without God sending his son Jesus, I have nothing. I am a sinner. He came for you and me. That way we can go to heaven or else the result is hell.” Or he’d say, “I am a sinner, and I need God to forgive me. He is my savior. Without him I can not be here right now doing what I’m going.”

Mind you, Jimmy speaks with a thick accent and his English is often missing articles, consonants, prepositions, etc. He’s not easy to understand.

Mane finally started laughing. She said, “Excuse me for laughing, but it sounds like you cannot do anything on your own.”

I’m not sure the criticism was understood. Jimmy was on a steam roller with a big-ass engine and he’s going to deliver his message hell or high water. He said, “I can’t! I need Jesus!”

To Jimmy, delivering this message is love. He’s trying to save someone so it doesn’t matter what their beliefs are. He won’t slow down long enough to listen to another’s perspective. Or, people are afraid to talk about another kind of belief system or lack of beliefs all together so they avoid it all together. I find this behavior common. I find it disrespectful.

Here I was hoping desperately that I could get a question or two in so I could understand what Mane believes. Finally after Jimmy talked about the animal sacrifices that indigenous Vietnamese still do (shock), and that the only blood sacrifice necessary now is Jesus, god’s son dying on the cross … Mane talked about her views.

She said that the traditions of her beliefs are distinctive to her culture. It binds her with her past to bring them into the future. When she and her friends and family practice old rituals, she explained it’s to create a bond, a solidarity and a future. If the past is lost, she thinks they will lose their identity as a tribe. For that reason, she acts as an organizer for her beliefs and even holds a youth group of sorts. They teach the upcoming children. She said to Jimmy, “That is why I wrote the bylaws of our organization to not include Christians. They are not welcome in our group. I’m sorry to discriminate.”

Mane, what a breath of fresh air. I needed her words today badly. I don’t know if they did any good for anyone but me.

Phnom Pehn stinks. I mean, nausea-inducing gaggy puke stink. Tell you what, next time you have leftover Chinese, dump 10 cups of soy sauce on it and bring it home. Put that in a large pot … a caldron even. Boil it up with some old socks, toe nails, mold. Oh, and take a crap in there too. Drop in tuna carcass, too. That’ll help. After you boil it, let it cool. Stretch some saran wrap over the mouth of the caldron.

Let that bitch sit in the summer sun for five weeks. Then drag it inside and let it sit in a dark closet for another six weeks.

Lift the saran wrap and take a whiff. It may smell 10% like the goddamn stink I keep walking into.

If the devil existed, and the devil farted, it would smell like Cambodia.