Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Karaoke, the Hospital and the Countryside

Last night was quite hysterical. Slightly against some of our will, a group of ten of us went for some sober karaoke at the New Star karaoke "castle." As four of us rolled up in a tuk-tuk, we were confused about what we were really getting ourselves into. The New Star karaoke spot is a huge building close to the guesthouse with a big neon sign at the entrance, a fountain and a stage set up outside. As soon as we walked past the stage and into the door, we were greeted by a dozen made-up, dressed-down Khmer girls. It was pretty much assumed that they were some form of "worker." At first, I was wondering if we were entering a brothel under the "karaoke" alias, which is very common around here, but as soon as they ushered us into a padded room with a giant screen, a big book of songs, a few ice buckets and only two Khmer girls - we realized that we were indeed REALLY there for the karaoke.

At first, it was awkward. There were only four of us: three Brits and moi, plus the two Cambodian girls. We didn't truly want to be there, I was exhausted and we were all completely sober, which are pretty much the main antithetic feelings for a karaoke night. We were wondering how in hell we were going to be able to get the blood flowing into our brains and raise the adrenaline to get our song on. One answer: beer. However, unfortunately I couldn't drink because I've had a cold for the past few days and no karaoke in the world is worth getting more sick for.

By the time the others arrived, we had selected a few songs, downed a beer and then suddenly, the overhead lights went dark, the neon strobes turned on and we had our very own padded karaoke disco room, hookers and all! Instantly, we got into it, including me, who had been complaining about wanting to go home all night, and jokingly I sang the second song: "Heal the World," by Michael Jackson. It was a blast. We sang some Beatles songs, Hotel California, Madonna and even some George Michael, which Simon and I collaborated on, quite terribly. Many of the songs were hysterically misspelled in the book - we were very tempted to sing "Buggy Wuggy." In any event, it was a good night and we're planning to return on Friday with more people, more alcohol in the system and less work in the morning for more proper karaoke madness.

Today, class was uneventful - the two Australian women who were here last week came back to teach the workshops, so I was basically out of a job. Lunchtime begged me to take a couple hours off so I finally got over to the Kantha Bopha Children's Hospital to donate some blood, which was a funny experience. It only took thirty minutes, a smile for a photo and a pint of blood and I got the best reward in the world - to know that I could very well save a kid's life, a t-shirt, a sticker and some crackers! And of course some photographs, which the assistant doctor seemed very excited about taking with my camera. The experience itself was fairly comfortable and almost to Western standards, besides a slightly lower level of hygiene, but that you can come across anywhere. Passing the waiting room was pretty intense, hundreds of children lay there on a mat on the floor cradled by their mothers - all very sick, some crying. I wanted to get out of there as quick as possible.

In the evening, Anette, Stine and I went on another long tuk-tuk ride to see the countryside. It was beautiful.

We stopped to get gas at the local tank by the side of the road, passed a solid gaggle of geese and another outdoor gym class, dancing to some funny beats and of course had to stop for a photo op, which made them all slightly uncomfortable.

Five of us went for some dinner and $2 watermelon-vodka drinks and played a few rounds of drunken funny pool. It was a great night!

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