Sex Tourists: Kind of Sketchy. Who Knew?
By Claire Brownell
How are you? My travels are going well. You’ll be happy to hear that I’ve found a job. Vietnam was quite a bit more expensive than I expected it to be, so I thought it would be a good idea to settle down and save some money for a while. I work at a bar called The Dolphin Shack in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, where I bartend and hand out fliers on the beach.
My fellow employees are all very friendly and show their appreciation for my work with lots of hugs and kisses. I’m even learning sign language from the deaf girls who work here. Granted, most of my sign language vocabulary consists of signs for various cocktails (my favourite being a tit squeeze for “Baileys and milk”), but at least I can rest assured that if I ever go deaf I can still order a drink at a bar. My generous salary consists of free accommodation, free food, free unlimited drinks, and the occasional tip. I think this is very reasonable given the more or less pleasant working conditions and life experience I’m accumulating. I think I may inquire about getting a staff discount from the resident drug dealer, though — it doesn’t seem fair that I should pay full price, especially since I’m sure I’ll be a regular customer. The hours are quite long: I work from nine p.m. to six a.m. I don’t really mind, though, because it’s a pleasant and well-maintained working environment. A cockroach has only fallen on my head once, which is pretty good for Cambodia. The last time one fell in the ice bucket, my boss even had the decency to fish it out for me.
They have a really intelligent incentive system for getting their employees to do a good job promoting the bar on the beach. On days when my co-workers and I come up with a creative theme or promotion for the night (pirate night, moustache night, etc.), the bar fills up with backpackers. On days when we’re lazy and don’t flier or just do it half-assed, the only people who come are the sex tourists and prostitutes. If you’ve never heard the phrase “sex tourist,” it’s exactly what it sounds like. Sometimes when there’s a lull, I entertain myself by thinking up nicknames for the sex tourists. They’re all named Steve, for “Steve the Sex Tourist,” but each gets their own descriptive prefix. Some of the regulars include Awkward Steve, Fat Steve, Old Steve, Whiskey Breath Steve, and my personal favourite, Steve le Sale Ivrogne (loosely translated, Steve the Nasty Drunk French Sex Tourist with Shitty Dreadlocks and Bad Teeth). You’ll be proud to hear that my years of hard work learning French are finally paying off in a professional setting.
I must admit that the sight of Fat Steve practically dry-humping a hooker on the bench of the bar made me vomit into my mouth a few nights ago, but like a good employee I swallowed it and carried on. You’ll also be happy to hear that the Steve phenomenon has inspired me to pledge myself to celibacy for the rest of my trip. It’s nice to know that even though I still have to watch out for malaria, typhoid fever, avian flu, flesh-eating disease, drunk motorbike drivers, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, hepatitis D (the forgotten hepatitis), alcoholism, and lung cancer, I won’t get AIDS or an illegitimate child. Actually, that gives me a new marketing idea for the bar: we should sell t-shirts that say “My husband went to Cambodia and all I got was this lousy STD” for the Steves to bring home to their wives.
You would be so proud of me if you could see all the useful skills I’m learning. These include pacing my drinking so I can stay awake throughout my shift without getting so sloppy I can’t make change, serving domino Jäger bombs, avoiding eye contact with people I don’t like to make them wait as long as possible for a drink, and telling people who drink mojitos to get fucked. Mojitos are really my main complaint about my job. I’m sure that at high class resorts they have such luxuries as crushed ice and blenders, but here at The Dolphin Shack, making a mojito is a painful process. First I have to crush ice cubes one by one by smashing them into my hand with a metal rod. Then I have to hand pick mint leaves off their stems. After I add the sugar and rum, I hand squeeze lime wedges into the cocktail shaker, making my hands sting from all the scratches from crushing ice and opening cans. Then I think about how much I wish I could make people spontaneously combust with my mind as I add the soda water and straw and serve it. I think that what really gets me is that mojitos aren’t even good. The result of all my hard work and suffering is a cocktail that tastes like sweet and sour asshole. So I’m considering starting a work-to-rule labour action. If I can organize all the bartenders in Sihanoukville to refuse to serve mojitos, maybe we can raise awareness about this serious and misunderstood occupational hazard. Maybe we could even stage a wildcat strike or something. I bet there would be riots on the streets if the townies couldn’t get their Capriosas for a night or two.
My coworker Maggie and I have gotten a couple of talkings-to about abusing our free drinks privileges. I try to restrain myself, but when you get paid in food and alcohol, every time I pour myself a new drink means I just gave myself a raise. I suppose my employers may have a point when say that making ourselves Buckets of Mystery (Malibu, gin, lime, grenadine, and Sprite: Maggie’s invention) and climbing into the rafters to take a break may not be the most professional conduct. However, at this point, since we’re the only two bartenders left, I think our jobs are pretty secure. They even recently gave us a motorbike and invited us to a wedding. Since there seems to be a direct relationship between “slacking off” and “getting free stuff” at the Dolphin Shack, we’re going to see what else they’ll throw at us if we start randomly not showing up for work or falling asleep on the bar. We’re hoping for a unicorn.
So in conclusion, mom, I’m alive and well, and should be able to get back on the road in a month or so. When I get home, I would really appreciate it if you could have a pizza, a bowl of guacamole, and a bed in a rehab centre ready for me. In the meantime, take care of yourself.