Kilometer 30 385: on the burdens of a bartender in tropics
I need a holiday from my holiday.
In the recent weeks, I began to observe a slowly but steadily growing reluctance to explore, directly proportional to the desire to stay in one place for a while, catch up with some TV series, work for more than two days in a row…
On a Buddhist flower-covered demonstration platform moving 12km/h, we headed for a resort on the Cambodian Koh Rong Samloem island, where the whole world comes to have vacation. We felt almost as if we were coming back from one: awaiting us were the positions of a bartender and a gardener.
The ferry brought us to a tropical paradise. I jumped onto the pier and straight into the water. Ouch! Boiling! The absurdly turquoise lagoon got heated to the level of Hungarian hot springs. A school of small fish passed next to my left foot. I was surprised they were raw.
How to get employed as a barmaid/ gardener in a Cambodian paradise resort? The case is simple: every other hotel needs English speaking help, just choose the one that distributes most jobs among the locals (Cambodia is not a land of milk and honey, Cambodia is barely a land of whey, we do not want to take work away from the Khmers!) and offers free drinks.
During the recruitment process I said that I had a little experience in bars, I just didn’t mention on which side of the counter that was. Hence, I had to quickly remind myself how to mix the most popular cocktails and face the challenges that await a barmaid in the tropics. What challenges would that be, you ask? Well, the undisputed no 1 are the suicidal lizards. Dear Asian bartenders-to-be: remember to always check your blender for reptiles before starting it.
Secondly: khmernglish. Both the chef to whom I passed the restaurant orders and the room service who I was informing about the wishes of guests responded to everything with a big smile expressing full understanding and a joyful “OK!”. It took me several quite frustrating days to find out that they in fact only knew a few words in English and these were not the words that I had just used.
Another issue: matching the fruit shakes to the clients taste often meant compromising my professional ethics… For example, the European watermelon would be refreshingly mixed with mint (and in the evening with vodka and sprite), while the Khmer watermelon would go with half a can of sweetened condensed milk. A European papaya goes well with lime, whereas the Khmer papaya matches half a can of sweetened condensed milk. Yes, condensed milk is a very important component of Southeast Asian diet.
And lastly – the fauna. Lost case: ants moved into my keyboard, a giant spider settled under the toilet seat (such adrenaline!), and the gecko – behind the curtain. The killing ninja mosquitoes enlarged my childishly small feet to size 37, and the floors covered with small sad wings reminded of the eleventh biblical plague – clouds of flying ants.
And so I contemplated all these existential burdens, lying on a hammock, looking over the lagoon, eating freshly caught oysters, with a frosty piña colada in my hand…