The Khmer people, they of the lovely almond skin complexions and river stone eyes, have a way of expression, perhaps like none other I have, or will ever, experienced. If you have a big, protruding Western nose unlike their small flat Eastern one, the will come up to you, even if you are mid-sentence with one another, and honk it. If you are heavyset, they will run after you on spindly legs in awe of you, and your reincarnation of Buddha. Women in close quarters will grab your breasts, whether big or whether small, and squeeze them, admiring the plumpness and give and take as if they are selecting dragonfruit at the market, and mutter to themselves in agreement that you shall feed your child well. This is very good, they will say, and they will beam.
These things they say and these things the do are not rude to them, to their culture. Only to you. In another way, they are compliments, however underhanded. They are respectful in that they take note of your largeness, your smallness, your differences. It is their way of loving you as one of their own, of connecting.
And the results are nothing short of hilarious.
A few of my favorite notable quotables directed at me and some of my companions...
"You have small body like Khmer, but you eat like... monster! What remarkable mouth!"
"Very good lesson, but I think we stop for break as you have waterfall raining from your face. You are so sweet! No... I mean you are so very sweating, yes, so sweating everywhere."
(grabbing fistfuls of my hair and pulling and gesturing to her friend.) "See, I tell you it not wig! You buy me Coca now."
(upon seeing my new weekend tan) "Chur, you were very beautiful but now not so. You so white before. Why you want to be ugly, to be dark, like me?"
"We get marry but you no ever make baby. Your tummy too small. Baby wither away and die, I think. "
To a traveling friend, who is male. "When the baby coming, fat boy!" this was followed by a fit of giggles by the man who said it, our bus driver.
To a traveling friend who found a grey hair. "You know why you have? Because you so OLD!"
To me, "I bet you dancer. Dance very well. Hip hop. Modern, yes? I know this. Why? You walk like a man, stomp like an elephant. Like you have big dick. I think, you are very graceful and a woman when you dance only. When you walk, you walk like big dick man."
To another traveling friend who is quite fit but has lost his six pack. "Tom, you don't need breakfast now that you are so fat."
And my favorite, said to me by a seven year old boy who will not stop grabbing my rear end. "I like your behind, your... uh... bum. It's nice. Very nice. But you, I no like at all."