Do they know it’s Christmastime at all?

In Vietnam, Boney M’s Christmas album played in every store (and only that album, for some reason.) But Cambodia was relatively tinsel-free, so for the first time ever, Christmas Eve sneaked up on me. I have a happy rule that dictates consuming a posh cocktail in every country I visit, and the Elephant Bar at the Phnom Penh Raffles mixes as good a drink as any. I toasted Christmas Eve with a Femme Fatale, and felt appropriately festive when Santa Claus showed up at 8 o’clock leading a choir of Khmer street children.

The kids harmonized charmingly, and occasionally wobbled out of tune just enough to make me sentimental (not having been innoculated by weeks of The Little Drummer Boy). Their blank expressions showed they could have been chanting Pali scripture for all they knew, but the falangs in the Elephant Bar didn’t care. As the choir veered into a solemn

’Gringo bells, gringo bells
Gringo all de way…’

we were rapt, a little misty, and ten thousand miles away in our minds.

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