To Cambodians, anything gaudy, glitzy or garish is glam. Instead of turning my nose up at the what I often consider hideous fashion sense of this Eastern country, I embraced it and had a little bit of fun.
Last week, I had noticed a girl from work's fingernails painted red with detailed flowers on every tip. I've seen this sort of nail decoration on other girls around town, especially those heading off to weddings, and curiosity got the best of me. I asked her where I could get such artistry bestowed upon my digits.
Bright and early Sunday morning she took me to a little salon booth in Psar Kandal where a 17-year-old Vietnamese boy - with a very steady hand, I might add - created little tiny frescoes on the tips of our fingers. Ok, maybe I'm exaggerating just a bit, but the agility and precision with which he performed his craft impressed me. Maybe I wouldn't choose to do my nails like this on a normal basis, and especially not for special occasions, but I do appreciate the work.
And as cliche as it might sound, the short time at the salon was a great stress reliever, though I could only guess what salon gossip circulated around me. I was also impressed with the number of salons crammed inside the hot, cramped little market offering a variety of services - hair cuts, shampooings, waxings, facials, massages - all performed out in the open for everyone to observe.
I'm not sure they would necessarily live up to standards of cleanliness and hygiene that we come to expect of a spa experience, but I couldn't help but feel part of the "real life" in Phnom Penh. Not the Phnom Penh that mourns it's history and struggles with the challenges of a globalizing world, but the Phnom Penh where people go grocery shopping on Saturday afternoons and treat themselves to a manicure before going about the rest of their daily chores. It's funny the little things that allow this apparent outsider to acquire a taste of the humanity around her.