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Around The Sun: Mark’s Marriage To Kunita

Steve Harrison tells of an Englishmen who threw his money away in Cambodia.

One of our barmaids, Kunita, had very few if any redeeming features. We had lots of happy smiling bargirls with come-to-bed eyes, but Kunita was not one of them. I only saw her smile twice in the year and more that she worked for us.

One day an Englishman called Mark came into the bar and introduced himself to me. He said he was from Newcastle and had travelled to Phnom Penh to marry Kunita. You could have knocked me over with a feather.

“Kunita, the cashier?” I asked.

“Yep,” he assured me. "I met her while I was on holiday a couple of months ago and I've come back to marry her.''

There were plenty of pretty, marriage-worthy girls in Cambodia. Mark was obviously blind, stupid or incredibly desperate. He spoke in a pronouced Geordie accent which we tried to immitate.

I told him I knew many men who had married Cambodian ladies and offered to introduce him to some who would give advice on going down that rocky road.

"Never on any account show your girlfriend a bank statement,'' I said.

“Oh I showed her mine last night,'' said Mark. "She immediately accepted my marriage proposal.''

I groaned.

Over the next couple of weeks he was accepted into my circle of friends and became a drinking buddy. Everyone gave him advice on how to proceed and how much he should expect to pay. He ignored the advice, buying Kunita huge diamond earrings, diamond rings, dresses and shoes, invariably paying twice the usual market price. He told us he was a multi-millionaire, having made a fortune buying and renovating old property. He often bought a round of drinks for our gang. This did not keep us from having a giggle when he was not with us about how much he was paying for everything.

The wedding preparations proceeded. Kunita handed in her notice which I readily accepted. For months I had been looking for an excuse to fire her. Mark took me on one side and asked "I am giving her US$100. Do you think that is too much?''

I told him we had paid her US$60 a month, so US$100 was probably OK.''

"Oh no,'' said Mark "I give her US$100 a day.''

I felt like throttling him. "You've increased her income from $60 a month to $3,000! No wonder she wants to marry you. Maybe I could put on a dress and you could give me that kind of money.''

The wedding day finally arrived. Mark told us he had paid US$10,000 for the wedding reception. We were excited. One of our mates, Graham, had married in style, paying US$3,000 for his reception, so we were expecting presidential treatment at the best hotel. Imagine our disappointment when we heard that the reception was to be at Kunita's family house. I use that word 'house' loosely. It was more of a shed, right next to a meat market. A marquee had been erected across a potholed street. The food was poor, the drink was scarce and the smell from the meat market was overwhelming. However the family house was undergoing extensive and expensive remodelling.

Graham, Jerry, Rossi and myself had managed to drink enough beer to get ourselves into a good state. Whiskey had also been drunk while we waited for the car which was taking us to the wedding.

A Karaoke machine is an essential at Cambodian weddings. Big speakers and amplifiers, and loud music. No one seems to understand that the volume can be turned down from maximum.

We quickly got into the spirit of things, jumping onto the stage and singing a 30-minute version of “Hotel California”. We thought we were wonderful and that we were sending Mark off in fine style. His brothers were stony-faced. If looks could have killed we would have been dead man that night.

We learned where Kunita had gotten her magnetic personality from. You know a magnet can either attract or repel. Her family were all in repel mode.

Anyway Mark married Kunita, and her family grew by leaps and bounds, with 'new' aunts, uncles and distant cousins turning up constantly like mushrooms. They took him for everything. He went on a long holiday. The family went along too. He bought a huge house. The family moved in. He bought cars, motorcycles. Kunita's family drove and rode them.

When a few months had elapsed Kunita filed for divorce. Mark wanted the family to move out of the house so that he could sell it. But how do you persuade a family to do that when some of them carry AK47’s?

Mark deserved an award for losing the largest amount of money in the shortest possible time in Cambodia.

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