Here in missionary circles there is a term that we use called ''Missionary Midnight''---this basically means that one should be in their home by 9pm....missionary midnight is 9pm Cambodian time. Why is that? For safety reasons, it is recommended that international workers return home around 9pm or the latest at 9:30pm.
According to my Khmer friends, people start exiting the beer gardens around 9pm. So the chances of encountering a person who is drunk driving a moto or car is much higher after 9pm. So its better to be home safe and sound than having to deal with reckless moto drivers or worst yet a drunk driver of an SUV. Secondly, I am told that the police usually head home around 9pm and the criminal element starts to surface at or around that hour. Of course if you are driving around 9pm you will notice that the traffic lights don't work so it seems the city slowly starts to go to sleep. The night clubs however are just opening up at 9pm for the hoards of young people and perhaps tourists who want some late night entertainment. The danger however for those who want to hang out in the bar scene is the potential for dealing with wealthy individuals who perhaps have a little too much to drink. They usually are carrying a gun and/or are surrounded by body guards so its best not to pick a fight with them.
However, for those of us who live a more simple lifestyle in the missionary circles we are back in our homes at 9pm. I remember in the early days when I first came to visit Cambodia in 2000, I used to stay at the OMF guest house which was a former UN office. Back then the ''curfew'' hour was 6pm because Cambodia was still considered a bit more of the wild wild west as one could hear gunfire going off in the surrounding area at the local bar. As the years have progressed, the ''curfew'' hours have extended and now its 9pm. Beyond that time, it is a bit more risky to be out as you can see.
So last night was quite interesting when Faith and I arrived back at the Ratanak office/apartment just after 8pm. There was loud music blaring with English songs from one of the Western restaurants. They were playing some popular old tunes but for some reason they felt it was necessary for the entire neighborhood to hear the music. This continued for a few hours and as I was hitting the sack at around 10:30pm, the music continued. Ear plugs would not have worked as the stereo system they had seemed like ''surround sound'' ---whether you were at the front of the apartment or the back of the apartment you were surrounded with music. I have to say at that point, I was not amused and started to pray for the Lord to pull the plug and perhaps have a blackout so we could have some peace and quiet. (We've been having rolling blackouts here periodically because of the high electricity consumption as people use their air conditions to get some relief from the heat). My spirit was getting irritated as I thought to myself, ''don't these people know its time to go home, its way pass 9pm, people are trying to sleep :-).'' Oh well, I can't help but think that some western establishments here do not have an appreciation or respect for the Khmer way of life. The fact that they have no problems blaring their music to the highest decimal when most people would be in their homes, suggest how culturally insensitive some businesses can be. Perhaps someone needs to tell them about Missionary midnight! :-)