The trip back to the airport was a more solemn affair than the one on arrival. Even so, mum and auntie Yvonne still managed to find plenty to marvel at and Sophat stepped up to the mark once more taking us along hooker alley rather than the more conventional, but in his defence traffic clogged, route.
Thankfully (and I say that not in a mean way) Sophat pulled up at the drop off point rather than heading into the car park. This meant that our farewell would be truncated, avoiding a fair bit of the pain and sadness that both mum and I knew it would entail. Behind sunglasses we hugged, both failing miserably to hold back the tears while Sophat and Auntie Yvonne stood quietly waiting.
And then we were off. The intrepid 2 heading into the airport to head homeward. Sophat and I back to the chaos of the city that I now call home.
As I looked back and waved, Sophat asked me what the word was for this feeling. Asking for further clarification he explained that he was talking about how I felt saying bye to mum – sad but…and it this point he waved his hands around helplessly. I understood what he was getting at but couldn’t think of the word. How could I describe the mixture of sadness at her departure and the joy of our time together in one word.
Failing miserably to come up with anything intelligent I settled on “sad sad but happy” a play on the ‘same same but different’ you hear regularly across large swathes of South East Asia when people try to explain that a thing has similarities with another.
As Sophat grinned and accepted my response I settled back to engage in some self indulgent wistfulness, but Sophat was having non of it. His way of helping me through the pain of parting was to talk incessantly about all things Cambodian. Obviously this discussion involved him looking at me whilst he was driving rather than the road, leading to more than one butt cheek clenching moment as we narrowly missed colliding with the car in front or swerved to avoid a huge pothole.
Amongst the topics of the journey was the afore mentioned hooker alley. Sophat explained to me how sad he thought this trade was, how ashamed he was of the area and how the women are so badly treated and abused. He also shared stories of men who ‘rescue’ the women from this environment, marrying them and bringing them into their family only to receive scorn from those around.
Just as I was digesting this information we moved on to the cost of private education and from that to the names of different foods, big houses in the area and the weather! All I can say is full marks to Sophat for his diversionary tactics, by the time I got home I was feeling pretty perky as I settled in to watch some trash tv.
The days that followed were strange. I was a bit lost not having to pop round the corner in the morning to pick up my lovely enthusiastic shadows, eating on my own, not seeing Sophat and his cheeky grin everytime I exited a museum or shop or restaurant, having no one to explain the bonkersness of daily life to. But at the same time I basked in the lovely memories we had made. the trips we took, the adventures we had and the comradery we felt.
Sad, sad but happy!