Sweaty Bird

It’s Wednesday.

 

An early morning bike ride was aborted thanks to a wave of dizziness and nausea that hit as I stepped out of my door.

 

Copious ginger and mint tea, the latest episode of The Good Fight (if you’re a Good Wife fan you NEED to watch this) and a shower and I finally felt good to go.

 

By now the sun was high, the temperature rapidly heading towards its daily peak of 36 (feels more like 42) degrees (BTW the statement in parenthesis is BBC Weather speak not mine – to me it feels more like 142 degrees!).

 

Not the time to be cycling 20 or 30 km which was my original plan.  Instead I opt for a slow pootle into town to indulge my digital nomad lifestyle by finding a venue to drink coffee in and do a bit of writing.

 

My first port of call was overfull, packed to the rafters with backpackers and expats enjoying the delights on offer and so I peddled on, deciding on a whim to try to find (for the 3rd time) a legendary coffee shop in Kampot.

 

And find it I did.  This post comes to you from said coffee shop.  A huge airy warehouse, not out of place in Manchester or Melbourne (it’s actually owned by Aussies) that serves water in Bombay Sapphire bottles and prides itself on the quality of its coffee.

 

I wandered in, conscious of the copious beads of sweat forming on my arms and face and starting to drip from my forehead and headed to a comfy seat in the corner to perspire.

 

Equipped with my one remaining microfiber towel (You may recall the lovely Darryl Clarke offered my other one to the river gods on our trip up to Battambang :-D) I did my best to delicately dab away the ever increasing pools of salty water forming all over my body.  I cursed the airy space’s inability to offer me the amount of fresh cooling breeze needed to stop the flow as I shuffled around to hotch up my trousers, allowing my knees the luxury of air, patted my forehead and neck repeatedly, subtly lifted and lowered my arms (think slow motion birdy song movements) to afford my armpits the courtesy as my knees.

 

And then I felt it.  The damp vaguely cool patch of perspiration spreading slowly outwards, creeping, cursing its way ever nearer to the point of full on visibility.

 

Yep you guessed it, the underboob sweat had started.

 

I fidgeted nervously, aware that if I could feel it others could see the growing blotch of wetness turning my navy vest a darker much more menancing shade.

 

All around me sat the beautiful people, sporting their chilled out, I’m a boho, hippy backpacker vibe (yep, that’s a bitchy judgy observation I know. So sue me!) and here I was a sorry sight with my sweaty body and face, soggy clothes complete with boob sweat patches, slightly blotchy red face and stuck to my head hair (I made the mistake of opening Facetime to inconspicuously check out my appearance) dabbing away at myself furiously and mostly in vain.

 

I admit it, for a moment I did go into self-loathing mode  – you saw brief evidence of it in the previous passage and I had a fairly in depth conversation with Norman whilst waiting for my coffee to arrive.

 

But then I got real.  Yes, I was losing liquid faster than a burst water main, but I have this part of my make up to thank for my amazing clear skin.  Science tells me I’m also removing toxins from my system which is keeping colds and other more yukky illnesses at bay and lowering my risk of more kidney stones (I know I have (or had) some courtesy of an x-ray and subsequent mime based conversation while enduring my annual medical at a Chinese hospital years ago).

 

And at the end of the day.  WTF does it actually matter what I look like or what anybody else might think.  I’m here, building a life for myself that I love, in a place that I adore and I’m truly happy.

 

What’s a little bit of boob sweat when you look at it like that eh?

 

 

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Retreating within

It started swimmingly. Waking naturally, coffee brewing, birds singing, all was well.  A day like any other, filled with promise and anticipation.

 

A dull roar, a grating engine labouring to perform an obviously arduous task.  More engines join the chorus and then a jagged metallic crash, debris tumbling, vehicles retreating leaving a solitary slow labourious churning of the one vehicle, groaning, moaning as it goes about its work.

 

They’re destroying the landscape.  Who they are remains unknown. Why they are doing it is a mystery too.  But one thing is certain.  Where once rows of trees lined small streams, now the bulldozer roars.  Flattening the trees with its hungry jaw, the same mouth tipping to fill the streams with red grey earth, turning beautiful rambling nature into a bland unified plain right before my eyes.

 

Dread fills me.  A million fantasies of the awful conclusions to which this action is the precursor swirl around my head.

 

I retreat inside and close the door.  Sitting tensely on my bed no amount of buffering with music or words or the whirring of fans can stop the ugly sound of nature being annihilated right outside my door from invading my heart and soul.

 

I feel sick.

 

I feel afraid.

 

I hide, unwilling to open the door for fear of what I might find, instead retreating into mind numbing activities, bingeing, not only on food that I don’t want, need or enjoy but also on mind numbing TV in copious quantities.

 

The noise continues long after dark but eventually there is blessed silence and the hope of better times tomorrow as I retreat to the sanctuary of sleep.

 

Alas, the hope was in vain.  A brief respite as dawn broke but then the discordant noise returned. More earth being moved, more land being flattened.

 

Once again, all day I hid away, retreated into myself, seeking solace in box sets and binge eating until finally I broke.  The tears came as I acknowledged my fear.  The threat to my sanctuary very real and very scary.  The possibility of this not being my haven something I may have to face.

 

At dusk I ventured out once more.  The machines all gone now, the land in front of me flat and offering a different but equally captivating beauty for me to behold.

 

As I step back inside and close the door I can only hope that what I see and feel now holds true in the weeks and months to come.

 

Who let the dogs out

Virtually every household in Cambodia counts one if not more canine creatures in its residency.  Generally mongrels, lean and lithe, often almost camouflaged against their red dirt track surroundings these dogs are also schizophrenic in nature.

 

Wander the streets of towns and villages during the day and you’ll see the dogs lying in the shade, meandering from hither to thither, occasionally, channelling their Littlest Hobo vibe and languidly strolling in a straight line down the middle of a long dirt road.  Mothers lie on their sides, teats swollen, as pups unhurriedly and noiselessly suckle the life giving milk on offer.

 

Some may feign interest, wandering towards you only to stop a few paces short and gaze forlornly as you stroll or pedal past only to return to their spot languishing under their favourite tree before the dust has settled.

 

All are silent.  The effort of raising a sound, let alone emitting a full on bark too much effort for these muts to bear.

 

But with the setting sun comes change.  Those who were once the languid dozer are now on full alert.  The slightest movement garners their interest, their ears prick and they’re ready.  Approach within 50 feet and they will let rip as first they bark, then bark a bit more whilst running towards you.  They’re at your feet, barking and snarling, their neighbours join in, suddenly what was one dog is now a pack.  You are on their territory and this is not something they will allow.

 

The darker it gets, the fiercer the warning, the louder the barking, the more aggressive the snapping and snarling as the mongrel patrol protects their land and families.

 

Nothing escapes their attention, no one is safe.  Even those in their beds cannot escape the pack – their barking calls drifting on the breeze and infiltrating the sleep of innocents nearby.

 

And then the sun rises once more, silence descends as the hounds of Cambodia settle once more into their daytime personas.

Rites of passage

 

According to Dictionary.com, rites of passage are “Ceremonies that mark important transitional periods in a person’s life, such as birth, puberty, marriage, having children, and death.”  The dictionary goes on to explain that they “usually involve ritual activities and teachings designed to strip individuals of their original roles and prepare them for new roles”

 

Those of you have been following me from the start will recall that early into my time in Phnom Penh I moved into my apartment within walking distance of my office, headed off to work on the first morning bright as a button and promptly skidded around the corner falling ungracefully to my knees.

 

Well, a recent event here in Kampot has led me to believe that clumsy accidents may infact be a rite of passage for me when it comes to locating to a new place.

 

Let me explain.

 

I’d recently met with the founder of the Banteay Srey Project, Freya, and was interested to see where her other project, the Eden Guesthouse was located and so an early morning bike ride a few days ago took me out on an adventure north along the east bank of the river (that’s the town side of the river heading Bokor Night Market way for those of you who’ve been here).

 

As per usual, the road quickly turned from tarmac to red dust and thus I bounced along steadily, the quantity of traffic decreasing as the quality of the road rapidly deteriorated.  I dodged and swerved to avoid the increasingly frequent and progressively deeper potholes, occasionally avoiding these hazards only to find myself confronted by a patch of road which was in fact soft deep sand.

 

Passed only by the occasional motorbike laden with produce purchased from the market I trundled on. Finally, I reached a junction of sorts, one amongst a plethora of signs announcing that I was on the right track.

 

The road now narrower and edged with jungle like foliage on both sides I turned a corner to discover a small bridge and heading from under it the small ferry boat that shuttles people and produce from one side of the river to the other.

 

Post obligatory photo stop, I headed further along the road, which at this point was thankfully decidedly less crater filled, cycling through small Cham Muslim villages to a chorus of smiling hellos from the women and children I passed.

 

By now I was truly in my happy place and so Eden came and went as I pedalled on, eventually stopping a mile or so further down the track which had again turned to its craters of the moon like state.

 

Instead of turning around straight away though, I paused to take a picture of a chicken and, when said chicken was startled by my presence I shuffled, bike between legs, further on to catch up with it and get that photo.  I honestly don’t know where my head was at this point, after all there are thousands of bloody chickens all over the place here, including a fair few that cluck and crow outside my room all day and night, but I was intent on getting that damn pic.

 

And then it happened.  As I shuffled my bike around the front wheel and handle bars turned heavily, the weight of my bag and water in the basket too much for my ‘I’m too busy capturing an important moment in history to hold on to the bike properly’ grip.  Next ,the mid section leaned, I grasped to try to regain control in the process leaning forward and losing my balance and before I could yell ‘crater’ there I was, lying in one with my bike on top of me, attracting the noisy attention of every dog in the neighbourhood.

 

Embarrassed and also aware that I was in some pain, I managed to extricate my body and bike from the crater and proceeded to inspect the damage.  Underneath the thick layer of red dust that clung to my sweat covered body I could see trickles of blood on my right knee, similar to the ones I could also see on the knuckles of my left hand.  I tentatively dabbed away at the wounds with my trusty microfiber towel, dousing it with water in a vain attempt to irrigate the wounds, all the while vaguely aware of a throbbing pain just above my right ankle.  Inspection of the area uncovered a raised purple bruise already ripening but thankfully no open wound.

 

I shakily brushed myself down and prepared myself for the long and painful journey back, straddling my bike and wobbling precariously for a few yards until I got back into my stride.

 

And it was as I was negotiating the slalem of dips on that return journey that I recognised that this ridiculous accident was actually my rite of passage.   Just like my slip and trip in Phnom Penh had been a marker of settling into my new home there, the bike tumble marked my settling in here in Kampot.

 

I had arrived, bruised and battered I may be, but I knew from that moment that I was truly well and truly home.

 

Melancholy

The air was thick.  A storm was brewing.  Whilst the sun beat down fiercely on us in the town, in the distance the mountains shrouded in ominous black grey cloud offered promise of air clearing rain.  But for now there was no respite.  Every breath fell short of providing the full quota of nourishment and beads of sweat formed with every slow movement made.

 

The penultimate day of our time in Kampot, we as a family were restless.  The weather, along with the impending end of our precious time spent together made for a melancholic mood.

 

We chose our destination for breakfast poorly.  The surly welcome should have given it away, but we weren’t on our game and ordered anyway.  One coffee arrived, then nothing.  A brusque waitress snarled when questioned and so we departed, empty bellied and disgruntled to return to our breakfast spot of the previous morning.

 

Perked up by gargantuan breakfasts we opted for a wander around the local market.  The air too cloying to consider a walk, a tuktuk was beckoned and he deposited us at the market 5 minutes later and a dollar lighter.

 

We tentatively entered one of the dim narrow alleys of the market, the low slung ceilings brushing the heads of the taller ones of us in the group. For a while we wandered.  The covered market provided shade from the fierce wet heat of the sun, a gentle breeze could be found when venturing around certain corners and courtesy of the occasional fans hanging from stalls.   Stallholders swung languidly in hammocks, others wafted aimlessly at flies settling on their produce, the chatter was subdued and half hearted, the sense of melancholy following us wherever we went.

 

The wet market stirred some energy and emotion.  Live chickens, wet muddy floors, flailing fish and pungent aromas provoked strong reactions from the girls.

 

We exited, once more met by steaming heat and dust, which way to go? What to do? All too lethargic to make a decision

 

Walking was too much effort, the sun roasting us with every step, the sweat now dripping, running in rivulets down faces, necks and knees.

 

It was time to head back, to indulge our melancholy back in the still quiet of the apartment.  Dozing, daydreaming, doodling and eventually perking up enough to head to the pool where both the weather and our mood finally took a turn for the better as we enjoyed another precious moment of our last few days together.

Predator and prey

 

An open door invites the mewing cries of not one but 3 neighbourhood cats.

 

Shooing successfully evicts the kittens from my territory, but moma cat she ain’t going nowhere.

 

I give her my best ‘evil, cat hater’ stare, she stares back harder…

 

I hiss and boo and stomp and flap, she sits…

 

I step out of the door, she circles me like a lion circling its prey…

 

I hiss and boo and stomp and flap some more and still she sits…

 

And stares…

 

Boy, can she stare…

 

I tire before she does and head to sit in my favourite spot, only to be joined a moment later…

 

She paces back and forth, mewing and purring, moving around my flipflops and examining them with interest…

 

I feign nonchalance, all the while my nerves on edge as she prowls and mews…

 

I try to stand, she beats my feet to my chosen piece of ground…

 

I swerve sideways, there she is again…..

 

mewing expectantly, staring intently…

 

 

I stand my ground – this is my home now!

 

Determined to startle her away I throw an empty plastic bottle in her direction…

 

She affords it no more than a glance before coming over to weave her way in and out of my feet once more…

 

I sit again and turn back to my book…

 

She looks…

 

She mews…

 

She purrs…

 

She prowls…

 

And after a while she wanders slowly away.

 

For now I am free of my predator…

 

But for how long? Who knows.

Reasons why Norman is a nob!

 

Thanks to Saint Vic for this blog post suggestion.

 

As you may be aware, Norman is my chimp (The Chimp Paradox), a master of negative self talk, confidence shattering put downs and purveyor of reasons why Sara is a shit, fraudulent human being unworthy of love and understanding.

 

So, not the best fellow to have hanging around generally, and certainly not while I work on phase two of Becoming Me and explore creative ways to use my talents to earn cash whilst at the same time loving the life I’m living.

 

But hang around he does and consequently he and I regularly engage in spats as I seek to put myself out there.

 

When relaying my latest crisis of confidence to Vic via What’s App she suggested I write down a list of all the reasons why Norman is a nob, so that each time he interjects I have it to instantly refer to to help me put Norman in his place.

 

And so here it is, my list of reasons that Norman is a nob are:

 

  1. 9 times out of ten he is wrong in his assertions
  2. He only gets to say so much because I listen to him
  3. He talks in a whiney, pathetic voice, has a limited vocabulary and repeats himself a lot
  4. No one else believes what he says
  5. In fact, no one else can see or hear him unless I tell them, because he only exists in my head
  6. He’s a chimp FFS
  7. No, he’s actually not a chimp, he’s a f*cking make believe chimp who I’ve let live rent free in my head for far too long
  8. He’s so insecure that he has to play on my insecurities to give himself purpose
  9. He’s scared that if I succeed I won’t need him anymore
  10. I don’t need him anymore!

 

I’m sure there are more but that’s a good few to start with.

 

Up yours Norman!

The message below is especially for you (apologies to any sensitive flowers (and my mum) reading this)!

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