Sitting in a café in Kampot I’m watching a fabulously Cambodian contrasting approach to work life unfold.
To my left, an electrician kitted out in overalls befitting of someone going to stick his hands in box containing 220 volts fastens his safety harness to the concrete pole, unfolds his ladder to the exact height required, dons his safety helmet and proceeds to climb the ladder and open the circuit box. He has the correct tools for the job and works methodically, checking a fuse or whatever electrical contractors do in those boxes before replacing it and moving to the next.
To my right, another guy works on scaffolding. Dressed in jeans and a shirt, with a baseball cap jauntily perched on his head and flip flop clad feet he balances precariously as he goes about whatever task takes him up there (from my vantage point I’m unable to fully see). What I can see though is that his current position does not allow him the access he requires and so he calls to his mate (standing below similarly dressed and smoking a ciggy) to move a step ladder closer. Friend does said task half heartedly, dragging the step ladder before wandering off without checking it is stable, balanced and secure.
Flip flop clad roof man doesn’t care though – he reaches his right leg across and straddling the roof and the ladder continues with the task at hand before totally transferring himself to the top of the ladder, facing away from his work and so having to rotate through 180 degrees to complete it.
And I’m talking contrasts too. My lovely friend Vivian and I regularly discuss the fabulous contrast that is her Dutch call a spade a spade approach to life and how it jars so beautifully with my British call a spade an implement that can be used for moving natural matter from one place to another should one so wish one.
And in a fit of irony, just as we finish the conversation I contrast my roots by very bluntly telling Vivian how it is in that way that only Sara can.
The contrasts abound. Khmer women amazingly adept at producing fabulous western lunch dishes for western travellers and residents alike, from cultures both diverse and similar, their reasons for being here both similar and different. Coarse Cambodian coffee used to make smooth barista style caffeine laced creations, the bright sunshine of a hot sunny day contrasting with the dark clouds of a brewing storm on its way to our home. The western music of the café and the khmer tunes emanating from tuktuk next door. Jarring in a beautifully harmonious way to create extra interest for my day.
And suddenly the work I was observing is no more. Mr safety first electrician removes his harness and hard hat and hops onto the back of a motorbike with two other guys to head off for lunch whilst next to him Mr roof man removes his baseball cap to replace it with a motorbike helmet for his journey onwards on a push bike no less.
I reach into my purse to take out the contrasting currencies required to pay my bill – the dollars of the big bucks mingling with the riel of the small change – and smile at my life lived in contrasts right here in the Kingdom of Wonders.