Communities

This is another of those posts that has been brewing in my head for a while but, thanks to a metaphorical kick in the gut I received yesterday, it feels like it’s time to try and force it out of my head and onto ‘paper’.

 

One of the big things that pulls me to Cambodia is the strong sense of connection and community I feel here that can sometimes be missing back home.  I wrote a post about connection while I was back in the UK but for some reason never published it and so am going to nick a bit from it to try to explain the connection thing.

 

“Three months are nearly over and my return to Cambodia is imminent.

 

Reconnecting with the people that I love has been a joy over the past three months.  These people have kept me sane, or held me in my bonkersness through a year of huge transition for me and to be able to reconnect face to face with both family and friends alike has been a blessing.

 

At the same time, I’ve been struck by the disconnected nature of UK life and the jar it creates within me.  Sitting in St Peter’s Square as part of a Street Wisdom session in June gave me the time and space to truly recognise this – the hurry of people coming and going, following the same path in the guise of connectedness whilst all the time remaining separate.  Ants, connected by their desire to do, busily going somewhere, never veering from the path to pause, be and truly connect.  Eye contact is a no no and even the friendly Northerners I was surrounded by were disconcerted by my smiles as they passed, so much so that one guy felt compelled to come back a couple of minutes later to ask me if I was in fact Katie Magic – a Raw Food Chef he knows from the web – as he was so shocked that I smiled and assumed it must be because I knew him.  How did we become these people? So alone amongst others?  So disconnected in a connected world?“

 

Cambodians don’t seem to have this inbuilt fear of connection, if I want a smile and a hello I never have to go far to get one, and I’m always welcomed back like a long-lost aunt whenever I return to somewhere I’ve previously visited.  Within hours of moving in to my new home here I was part of the community and that bond grows stronger day by day as more and more locals recognise and greet me as I pass.

 

Unfortunately, I can’t honestly say the same is true of expatriate and traveller communities out here.  Although I’m aware that Norman chirping away constantly in my head about how boring and uncool I am and how if I do try to talk to people I’ll make a dick of myself is partly to blame for this assumption, it is true that there can be a certain clickiness on occasion, I remember meeting someone (a white male 50 year expat who earned the name “that dickhead’) back when I lived in China who proudly asserted that he refused to make eye contact with anyone white as they were obviously desperate and he didn’t want to associate with desperate people – I kid you not!

 

Having moved from Phnom Penh where I had my ready-made community of expats courtesy of volunteering with VSO to the smaller city of Kampot where everyone seemed to know everyone and there was a cool crowd that I definitely wasn’t (and in all honesty didn’t want to be) part of, I at first felt a little isolated.

 

Thankfully, it wasn’t long until, sat in a café writing one Sunday, I got talking to a woman even more nutty than me, the wonderful Linda.  We bonded over shared China experiences and very quickly became firm friends.  On my return to Kampot in September we briefly shared a home and more than a few laughs together and it quickly became apparent that Linda knew everyone in town.  Everywhere we went she would be saying hello, introducing me to different people, laughing and joking and talking incessantly about bloody rugby to all and sundry.   I forced the introvert part of myself to take a back seat, locked Norman firmly in his cage and took advantage of the opportunities to connect and build my community when Linda invited me out for drinks and meals with her group of friends.

 

Joining Khmer class helped too as that connected me with a small band of fellow linguistically challenged locals and volunteering at the spa has found me another new friend in the owner, Freya.  A friendship formed of new food experiences and hilarious (and unrepeatable) conversations, it’s lovely to feel the connection growing deeper as we spend time together.  Connections with fellow volunteers from the spa have been enriching too and I’ve even started doing that random talking to people shit (take that Norman!) which has resulted in sunset chats over good red wine and the fledgling development of a crafting collective here (it was on my ‘I’m going to do this when I move to Kampot’ list that I wasn’t quite courageous enough to follow through).

 

One other very important group of people within my growing expatriate community of friends here are 4 lovely Belgians that Linda introduced me to before leaving.

 

Leo & Gina (or Geo & Lina as Linda insisted on calling them when we first met (and that was before we’d even started on the cocktails)) have taken me under their wing.  They check up on me if I haven’t been seen for a while, invite me for happy hour cocktails and always stop for a chat when we see each other around town.  Leo is an avid reader of my blog and gets my musical references being a fellow fan.  They’re really good friends with Patrick and Anna – the Belgian baker and his wife.  Two more wonderful individuals who have been so kind to me and thanks to their warmth and generosity of spirit really made me feel like part of the community here.

 

And it’s these wonderful folk that’ve brought me to the writing of this post today.  Because yesterday, out of the blue, Patrick passed away.   I’d only known him for a few months but his passing has hit me right where it hurts.  He wasn’t family but, 6000 miles from home, he and everyone else in my community here certainly feel like they are and for him to have left so suddenly is tough to deal with.  My heart goes out to his lovely wife Ann who thankfully is at home in Belgium now surrounded by her own family and to Patrick’s daughter whom I met when she visited in September.

And meanwhile, another community (a true 21st century phenomena) the Kampot Facebook Noticeboard, so often the source of bitchiness and banter, is banding together to share their shock at Patrick’s death and remember the joy he brought to so many people’s lives here.

 

Life’s short eh!  I’m so blessed to have this growing community of friends around me here in Kampot and am determined not to take them (or my amazing community scattered around the world) for granted.  Thank you all for being there.

 

Love you lots xxxx

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My first cocktail laced meeting with Leo, Gina, Patrick and Ann during Patrick’s daughter’s visit to Kampot.

 

 

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Pootling

I’ve written and then deleted fifteen opening paragraphs to this post over the past hour and in the process downed a whole pot of very strong coffee on an empty stomach.

I now have full on caffeine shakes and am going to rely on this altered mental and physical state to help me form the blog that started to take shape in my head on Saturday morning.

A bike ride was the starting point.  On my usual route through the salt fields I was excited to note that yet again, even though only a week or so had passed since my last visit, the landscape had changed.  More work had been done to ready the fields to my left for flooding and to my right the process of flooding itself had commenced and a thin crust of salt was forming on the recently fortified field borders.

A very welcome but quite fierce breeze added a corrugated iron symphony to my journey as the rusted roof sheets of the salt sheds rattled and flapped.  It also created problems for the numerous species of birds and insects who frequent the area and so I stopped for a while to entertain myself by watching them battle the wind with varying degrees of success, there was quite a lot of seemingly unplanned circling taking place as the wind proved too strong for the smaller of the birds and the dragonflies.

The wind also threatened to become my nemesis as I made the turn from the salt fields along the river road to town, blowing diagonally across the wide-open plains seemingly determined to challenge my progress.  Years of running and cycling in windy, rainy Manchester have taught me of the futility of battling a breeze and so I sat back on my bike seat and pedalled patiently without expectation using the breaks between the gusts to slowly make progress along the road.

Once I neared town the buildings to the right of me blocked the wind’s ferocity and my progress hastened until I had arrived in town and parked up at one of my usual haunts to grab a coffee and breakfast.

Sitting watching the world go by I realised I wasn’t yet ready to settle in for the long haul and so, rather than ordering my breakfast I finished up my coffee, paid my bill, rescued my bike from where it lay forlornly in the road having been toppled by the wind and set off to pootle around town.  Cambodian towns and cities are interesting to be in at any time of the day or night but mornings for me are particularly magical.  Mornings are the time when the world and his wife come out to sell their wares and I cycled slowly as locals purchased meat, fish, fruit & veg, embryos (oh yes they do!) and various dessert items from the back of traders’ bikes.

On my travels, I also picked up my own provisions for the week, stopping to buy bread and a sausage roll (oh so Cambodian I know) from the Belgian Baker’s tuk tuk on the Riverside and grabbing a bag of freshly ground coffee from Espresso.  My internal quandary over whether to make Espresso my breakfast pit stop was soon resolved by the discovery of a Cambodian wedding taking place outside.  Geez, they sure know how to get the most out of a sound system in this country! If you don’t believe me check out the little video clip I shot inside Espresso – apart from the coffee grinder all of the noise is courtesy of the wedding tent on the road.

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Instead, I returned to my bike and was soon the centre of attention as I followed a truck of kids determined to engage me in a waving competition.   In the mood to indulge them (in fairness I’ve yet to have an occasion when I haven’t felt compelled with an invitation to join the hello/waving chorus – it makes me smile even more than the Cambodian kids) I decided to show off by waving with both hands whilst also taking my feet off the peddles which was met with hilarity and encouragement to do it over and over again despite huge trucks hurtling past at one point.  Thankfully, I survived my fit of stupidity and they eventually turned off leaving me to once more cycle along at a leisurely pace watching the comings and goings of locals and tourists alike.

Having popped in to the Japanese secondhand store for a mooch around the assorted tat and crap on sale and watched the monks give a rapid fire blessing to the local beuty(sic) parlour I eventually I stopped again.  After ensuring my bike was sufficiently shielded to avoid it toppling in the breeze chose a prime corner seat to once more sip coffee, read my book and engage in more people watching.

Two telephone engineers caught my eye, especially the one who, wearing a floppy straw hat and flipflops, proceeded to climb a precariously placed ladder to dick about with wires at the top of a pole despite the gusts of wind that threatened to topple him.  Despite the wind’s best efforts he completed the wire instillation and he and his mate were soon off to the next pole on the road to repeat the antics.

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People a plenty passed by, including some Kampot institutions like crazy pyjama man and the legend that is ‘dreads in a bike basket’ man and I spent a pleasant hour or so flipping  between reading my book and gazing out on life going on in front of me.  At the point that one of the huge umbrellas at an adjacent table unceremoniously toppled over sending the basket of assorted condiments flying I decided it was probably time for me to be on my way and so I settled up and hopped back on my bike.

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Yes the basket at the back is specifically to hold his dreads

Still not ready to return home I zigzagged my way through the streets stopping to grab my favourite street snack of fried bananas and kicking off another hello chorus with the group of school kids also snack purchasing post morning class but still slightly pre lunch.

By the time I reached the big blue house, four hours had passed since my departure and I had happy memories of a morning spent pootling which thanks to the now subsided coffee jitters I’ve eventually managed to write down.

Caution Roadworks Ahead

I returned to Kampot in September to discover that the process of resurfacing the main road past the market had commenced.  Apparently, it had already been going on for quite some time by the time I arrived back, partly because everything in Cambodia takes forever and a day to complete.  However, there was another reason for the slow progress. According to the more blokey blokes who frequent the Kampot Noticeboard on Facebook and are self proclaimed experts on such matters, this section of road was being resurfaced to international standards, which to your average Joe (or Sara) means that they were putting 2 layers of metal grids and copious blue drainage pipes into wooden frames and then filling said frames with concrete to create a road made up of a patchwork of huge concrete slabs.

 

The work stopped for the Pchum Ben holiday in the middle of September by which time the slabs on the roadside closest to the market had been completed and quickly claimed as ground level stalls by numerous market traders, rendering the newly surfaced road useless for its intended purpose.

 

Once the holiday was over, work continued slowly but steadily to complete the patchwork of concrete and coming past the market on my way home today I was pleased to see that the road is finally complete, relatively smooth and partially open to traffic again – although in fairness, it was never really closed as the signs and bollards indicating the closure were ignored by all and sundry as is the standard practice when confronted with a traffic sign in Cambodia.

 

Meanwhile, back in the lovely lane that leads to my big blue home, copious amounts of rain and some dubious driving skills have served to add to the already numerous potholes and also increase the span and depth of many existing ones you may have seen in my little video showing my cycle ride out to town.

 

After a weekend of awesome storms (think skies filled with disco lightning flashes and thunder claps that shake the building) and heavy rain (approximately 60mm between 5 and 7am on Sunday apparently) I tentatively ventured out on my bike on Monday and once I’d navigated the flooded driveway from the house and made it out into the lane discovered that someone had been carrying out roadworks in the lane too.

 

Sadly, whilst these repairs were much more speedy than the 6 month effort of resurfacing a few hundred yards of road at the market, the rrepair techniques employed are not quite up to those international standards.  Instead of pouring concrete our road workers have employed the tried and tested methods of:

 

Chucking a load of broken bricks and tiles in the hole until it is filled to the level of the road around it.  Yep, it means there’s not a pothole or a puddle to navigate but bike tyres and sharp bits of pot a happy union do not make. And so I find myself skirting through the mud at the edge of the repair to avoid another puncture (the last one occurred last week courtesy of my foolish attempts to ride across a similar surface elsewhere in town).

A second fix finds workers chucking loads of mud, rubbish, soot and polystyrene into a hole.  Because that’s not going to get churned by tyres is it?  Oh hang on, wait a minute….

But my all time favourite has to be the fill a road wide pothole with sand which will mix with the water already in the hole to create a thick, gloopy swamp as it gets churned by tyres.  This repair method becomes even more interesting when, as we’ve had this week, additional rain falls and turns said swamp into a pool the colour of diarrhoea with a consistency just thick enough to not be pure liquid but not solid enough to allow bike tyres purchase (in other words also similar to diarrhoea).

Imagine the joy I experienced as a woman with an odd phobia of dirty muddy surfaces trying to cycle through that on my way home today.  My stomach churned as I slowly entered the swamp, the squelching sounds as I crossed it alerting me to what I already knew would meet me should me and my bike part company.

 

Oh concrete road, how me, my flip flops and my bike love thee!

 

Mind your language

Note: I’ve just discovered this post that was written, but never published, in April 2017 at the start of 8 weeks of laughter filled lessons where my Khmer language knowledge (and my confidence in using it) improved dramatically.  Sadly, thanks to a 3 month return to the UK and a failure to get ‘straight back on the speaking Khmer bus on my return, I have forgotten most of what I’d learnt and lost my confidence to try once more.  I desperately need to get back to the books and start to speak again and in putting this post out there am inviting you to nag me into submission in this regard.  And in the meantime, enjoy the post!

 

There are five of us (six if you count Norman) attending our first Khmer class.  It’s 5pm on a balmy Monday evening in Kampot and we sit anxious and expectant as our teacher, an American (white) Rastafarian, introduces us to the alien sounds of Khmer phonetics.

 

It took a lot for me to put myself in this situation – I rarely engage in group learning, so fearful am I of being found out to be less than perfect, or even worse a total fraud of a human being.

 

But it seemed like an opportunity too good to miss.  The classes were cheap, time wasn’t an issue and the teacher, an American, sold the lessons based on a focus on getting the message across as opposed to getting it perfectly correct.  A huge tick on my learning a language checklist.

 

Whilst others stared blankly, I sat smug thanks to the few lessons I joined at VSO when I first arrived in Cambodia. However, just as the teacher asked me if I wanted to say the sound he was introducing out loud, Norman piped up to tell me that I was “saying it wrong” and before I could stop myself, I had blurted out an emphatic no! I immediately gave myself a metaphorical kick, told Norman to do one and vowed that next time I was asked I’d pull up my big girl pants and try. After all, the only way I was ever going to master this damn language was by putting myself out there and trying to speak it and I was not going to let an effing chimp, no matter how vocal he may be, stop me.

 

With the advantage of that little bit of the language already under my belt I quickly relaxed as we bumbled our way through asking and answering questions pertaining to introducing ourselves, our nationality and our linguistic capabilities before moving on to my specialist subject – numbers.  I’m not sure why but, whatever the language, I find numbers really easy to learn.  Maybe it’s the fact that you can recite them sequentially (I was a huge fan of times table recitation as a kid and to be honest still am – #geek), they form a pattern that makes sense or some other reason I can’t think of, the fact is I’m pretty damn good at learning them.

 

I confidently answered when asked my age and then proceed to become teacher’s pet by translating back to English my fellow students’ numerical responses to the same question.

 

As I glanced around the class I couldn’t help but have a little giggle to myself.  I was in an odd, advantageous position here.  Not only did I know some of the language already but I also got what the teacher was trying to do as he was using tried and tested EFL teaching methods to help us to learn – at times the frustration on his and the other students faces was plain to see and painful to watch.  I quietly observed as my classmates played out language student stereotypes by studiously looking down at their book to avoid the teacher catching their eye and asking them a question; presenting the ‘rabbit in the headlight’ stare when they were unfortunate enough to be asked a question; repeating the question out loud in a bid to avoid having to think of the answer; flipping word order to mirror that of their native tongue; and grinning like a Cheshire cat when the teacher told them they’d done well (once he’d translated his Khmer response of very good into English for them that is).

 

And before I knew it, class was over.  I headed home, cycling along feeling chuffed to bits that I put myself out there and carefully reciting my newly learned phrases ready to practice on the guest house cleaner in the morning.

 

Same same, but different

A popular saying here in South East Asia, same same, but different is the perfect phrase to sum up my experiences this past week.   My work took me away from my sleepy existence by the river to indulge in the bright lights, big city of Phnom Penh, once my home but now in the main just a place that I talk to people about whilst swinging in hammocks or sitting in cafes playing at life.

 

I usually get the Kampot Express bus when I go to the city, paying the princely sum of $6 to be crammed in to a minibus with minimal legroom and over the course of 3.5 hours get cramp in my legs and shooting pains in my back as I’m thrown about like a rag doll thanks to  the driver careering down highway No.3 at warp speed swerving in and out of the traffic like a lunatic and banging his hand on the horn like his life depends on it.

 

This time however, I discovered that my friends Leo & Gina were travelling to PP on the same day as me on the much more luxurious (you can move your legs, charge up your electronics and even get a complimentary bottle of water, Danish pastry & smelly wet wipe thingy) Giant Ibis and so I decided to push the boat out and join them, paying $9 for the privilege.  To be fair there was still a hell of a lot of horn blowing but the pace of driving was sedate and the overtaking smooth and measured.   So much so in fact that I actually felt confident looking out of the front window for the majority of the journey rather than fixing my glare to one side to avoid seeing how close to death I was coming at any given point.  And in doing so I was lucky to witness a first for me in Cambodia – a school crossing patrol.  We had ground to a halt and I looked up to see two small kids wheeling big stop barriers into the middle of the road.  A stream of kids proceeded to trot across as the traffic sat patiently waiting on either side of the barriers.  This is no mean feat in a nation where a group of policemen shouting and frantically blowing whistles at a crossroads with traffic light fail to achieve the same.  Once all the kids had safely crossed, the mini lollipop men carefully wheeled their barriers, which were taller than them by the way, back to their parking spot and the traffic moved on.

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Not the best shot as it was taken through the front windscreen but you can see the miracle that is stopped traffic!

Sophat picked me up from the bus station and in a fit of ‘same same’ proceeded to regularly turn away from looking where he was going to regale me with tales of how much things cost – apparently the new condos at the Olympic Stadium (which is moving to a new location at extortionate cost!) are being marketed for rent for the obscene price of $2000 per month.  There was a little bit of ‘but different’ though in that Sophat announced that he’s going to be a dad – his lovely wife is due to have a little girl (which I demanded he call Sara) in January of next year.  The grin on his face when he told me this was bright enough to light up the whole city and brought a little tear to my eye as I know how long they’ve been trying to have a child.

 

My main reason for the trip to Phnom Penh was to deliver a workshop for a group of Cambodians.   Thankfully, in a huge change from my previous Phnom Penh workshop experiences within the Ministry of Fish I was blessed with a group of motivated, energetic and enthused participants who were, in the main, eager to learn rather than just being there for the monetary gain of a daily subsistence allowance paid for attendance.  Although there were no painful opening and closing speeches to endure, everyone was of course late despite many of them having arrived at the venue and reserved their preferred seat notebooks, glasses cases, a handbag and in one case a huge bag of bananas before I’d even got there to set up and the painful group photo experience did occur (twice, due to poor location choice on the first attempt). I also experienced the most prolific selfie taking behaviour I have ever known during a workshop – every time I turned around I was either part of or witness to another selfie being taken (I put it down to a large number of the participants being from a mobile phone company) but other than that the phone related activity was thankfully less prolific (in the morning at least) than has previously been my experience.

 

As usual the group contained a class clown who, when the group were reticent to consider stories of themselves and/or colleagues living the corporate values proceeded to regale us with a ‘hilarious’ hotel/prostitute/condom based tale complete with a hint of casual racism thrown in.   Cringe worthy in the extreme as it was I gave myself a huge pat on the back as, In a fit of genius, I managed to demonstrate a way in which his story linked to the values work we were doing, putting coco the clown firmly in his place and getting the workshop back on track #winning!

 

Visits to Phnom Penh always involve meeting up with friends who live and work in the city.  Phirum and I caught up on Tuesday and as usual we talked all things life, family and work whilst giggling a lot.  She reminded me that this time last year we were also together, but that time in Battambang with my & her family, celebrating Water Festival together.

 

Post workshop on Wednesday was the time to meet the lovely Serena from VSO.  It was with Serena that I had a very strange massage experience a while back and also went to a spa place where we were the only women amongst a number of Cambodian men drinking beer and watching sport whilst we tried to relax in the Jacuzzi.  What’s more, my other Phnom Penh based spa activity was with the lovely Kheang and Phirum and involved mixing up and then  smearing our bodies with sour milk, tamarind, lime and other bizarre foodstuffs.  So, when she suggested we go to a spa to use the steam room and Jacuzzi I was slightly trepidatious.  I needn’t have worried however, as the spa we were going to this time was in one of the most beautiful hotels in Phnom Penh – The Plantation.  OMG!  What followed was 2 hours of absolute bliss in our own private Jacuzzi, steam and sauna and as an added bonus, Serena announced that we got a huge discount thanks to her knowing the manager #winningagain.

I stayed in my usual hotel and was greeted like an old friend by the manager and staff – even the new ones that I’d never met before seemed to know who I was, hopefully an indication of how much I’m liked rather than infamy – at least that’s what I tell myself!!!

 

On first glance the streets around were familiar, but as I wandered I noticed how much had changed, new restaurants and shops had popped up, buildings had been demolished and one notable one had appeared housing a brand new Starbucks which was due to open today – bleurgh!  Further afield in the Russian Market the changes to the landscape were even more marked, what was already a vibrant area of the city sported so many new bars and restaurants I lost count and huge blocks of shiny new apartments had sprung up from god know where.  Some things hadn’t changed though.  A walk through the Russian Market itself solicited the same endless offers of t-shirts and other tourist tat from every single stall holder, despite them having heard me say no to their neighbour and  as I wandered the streets every single tuktuk driver, stationary or on the move, offered me his services.

 

And on the subject of tuktuks, wow what a change.  Post spa chillout on Wednesday, Serena and I were heading near to her home to eat (and enjoy a lovely large chilled glass of Sangiovese in my case) so she did no more than pulled out her phone and summoned a tuktuk via an app – how very 21st century eh!?!  The regular ‘you want tuktuk?’ guys watched in dismay as we tracked our drivers arrival via the app and once he arrived (in one of those little comedy Indian style tuktuks) there was no negotiating to be done as the prices are fixed and shown on the app!  And even better than that, it was bloody cheap – less than $1, which during my time in the big smoke was an impossible dream of a tuktuk fee, you were lucky if some of them would stoop to accepting $2.

 

Popping to the shops to grab some supplies before heading back to Kampot I was greeted with one more element of same same, and one that I particularly love – the random bonkersness that is Phnom Penh.  On route to the shop I witnessed a woman transporting a huge (and hideous) picture on the back of a motorbike and a tuktuk piled high with watermelons that on further examination also contained a woman lying in a hammock strung so high her stomach was touching the roof.

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And then once in the shop I turned a corner to be greeted by another example of the ‘same same’ which is Phnom Penh madness, this time in the form of the ‘but different’ never seen before (and if I’m honest never seeing it again will be no loss) Gorilla Snot Gel!

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Definitely time to go home!

Water, water everywhere

Being a sweaty bird and living in constant 30 degree plus temperatures with ridiculously high humidity means that a lot of water is consumed on a daily basis.  And when I say a lot I’m talking on average between 3 & 6 litres a day depending on how active I’m being.

 

Thankfully, I am able to access fresh drinking water from a tap unlike many in Cambodia.  However, said tap is not attached to the mains as it is in the UK but comes courtesy of 20 litre blue bottles, bottles which have to be purchased from a shop.  The initial purchase involves a $5 deposit being paid after which you just rock up at the shop with your empty bottle and they replace it with a full one for the princely sum of between 75 cents and a dollar a pop.

 

When I first arrived in Kampot I lived at My Parent’s Guesthouse my water supply needs were met by the shop at the end of the lane.  I would carry the empty bottle down, pay my money and utter, in very poor Khmer, a request that the strong, smiley and super helpful son of the owner deliver said full bottle to my room.  Sometime between 1 and 6 hours later (and sometimes after a revisit to prompt) the lovely smiley boy would appear with the bottle perched on his shoulder and place it in my kitchen, his reward for which was a ‘tip’ of between 25c & $1 from me depending on my mood and what currency I had to hand.

 

September saw my move to the big blue house that I now call home and an induction to all things water purchase from the lovely Linda.

 

Again, it involves a visit to the local shop, but sadly there is no strong, smiley and super helpful son in the picture here which means the collecting and carrying has to be done by me and leads to this post today.

 

We headed out along the notoriously bumpy lane to the shop around the corner with the trusty bike and a bungee cord, collected 2 bottles of water (after all there were two of us) perched one precariously on the seat whilst securing the other to the rack with the bungee cord and made our way back home.  Whilst laughing uproariously we slowly manoeuvred the bike replete with bottles around and through the potholes galore, whilst getting slowly soaked from the sweat of our exertions in blazing sunshine and 90% humidity, coupled with the slightly leaky nature of the water bottles.

 

Once home we negotiated the gate, parked up the bike and proceeded to transport the bottles upstairs.

Yep we did pose for a selfie – so proud were we of having made it home

And just so you get an idea of what transporting the bottles upstairs entails, the below pictures (one taken from eye level standing in front of the bottom step and the other from the top step looking directly down) hopefully gives you some idea of the pitch of the two flights of stairs we had to climb, each carrying a 20litre bottle of water which was slowly dripping down our already sweat sodden bodies.

We made it to the top, deposited the bottles in place and proceeded to sweat profusely and giggle loudly for a while longer.

 

Life then continued without water issues until Linda left and the time came for me to attempt the water purchase alone for the first time.

 

Getting the bottle onto the bike was not a big problem, making the decision not to use the bungee cord and instead rely on holding the bottle was as it turned out.

 

I wobbled unsteadily for about 20 yards before hitting a pothole at a funny angle which threw the bike off balance and the bottle crashing to the floor.  Water began to gush from a split in the bottle and I had to move pretty damn quick to get the bottle back up on the bike and turned over to avoid losing the whole 20litres to the dust.

 

I managed to teeter home without further incident and get the bottle upstairs with only about 3-4 litres lost to the road and my clothes.  What was left was decanted into the other bottle and life once more continued.

 

Bottle collection two passed without incident thanks partly to the sensible decision to use of the bungee cord and partly due to luck I think.  On collection number three I experienced a little wobble as I again hit a pothole causing the bike to tip with the bungee cord only just managing to stop the bottle’s fall but subsequent collections, including the one yesterday passed without incident.

 

That said, I was aware that yesterday’s bottle, whilst not leaking profusely on the bike as others had, was extremely wet when I picked it up, so much so that it caused me to stop halfway up the stairs to dry off my feet which I feared were getting wet enough to make me to slip on the stairs from hell.

 

Anyway, thankfully nothing untoward occurred and I placed the bottle on the floor and went about the rest of my day.

 

This morning dawned bright and sunny and I got up to make myself a peppermint tea as I engaged in my morning ritual of reading mindless trash on the internet.  Filling the kettle involved using the last of the other bottle of water and so I placed that one on the floor and bent down to lift the new one into its place.  As I grabbed it it felt wet.  It crossed my mind that it might be difficulty to hold.  I ignored said thought and proceeded.  I tucked my hands under the base with my arms cradling either side of the bottle, took the weight and began to lift.

 

And then it happened.

 

The bottle unceremoniously tipped and slid out of my arms crashing to the floor. This caused the lid to shoot across the room and the bottom of the bottle to split thus sending the 20 litres of drinking water flooding out all over the lounge floor.

 

I may have let out a slight scream just before uttering a muted ‘oh for fuck sake’ and stupidly trying to run out to the terrace to grab stuff to stem the flow.  It turns out that running on shiny tiles that are flooded is a real dumb ass move just in case you’re wondering.  Whilst I did manage to avoid falling flat on my arse I am now sporting a slight groin strain causing me to walk like I’ve just got off a horse.

 

Fast forward one hour, countless wringing out of old towels and t-shirts (thanks Linda for leaving them behind), endless squeegeeing of the floor to shift the water into one area and pouring two full mop buckets of it over the balcony onto the crab swamp and I have decamped to Simply Things to let the remainder dry off whilst I get shit done.

I’m not scared to admit I’m dreading going back and cleaning up what remains.  I’m dreading facing Sareth as he’ll no doubt laugh at what an absolute numpty I’ve been, but even more I’m dreading the fact that I now have to go through the whole bloody collecting a bottle of water thing all over again having smugly though yesterday I have about a week before experiencing that hell once more!

Update from home:

Well, I decided to bite the bullet and go straight out to get the deed done on returning home.  You will be pleased to know I made it from the shop to home with no catastrophe and have also successfully navigated the stairs and placed the new bottle safely on the counter.

I have, however managed to suffer another mishap during my exploits and so I am sitting down to enjoy my rather expensive packet of McVities Ginger Nuts and can of ‘I don’t really like it that much but it makes a change from water’ Coke Light post trauma treat nursing a very bloody thumb thanks to my attempts to bodge the broken plastic into the gap in the bottom of the empty, part shattered bottle to try and hide my crime – you couldn’t  make it up could you!?!?!?!?!