Welcome to Flashpacers Resort (please leave your sanity at the gate)

I moved house recently, safe in the knowledge that my bonkers quotient was going to be upped in the process.

What I didn’t quite realise though was the extent to which that would be the case.

Mama and papa are indeed lovingly bonkers which I hope I’ve managed to portray in my recent ramblings.  Since writing those blogs, papa has had two more post work p*ss ups resulting in noisy, laughter filled evenings and him spending a night spent in the hammock he collapsed into and failed to be roused from.    Here’s a little snippet of him attempting to harvest mangoes post party

This bonkersness pales into insignificance however, when it’s compared to that of my fellow residents.

Tom, a big lumbering Texan guy with a dodgy shoulder, selective deafness and a penchant for loud but fairly decent music, is mama’s favourite, so much so that they share a house together.  Tom’s a bit of a game player.  With mama wrapped around his little finger (and papa wrapped around hers) what Tom says goes.  Mama ministers to his every need illustrated in all its glory when Tom was recently struck down with a serious, life threatening (according to Tom & mama) illness, better known as man flu.

The first I knew about it was when my neighbour, Gary, was called in to the sick bay to assist mama in her ministrations.  He reappeared a few minutes later laughing uproariously having been required to hold a torch whilst mama ‘coined’ Tom to within an inch of his life.  For those of you who don’t know what it is, Wikipedia describe it as:

“…a traditional Chinese medical treatment in which the skin is scraped to produce light bruising. Practitioners believe coining releases unhealthy elements from injured areas and stimulates blood flow and healing”

Coining complete, mama emerged and screeched for papa.  He was sent off in the dark on herb sourcing missions as mama noisily cooked up ‘Bo Bo’ (the rice porridge which cures all ills here) for her terminal patient.  She fussed and clucked as Tom coughed & barked and moaned & groaned like a good old bloke with man flu, emerging periodically to display her ‘very worried’ face and mutter ‘Tom, Tom, ot l’or (not good)’.

Mama’s nursing of Tom continued unceasingly and miraculously, after a day of bed rest and copious servings of Bo bo, Tom was back to his blundering, blustering self despite once more declaring that he had been “at death’s door”.  Mama on the other hand was coughing and spluttering like an old geezer, sweating like a moose and generally looking like shit on a stick, but still carrying on as normal despite mine and Gary’s pleas for her to rest.

And all the while this episode of carry on sick person is playing out, our resident Scandinavian lunatic (let’s just call him P) and his long suffering, malnourished, slightly feral looking Cambodian girlfriend/wife ‘The Grinch’ wreak havoc about the place with the development of  ‘Flashpacers’.

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The Grinch dressed as a candy cane for the festive season

For those of you who are wondering, Flashpacers is the name the wonderful P has given to the restaurant at the front of the property.  It should actually be Flashpackers, but in his hurry to spray paint anything that stays still long enough (a termite hill has been transformed into a spewing volcano thanks to this art) he missed out a critical K and so Flashpacers was born.

 

P is well known within the Kampot community.  On beginning to describe him to my friend Freya I had barely uttered ‘Danish bloke, feral girlfriend’ and she loudly declared “Oh my god it’s not P is it?” and then regaled me tales of his previous failed ventures around town – a Kampot Magical Mystery Tour complete with Beatles themed advertising being one of the better ones (healing tours to the mud of the salt flats being towards the other end of the spectrum).  P has run various eating establishments in the town, all of them failing miserably after a short time ranging from two weeks to six months and has now set up camp in the only place dumb enough to let him, AKA mama and papa’s.

 

When he first arrived he declared that he was opening an Atkins themed restaurant as it was unique and there was a need for this in the area??? And to this end he has lovingly spray painted Meat Feast $4 on a random cabinet in the seating area.   However, on presenting his marketing material to me this week he appears to have had a change of heart and is instead marketing his premises based on the strap line ‘shy girl is shy’??? which stems from his hate of the dust masks worn by many in Asia.   According to P, the women of Cambodia (and Korea where his passionate dislike of this attire was originally nurtured) are not wearing these masks to protect themselves from pollution but are in fact making a fashion statement.  His long monologue on the subject also made reference to the use of mobile phones and wearing of sun visors and the fact that his restaurant was a protest against all of this.  P’s Christmas Day unveiling of the western menu for Flashpacers (which uses the Kiss Unmasked image to add weight to his argument as does its Khmer counterpart) revealed that this protest also extends to Facebook (but not Instagram or Twitter (I checked)) because “when a chef like him has lovingly cooked a delicious béchamel sauce for 24 hours his customers should be prepared to listen to his wonderful stories that take hours in the telling (those were seriously his words) and not think Facebook is more interesting!”

Satisfied that he had his marketing in the bag, P proceeded to celebrate Christmas Day by getting sh*t faced.  On returning from her work in some god forsaken factory where she earns next to nothing (but far more than P ever earns from his failed ventures judging the fact that he’s had zero customers in the week he’s been open here) The Grinch was suitably unimpressed as she tried (and failed) to get him to go to sleep rather than staggering around generally being a nutter.  He finally collapsed in a heap on his terrace only to wake a couple of hours later and stagger around in his boxer shorts in the pouring rain muttering about his poor wife who was having to sleep in a puddle.

P is convinced that his development of Flashpacers is a real asset to our homes, which he insists are part of the Flashpacers Resort of which he is the self-appointed manager.

This title apparently gives P the right to move things around the property as he sees fit (nicking gravel and plants from outside our houses to put in his restaurant), give random stuff away (papa’s garden hose and Tom’s potting compost being two recent examples of stuff going missing which has laterly been attributed to Ps gifting) and play music and have disco lights flashing all through the night.  The latter are thankfully not audible/visible from my little abode at the other end of the row but a constant source of irritation to another recently returned resident loony, Jersey Jack, who proudly unloaded a freakish life sized Santa from his truck when he arrived on Saturday and shared his stories of being Cambodia’s Father Christmas!!!!

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The freakish Santa, property of one of the residents of the asylum I call home

But Jack’s irritation will be of no concern to P who has on two occasions now told me that he is “big in politics” here in Cambodia (apparently, this is going to help him with his protest marketing campaign) and proudly displays a photo of himself with his arm around Hun Sen in the restaurant when he’s not sticking it in people’s faces that is.  And what’s more, I’ve this morning learned that musician P (he told me early on that he was reforming his band and going on tour at some point in the future and more spray painting at the restaurant claims that there will be live bands and Junge (sic) music) regularly plays violin for the king and Queen of Cambodia no less.

One is honoured and humbled to be in the company of such an important nutter and waits in hope for the day they visit our humble abode here at the asylum that is Flashpacers Resort!

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Big in politics is our man P

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Papa

As well as “Michae – Michae”, “Tooooom-Toooom”, Garee-Gareeeee & my own moniker “Teacher-Teacher” there’s another shrill call that reverberates around our compound courtesy of the very loud mama – that of “Bong Ahhhh” which she proudly tells me means Honey!

This call brings out hiding the other half of the double act that are the owners of my new home – Papa. A wiry chain-smoker of a chap, he very much lives under mama’s thumb, never complaining, just quietly getting on with the task at hand (and believe me there are many of them) a lit cigarette permanently hanging from his mouth and a look of weary resignation in his eyes.

Papa didn’t really speak to me for the first couple of days of my tenure, in fact he didn’t even look in my direction. I knew there was nothing aloof or sinister in this though it was purely a case of what on earth would an old Cambodian bloke have to say to a middle aged western woman.

All this changed last Thursday though. Having been into town for drinks and dinner with a friend I was, for me, late home (approximately 8pm). Mama had planted herself on Gary’s terrace and they were chatting – when I say chatting, I actually mean that Mama was babbling away in Khmer while Gary drank beer, laughed a lot and occasionally interjected with a “yea, yea, yea” despite not having a clue what Mama was saying.

I joined them and talk turned to the fruit Mama had brought for us all earlier – a couple of kilos of bananas and a papaya the size of a healthy baby boy had appeared on my table whilst I was in the shower that morning and mama was keen to check I liked them (‘Do you like xxx?’ being one of the few questions I understand and can answer in my pigeon Khmer).

Whilst we were all laughing uproariously as we worked out that mama asking us if we liked bingo whilst pointing in a vaguely upwards direction was actually her attempt at pronouncing mango, a motorbike roared into the courtyard, skidding to a halt just shy of the path with a very cheery and slightly wobbly papa atop.

Grinning, he stumbled off the bike and in response to Gary’s drink gesturing bellowed loudly “CHUO MOUY!” the Cambodian way of saying “Down in one”.

A beer can appeared and was plonked into papa’s shaky hand as he precariously stumbled around the terrace grinning like a loon and alternately bellowing “chuo mouy” before turning to me and uttering “som tow, som tow” – sorry, sorry.

And all the while, mama sat next to me grinning and patting my leg whilst subtly reaching out to keep papa upright each time he stumbled, a look of pure love and adoration in her eyes despite his ridiculous pissedness.

After a while I bid everyone a goodnight (this elicited a double ‘sorry, sorry’ from papa) and headed inside, lying on my bed listening to papa’s uproarious giggling and ‘chuo mouys’ long after I’d turned my light out.

Friday morning dawned bright and breezy and at around 6am I took up my usual place on the terrace with a mug of hot water with lime and radio 2 for company. Usually by this time papa is out and about, his early morning duties including letting the dogs out of for their morning toilet needs and wheeling out his and mama’s motorbikes. This morning however, there was no sign of him with mama eventually rolling out her own moto at around 6.45am and bidding me a cheery good morning as she headed off alone for breakfast.

Mama returned and finally, around 9am, papa emerged looking rough and a little bit sheepish but with the obligatory ciggy hanging from his mouth and a cheeky little glint in his eye. A day of curiously few “Bong Aaahs!” followed, even the “Tom, Toms” and “Gary, Garys” were subdued as papa was allowed to recover from his overindulgence of the night before.

Around teatime, on his regularly sunset incense lighting tour of the property (for mosquito repelling purposes in case you’re wondering) papa stopped to light up a stick outside my terrace and tentatively looked up to meet my gaze. I smiled, said hello and then couldn’t resist slipping in a cheeky “sorry, sorry” whilst grinning widely. Slowly a smirk formed, which turned into a laugh and finally the ice was broken.

Papa and I still don’t have a lot to say to each other, to be honest we probably never will. But we now make eye contact as he goes about his endless round of chores for mama, he occasionally says hello and yesterday even asked me a question (which mama had to translate from his extremely quickly spoken, heavily accented Khmer to her slow, loud, teacher Khmer complete with gesticulations for me to understand but hey ho! it’s progress).

And when he’s had a few cans he continues to yell copious Chuo Moys with Gary and his other drinking buddies whilst saving his best “sorry, sorrys” especially for the moments when I’m present.

Bonkers but good

“Michae, Michae!”

 

“Michae, Michae!”

 

“Michae, Michae!”

 

The call is repeated at least ten times more as MaMa, my new landlady (real name Pon La), tries incessantly to attract the attention of one of my new neighbours (Michael, in case you hadn’t worked that out already) to enlist his help in translating something that I don’t understand.

 

To be honest, I don’t understand 95% of what MaMa says to me but can generally fob her off with a nod, smile and a yeah, yeah, yeah (one of her favourite catchphrases) but just occasionally she asks me a question that requires an answer and we hit a roadblock requiring poor, long suffering Michael to step away from whatever he’s doing and facilitate.

 

Michael is quite used to this having lived with MaMa for a while now, as is Gary my next-door neighbour, who has in the 24 hours since I moved in been summoned via the standard duplicate name call to variously deliver plants to make my terrace beautiful, move my new fridge in to the kitchen, confirm that I can buy water from MaMa (he doesn’t speak Khmer but this doesn’t deter MaMa who just adds in the throwing around of her arms whilst babbling away loudly in Khmer to get her message across), reiterate that I can’t turn my new fridge on until the next day (ditto the last request) which he’d already warned me MaMa would tell me when he shifted it in to the kitchen and to show him how beautifully I’ve set up my space.

 

There’s no doubt about it, the move to my new home has significantly upped the bonkersness quotient in my life.  In fairness, it was in large part due to MaMa’s friendly bonkersness when I viewed the place on Saturday that I was drawn to move here.  And while I’m 100% certain that at times she’s going to drive me crackers, my double-barrelled name is Teacher, Teacher which she utters loudly in her shrill voice every time she passes my house, there’s so much kind gentleness oozing out of every pore of her that I know my frustration will be short lived.

 

And the craziness of my new home doesn’t stop at MaMa, as we have a menagerie of animals consisting of 4 dogs and 2 cats (well I think there’s 2 but there may be more).  Whilst the dogs do spend most of their time lounging languorously in the shade, they also have the most amazing ability to bark and yap randomly at people and to wind each other up (or get wound up by the cats) leading to a screeching cacophony of barks, yelps and yaps silenced only by an inelegant shriek from the indomitable MaMa.

The wonderful thing about all this craziness is that it happens in the wonderful surroundings of a little courtyard, filled with tropical trees and plants (check out that bunch of bananas right outside my front door), birds chirping and insects buzzing.

But best of all, is the one thing that truly really makes me know it’s all going to be alright.  The thing I’ve been craving but refusing to acknowledge for the last three months – my own front door, with a lock and a key (and a bolt too).  And behind that door, my little haven of bedroom, bathroom and kitchen – a safe space in which to bask in the bonkersness of my new home.

This little video gives you a taste of the view from my front door (the one with the lock and bolt that I control!)

Addendum: 2pm Day 2

MaMa has been out twice today – the return from journey 1 heralded a call of “Teacher, Teacher” followed by the ceremonial handing over of a packet of sesame biscuits

Journey 2’s end – same call and delivery of a cup of sugarcane juice.

Sure ain’t gonna go hungry or thirsty!

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Things I’ve learnt this week

I said goodbye to my motivation this weekend.  We’d been enjoying a good few weeks together with me putting in regular hours at the keyboard, being uber productive and hence feeling good about myself, but then, suddenly on Friday afternoon Mr Motivation just picked up his bags and left town.

It’s now Thursday morning.  A tiny bit of motivation came knocking this morning and so I am attempting once more to work.  It’s not been smooth sailing though.  I may or may not have spent the first hour and a half of this morning reading shite on the internet and right now  have two half-finished versions of a blog post about this past week that just don’t flow or feel right and so I’ve decided that they’re going in the bin and instead you’re going to get a list.  Just a little old list of random stuff I’ve learnt, or relearnt, over the past week:

  1. Water buffalo are fascinating. 20 minutes spent watching them moving from somewhere to somewhere else at the salt fields yesterday confirmed this one for me.  Here’s a little video I made of their antics

    2. Throat infections suck. There’s a line about spitting and swallowing that needs to go here but every time I write it it just sounds like smut (as does this to be honest – maybe I just have a very mucky mind

    3. And speaking of drooling (I know I wasn’t but I’m trying to link it to the throat infection point above) LUTHER! OMG! Why have I not watched this sooner.  Perfect, not feeling well and a bit demotivated binge watch material – with added ‘Boy, he’s hot’ drooling.

    4. My hair needs cutting and colouring but does look kinda cool with the wind blowing it into a Mohawk and the black and white filter applied – sometimes I think I maybe have too much time on my hands!

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5. Reading a novel in a day is the best thing ever.

6. Dragonflies are nearly as fascinating as water buffalo. This one seems to be pulled magnetically back to the plant every time he tries to leave

7. Cambodian weddings taking place in the street behind your home make your bed shake constantly and are still audible with headphones in and playing dance music at a volume up in the red danger zone

8. Whilst I apparently can sleep through the din of music and singing/squawking that is a Cambodian wedding happening in the street behind my home, it appears that the taking down of the stage at 2am does not allow me such a luxury

9. Someone who enjoys the sight of her own blood splattered across her hand when she successfully kills yet another mosquito that has taken up residence in her room has to accept that she will never be a Buddhist.

10. My motivation going for a wander is a part of me and I need to just embrace it. Letting Norman beat me over the head with a big stick won’t change it – in fact it’ll just make me feel shitty – so I’m not going to let him do it.  Viva downtime I say

11. Turmeric, lime & honey infusions are my new favourite thing. Admittedly it looks a bit like the wee of a very dehydrated person in the cup, but it tastes lush, makes my throat feel better and is a tad healthier than the god-awful Coke Zero I’ve taken to drinking for some reason.
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12. I can’t think of a twelfth thing to write but ending a list on 11 things feels wrong (ooh that’s the 12th thing I’ve learnt right there then).

So there you have it.  My week of learning in a list.  Happy Thursday y’all.