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!