Friday, October 25, 2013

Back in the Tuk Tuk Again

I thought of my return to Cambodia in big term: fate and destiny being two of them.  This new chapter of my life felt different in that I was not just falling into the next faze but choosing a new path.  I was to begin this first post of my second year of my not so accurate blog title A Year in Cambodia  "And thus begins................", but then I am here on the streets of Phnom Penh in the heat and the mess and looking for an apartment and missing home and all my musings seem to have disappeared.  Maybe it is Buddhism that has stopped me from thinking in such pretenious ways, thinking that I can control my destiny or alter my fate.  I don't know exactly why I am back or what I will find.  My more immediate concerns, like finding a cool spot or a good place to eat has changed my point of view from global to more street level; in short I am back in the tuk tuk again.

Views from my balcony
I found an apartment in the same neighborhood I lived before, close to school and this one is bigger.  The ceilings are maybe 14 feet high and I could set up a basketball court in my living room.  I went by school to talk with Sandra and was there at 2:30 when it let out.  Many of the staff have changed but the kids were mostly the same.  I got such a nice reception from them, made me feel good about coming back.  I also met a guy named John Brown who has been in Cambodia for many years, he is hooked into the expat community and invited me to a resturant on Sunday to meet a couple.  I have to say they are all characters, they all have stories to tell but I think most of what they say is not true .  Anyway, I had planned to go to Kampot for a could of days and sit out by the river and then start teaching on the 28th.  They all love Kampot and gave me a name and number to contact.  In Kampot Stan says sure come on down to O'Neils, there is a quiz game tonight and our team needs members.  So at 5:30 I am at O'Neil and meet Stan and shortly the whole crowd.  There was Neil, the owner, from Ireland, Blair, a photographer who splits his time between Canada and Nepal and Kampot.  Douglas runs a tree farm, Karen, an Aussie, not sure but knows everything about the area, Jack from the US who has lived in SE Asia for 25 years and is now using Kampot as his "base of operation" but was reluctant to say what his operation was.  Collin, an Aussie, who is blind but surprisingly owns a boat, after a number of beers announces that he will take us all for a ride tomorrow. 

So off we went up the Kampot River to the Chinese Dam.  Neil brought a cooler with a lot of beer and that put us all in jolly mood.  Douglas, the tree farmer, was quite an expert and lover of the trees of Cambodia.  Collin, although blind(we had a Khmer boat driver), knew every turn in the river.  Up the river and into the mountains until we get to the rapids before the Chinese Dam.  Karen says that there are 100 (1000?) Chinese workers who run the dam and that the little Khmer town can get pretty roudy on Saturday night because "for the Chinese, drinking is a contact sport".  Well anyway Collin now announces that the trip up the river was free but if we would like to come back with him it will be $30, then he breaks out a bottle of scotch and soon revises the price to $1 each that will go to the driver.  Some of the homes along the river are quite large and Neil or someone called the owners the idle rich in contrast with them who are the idle poor.  They all agreed rich or poor, the important thing is to be idle. I get the feeling that this group of expats is quite different from the teachers and NGO workers I have fallen in with.  In many ways they embrace the culture more in that they like the slow pace, lack of regulations and expectations.  They have come here to avoid the west not to bring the west to Cambodia.  We make a pit stop on the way back to visit another expat who owns a resort and finally back to Kampot after dark.  Quite an unexpected day.

Back in Phnom Penh now and from the back of the tuk tuk things are not just right.  I can't find Samol, the Bodhi Tree is closed, my camera (actually Violet's) broke (so no pictures of my trip) and the AK does not do wine tasting on Friday nights anymore.  And maybe worst of all SuperCheap does not sell Becks.  How can one control destiny when so many things change?  My expat friends invited me to an all you can eat shrimp fest on Sunday at some resturant by the riverside, I wonder what that might lead to.