Tuesday, June 15, 2010
"More Of The Same" This was our assignment for the last four days. I spent four days watching the sky over the Gulf of Thailand, the clouds taking turn forming dragons, apsara dancers, long boats, wats and a few poodles. Funny, how the clouds took on the shape of those things engrained in the culture of the place. Yesterday afternoon, The Girl pointed out a band of clouds near the horizon were the demons and gods churning the sea of milk. I promise, the clouds did at times look like Angkor Wat. My favorite cloud was the dragon being ridden by a Siamese warrior. And no, I haven't been nipping the Mekong Bug Juice. I think we are leaving Cambodia in the nick of time, the rainy season is starting. We had a night long deluge and both of us awakened at the same time, with the same thought: what about the road. There are low parts of the road and low bridges, our journey might be made even more interesting by having to ford standing water. We just made a pit stop about an hour outside of PP (to the north) and it was raining cats, dogs, pigs and water buffalo. Of course, my rain jacket is in my backpack in the luggage hold. But the bus driver almost pulled under the restaurant patio so we didn't get wet. TG finally ate a bug, brave thing that she is. The cricket she sampled was sweet. It was courtesy of the cutest kid, about 13 who shared his snack with her because she bought an older woman trapped beneath a sleeping toddler some water. I had thought all this spider eating, bug imbibing stuff was for the benefit of the tourists but it isn't: people really do eat the bugs. TG's new friend demonstrated one must pull the wings off the cricket first and then eat it in one big bite. She compared the coating to the sesame flavoring Spider Rolls have. All day, our little world rolled through the countryside, honking at cars, cows and bikes along the way. The ditches around the houses were filling and it's fortunate they are on stilts. I can't imagine what this country looks like in July. I'm almost phobic about muddy water (read the leeches episode in On The Banks Of Plum Creek too many times) so I would be hard pressed to venture in such a country during rainy season. Snakes and leeches and pointy stuff to cut me. I sound like such a pussy. If there had been mud puddles in PP, I wouldn't have left the bench in the waiting area.
PP wasn't as overwhelming today as it was a few days ago. TG ventured into the Russian Market across from the station and bought some local fry. I stayed put and made friends with a Buddhist nun. That is, I shared bread and grins with her. I know we both prayed for the obviously demented old woman begging. The woman approached me and I shook my head several times as she was persistant. Tried to kneel before the Buddhist nun but couldn't and instead bowed three times in prayer while holding her hand out. The nun shook her head and pushed her away. This woman had a handbag with her and despite her thin and frail build she looked cared for. It was also obvious she was lost and probably confused. I felt the hackles on the back of my neck raising--why was she alone, didn't she have family?--when a worried young woman rushed into the station area and gently led the woman away and casting back an apologetic look for the people her mother had begged from.
On the way into PP, I had put away the camera and missed Best Picture Of All Time. We had just entered the outskirts of PP and all the sudden we come to a dead stop in the middle of the road; horns are tooting and honking around us. TG stands up and looks over the tops of the seats: "No one's moving big traffic jam.: Our very game and brave bus driver inches his way to the left and begins to make a turn when suddenly everyone who speaks Khmer (that would be everyone except four of the passengers) are furiously screaming at the bus driver. One woman, obviously from the country with a leathery sun darkened face and an assortment of missing teeth, marches down the aisle and is admonishing (?) the driver, pointing and exclaiming when everyone else joins in and the bus is alive with voices no doubt telling the driver what to do. Usually at home, when there is a problem on public transit, the passengers become quieter so the driver can concentrate. I started to laugh because it was just so hilarious, we had busses and trucks and motor bikes and bicycles in this mass of wheeled vehicles going every which direction when all the sudden an ox cart pulling two stunned farmers is coming toward sthe bus as we were making a left turn. Priceless. Worth the cost of the ticket here. Pulitzer material.
The other priceless shot I missed this morning was one I could have taken but wouldn't have in a million years. We had stopped at a small village outside Snookie and a water buffalo was grazing in a ditch just outside my window. I had my camera raised and was snapping a picture (under exposed, I'm still learning) and had lowered to adjust the settings when I noticed a large group of people coming down the road towards the bus. There were three older adults and a few young women, two had small babies in arms. One young woman, was dressed to the nines, and had a large rice sack with her, no doubt her belongings. She was collecting her things and got on the bus and was seated just behind us. I could hear her calling out to her family and urging her baby to wave at them. I pulled the camera down when I saw each member of her family wiping away tears. She was leaving home. Her sisters wrapped their arms around one another, waving and wiping tears from their cheeks, her father bowed and beamed up at the bus, the babies waved and her mother cried. The young women was excited and knew the boy she was sitting with; he had boarded the stop before. Their conversation was enthusiastic and they laughed at things her baby said. Perhaps this was a wedding trip of some sort for them or they had been visiting their respective villages and were on their way home to PP. He married her despite the fact she had another man's child. Or they had decided it was time to leave home and he spent a few days with his family down the road before leaving home. They were tired of farming and she was promised a factory job and he was going to help in his cousin's garage... I could invent one hundred stories. The sisters were older and had the look of young matrons; soft around the middle but still young, maybe they were crying because they weren't leaving their village, maybe she carried their dreams with them to the big city just down National Highway 4, two hours and one world away from home.