You fucked me up, you fucked me over, you ripped me off and you wrote me off.
In some epic Karmic comebacks, you drove me to extremes. I crashed, I burned, I got sick, stung and sunburnt.
But then you showed me your body- racked and wrecked by war, politics, poverty and plastic. Bare and barren and shunted behind shiny new hotels.
You showed me your people – the shy, the angry, the cheerful and smiling, the fruit shake makers and the baguette bakers. The drunks, the beggars, the victims, the desperate for a dollar. In a bar, a Cambodian woman hangs on the arm of a balding, overweight white guy, her tight-fitting t-shirt reads “Rich Bitch”.
And in neat lost & found boxes I found the foreigners. Expats and visitors and volunteers and bright eyed backpackers. The Israeli kids fresh from army service, the reserved German boys with neat haircuts, the super spiritual crystal-and-brass adorned hippies of the modern age. Stoners with ukuleles. Yogis, trippers. Circus folk and wall flowers, the party animals. The old guys. You never see them arrive, but suddenly they’re there, in the corner of the bar, with crazy hair, patterned shirts, and an endless supply of marijuana and stories. Greyed and wizened by a life of drugs, women and epic adventures, these travelling old-timers recall tales of Nepal in the 70’s, of seeing Jimmy Hendrix live, or of years spent in Indian ashrams. They’ve fought and flourished through wars, divorce and disease. And now they’re here, looking for…. what?
You shared with me sumptuous bounties of mango, papaya, pineapple, and dragon fruit. You shared with me what you can, but what did I give back? A dollar here, a dollar there, into which lost & found box did you throw me?
You let me peek into the outer fringe of your forests. You let me play on the white sands of your crystal clear bays. You romanced me under the starlight, where iridescent blue sparkles trail in the wake of bare skin slipping through silky water. Under the moonlight, salty skin dries by a driftwood fire, and I’m rocked to sleep by the gentle lapping of the tide on your shore.
You showed me all of this, Cambodia, but your soul, we never met…
You kept it well concealed behind tourist attractions and Western restaurants and cheap beer. An old woman begs outside a Porsche dealership. A family of six sleeps in the back room of a top dollar restaurant, next to the toilets. You’re a complex set of contrasts, Cambodia. Even though you sling at us scooter accidents and stomach bugs. Even though you turn the smallest bump or bite into an angry, suppurating mess. Even though all your visitors are beat up and bandaged, they keep coming back for more.
I just hope we’re good for you. I’m not so sure.