phnom penh-omenon

“Are you still happy?”

My friend Sophoat, a Cambodian editor in his fifties, asked me in halting English after we sat at his family’s dinner table. Looking at his face illuminated by candlelight, I’m sure he wasn’t really inquiring into my state of contentment or bliss. The question might have been his way of apologizing for the inconveniences that had beset us, none of which was his fault, coming to his house for dinner.

“Yes, of course,” I answered, smiling a little broader than usual to assure him that I was fine.

Earlier that evening, Sophoat and I waited almost an hour for his son to pick us up. The rain had made traffic worse. When we arrived at his place, I had to take off my shoes and roll up my jeans to wade in the flood for a bit to get to their front door. Electricity was out because of the rain, but we had a lit candle. It cast its light on the food that Sophoat’s wife had prepared for us, and even in the flickering light the meal looked delicious. In no time we were enjoying hot soup, fried chicken, and vegetables.

“My wife is asking if it floods in the Philippines?” Sophoat said while refilling my plate with another serving of rice.

“Oh yes!” I said, looking at the smiling face of Sophoat’s wife. “In many ways, the Philippines is like Cambodia.” Sophoat turned to his wife and translated what I said. He then turned back to me and, forgetting to switch back to English, spoke to me in Khmer for half a minute! Eyebrows furrowed and face blank, I didn’t have the heart to interrupt him. When he realized what he had done, we both laughed. “At least give me one month!” I jested.

Before I left, Sophoat’s wife said something in Khmer, “Preong pro tien poh.” Her son must have seen my puzzled look because he immediately offered a translation: “God bless you.” I managed to say the sentence well enough to elicit a smile and a nod from my hosts.

I was mouthing the foreign words during the drive back to my guest house, determined to etch them in my memory, as a reminder that many miles away from home, God’s blessings abound, giving me more than enough reason to be happy.

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airport blogging

coming to u fr d bangkok airport! pls xcuse d txt spelng – m bloggng fr my pda phone. q’ing at imigratn now. it’s taking so long i hav tym to catch a free wifi sgnal, send email to famly, n blog! d new bkk airport s byutiful ü f only for d free wifi now, i lov bkk alrdy! but of cors ders much mor to xplor. mor wen im on my computr. lalai, my host jst txtd – she’s outside waiting ü hapi wknd y’al!

all my bags are packed…

Well, sort of.

I’ve loaded the green trolley luggage with the major stuff – clothes and pasalubong. The backpack will carry the laptop, book, mp3 player, documents, and several small items. I’ve finally wised up and got myself a small travel kit bag, the kind that unravels and has a hook attached to one end for hanging in the bathroom; it’s half-full now, waiting to receive the toothbrush, toothpaste, and contact lens stuff tomorrow before it gets zipped and stowed in the green luggage.

Why the packing? Well, tomorrow is the start of an eight-day adventure in Bangkok, Thailand and then Phnom Penh, Cambodia 🙂 Thank God for his blessings, especially the ones that require packing bags, crossing seas, and experiencing new things!

Now time for a good night’s rest (but not before I set the alarm!), and then off I go! I’ll be back with pics and stories.

rain

Two minutes before midnight, and it is raining.

I had a not-so-good day, staying home and enduring lower back pain while running a thousand and one things in my head, and then hoping they would all sort themselves out after the long afternoon nap.

But now I hear raindrops and feel the cool breeze on my skin. And everything seems perfect and fresh. I hope the gentle rain continues its lullaby throughout the night…

Five minutes past midnight. A new day has come. I will rest and anticipate a fresh serving of the Lord’s mercies, more refreshing and invigorating than rain, when I wake up.

Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.

Lamentations 3.23 (NLT)

coffee with you

You invite yourself to a cup of coffee. And much to your surprise, you accept the invitation. For a change, the hundred and one urgent things will have to wait. Because now, the most pressing thing, second only to a much-needed massage, is the chance to sit beside yourself somewhere where soothing music is played, where time does not breathe down your neck, and, of course, where good coffee is served – piping hot for you and iced with whipped cream for yourself.

The coffee shop is a little too crowded than you’d like, but it’s quiet enough for your purposes. You choose a table with two chairs. You sit on one and then adjust the empty chair across you. Seated on that chair is yourself. There is an awkwardness that seems all at once funny and strange. You don’t look yourself in the eye.

“So, how have you been?” you ask yourself, swirling the stirrer in your cup as steam touches your face.

“Well, you know how I’ve been. What’s the point of asking?” you answer, the slight defensiveness surprises you a bit. You casually play with the chocolate-stained whipped cream with your straw.

“It’s good to hear you say it to yourself, you know. ‘Okay’ is overrated. Most anyone says they’re okay, even if nothing could be farther from the truth. So. Are you okay? Or something else?”

Silence.

The bosa nova strains gracefully take over. Before the chorus repeats, the silence is broken.

“Okay,” you finally find your voice to say. “Okay – as in I’m ready to tell you how I’ve been. Which, as you have correctly guessed, is not ‘okay’.”

You nod. The same way your high school guidance counselor nodded, the kind that makes you wonder whether it’s a nod of agreement or just something people do when they don’t know what to say or when they really don’t care to listen but have to.

“Well, if you’re not okay, would you know why?” (So that nod was just a prelude to this.)

“Many things.”

“Care to enumerate?”

You sip your coffee, taking care not to make a slurping sound because you don’t like hearing that, and it is not good to piss yourself off. Especially now when you’re opening up to yourself.

“Why do I have to enumerate?” you’re obviously stalling. You reach for your pocket and take out your cellphone. No new messages. No escape.

“You said you were ready.”

In that moment, a pimply teen with spiked hair makes his way to your table. He is with friends, and they’re all singing along with the bosa nova song playing in the background.

“Sir, is this seat taken?”

You pause for a moment, looking at the kid as if he had asked of you the most difficult thing.

“No. Go ahead, take it.”