Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Rainy day

Last night it rained for hours. Lying on the top bunk next to the window in the third floor room next to the tin awning, the rain was my restless companion, keeping me at that liminal boundary between slumber and consciousness.

In those early hours before the city unlatches its tattered shutters and rises to sweep its dusty stoop, I often wake and wonder. I imagine that the city has somehow changed, its poverty transformed, its orphans clothed, bathed and fed. For me today, the city did seem to change. The streets, choked yesterday with dust, glistened.

The trees lining Boulevard Mao Tse Tong have been covered for weeks with a fine coat of orange clay powder; this morning, they shimmered and winked, their green blades playfully flicking their green mist at motodops and cyclists passing beneath.

I chose to risk a drenching and hail a moto -- on mornings like this, the car is far too isolating. My driver took back streets to reach Psar Thmei, Phnom Penh’s old central market, and we passed little boys selling mangoes, old ladies barbequeing ducks, young men welding girders in the middle of the streets, and little girls dressed for school, riding bicycles side-saddle, for modesty’s sake. On each street, the ordinary extraordinary cinematic spectacle unfolded, and I realized that I really do love this place.

Sometimes all it takes is a new morning and a fresh rain to reinvigorate a sense of wonder, to refocus the artists’ eye that frames each second as a masterpiece, to make the old new again, and to provoke a sigh of poignant longing – a longing to stay, a hold the fleeting moment, to savor a sweet kiss.

Yeah. Whatever. The rain sucks.

A mere hour and a half after my magical moto ride, I got our truck stuck in about a foot of fresh mud one street west of Monivong Boulevard, the town’s main drag. An hour later, I was free, no thanks to a gaggle of giggling children and grinning tax drivers.

“How you do this?” inquired Narun, who showed up on the scene to offer his moral, but not material support. “I try now,” he offered optimistically. “It’s no use. The car is completely stuck,” I replied. Not content to take my word for it, he tried. And tried. And tried. If anything, the car was stuck-er. A phone call in Khmer later, another of our staff appeared. On a moto. Um, okay.

Why not just call a tow truck? Certainly this town has a tow truck. Right. It’s not like I wasn’t willing to pay for it. Through the nose, if necessary. Finally, some dude in a truck with much better 4-wheel drive happened by and, with a great deal of effort and black exhaust smoke, we were free.

1 comment:

erica said...

heeeeeeeee!
That's what I love about places.
You go there, you are amazed and in love, you get weepy romantic about them, and then? They become normal.

la la la!