The Blog I Am Not Going to Send My Mother

 At 07:45 on May 1st – International Worker’s Day – Nick my personal tuk-tuk driver informed me, “You can’t go to Freedom Park this morning. There are demonstrations and it is too dangerous.”

“I’m on assignment so take me to the central gate.” He shot me a withering glance. In the capacity of my new job as the associate editor of the Khmer Times I was to cover the gathering and try to get a quote or two from some Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) officials.

It all seemed calm enough. STA_6060People lined both sides of the streets, strolling around. Vendors plied their trade. The Cambodian People’s Party trucks drove up and down the street warning people to disperse or there would be trouble. A man wearing a Human Rights Watch vest came up to me, “Aren’t you scared to be here?” My mind flashed back to a motorcycle crash in Nigeria, being kidnapped in Pakistan and being mugged in Morocco. “No, not really as I often seem to find myself in these sorts curious of situations”

“If the police start shooting or hitting people with their batons we have to run.”

“Hey, I’m with you on that one.”STC_6062

I strolled across the street and ended up meeting a gentleman wearing a white shirt and a krama – a Khmer scarf – as a cravat. We talked and he told me he had lived in France and the US. We exchanged cards, but without my glasses I couldn’t read that Dr Long Botta has a Ph.D in nuclear physics and was a former minister of education. When he casually mentioned he was the Member of Parliament for Battanbong, I immediately turned on the voice recorder on my phone. Alas, the quality was horrible. But that doesn’t matter as we have arranged to meet for lunch on May 24 when he returns from Beijing. I want to do a profile piece of a politician. I don’t care about the party lines, I want to understand his motivation, commitment and why he got involved in the political jungle.

Nothing much seemed to be happening. Then Sam Rainsy, the leader of the CNRP arrived. It turned to bedlam so it seemed like a good time to move on. IMG_6064I rang Nick to collect me at the same point he had dropped me, but it took quite a while for him to get through the traffic. I stood beside the friendly looking police, rather than the riot squad behind the razor wire.

The report in the paper the next day announced that there were about 1500 people at the rally, five were injured, and three journalists attacked.

Good thing I left when I did. What I got out of the demonstration was a lunch date for 24 May with an interesting person.And how good is that?


Sliding In and Out of SYD

Thanks to my darling friend, David, giving me a ticket for my birthday I got to spend a delightful time at my old Sydney haunts from the 15 to 21 April. Six years has been a long time and a lot of adventures in between.

Wednesday was a rather groggy day as I ended up getting ill from the 23:05 flight meal. I know, I know, ordering fish is downright stupid, but leading up to Khmer New Year I couldn’t face any more chicken.

Thursday I sort of trolled around and then met up friends for dinner at Komachi, my favourite Japanese restaurant in the city. Pam – who ran the art gallery around the corner from me and Andrew – the editor who used to give me all the tickets he didn’t want to the Opera House showed up. Later Elena and Janelle from the Scarlet alliance arrived and we had a delightful catch-up. Yasko – who owns Komachi – organized a delightful meal joined us when it quieted down.

Friday was Good Friday. The best part about it was that everything was closed so the only logical thing to do was for David and I to go out to eat and drink. It was delightful to spend quality time with him as intellectual conversation in the Kingdom isn’t easy to find. We have  known each other almost forever and can flip between topics faster than taking a sip of wine.

Saturday I had a quiet morning and then went for a drink with David and Frances. Next I met up with Euri. Then I ended up at Scott and Sara’s at 24 Burton Street, which is my official address in SYD for anything Australian I need done. Scott had his little mansion renovated since I left at the end of 2008 and took me on a tour.

There is a window on the way up to the third level that is a mosaic. It is a stained glass window that represents the important events and people of his life. He asked me to figure out which square I was. The middle is a brilliant collage of colours so I hesitatingly pointed at one.

“Hussy – as he calls me – “you aren’t listening. That is me, the centre of the universe.”

“Of course. Obtuse of me not to figure that out. Alright, so how about this little one?”

“Wrong again. That is Sun Pluto. Squares, look for squares.”

Ah ha, there was a red one in the bottom left corner that sort of matched my hair. Wrong again.

Exasperated, he finally gave up and pointed to the one that looked green from one angle and blue from the other, about in the middle of the right hand side.The square

I love the idea and have decided that I am going to design one for myself. When I wrote my obituary and sent it to Scott and he thought it was a brilliant idea and decided to write his own, so I figure it is sort of a quid pro quo.

My time in SYD was insightful because it made me realize how much I have changed. For the better or the worse is open to debate. Admittedly I was staying at Pott’s Point which is very bourgeois. To live there you either have to have a designer dog to walk or a pretentious brat to parade. The prices left me gasping. $20 for breakfast? $42 for a bottle of vodka that costs $11.20 in the Kingdom? The “it is all about me” attitude also wears thin very quickly.

So when I got back to the chaos and grime of the Kingdom I knew I had come home.