The rain came when we were eating inside a restaurant near Phsar Tapang. Unexpectedly, my friend said ‘Let’s go!’. I then asked eagerly ‘Where to?’.
My question was simple. I naturally wondered where on earth did she want to go in the rain? She replied ‘Driving under the rain is fun, let’s go!’. I had to go with her although I didn’t fully agree with her.
We were on my little motorbike. People called it Moto Charlie. It had been very popular for especially girls to drive to school. It is small and cute and easy to manage. Along the Norodom Boulevard, we were driving and laughing at many silly stories which I don’t remember. The drops of the rain was heavy and pure. There were not many cars at that time so we drove care free. We were having great fun but then…
in the rain…
in the rain…
in the rain, a policeman came…
in the rain, he claimed ‘No motorbike allowed on Norodom!’.
Normally when police stopped you on a ‘Motorbike Not Allowed Boulevard’, it means that he was going to give you a fine. Most often without a receipt!’. The amount of the fine depended on his mouth too! I was numbed and shamed. My happiness early totally disappeared. What my friend did next amazed me till today.
She pretended that she didn’t hear what he said. She told him ‘We’ve lost our way! Can you please tell me where the Independent Monument is?’ The policeman who came in the rain to stop us pointed his right arm to the direction of the monument. My friend said ‘thank you’ and off we go!
I was challenged by a good friend SOUS Sinath to post my photos from my travel. Besides photos, I also added some stories related to the photos too! I chose to post photos from the neighboring country but I added a few from Salzbur too. Unfornately, I can’t find any photos of myself when I was in Vietnam because mostly I was the one who took the photos for others.
Here are some of the photos and stories from places that might interest you.
Picture #1 is from Laos. Champa Sak is the third province of Laos that I visited besides Luong Prabang and Vientiane. One story from Champak Sak is that I was amazed with myself for speaking broken Laos. I love the language! I practice speaking Laos from a Youtube channel. I could tell where I want to go, thank you, eat sticky rice, very delicious, beautiful and not beautiful…and a lot more. With four women friends, we went from one place to another on a tuk tuk, on a car, familiar ourselves with the language, eat great foods, meeting strangers, laugh out loud, drinking, singing all along the road…a great adventure. I would come again and go further especially Savannakhet province. The golden boy in my hand was hidden by his owner after I played with him. Perhaps he thought I might transmit any diseases to the vulnerable wild animal.
De’ Lapae Contemporary Art Space, Narathiwat Province, Down South Thailand (Don’t remember who took this photo!)
Photo #2, I chose the place/photo because the place is great! As part of the Living Arts Fellows Program, we was recommended to visit Pattani and Narathiwat province, down south Thailand. We did go there despites news of insurgency. We chose the arts over fear. Off we went and they didn’t disappoint a single bit. I love people’s kindness, culture, and arts. Food was so delicious. At a lunch time, I ate two bowls of beef soup and it took me two hours to digest. It was quite good. I told myself that I would rather sick of eating of two rather than one and regret later. The shop was a well known to locals. Despites the news about conflict, things went all well. People do their work as normal. I appreciate how artists are working hard to tell stories from their provinces through their arts.
Photo #3, After losing my purse with all my money in it, my trip to India came all with good memory. One among four Cambodian writers from Phnom Penh, I was so excited to see my photo exhibited along the main street of Guhawati, the city of Assam State of India. Being called ‘Ma’am frequently by our sweet volunteers was one of the highlights and also weird (at least to myself). I asked the volunteers to call me by my name but they politely refused and said ‘No, Ma’am, you are very senior to us. We can’t do that to you! We need to show you ‘respect’. I thought ‘Oh well, let it be!’
Photo #4, When a friend and I were exploring Salzburg town, we arrived at this charming Cafe. We came in after taking about 50 photos outside. The coffee was so good. A warm coffee in cold weather. There were many cool slogans inside. I remember one of the slogans says “One shouldn’t take life so seriously. No one gets out alive anyway.” I love this Cafe so much that I made a promise with myself that I will write a novel about it. After 5 years, the novel has been revised twice. One scene is about the lead couple met for the first time in Europe. I hope the novel will be finished soon. I need a lot of inspirations to finalise the novel.
I was asked the question quite frequently. Some people are genuinly curious while some others mockingly asked ‘You studied Social Work. But why did you become a writer?
My initial response was ‘Well, maybe I want to contribute to a social issue I’ve observed?’ Consequently, the repeated questions make me think further. Why do I write?
Readings as a child might be a big influence on becoming a writer. When I was able to read, my mum was a book vendor. She was really good with her business. She bought many serial of novels. During the 80s, most novels were written by hands and then copied by hands and sold to various provinces. My mum rent those novels to her villagers. I remembered one corner of our house was to stock piles those books. I also remember that mum was not keen for me to read those romance novels. Well, like many traditional parents, she was raised to believe that readings bring more bad than good to girls. I could not understand why but I did manage to read the novels anyway. I read many books when she was not around.
Many people were heavy readers. My mum’s book rental business went so well was due to the fact that many people read. Villagers came and rent the novels. When finished they returned the books and rent another series. This went on and on. Occasionnally, she needed to buy new novels as villagers were asking for new books to read. One night, mum’s hair caught fire from a lamp while she spent almost the whole night reading her favorite novel. This evidence tells that people do read if books are conveinent, affordable and accessible to them.
While mum had plenty of novels at home, dad always bought books from Phnom Penh and brought them home. I remembered I was so happy to hold those shining books. I read all of those. He himself is also a heavy reader and has a talent in editing Khmer literature. If you give a draft to him, he would fine every minor spellings and able to suggest for changes/revisions of the draft.
I kept writing throughout my life. During my university life, I wrote many poetry. Once, when I was seversely sick and needed to stay home. I needed to skip class for a few weeks. I missed my classmates so much. So I wrote a long poems to describe everyone of them. Later, I also write but not frequent propably due to work and lack of future aspiration. Though my writing was on and off I did write on diary and a blog I created.
Social Work education helps me with voice finding in my writing. After graduation from Australia with a Master Degree in Social Work, I started to write again and this time I made it go far. Soon upon returned, I noticed some challenges within Cambodia societry especially people’s mindsets on how women should behave. Co-founded with my friend Hout Socheata, Kampu Mera Editions was established in 2013, two years after I came back from Australia. After its establishement in 2015, we have published 5 titles, three of which are short story collections, one is a historical novel (Bophana, the Flower that Never Wilts), and another one is a translation from French. With social work background, it helps me balance my literary value veruse economic driven value.
After these reflections, I think even thought I had not published until 2015, I have been reading and writing since a very young age. So becoming an author now should not be a doubt for others. I strongly believe that reading as a child helps, attending creative writing workshops, and social work background do buulding me as a writer now.
I stood behind her. She was not too far from me. She was there. I could see her. She turned and looked at me as if she wished to send me a signal. I wondered. Then she started to walk ahead. Immediately I felt my danger and suddenly I reached my right hand to her aiming to catch her right shoulder begging her to stop. I could not reach her. She kept walking ahead of me. My hearts had started to race.
Scared, I started to run to catch up with her speedy steps. I tried and tried and tried. I needed to stop in between to catch my breath before I could continue. She was way ahead. Her speed was stable and she did not even turn back to see me who was desperately struggling to stop her from moving without me. She did not turn back even once.
After trying many times, my feet stopped listening to me. They did not really care how much on earth I wanted them to carry my upper body to move forward. They were shaking. They sent a strong deadly messages to me that it was enough to try. I should stop chasing her.
She had already disappeared. I could see her no more. She had completely gone. Finally, she’s gone. For good.
Since I could not see her anymore, I looked back behind my back. Everything I could see now was all the problem for me and my country people to carry on our burden shoulders. The village is empty. Drunk young men are singing drunkenly all days and nights. Women apply whitening creams on their faces and every edge of their skins. Some others have their noses, lips, nipples, breasts, eyes, eyebrows, chins, cheeks a redo under the unhygienic knife to go inside their skins with high price. Young boys and girls are drinking and injecting heroin into their veins in the name of the modern-day friendship. Health centres are also empty. There are nurses but they are actively urged their patients to go to their home clinics instead with the hope of robbing their innocent patients’ hard-earned money, the money from borrowing greedy microfinance institutions. Old women burn countless plastic bags they greedily ask from the markets. Young children speak to each other in English…
I thought to myself. I can’t blame her. She has gone for good. She has been waiting for us for decades but still, we didn’t even want to move a single step and sometimes we even move backwards. It looks as if we are tasting the same mistake we used to wrongly committed a hundred years ago. I wish her well.
Hopelessly I walk back to my underdeveloped villages and slowly join the drunken men and sing karaoke whole days.