Tuesday, April 03, 2012

My very first guest blogger!! Skip! One Fabulous Part of the Gabi-Skip Dynamic Duo. My new besties in Phnom Penh!

Crazy feeling, this notion of packing up and, well, spiriting halfway around the world? Leaving snow, and four seasons, and a weird presidential primary featuring Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney? (Not since Larry,  Moe and Curley have three goofballs taken such front and center in the American psyche, in my book). Leaving NE clam chowder, a warm fireplace and a finger of single malt on a Saturday night to ward off the persistent New England cold of March, which to me always felt the most stubborn and unforgiving month of the year?

For what?

For this:

Sultry days when the sun drives nearly everyone to the shade mid-day and most Cambodians head for their own special version of siesta, which means a nice nap lying wherever they can - in tuk-tuks, on motorbikes, in their office chairs, on floors, on sidewalks.

Every kind of food imaginable representing most of the world's cultures, some that defies description and some with descriptions you'd rather not read.

The chaos of a Phnom Penh street, with tuk-tuks, motorbikes and cars coming at you from every direction, all driving by blank-faced Cambodians with cell phones glued to their ears, oblivious to the fact that they're driving on the wrong side of the road straight at a pedestrian with a horrified end-of-life look on her face.

The nightly explosion of activities in each and every park in the city, when people pour out of their homes to exercise. There are aerobics classes, with frumpy middle aged women side by side with skinny guys with their pants falling off their skinny butts, all gyrating and shimmying to the ear-splitting beat of techno pop. There are groups of men in circles, kicking a shuttlecock back and forth in awe-inspiring displays of hand-eye coordination and athletic prowess which defy their potbellies. And everywhere - everywhere - are young couples, sitting on motorbikes, curbs, benches, talking, joking, primping, positioning.

You're also arriving coincidentally with the 12th ASEAN forum, which is a massive gathering of political leaders from all over SE Asia. The Chinese president and his enormous entourage (what would one expect?) are here now, and the streets are packed with assault rifle-toting soldiers who close main street seemingly forever while one of the countless brand new BMW and Mercedes sedans race by with gawd knows who inside. (It's fascinating that this cash-strapped government with its $2.7 b annual budget miraculously came up with the dough to buy an enormous fleet of luxury vehicles for the event I wonder if they'll have an auction after the bigwigs have gone home?)

You'll find the fountains alight, the trees adorned with millions of tiny flickering lights, the streets cleaner and the homeless and beggars swept to the side (for the time being) in a magnanimous gesture of nationalist pride PR.

Pay no attention to the folderol: it'll all pack up and be stowed away until the next big party, and life will return to biz as usual in the Penh. (It will forever amaze me how a country which struggles so mightily with the basics of health care, education, infrastructure and food supplies can roll up its collective sleeve and roll out a red carpet unlike anywhere I've seen, but I guess that's part of the package.)

But what really matters is this: You're going to find a gateway to your new home, to an amazing country of resilient, warm, engaging and accepting people who will accept you for what you are and regard you as someone they want to be close to and get to know.

And you have us. We are so excited to have you join the fray, and you have a ready-made circle of friends, associates, miscreants and n'erdowells eager to help you onto the launch pad which is Phnom Penh.

Days, now. We're psyched. Enjoy your flight, time with Charlie, and we'll see you in a few short days.

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How lucky am I to be landing in the arms of this dynamic couple who share aligned sensibilities, zany perspectives and a sense of the absurd in the normalcy of life in the 'Pearl of the Indochina' on the banks of the Mekong River, tuk-tuks whirring by? 

Cheers to my darling new friends, Gabi and Skip (she hails from England, he from Boston), in the enchanted, incongruous Kingdom of Cambodia!  Look forward to the wild ride and joining the coterie of kindred spirits who ventured to Phnom Penh before me.

Imagining the possibilities, always ...

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