The mango tree in the verandah at work has been loaded with fruit for the past 3 months. Nothing diabolical or sinister, if you think about the fact that it is, or rather, was the correct season for such activity anyway.
The reason I drag that fact into this post is because the mangoes that were a brilliant shade of green in May have obstinately remained the same colour till today. Got me thinking about how my time here so far, parallels the mangoes rather nicely. Sure, work goes on every day and when I leave Cambodia, I'll no doubt come up with the right phrases for the curriculum vitae... you know, the kind of spin that will leave the reader in no doubt that I was personal advisor to the UN Secretary-General, or something in the vicinity of that idea.
So far though, I do not feel like I've seen or experienced anything new. Culturally, of course. No matter how much I kid myself, I cannot help but think about how similar this country is to India. It robs me of any culture shock that may have existed. Initially, I resented it. Now, I've come around to the idea that maybe I was a tad mentally over-prepared to welcome new experiences. I blame the internet, where I read plenty about this country without pausing to consider that the literary soliloquies and/or condemnations were being written by people from the West. To them, Cambodia, with it's chaotic traffic, street stalls, colourful local markets and streets swarming with an eclectic mix of people, animals and vehicles, probably is an 'experience'. It is diametrically opposite to everything they have known about the world. To me, these factors are not new. And I'm still working on whether it's a good or a bad thing.
One thing I have come to realize is that I'm thankful for the people I consider friends. Someone I know maintains that there's a cut-off time by which we find the people who will be important in our lives... as family or as friends. I'd say that the cut-off exists for us identifying what qualities we value in people. Either way, there have been way too many days here where I have found myself in a battle of wills with the television in my room. I'd rather not depend on it for entertainment, but the kind of people I'd like to meet are in extremely short supply. Not being the chatty type & an introvert also contributes to my seemingly monastic lifestyle, I'll admit. But, I'd rather be me and live with it. I've now got a taste of what one babu went through in Boston and empathise.
Like India, Cambodia has superb potential as a country to be seen exclusively by motorbike. Unlike India, it seems a bit hard for me work even a short trip somewhere into the schedule. And I'd like to do that, if just for the insanely hilarious motorbike laws they have in this country. For various, extremely pertinent reasons though, I will not. Chief reason - the idea of biking it across this place alone is not appealing. For another, Mammon generally halts my flights of fancy by clearing his throat rather disapprovingly and pointing out the various similarities between moi and the proverbial church-mouse.
However, I will be travelling in a few weeks time... Angkor Wat is on the agenda. So is Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam. As for the rest... well, you've seen one beach, you've seen them all. Or so I like to tell myself. I'll say this for Cambodia though. It's a great place to visit for 2 - 3 weeks. The people are generally friendly, the food is relatively cheap and the alcohol, definitely so. In 3 weeks, you can see all there is to be seen here. After that, you just might feel jaded. A feeling I'm definitely feeling.
Yet, during my Mexican stand-offs with the tv, I've come to grips with a few ideas. Firstly, I'm way more nonchalant about things and events that would have come under the 'catastrophe' category some years ago. Secondly, I now know that there is a difference between being a true traveller and being fond of the idea of travelling. People in the former category actually do so & those in the latter one... well, they subscribe 'exclusively' to the idea of perusing the Lonely Planet and working with Google Earth. Thirdly, even with all it's crap, there's no place like home. And if I am one of the lucky people out of 1.6 billion who can afford to say that, well...
Even a mango, given enough time, begins to get the idea.
Song for the moment: It's good to be king - Tom Petty