Under my nose

When I was in Phnom Penh recently, I discovered in the guidebook that there was a cafe called the “Lazy Gecko Cafe”.  I looked it up on the map and saw that it was quite far from where I was staying and also from most of the areas I would be visiting.  However, the pull to seek out this lazy gecko was strong and on my final day, I decided to hunt it down and sink a coffee or two.

I tried to memorise the map so that I would be able to follow roughly where to go, wrote the address down on a scrap of paper and flagged down a tuk tuk to take me there.  I explained the name of the street and off we headed.  In the right direction too, according to my pre-departure map study.  I love travelling in tuk tuks.  I feel safe, and part of the surroundings as they are open.  And much more comfortable than being inside a car.

I sat back and enjoyed the jaunt through the streets, along the riverside, through the bustling market area and past grand colonial buildings.  We veered down side streets, a left here and a right there and finally along a little lane where the Lazy Gecko was located.

Except it wasn’t.  My tuk tuk driver asked around and was told that it had moved.  They gave him the new address and I tried to work out roughly where it was.  Back in the direction where we had come from, unsurprisingly and not far from where I had set off!

Back we headed, weaving through the streets again, past the main temple, the markets and the Palace.  Near the riverfront, we veered into a network of criss-crossing streets and before long we drew up at the Lazy Gecko Café!

I was quite delighted and settled into browsing in the shop and taking some photos before I settled down with a refreshing glass of lemon soda.

I was curious about where I was though, and from my seat near the pavement, I tried to figure out which direction the river, and therefore my hotel, lay.  I pored over my map and realised that it must actually be rather close but having weaved so much through the streets I had completely lost my orientation.  So I asked the waiter which direction led to the river.  He pointed to my left.  I leaned over and peered through the trees on the roadside trying to get my bearings.  I almost blushed with embarrassment when I realised that the building just across the road was none other than my hotel!   I had taken a wonderful scenic tour of Phnom Penh only to find that what I had been searching for was right under my nose all along!

And isn’t that just like the thing?  So often in life we spend time and energy searching for things that are much closer than we realise.  In this case, though I have to say that not knowing this at the outset took me on a wonderful detour and gentle escapade, which in itself was highly enjoyable, before delivering me where I wanted to be. Right back where I had started!

Excess baggage, more about starfish and dreams of chicken

There are many things on my mind as I pack, now at the end of an intense  week in Cambodia, ranging from intense strategic discussions, inspiring and humbling accounts from our programmes and a harrowing backdrop of the all too recent genocide in the Khmer Rouge years. Captain Paranoia is still with me constantly, but the events of the week have meant that he has had to compete for my attention.

At the outset of this week, I was present at an address by the Minister of Education here in Cambodia.  He gave a very powerful speech, apologising for veering away from the prepared words and sharing his own history about the Khmer years and their impact on education in the country.  He brought the realities of the genocide to life and I was riveted by his account.  Then he told an anecdote which struck an incredible chord with me.  He told us of one day when his wife had woken him urgently.  He was very upset, and told his wife she should have left him sleeping.  He recounted that he had been dreaming that he had been eating a chicken and it was so delicious, and he had been so hungry.  He said to his wife that she should have let him sleep until he had finished eating the chicken!  What an incredibly visual account of the horror they were living through.  His point was that, in the midst of that hell, he was able to escape in his dreams and no one could intrude on his dreams no matter how little control people were able to have in their lives.  It reminded me of my own starfish dream and how that had lifted my spirits and given me an escape from the preoccupation of the upcoming hospital checks.  It is indeed testament to the strength of the human mind.

However, despite that inspiring example of the chicken and my own private starfish collection in my mind, I am being mysteriously, or not so mysteriously, blocked from planning beyond these upcoming checks.  This is not unusual it happens every time.  Usually though, I only have to book a return ticket home afterwards so there is no great issue about that.  This time however, I should (if all goes well, fingers and toes tied in knots, touching any chunks of anything resembling wood and many other gestures of hope) head straight to India after the checks to see my family in law for the first time since I was diagnosed.  But despite several attempts to book my ticket to travel after the appointments, I have been completely unable to complete the task.  I don’t even have a reservation due to difficulties in booking online and the prospect of having a useless ticket if there is anything other than NED ahead.

After our meetings finished, I managed to fit in a visit to the popular Russian Market, initially to pick up some Cambodia silk which a friend had asked me to bring back.  I found myself drawn in to the glorious colours and somehow left the shop with silk sets for my close in laws too.  As I carted the heavy bags out of the market, I was wondering how many kilos I had purchased and whether it would be less than the 3 kilos which I think I had “spare” on the way over.  Then it suddenly dawned on me that I subconsciously broken through this block and managed to project myself into the “after the checks” unknown.  I will probably have excess baggage but at least I have been able to look ahead.  Now I just need to book that ticket!

And in a further coincidence, as I walked along the quayside yesterday evening in Phnom Penh, I passed the Tourist Information Office and there in front of me was a promotional poster for visiting Cambodia.  And the image on that poster, with its starfish and pristine ocean was incredibly similar to the image which I am recalling regularly from my dream!

What a funny old world we live in, with surprises and connections all around us.