What’s Your Story?

On the weekend after another trip to the hospital, nothing serious this time Beau split his toe open when a heavy wooden chair left backwards on to it.  The kindly security guard with good English always has a joke about life philosophy. Beau slept through the dressing and rectal suppository. Not requiring stitches, we’re ushered home again.

An old shed from the outside but what a find..

An old shed from the outside but what a find..

Quinn and I took off for Mother and Son time whilst the other two were shacked up at home. We discovered a swish, indoor skatepark minus the skates. A concrete maze of curved waves, jumps and pillars. Bikes and rollerblades were the choice. Quinn took his bike for a spin and even tried his hand at blading. Not a bad first effort, especially considering his guts weren’t great.

IMG_3063

I’ve barely made it through the door when the owner, a middle aged Khmer with a pleasant round face asks me the obligatory question;

‘Where are you from?’

His eyes lit up as he shares his story:

My father live in Melbourne. I call him 5 years ago except he say he’s not my father.

What kind of curlie is this?

I search for him on internet. He has same name and from photo he looks like my father. And people I know who knew him in Cambodia believe it is him as well. I haven’t seen him for 35 years.

Geez this guy has such a sweet face. He keeps talking.

He escape during Pol pot regime because Pol Pot was going to kill him.

We’re all versed in the horrors. But hearing it firsthand and seeing the fallout all these years later really brings it home.

What about your mother? Does she know if it’s him? I ask

She doesn’t like talking about it much. He left her.

He’s on a roll now:

So I call my (not) father, I speak to him and ask him if I am his son. He says no. He has new wife and family in Australia now. His new wife doesn’t want him talking to me.

Why don’t you write him a letter? I suggest.

He shrugs not believing the letter will reach its rightful owner without interception

I don’t want money. I just want to know‘.

He has 3 school age children and a shiny black Lexus parked out the front. Even though he has obvious pain around this large question mark, he looks peaceful. He can discuss this with a contagious calm. Maybe he gives him some solace disclosing it, or maybe he’s an expert poker face. The conversation turns to DNA tests and possibly another phone call. I get this uneasy vision of the father who is over 70 now confessing on his deathbed in a ramble of delirium.

But what’s the truth? Maybe it will never be known.

Leong Bo’s story reminds me of meeting my own brother when I was 26 for the first time. The joy around finding a long known but not discussed piece of a puzzle. I knew I had a brother who lived on Norfolk Island. He had a name but I hadn’t seen his face.

As the hedonistic, self absorbed university chapter closed, I remembered the baby photograph sent by his mother in 1987 of a chubby, blue eyed babe in what looks like a Christening gown.

Unsure where to start, I call the telephone operator on Norfolk. I ask what PJ Wilson’s number is?

A bonny madam replies ‘Auy, PJ! You can call him on Pelly and Dinty’s number, 6475839.’

I’m scrawling down this gold on a tightly held paper. Within minutes I’m yards closer and I can’t quite believe how easy and quickly this is all happening.

The oil still spitting in the pan, I dial the number.

A spritely, strong female voice answers. Hello. I introduce myself.

A bit of a pause, and then ‘Oh Amy. Hello! I’m PJ’s mum Dinty’.

An easy conversation follows. I find out PJ now lives on the mainland. His proud mum tells me he got a scholarship to uni. I get his direct line.

Dinty and I taken at PJ's wedding

Dinty and I taken at PJ’s wedding

It takes me another week to digest it all. When I’ve worked up the courage, I’m sitting on a park bench in Glebe, the grass lush from summer rain. He answers, I’m up on my feet pacing circles under the trees.

I remember hearing the warmth and excitement in his voice that first time. His Ma had given him a heads up. But what struck me so clearly…was the ease of it all. We must have spoken for half an hour. Filling in our stories. Talking about his uni, friends, life at college. Our shared love of horses.

We arrange to meet, a necessary step to complete the journey. With Easter bunnies jeering from supermarket shelves, Tim and I fly north. We stay at a friend’s place in New Farm, a treehouse built high on a hill, its deck amongst the banana palms. Art books line the shelves, a dishevelled, lived in feel. The smell of coffee grains, peeling paint on the kitchen table.

PJ and I plan to meet at Queen Street Mall outside Hungry Jacks. What a romantic place! Ha. When in doubt find a fast food landmark. I remember responding to a foot model advertisement once with an ‘interview’ at McDonalds involving a dubious character salivating over my sandals. I digress…

The day arrives, I can’t walk slowly instead I stride out with nerves leaving Tim in my wake. He is sensitive enough to leave me to it. I spot the glaring red/yellow sign and I can feel the spike of tears forming. By the time I reach the spot I see a tall dude with jet black hair and a beaming smile. I already know who it is. I’m crying and we give each other a huge hug. I’m home in my brother’s arms.

Family resemblance?

Family resemblance?

We spend the rest of the day cruising the Brisbane River on a ferry. Non stop talking as we catch up on a lifetime of news. We have similar crinkles around the eyes, snub noses and flashing whites. We disclose our dreams, his to improve Norfolk’s environmental practices still stuck in the 70s where rubbish is burnt or worse ends up in the sea . I speak of my love of art and artists. He meets Tim. I hear about his homeland: 35 square kilometres of rock in the Pacific Ocean nearly 1500 miles from my birthplace. Only 2300 ‘odd’ people live there- a courageous, heavy drinking, outspoken lot with resilience in their veins. PJ talks with love for his clan not by blood, but forged through childhood, birthdays, bruises, work and acceptance.

'Odd' lot

‘Odd’ lot

Our friendship has grown. PJ has stayed at my house several times, meeting both my sons after their births. I’ve seen his Norfolk and met ‘Pothole’ (named because everyone wishes to avoid him) and his childhood bestie. We went to his wedding last year in Sri Lanka. I have a beautiful sister in law Ashley. Life is richer and reflecting on having made the step to meet him, I’m thankful to have answers and for those answers to be easily found.

wilson

Work It

I sit here barely propped up by a pillow, with ouchy legs as I’ve just completed my second day of yoga teaching: a grand total of 10 classes.  For an ok fitness kinda gal, who tries to squeeze in one, at a pinch two classes a week at home, and runs around after the kids, I’m feeling it and grateful that I have 5 days to recover before the next lesson.

photo (21)

Beau had a few words with this meditator

The kids are very receptive to the meditation bit. I’ve brought over a Tibetan brass bowl, that I clonk the beginning of each class, we all sing a few outta tune ‘Oms’ then I try and squeeze as many minutes of meditation as possible. It saves my legs, and they like replicating all the Buddhist statutes that are dotted around town, not to mention part of their religion.

Call me totally naive (It’s been said before), but I never thought about how sexual yoga looks…until I am teaching it in a very conservative culture where shoulders and legs aren’t flaunted, nor organised female sports part of the programme. So every time I demonstrate downward dog, there is an avalanche of giggles, look at her bum IN THE AIR!  And then I proceed to cobra pose, which is followed up snorting and pointing.

Ok this might be considered sexy

I get my own back, when I turn to them panting ‘your turn’.  And they all freeze up, but admirably give it a go, and are loosening up (had to done) every time I see them.

So that’s the work update. I’m teaching my first class to adults this afternoon. I better go and don the fake tan and the bikini, Christy you’ve inspired me.

Hari Om dear friends xx

Our Patch

So Dad has made a speedy recovery over the past week.  We owe some big cookies, yesterday’s rice and some scented flowers to the heavens! It works for the locals.

IMG_2362

He no longer looks like this!

Thank you Life, our journey continues…

IMG_2364

Our Local Coffee Hang- Tim, the entertainer is back

On a sultry morning, six abreast in a tuk tuk, wind in our hair and persistent sweat on our tummies, we saw a bunch of houses. But ended up back at the first one, you know how that happens. It may not be a French Colonial villa (architectural preferences aside), it has its on palatial charm. It is more than one hotel room!

It has established bougainvillaea which reminds me of home, maybe i’m missing bogans.

Home Sweet Sleep

We are renting the ground floor apartment, with two bedrooms where the boys can jump on the beds without risk of decapitation so we are content.

The landlords live within earshot, getting an insight into the ‘loco’ foreigners’ lives. We declined the use of the cable television and removed the unit from the house. They were so flabbergasted, they had to ask us six times, in case something had been lost in translation. For the lack of privacy, the win is the security bonus, as foreigners’ houses can be targeted for the bounty they offer.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our Courtyard- Landlord lives on RHS

The walls are clinical white so I’ve commissioned the two little artistes to remedy that.

Harvest time

School holidays on at the moment, so only a few kids around. One being the landlord’s nephew, who doesn’t speak a word of English. But has the sweetest grin, and Quinn has formed a bond with him via The Universal Language of Sport. So they play, until the Two Star General’s Wife over the wall complains of the noise of the bouncing ball. Hahaha, she’s in for a whole lot more annoyance living next down to our kids, throw in Dad’s monster growls, and Mum’s peppered yells.

Welcome to a brave new world, madame.

Quinn and Yu

Battambang is the second largest city (140,000 pop.) but honestly feels like the size of Ballarat.  It has this small town charm and is easy to navigate by bicycle. Quinn has a reconditioned ‘Peugeot’ mountain bike, circa 1990s that he rides in traffic fearlessly. We’ve built a seat on the back of my bike for Beau.

Our ‘Get Around Town’ mobiles

 I’ve grabbed snippets of wifi around town all week to write this post. Soon we shall have internet on at the palace. More posts to follow that event. It is ‘humbling’ when what you create gets snatched away by crashing internet, and what we’ve learnt is EVERYTHING takes three times as long as you think. So adjusting to that.  Most of the time, it looks like this…

Maybe if I do this..

Maybe if I do this..

Best wishes to you all xx

Battambang Poos

Tim got cleared to make the trip, albeit gingerly with no moto action allowed, and a few more days of bed rest (for a hyperactive, this is some feat!).

Importantly, he will remain a fully fledged male.

Our first impressions of Battambang have been positive: the town is circled by palmeries and the local mosque’s Call to Pray this morning, reminiscent of a Northern African town.  The streets actually have planted trees, an array of frangipangi, wisteria and native grapes.  A definable beauty here, that many of the other popup, factory cities lack.

Trees dimple the landscape

Trees dimple the landscape

For anyone out there who may be a little bit envious of our exotic experience, I want to honour the guts of the issue. Beau, the little trooper, had a 39+ fever last night as his tummy fought a war of its own. The fact little guy seldom complains amidst copious trips to the loo and even thinks about me (‘Mum, make sure you’ve got a blanket!’) is extra-ordinary.

Quinn has already staked out the hotel, made friends with the cool 20 something hotel manager and invited him to his room to play darts.

photo (15)

Living it up

He tried to cut me loose in the local market this morning, I think his Ma cramps his style. The overpowering fishy smell flushed hot with humidity slowed him down though, and I managed to make him walk home with me and carry a washing bucket.

Central Market, Battambang

So we are acclimatising slowly: to the heat, the bacteria, and the mild deprivations- the shower that is over the loo, so you get a wet kiss when you you sit down, and the sink that leaks its contents all over the floor. Life out of a suitcase, in another hotel, for an unknown amount of time, whilst Tim recovers, Beau gets his pallor back, I some sleep, Quinn’s TV addiction grows, and we wait.

The Waiting Place… for people just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite

or waiting for wind to fly a kite;

or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake

or a pot to boil, or a Better Break

or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants

or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.

According to the Dr. Seuss, it’s a place that’s not for you! Instead there are many more (Oh) Places You Will Go. And yes, we’ve travelled to those Places, and yet paradoxically it took, these places to show us patience. So we wait it out.

There is much involved in sniffing out a house- every moto driver in town wants to show you their friends’ place, as the norm is that the introducer gets one month’s rent as a fee.  We have dreams of a romantic, French colonial house with a garden, cobra free (their numbers are quite plentiful throughout the dry season), rustic shutters with many different fingerprints, high ceilings for the geckos to play…  but this is all yet to be told.

Sending Oz some warmth, and mucho gracias for all the literary encouragement.

When life gives you lemons

So we are doing the limbo in Phnom Penh whilst Tim’s balls recover, from a size of a melon to a lemon.

The boys and I already have our little routine.

We leave the hotel- past the ‘bomb’ site where a new multi storey building materialises in days, walk two blocks to the peppered sound of ‘tuk tuk’ that Quinn quips back with ‘My name isn’t tuk tuk’, to the Central Market.

Central Market, Phnom Penh

Central Market, Phnom Penh

A beautiful Art-Deco French colonial structure shaped like a cross, with domed features in the inner sanctum, built in 1937.

Once there the boys break into a consumeristic sweat as they beeline the toy vendors and gyrate with superhero fever. Most of the time, I’m armed with an impervious force field, but fate intervened and the tooth fairy paid Quinn a visit last night. So cashed up, he grabs this Ben-10 product:

Ben 10 watch..?

Ben 10 watch

Anything with the words ‘invaginate’ on the packet gets my attention.

It all sounded fun until he spys a ninja weapon kit and he’s off, bartering like a champion.

Meanwhile, I’m doing sign language, for some hair moisturiser, trying to save my hair from chlorine overdose. I choose a meek, older lady thinking she looks nice. I feel empowered by my bargaining skills, using the old fashioned pen/paper technique, we agree to a price lower than we started. Ha, she got last laugh, slipping me counterfeit US $2 note that’s only found on a monopoly board.

Touche. I hope she bought her grandkid a yummy pastry.

The German backpacker and Little Emperor insisted on taking a tuk tuk home

 

Rubbish That

So we spent much of the day inside a mini van with our year’s worth of luggage lugged into it, only to go a few miles down the road to return once more to the comfortable innards of our Phnom Penh hotel.

Why? Well, a bit of an abcess on Timmy’s balls (since he’s told Facebook, I’m sure he doesn’t mind me sharing the knowledge).  So one full week of bed rest and some aggressive antibiotics  should see him kickboxing his way again. But until then, we are housed up in our hotel. Dad being given a separate room to avoid any affectionate pounding by his loving sons, or me for that matter.

Cambodia has its own plans for us. With this extra time in the capital, we’ve been working on a photo essay about the rubbish situation.

Quinn saw a dude carrying a bamboo pole with a sharp spike attached and said ‘What’s he hunting?’. Well, rubbish my lad.  And it seems to be a full time occupation. Similar to the untouchables in India, it looks like an undesirable job for the poorer people on the scale, but the only kind of recycling that goes on, better than letting the whole lot putrify on the streets.

You can’t help but question the government’s lack of infrastructure- sure bins exist and I have seen a handful of overflowing garbage trucks. But that whole education thing (‘Keep Australia Beautiful’) and providing adequate choices (limit plastic options) is totally overlooked. The rate at which this place, whole of Asia for that matter is expanding, population-wise and materially, the Earth is gonna have to absorb a whole lot more rubbish.

Who are we to tell others not to develop… but geez plastic could be the end of us all.

Tuk Tak Toe

So here is a visual taste of some of the sights around Phnom Penh from a tuk tuk, courtesy of Tim.

Beau commented on how old the buildings were the other day. And Quinn thinks every building site is left over from the war. We’ve versed him in toning down his weapon obsession whilst we are here. People who’ve actually seen war, don’t want to talk about it.

Anyhoo, without any fixed address yet, we travel to Battambang tomorrow to scout out a place to lay our hat.

Touch down in Phnom penh

So we’ve finally arrived!

Tim did a short video of the trip dedicated to our beloved doggie, Patrick Swayze Wilson Hall. Leaving him was heart squeezing and he has been checking the door regularly hoping for our return.

We survived with teabag eyes and dodgey backs from carting our 140KG of luggage, and fell heavily into the comfort of hotel sheets and aircon. Quinn being absolutely amazed that Cambodia comes with Cartoon Network on tap, a pool and crepes for breakfast.  Nothing like easing them into a false sense of security!

Hope this finds our friends from home, rugged up and winter lurgy free.