So we’ve been enjoying the food in Cambodia. Meat, meat, meat is what the Khmer love. Rusty, dissected petrol drums at roadside stalls with the sweet aroma of burning flesh… are a common sight. Chicken and pork being the most popular and easily accessible meat.
We inherited one of these beauties with our new house and I love nothing more than going to the local market early on Saturday morning to buy fresh pork ribs; marinating them all afternoon and throwing them on for a Saturday night barbie.
Our number 2 son, Beau loves his food.
Another famous Khmer dish is Fish Amok- everyone has a family recipe for this steamed fish curry, served traditionally in a banana leaf. The curry is a heady mixture of ginger, garlic, turmeric, chilli, lemongrass and galangal cooked with coconut milk.
The local Sangke River (the life force that Battambang town girdles) is home to small, tasty but bony suckers, the common fish used in the dish. On my bike ride to work every morning people often flank her banks with extra long bamboo poles trying their luck.
On Friday night we sat down at home to this delicacy. Saliva pumps started as we all took out first mouthful. Beau immediately gets a bone that he proudly pulls out of his mouth to inspect. Dad is doing the commentary to go with the show:
We don’t eat bones so put it on the side of your plate
On cue when our nearly four year old hears the word don’t , he does.
He pops the bone back in his mouth to see what will happen, he swallows. Gulp. Ahhhhhhhhh
It lodges itself in the back of his throat. Faaarrrkkkkk!
Already on my feet after the initial bone sighting, annoyed that it had slipped through the security check. I’m hugging a slobbering mess- he’s dribbling and crying (a good sign) at least he’s not turning blue and gasping. I watch as Tim and Quinn continue to keep eating. It was delicious mind you. But my stomach is in knots and I’m amazed they can do it.
Tim calls our local Aussie nurse friend who asks how big? Oh 3 cm.. but it looked thin…
We need to find a hospital and get it taken out.
I’m running around, Beau in my arms bits of fishy goop on my chest, vague thoughts of medical insurance and passports in my brain. I grab the passports but can’t find the medical insurance papers.
We all pile on the family moto. Quinn up the front between Dad’s legs. Beau and I backseat trying to console each other. He’s managing to still talk (another good sign!):
I’m gonna tell that fish bone to go away Mum.
Ok beautiful. Then he’s crying again in pain.
Google earth isn’t working and finding places in daylight amongst the scribbly Khmer language is a tough task. Now, with all our stress levels elevated, Tim sets off in the opposite direction. We head out along Highway 5, all madly trying to keep our wits.
I start bumble bee breath (known as ‘Omming’ and humming) just as much to calm my racing thoughts of unsterile gadgets going down Beau’s throat or contagious diseases he may never recover from. Every time I start to think I hum louder. I used this in child birth, maybe it was this memory or the moto engine but soon Beau is asleep! We are still looking in the dark for the only reputable medical centre. The others aren’t worth the risk – we stopped outside one and all the anti-hepatitis signs scared us off. Whenever the bike stops, Beau is disturbed and crying spasms start again.
So more humming later, Tim speeding and playing chicken with some trucks until I start barking at him to slow down. We finally find the right medical centre. On cue Beau MIRACULOUSLY comes to, looking refreshed from the snooze, with a
‘I’m alright Mum’
I can’t believe it so I ask him three times. I didn’t believe in God until now. I was sending some windy prayers to my dead grandfather (who I never got the pleasure to met) since it was his birthday, I thought he might be up having a party.
We enter the medical centre to get him checked out only to be sent out 5 minutes later with a
‘We don’t do throats only bones and fractures’
This centre really is exclusive! And empty, it has that sterile, pristine, rich smelling sheen, only used by foreigners or obscenely rich Cambodians. Even if it is a classist establishment, they won’t check out his gob sending us to a private ENT clinic in town. With shady directions we find the clinic closed, but the Western ice cream shop next door open.
Assessing our options, Beau still perky telling me
‘The bone’s broken Mum and gone into my foot’
Feeling somewhat put at ease by his 3.5 year old prognosis, we decide food therapy may work. We all drop into an American-esque diner booth and enjoy a sundae.
Dodging bullets is hungry work.