Friday, July 29, 2011

THE OUTSKIRTS IN CAMBODIA: "A BEAUTIFUL MESS" IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE

I've received plenty of odd gifts in my time, but the strangest one was given to me years ago by a friend and colleague of mine. (She's a Facebook friend, so if she reads this, maybe she'll know what I'm talking about.) One morning, she showed up in my office with something she'd picked up during her vacation to a place I can't quite recall. Somewhere in Mexico perhaps?

"I found this on the beach, and it reminded me so much of you, imperfect but at the same time perfect," she said as she handed me a small, pale shell.

A few years ago, another friend sent a text to me that said, "You're a beautiful mess," after a particularly drunken night out (I'd prefer to think that I was "elegantly wasted"), so maybe she was onto something. Nevertheless, at the time I didn't know what that something might be. I was sure she'd paid me a very high compliment, but I wasn't 100 per cent certain how to translate her actual words. Perfect? And just how imperfect am I?

After spending 10 hours staring at the countryside in the Kingdom of Cambodia -- between central Phnom Penh and The Killing Fields, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap -- from two buses, one tuk-tuk, and one massive ferry that carried the first bus across a river -- I think I finally get it. The views from the bumpy two-lane roads are sometimes stunning, sometimes filthy. A lot of people might see it and shrug, "So what?" But for me, it's always impossible to look away.

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