Losing my nerve


Crumbling villa staircase, Phnom PenhYesterday morning I jumped on the back of a moto (motorcycle taxi) to head across town in search of an internet provider. My driver was missing a front tooth but still had the gold cap in place where the tooth had been like an empty picture-frame, and his driving was as awry as his appearance.

He plunged headlong into oncoming traffic, leaned on the horn to move other vehicles out of his way and when we got into a traffic jam, barrelled along crowded footpaths to get out of it. Unlike him, I had no helmet and sat on the back wearing only light cotton clothes and a pair of pink thongs on my feet thinking, ‘I must be crazy. I’ve just dropped my daughter off for her first day of childcare in a foreign country, leaving the ‘next of kin’ section of the paperwork blank until Roo and I get around to discussing Power of Attorney/guardianship issues, and any minute now I’m going to end up as roadkill!’

By the time I arrived at my destination, I’d worked myself up into such a state I was sweating despite the strong breeze generated by the speed with which we were travelling.

What’s come over me?–I used to zip around cities in this region on the back of motorbikes all the time. I’ve been on the back of much bigger bikes in Phnom Penh behind much less sober drivers, driving fast in the middle of the night to avoid being mugged. I never used to give it a second thought.

Merit birds, Wat PhnomHas having a baby made me lose my nerve? Is this the getting of wisdom or a mid-life crisis? I seem to be anxious about a lot of things at the moment, mostly to do with–or channelled towards–Natasha’s health and safety. In the last batch of photos I downloaded from our camera, there are several shots of Tash with my hands, blurry with movement, lunging into the frame in an effort ot stop her from hurting herself, eating dirt, drinking contaminated water, getting bitten by animals…

As for Tash, she’s already worked out that you don’t touch let alone drink ‘poo water’. She’s learned not to pull cats by their tales or poke them in the eyes. She’s pretty much got that you don’t run out gates into traffic, too (though that still needs to be supervised). She had a fever when we got on the plane in Melbourne, but otherwise her health has been fine (touch wood); by contrast, I’ve already had a sinus infection and the shits.

You’ll come to a place where the streets are not marked.

Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.

A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!

Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?

How much can you lose? How much can you win?

(Dr Seuss, Oh, the places you’ll go!)

It’s those last two questions that are trickiest: there seems so much more to lose now that Tash is in my life. Yet the anxious, overly cautious approach to life I am currently role-modelling for her is not the one I chose to live for myself, nor one I would advise her to choose.

Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find,

For a mind-maker-upper to make up his [sic.] mind.

I guess that’s the reason I called the URL for this site ‘Great Balancing Act.’

For the record, I caught the same moto taxi home without incident. And Tash had a ball on her first day at the Seametrey Children’s Village.


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4 Responses to “Losing my nerve”

  1. khim Says:

    Chere Angela,

    C’est une question d’age ! …….as well as commitments to loved ones

    i know, i’m in that state too…

  2. sooz Says:

    So much more to lose, for sure! But yes, much more to win too. The magic is so much more magical when you see it through your baby’s eyes as well as your own! Here let me roll out another cliche or two…

    And hilarious (not) to be sick when the kids we worry about so much don’t seem to get nearly as much of it. Amy was so much healthier over there than here, but we got quite the run, so to speak. Glad Tash is happy in ‘the village’.

  3. angelasavage Says:

    I guess cliches become cliches because they resonate…

    Writing that blog made me feel much better actually. By yesterday afternoon, I felt more like ‘myself’ than I had since arriving in Cambodia, if not Asia. I could even contemplate a night out with Roo, and to this end we interviewed a babysitter yesterday evening, a Cambodian-American woman called China. She’s agreed to look after Tash this Friday night and we’ve agreed to remain in mobile phone contact 😉

    Hope all’s well with you and yours. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that Amy is totally at home in school.

  4. Bangkok high « Oh, the places you’ll go! Says:

    […] 8. Having returned to Phnom Penh and secured the correct visa this time around, take a motodup (motorcycle taxi) home in peak hour traffic. (I’ve gotten over my earlier qualms). […]

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