Roadworks, roosters and quotable quotes


In the past week, the road in front of our house has been completely dug up and carted away in trucks. I won’t miss it – it was a crap road – and hopefully when the dust settles (literally) we’ll end up with a better one.

My friend Sopheak tells me we are the beneficiaries of the pre-election pork barrelling that is currently sweeping the country (national elections are scheduled for 27 July). There’s a similar flurry of activity where he lives to address a long-standing flooding problem. Unfortunately for him, the crews start work at 10 o’clock at night.

But it wasn’t roadworks keeping me awake in the dark hours of Tuesday morning: there was a rooster crowing and it sounded as if it were right outside my window. It woke Tash, too, who insisted I get into bed with her. It seemed every time we nodded off, the crowing would start up again.

Turns out the rooster was right outside the window. Our night guard Chamreun later introduced him as ‘my chicken’.

‘He wakes up very early,’ I said, smiling through gritted teeth.

‘Don’t worry,’ Chamreun said. ‘My cock will sleep at my friend’s house tonight.’

In fact, he slept in the mango tree at the front of our yard for a couple more nights, but as he didn’t start crowing until after 6am, I let it slide.

Tash & Chan outside our houseBesides, I felt I had to keep Chamreun on side as we’ve had a bit of drama with guards this week (and before you ask, everyone has a guard in Phnom Penh – they come with the house). Chan the day guard suddenly quit work to ‘return to his homeland’. Turns out he had a wife and small daughter – which explains his affection for Tash – and was tired of being apart from them. Chan’s replacement only lasted a day, leaving Chamreun to work days and nights. It’s possible he brought along his rooster to ensure he didn’t sleep too soundly.

Meanwhile, Roo has been away all week in far northeast province of Ratanakiri (stay tuned for what I’m sure will be a fascinating post on that trip), and while not paranoid about security, was keen to know Tash and I were safe.

Thankfully our landlady found another guard, Mr Hei (pronounced ‘Hey!’) who started work yesterday, meaning Chamreun’s rooster can go home at last.

As well as navigating the muddy ruts and piles of rocks outside my house, I’ve also been having to do ‘renovations’ on my report to the Red Cross: specifically, deleting all references to a draft government report I received a month ago that I’d relied on heavily for my research in the hope it would be publicly released by now.

Only weeks ago, I was ranting and raving about ‘draft reports’ and ‘unofficial figures’ that could be talked about but not referenced until they were signed off by the powers that be. But I must be getting used to how things work here: given most of the figures I need were cited at a meeting I attended Monday, I’m simply going through my document and replacing references to the report with references to PowerPoint presentations and voilà: it’s on the record.

Maxines 4In other news, I resigned from my job in Melbourne this week in order to extend our stay in Cambodia for six months. I regret leaving a job that I liked, but I figure the trade-off is worth it. Tash just gets more and more fun to be with, and both Roo and I cherish the time we have together and with her. We’re not ready to go back home yet.

Now that the most recent infection on Tash’s face has cleared up, Roo and I are trying to refrain from constantly praising her beauty, lest we tempt jealous spirits to inflict further disfigurement on her.

But you might as well tell a rooster not to crow.


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