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Friday, 08 June 2007

Battenbang, Cambodia - Page 2

Written by Ross Hilton
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The bus was delayed because there was a man trying to squeeze a bag of live cobras into the luggage compartment. The commotion went on for about twenty minutes until my throbbing head could take no more and I decided to get off and stay another night. I sat down in the café of the Chinese guesthouse and ordered a beer. Mr Ra was at the bar. “I told you you’d never leave” he smirked from his position across the room.

I nodded. Four chairs were lined up in front of the screen and Mr. Ra placed a battered microphone into my hand. The music started; a mixed backdrop of Careless Whisper and Club Tropicana to high pitch Khmer lyrics. I plumped to sing the original lyrics from memory, as I could not read the blurred characters scrolling across the screen. The images were mostly soft-focus Cambodian-Americans in Long Beach, California and seemed as from another world.

By my third song I was feeling pretty drunk, and beginning to get into the lyrics; I had started to sing in a kind of bastardized English, that is, English with a heavy mock Cambodian accent. I felt the urge to go for a piss so I asked Ra where the toilets were. He motioned outside the floating shack through the open door into the sticky night. I got up and lurched outside. The path ahead was a narrow gangplank, about a foot wide, extending over the lake. I pondered this obstacle for at least two minutes hanging onto the side of the solid building. I decided that it would be humiliating to crawl over on all fours so I decided be to tackle the bastard as quickly as I could. I pulled myself upright and sprinted as fast as I could along the narrow walkway. One foot after another, speeding up now, almost there, right! Made it to the end!

Buoyed by my success, I opened the improvised door and looked inside. The toilet was not exactly what I had in mind. It was a clapboard cubicle open on one side. Inside there was a large hole leading directly down to the lake just one foot below. Running across the hole were two narrow, wet, planks each the width of a shoe. This was going to be tricky, but the alcohol urged me get on with the job in hand.

Gingerly, I extended my left leg and put one foot down. Good-Now for the other foot. That was easy. I paused for a moment to appraise my progress – I was standing directly above the hole with my legs roughly a foot apart. Not ideal for the purpose I had in mind… I would have to squat. I should have edged backwards on my hands. Still, it should be possible to enter a squat from this position. Better lower my trousers and pants first. That’s it. Now all I need to do is lower my backside slowly by bending my legs. My left foot slipped and re-gained its’ footing. Unbalanced, I lifted my right foot and lowered it… into nothing! I felt my whole body plunge feet first into the water, first my legs and then my abdomen, until my fall was broken, with some force, by the two planks wedged under my stretched armpits, the level of the water touching my chin.

(Page 2 of 3)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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