Hello, my name is Anna and I am a Sakura-holic.
I have always had a thing for second hand stuff. Third hand is not bad either but how do you really know how many owners an item has had before it found refuge in a “second” hand store? You don’t. Some items carry original tags from the shop where they were once displayed and I can only imagine their fate; wrapped nicely under a Christmas tree (well, maybe not so much in Japan….) with a big ribbon on top, yet tossed aside unwanted because their new owner simply didn’t like them or they didn’t fit and exchange wasn’t possible. Some items are true antiques and worth more than the dusty half peeled sticker reading US$1 – lucky the pricing squad will never know.
I am mainly talking about clothes and household items. Second hand bikes and cars are a more serious business and unless you have built your own house, it is also at least second hand but I doubt many people think about it this way. While some houses come with ghosts I hope that my plates and pots and pans acquired via various second hand means don’t. It also wouldn’t be fun to have a ghost in your jeans.
Now let’s get down to (Sakura) business. For those who wonder why I talk about Japanese cherry blossom, let me explain that MY Sakura has everything to do with Japan, just not with flowers or trees in general. It is a store selling second hand (or more glamorously described “recycled”) Japanese goods. Clothes, shoes, handbags, kitchen ware, furniture and limited electronics plus other obscure items which don’t fall into any category. Sakura currently has several branches in Phnom Penh (I read about 5!) and one in Siem Reap. If I am not mistaken, I have also seen one in Battambang and good on them for having one as well!
I am a veteran of Sakura shopping. My kitchen consists of various semi completed sets of plates, cups, glasses , pots and pans. My sense of balance and tradition tells me to aim for at least 4 pieces of a kind but 6 is better. I buy even when only 3 pieces match, unless there is an outstanding piece which can survive on its own. Several times, to my great delight, I found long lost brothers of already owned (incomplete) sets and had a victorious feeling that I achieved something spectacular in this big messy game of miss-match.
My eyes scan the shelves in a methodical way and I know what I am looking for – not that I actually need anything, maybe apart from another kitchen cupboard to store all my new purchases in….. I move from top to bottom and select possible candidates following my criteria while my head subconsciously bobs to the blaring Khmer pop music or dreary love songs coming from the speakers. Yes, good music is also one of the reasons I come here. I sweat.
Customer service is another one. Attention to detail, responsiveness and speed = yes, take all these with a pinch of salt. I once grew an inch taller waiting to be served at the check out while a telephone conversation (about rice) was much more important than cashing my money. But it’s all for the greater good. By buying cheap (and original) things I surely save money – or not?
Once I am finished with the crockery and breakables, I move on to the clothing isles. It is a game not for the fainthearted. Strong muscles are required to be able to shift and move hangers in a speedy fashion, at the same time keeping a straight face coming across items where fashion police should have interfered long time ago. If you are having a dress up party, this is a place to go and look for originals.
Some pieces remember when Elvis was still in the building and some pieces carry labels such as Zara, Levi’s, Lee and other internationally recognized brands. The thing I love the most about Sakura is that size matters and in fact a tall white female with healthy padding in all the right places has no competition in the rows of locals who also meticulously scan for bargains. Our tastes differ hugely too, I let you have all the Hello Kitty goodies, girls! Only occasionally I give a sharp eagle eye to the very rare sight of another westerner sifting through the mountain of randomness and carefully measure her waist and bum size to see if she is in fact a threat to my future purchases. Mostly I win…. because I am faster and I know my territory, not because of the size of my bum.
My small sub-addiction is scarves – last time I counted I had about 35. I move past the stand and look through knowing that I have a 50:50 chance of finding a decent one, I shift and sift through already eyeing up the next stand. Miraculously several pairs of trousers have fitted me over the years of addiction and I always wonder if it was an English teacher or a student or somebody of my dimensions living and working in Japan suddenly finding themselves in a situation where quick decisions were required and they had to get rid of most of their worldly possessions in order to be able to move to their next point of call. Thanks for your pants and thank god that some long legged people live in Japan.
Skirts, tops and shirts….. all there, along with shoes (not my cup of tea plus I have a zero chance there with my small skis for feet), handbags (oh yes) and ties (for fancy dress party only). Patience is a virtue and persistence is the key. One visit to Sakura is most likely to leave you slightly disturbed, slightly grossed-out and generally unsatisfied. But if you come back….
It’s raining today and I can’t go to Sakura. I am upset and I feel empty, but tomorrow… tomorrow I definitely will. New shipment has arrived – Maersk container full to the last square inch. I saw it with my own eyes, being offloaded…. I wonder what goodies have arrived this time!
When I was little, I hung off trees, walked on my hands and nothing excited me more than the prospect of packing bags and going somewhere. Near or far, just somewhere.
When I was a teenager I made a conscious decision not live at home (read home country) and to move out. Just for the sake of it and also to “stick it to the Man”. The grand plan at the time was America but I eventually came to my senses and even my baby English started to shape up in the British way.
When I then moved out to and started my new life in the UK I was considered somewhat strange and mildly adventurous within my own peers. Little did they know.
When I announced that I was going travelling and that my journey was starting in Turkey, my mother went one shade greyer and my dad uttered his favourite swearword under his non existing beard.
My brother is a much more conventional soul, yet he shrug and let it slide. His childhood tricks consisted of such pranks as hiding his report book under the carpet only to be found when the family moved houses years later. But what do I know? He may have secrets to tell me…… I have not seen the fella in years. Not properly. He has grown taller, more muscular and has a big nose, the family trademark. He is a spitting image of our dad and already his forehead is more visible, hair thinning. The grumpiness is inherited – in both of us. He is no longer my little brother and if he wanted to return all the punches I served him when I was the taller one, I would probably hurt a lot.
So I, the beloved sister that he calls me, have come up with a plan. A grand plan. It may have something little to do with my soon approaching mid life crisis and the need to do something EPIC. Something grand and memorable. Out there.
In the last 10 years I returned home twice and no member of my non adventurous family ever came to see me in the various exotic destinations. Maybe I should check out what the milkman looks like. The grand trip #3 is coming up soon. My return will coincide with my mother’s 70th and my own 35th birthdays, all but one day apart. It’s a powerful constellation and fits perfectly with all my crazy ideas.
Brother + sister + two bikes + some essentials and 350km on top of this birthday cake to reach the town where we were both born and where the celebration will take place. I would do anything for a cake.
The planning of the route has commenced whilst some resisting force has been forming in the rows of the village elders. But this is more like pouring oil on fire and we may add a couple of kilometers just for a good measure.
I have started training. For Czech. This equals at least one beer a day and for the cycling part, the endless roads crisscrossing the countryside in my town of Siem Reap provide for a perfect opportunity to try and test one’s ability to stay in the saddle for a few hours and race the wind. The scenery here is breathtaking (sometimes literally with the blistering heat) and so quintessentially Asian, it feels like my second home which it is. But the more I think of my first home the more I yearn for meadows, fields or corn, rolling hills, wild flowers, pine forests and misty mornings. The photographer in me cries with a pure excitement only thinking about the new opportunities ahead. So fresh and so new. God knows if we will ever get anywhere……click click click…
Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night excited and unable to fall back to sleep.
I will remind myself of this when I am saddlesore, rediscovering hills, in the middle of nowhere with nothing else but fatty sausages to eat – but more on this, and other aspects of tackling the Czecho culture later. Watch this space, 26 sleeps to go ….
TFI Friday is a well known phenomenon in the English speaking countries I imagine. The religious or the non swearing kind often replace F with G.
TFI Thursday is a brand new one and it doesn’t have anything to do with the arrival of the weekend….much.
Lately, in the ABOUTAsia House in Barey Pram Prei AKA Charming City, strange things started to happen.
Ladies of the office (and there is a fair few of us) drew the winning card as our boss recently got in touch with his feminine side and arranged for a rather spectacular event to take place every Thursday. Boys of the office grunt and shake heads in disbelief. Or is it jealousy? Who knows.
Come 2 PM we (ladies) start anxiously looking over our shoulders toward the main entrance. We look and look again….. And then here they are. Two Cambodian ladies with blue plastic baskets full of their ware and secret tricks of the trade. By now the a/c has cooled our meeting room to tolerable 20 degrees and soft relaxing tunes finish the picture.
Being the guinea pig of the group I hand my hands out, sitting comfortably, Lady 1 and Lady 2 positioned conveniently lower sitting on tiny rattan stools get to work. Yes, that’s right – I am getting a manicure! What else could a girl want on a Thursday afternoon?
I glance sideways towards the blue plastic treasure chest of heavenly colours any rainbow would be jealous of and sparkles to match. Sheets of nails stickers are available for those who want to go native and on offer today we have roses, petals, diamonds and even Angry Birds. Whatever mood you are in – we have the right stickers for you.
I consider my options and contemplate the colour of the week while my silent manicurists busy themselves with my cuticles. One wedge of lime and a dollop of cream (I can only hope that it’s not whitening!!!) later I am ready for the next step and I have made up my mind: I remain true to my classic value of “I hope this goes with just about anything in my wardrobe…well it should as it’s mainly black items I posses….” and reach for a non sparkly deep red number. Elegant and simple. Two coats stick to my nails, drying and I am done. I have omitted the Angry Bird stickers, or any stickers for that matter, and walk away being called “boring” by my more adventurous and botaNAILically inclined colleagues. As I find the concept of another person touching my feet slightly disturbing I also walk out pedicureless.
There is a steady stream of female staff members wanting to have their nails as fabulous as mine and the show goes on for the majority of the afternoon. A significant decrease in keyboard clicking has been observed by the males of the office during this drying time but they seem to understand how important the drying time really is. The smell of acetone penetrates the air and our recently adopted black and white office cat “Kitty” seeks refuge outside.
My first dose of blood red nails (in a long time) unleashed the long forgotten (pre-Cambodian) woman in me – the woman who takes care of herself just for herself and for the act of pampering alone. Easy to forget battling daily with the outside world full of dust, moisture and fumes. Not to mention that the rainy season is coming. Mud….mud…mud….
The other day I found myself in Lucky Mall browsing the shelves with tiny colourful bottles and spent money on two variations of deep red – just in case I can’t wait for Thursday.
Oh my God – It’s a girl!!!
anna bella betts
Never still, always on the move, looking for the perfect capture... Cambodia is currently my home, presenting endless opportunities....
In this blog you will find no profound wisdom.
Just accounts of daily life, sometimes about photography, often about wine, occasionally about travel adventures and sometimes about nothing at all.