As I am about to attend Siem Reap’s first official private Wine and Whine gathering of a few carefully handpicked souls, I keep mulling over some topics that truly bother me. Something I find myself whinging or whining about a lot….
Yes, wine and whine…. Well, we already have the Stitch and Bitch – a popular meeting of people with passion for handicrafts such as knitting and a bit of local goss , chit chat and yummy cake – held weekly in Upstairs Café. We are to be different. Fuelled by wine, minus sharp or hook-like instruments and definitely no needles; under the cover of darkness and in a secret location, we are going to tackle the world’s problems and some less important local issues such as - ta daaa – the topic of my little written whinge of today: Cambodia’s obsession with sweeping….. Yes, sweeping. The kind where almost any instrument could become a broom. Often it does. Long stems of dried grass carefully tied to a wooden pole, sticks of various thickness fit for any old witch to fly away on, in Cambodia, anything goes.
My neighbours are possessed by the devilish broom spirits. Every morning, rain or shine, I wake up way before my alarm has the chance of ever going off (why do I bother anyway….??) to the sound of whrooop whrooop whrooop whrooop which is a direct transcript of the sound that is made by thick branch-like broom sweeping fallen leaves off the gravel in their back yard. Accompanied by a loud chat with the members of the family busy with their morning routine of clearing throats, sneezing, banging pots and pans and to give it some credibility, Khmer love songs blasting from a little transistor radio. I was not born a morning person and this affirms my believes even more that the greeting “good “morning must have been invented in error or somewhere far far away.
Then there is the Green Army of Siem Reap. A countless group of green glad souls, wrapped faceless in kramas and towels to protect as much skin as possible from the sun and dust, endlessly and mindlessly sweeping the sides of the main roads in our hometown. Oblivious to the traffic, their babies playing in the dirt just inches away from blaring trucks and never ending streams of buses, fumes filling the air; the job for these women will never end. By the time they finish their stretch of the tarmac they may as well turn and start again. I will never understand how they can bare this and even to crack a genuine smile when I cycle past them everyday on my bike, heading to my clean air conditioned office… Being paid a pittance they are a much cheaper labour force than – say – a proper sweeper truck. And it gives them something to do…. yeah, right.
I suppose all of the above kind of makes sense…. Keeping your front and back yard leaf free shows that your house is your castle even if you are not an Englishman wearing a tweed jacket. Keeping the sides of the road semi dust and debris free makes my getting to work a notch more pleasant compared to (a very few) days when the Green Army does not operate and I must dodge fallen branches and pockets of fine and not so fine dust accumulated overnight.
Sweeping leaves in the forest is another matter altogether… You have all seen it. Quietly efficient, whrooop whroop whroop fills the air and the only sound competing is the screaming cicadas; leaves piling up and IF you turn around you may as well start again. And on windy days?…. well, ehrmmm do NOT TURN around….The Green Army – keeping the forest in the Angkor Archaeological park leaf free – for your enjoyment and comfort. Never mind about the tons of plastic bags, polystyrene boxes, straws, lost shoes, tattered hats and other goodies floating about and filling every inch of free space in Cambodia… Never mind about that.
Maybe I am missing something or maybe Cambodians really love sweeping.
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.