But?! But?! Who stole my book ?!
I wander in the large house in search of my precious, passing meticulously from room to room.
Not in the bedrooms, not upstairs, maybe in the living or dining room.
But that’s not true, I’m sure I put it on the bar last night, unless it was on one of the beds!
I methodically lift all the objects wich could hide this book, but nothing …
Calm down, don’t let the silliness and the hot and humid atmosphere disturb you.
There is only you here, no woman, no children or visitors. You. Excepting pranksters spirits, no one has been in here for a while. So think … and find!
Near the throne of the master of the house awaits me my profound poems.
“Here all is order and beauty, luxury, calm and voluptuousness.”
After having masterfully opened a delicious Kokaé coconut, I finally settle down in my comfortable hammock, suspended between a prolific mango tree and the above-mentioned coconut tree.
In the calm of the darkness, I savor the silence of the Cambodian night. At this time, nothing human is moving around me. The wind passing from the frangipani flowers to the bamboo trunks does not only carry the scent of my immense garden, but all the sounds of the surrounding nocturnal fauna : the crickets punctuate the rubbing beetles, sometimes interspersed with the witch’s laughter of the little geckos or of the blessing of the Tokkays.
The cosmological background noise of the garden, the silence of nature in constant bubbling which swarms.
In fact I think I will not read … Rather take advantage of this sweet indolent solitude in this magnificent country which is not mine.
The sun will soon rise …
I wake up with a start, suffocating, facing the hilarious face of my adorable little girl who pinches my nose and mouth.
“Noum banh chok! Noum banh chok!” she whispers to not wake up her older brothers who are still sleeping.
I emerge, my eyes still clouded with sleep, and my brain trying to reconnect with current reality. But what is she telling me?
“Noum banh chok! Noum banh chok !”, she whisper in my ear, “mom wants you to go buy us some noum banh chok traï for breakfast. Mum said daddy will buy! Go, go, go, noum banh chok!”.
I protest for the form: “But, mom does not prepare baï sack chroupk? Wich day is it?”.
“Mum said noum banh chok traï for us, and the skewers for the people, and we noum banh chok!”.
Her whisper of departure has partially dissipated, she begins to jump in place, almost falling on the carpet where her brothers sleep.
It is the beginning of the end of the silence, the two wake up and say in quinquark their first morning sentence: “Eat rice! Eat rice!”.
I step over the two bellies formerly motionless between my carpet and our door to access the terrace shared by all our neighbors. I am not the first, the mother in charge of the district is already ready to go to the pagoda and some noises begin to animate the three other accommodations adjoining us.
While I wash myself near the jar of rainwater, I observe the surrounding rice fields which are not yet full. Hey, the barrang next door is awake, quietly installed in its hammock at the end of its garden. The first pan of fresh water invigorates me and I soap myself over my krama while my daughter hops while singing “Noum banh chok! Noum banh chok!”.
After a quick round trip in my tuktuk, hands loaded with the best noum banh chok traï in the village and iced coffees, I see that life has resumed its usual course. Neighboring families are divided into groups of women / men / children. My wife has sold several baï sak chroupk before and the rice bites dipped in the tangy fish sauce clump together in hungry mouths. Bowl in hand, I follow my daughter who walks from group to group, patiently trying to slip a spoon into her mouth between each discussion and bite of rice that she is offered.
More and more people are passing by to buy my wife’s delicious bai sak chroupk. The children sing, the adults call to each other from one end of the rice fields to the other, the monks chant blessings in exchange of offerings : a joyful and roaring cacophony sets in, based on choumreapsuor, sok sabaï and loï ponman .
I leave in my tuktuk, it is time to go earn money, and quietly move away from this jovial and morning hubbub.
I wake up in my bed, calm and relaxed.
What time could it be? No matter. When you are in my position few things matter, is it daytime, is it night, is it time to eat or to get to work, do you need to look after your appearance, do you even have to do Something?
I feel the time passing all around me.
I am on a boat whose hull is like water.
I leave my krama and cover myself with more contemporary clothes, get on my motorbike, almost slip into the pond that forms a moat all around my home, and get ready to leave my rental property.
All is very quiet.
A small group of women play cards very seriously while one of the husbands looks at his phone, comfortably installed in his tuktuk about ten meters from the house. Another man, isolated farther on, smokes his cigarette crouching on the edge of the red dirt road. The children wade through the middle of the paddy field, looking for small fishes and crabs.
My neighbor calls out to me:
“- Hello big brother, would you like to join us a little later to eat rice and drink a few beers?”
We shake our hands while he places his other hand at his shoulder.
“- Uh … Hello little brother, I … uh … not know many language Khmer, sorry, please speak another time?
– Would you like to join us to eat rice and drink a few beers, some friends will join me a little later and your coming would make me happy.
– Drink a little cans? A little later? Uh … Ok, I go town, market. I come after. Thank you many.”, I jabber, respectfully nodding my head.
Passing by the old man who smokes greets me with his hand, I answer him a “Hello old man!” and some stammerings about cans to buy.
– “Big brother, big brother, join us, have you ever eaten rice?”
I explain that this Barrang is the neighbor and make some signs. My friends first hand a plate of rice, then other dishes like fried fishes, raw rice crabs marinated in chili fish sauce, duck heads and beef tendons with prahok sauce.
“- Thank you many, he replies to each dish, I eat a little, mmmmh good, good many, eat rice Cambodia good many!!”.
With each sip we collectively toast Tchol Moï!! Tchol Moï!!! Little by little, those closest talk with the barrang. It’s quite funny, he answers a lot of times in the wrong way, but no one is laughing.
The tone is well set up, especially since I pulled out my state-of-the-art double-bass surround bluetooth baffle and we turn the microphone to sing Khmer songs with our karaoke phones.
The concert invaded the district, the heated spirits understand each others better despite the language barrier. Empty cans are piling up on the floor. The children dance all around us and come to nibble on the dishes.
The barrang speaks louder to cover the baffle which screams its songs about love and money :
“- I COME CAMBODIA. I WANT STAY CAMBODIA. I NO EAT PEOPLE, I NO WANT PEOPLE EAT ME. DO BEAUTIFUL.
I WANT DO … uh … PARTNERSHIP? UNDERSTAND? ASSOCIATION? UNDERSTAND? uh … raaaah not know language … Uh … Ok … I WANT DO BUSINESS HELP / HELP, UNDERSTAND? ROSSI TCHOUI / TCHOUI!”
I understand. I like this barrang. We shake hands, saying it’s okay to try.
Little brother turns off the speaker and beckons us to listen. We hear like drums in the distance. Not a whole bunch of boumboumboum, more like drums in front of an infantry charge. The wind begins to blow, everyone is busy.
The sound grows louder, a horde of wild horses seems to be approaching us, or rather a horde of elephants, their paws pounding the ground with heavy and resigned power.
And suddenly they are upon us, waves, torrents, cascades of rain fall on us. Indifferent to the tiny ones that we are, the monsoon takes part in the great cycle of life, filling the rice fields here, reversing the course of the rivers there, watering Cambodia for a following cycle.
It’s time to go home. I greet everyone and get ready to run when my new Khmer partner holds me back :
“- Big brother, don’t forget your bag …”