Siem Reap is a dusty sweltering sprawling town along the siem reap river, catering as a gateway for thousands every month to the famous ancient Angkor Wat Temple System. Its now quiet, low season, stinkin’ hot 36 average, wet season (its late though), and a good time for me to find my feet. Most travelers are transient 3 days average stay, and many long stay ex-pats living here and working for private businesses, and one if the 800 non-profit organisations trying to right all the wrong. I’ve heard it described as the ‘wild west’ for those who’ve attempted to run a business or live here. Corruption and little or no rules, confusing bureaucracy, coupled with the slow easy smile easy going happy go lucky manner of the Khmer, and the dusty road and blistering heat foorcing you to resign to it ALL. I could almost imagine Clint Eastwood stepping into the middle of a dusty road and everyone jumping into shops so he can fight for the right to open a Burger King!
Im protected in the bubble of the Resort, where i live eat and work, venturing out on my scooter for a daily real coffee and western breakfast at cafe ‘Sister Srey’ on the
river, run by Melbourne sisters and staff that talk with an aussie twang. Yeah! Thank yeww! Falling into the Cambodian Rhythm of life. Atleast 10 minutes late for meetings or a phone call 2 hours later to ‘make meeting other time’.
Im enjoying teaching a group of Khmer group A previous Iyengar teacher here at the Resort taught a couple of classes a week. I always know the students that went to him by the placement of their feet and shape of their poses : ), but he organised a free Yoga Class for Khmers on the rivers’ bank, and then moved it into a yoga retreat centre before he left. I was asked to continue these classes and the enthusiasm and gratitude of the girls is special. They are so free you literally see the stress drip off them as they challenge themselves in asana and understanding and then release into a deep Savasana with the help of an interpreter.
Im finding that I have to start again, again, as students come and find that I and Iyengar Yoga is different to the other teachers previously, and a couple have offered great feedback that my language is different and more silence slower pace and they have to get used to it. There was the usual spike and fall 3 week trend, and now falling into a comfortable 4 – 6 per class, and a couple of classes a week where transient drop ins bring it up to 25 people sometimes. Fun!
Also trending for me, more older generation and male students. The 20 somethings are distracted and need to move, and the older seem to be enjoying the slower mindful practice.
Angkor Wat is like a dream. A step into another world. I could see how amazing it must of been in its day. The immensity of the place and its surrounding temples is breathtaking. The intricacies of some of the work is astonishing. Early morning before the asian bombarding rush of tourists and selfie sticks, there was certainly a vibe of quietness and content. A balance my mate told me. Like a promise of better things possible.
At night there are some nightmares, far in the back of my mind, screams that are distant and old. Or are my dreams distant and old? I wake up, wide awake, in the rush of a human mumbling stream of ancient accumulated life. Im told the military murderers are still free and living in the community without ever being convicted or even acknowledged for their crimes. There’s an over politeness or quiet apprehension which is unsettling, BUT its balanced with such beautiful smiles and bottled up joy in this people that explodes in the rain or in huddles of boys playing or blushing women and 4 school kids on the same scooter laughing at a text message… These same seemingly naive simple qualities are abused and allow atrocities to occur. Its the village simple life on the land family values, like outback Australia or Ubud or a Greek Island or an Indian town.
But it’s complicated in all those places by self serving Politics and Big Business, polluting, avoiding tax, leaving it up to small business and traditional lifestyles to bare the brunt. Desperate for money… daughters are being sold in this town for US250, to sometimes 20 clients a night to save the family… And wages that are ridiculous. But despite the onslaught by overseas investors, rice paddies and forests turning into Boutique accommodation, swimming pools marble benchtops framed with local carved art from once majestic towering forests… and now educated locals wanting a piece of the action at any cost, somehow it works. The stench of the waterways, suspicious men in the night, beautiful girls in too short skirts, gangsters in RR Phantoms worth US$350,000 mixed in with Markets, monks agriculture, food, art, school kids and the rhythm of a good honourable life. Even if its a struggle…
Now I know the cost of a human life in U.S. Dollars