Friday, September 30, 2005


Lightning without thunder has its own special grace. Flashing across the sky, in subtle streaks or golden brush strokes, but absent the onslaught of echoes and bowling-pin strikes -- in this manner, with those shimmering, almost elegaic tints, even lightning can seem benign.

(Especially while running by the river shortly after five, watching the light poke and prod at the fading black night, feeling the faint but steady patter of rain on one's head, shirt, shorts.)

At such times, this land seems peaceful, almost serene. But then I read the paper, and I see that Cambodia has a received a ranking by the World Economic Forum that places it near the bottom rank of competitive nations, 112 out of 117, ahead of only Benin, Paraguay, Guyana and Kyrgyzstan in terms of risky places to invest money, and I see, in local news, that a teen accused of robbery was hacked to death with a machete by an angry mob, that a drunken man was arrested at the temple for scaring worshippers with a fuck-you sword, that two men have been arrested for furthering the illegal-monkey trade that is (apparently) rampant in this country, and, to top it all off, I learn that a 'Khmer Rouge-style' restaurant has opened opposite the Tuol Sleng torture museum, where diners can dine on rice gruel identical to that served in the Pol Pot regime, where the waitresses wonder why they've had only two foreign customers in two weeks.

I read that, all of that, and I wonder if it's true, if Cambodia is nothing more than 'an insane asylum with beer', as an expat friend of mine once creatively dubbed it.

I wonder.

It's something to think about, though. How wounded and strange and tilted this land can be. How full of human dimensions -- squared, cubed, sideways and skewed. This whole country is like lightning without thunder, I've come to think -- flashes of electric madness and despair in ragged streaks, but absent of any lasting echoes. Everything distant, nothing audible.

What am I doing here? I wonder. More importantly, what are they doing here, all of them, the people of Cambodia? Where will I go and where will they go?

Things to think about at other times, on other runs, as I watch the light do its relaxed but kinetic dance across the darkened sky.


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Christa said...

You blend things together so well and put a spin on things most people would never contemplate. I can't imagine what your experience there is like. What it must be like to live in a land that is seemingly so messed up. Your run sounds nice though, with the sky lighting up and the drops of rain on you...a good time to reflect and think.