That moment you get an unexpected call from your host organization to run out and take pictures of a house fire for the homeowner who is 5 hours away working at the Green Mango,
but you’re still in your uniform (pajamas) because your husband is on a personal retreat and you have spent the entire day doing things you would never do with your joint time like reorganize your entire blog,
and you have to quick jump in the shower but the tuk-tuk is already here,
and when you throw on clothes and arrive at the scene, 300 people are already crowded around so you have to push your way through with your giant camera and iPhone, as if your white skin and complete inability to communicate hasn’t already alienated you,
and the quarter-mile alley leading back to the house is ankle deep in mud from the fire hoses,
and of the three houses affected, one is a pile of smoldering rubble, the second a single cement wall, and you never did find the third, but instead found dozens of teenage boys and old men throwing buckets of water on the smoking rubble and another dozen with hoses pulled from surrounding houses,
and you have to move because the house you’re standing next to that didn’t burn is radiating so much heat people start to throw buckets of water on that,
and you realize that in your haste to leave you didn’t bring any water or sunscreen or sunglasses, but the tuk-tuk guy notices and buys himself water, water for his son and a bottle for you,
and you snap all the pictures you can for the woman who is now responsible for the damage of the other houses,
and you wish you could tell everyone you’re not exploiting them but just helping the lady out,
and somewhere in the back of your mind you are recalling your own house fire back in college and how your roommate shredded her soot-condemned couch when she put it out on the curb so no one else could take it,
and you are realizing how odd that was as you watch neighbors lift mattresses up stairs and over alleys and shuffle between houses as though everyone belongs to everyone,
and you have to keep moving because your flip-flops are getting hot from the heat, and you thought regular Cambodia was hot, but that was before you felt house fire Cambodia,
and when you get home Momsung and all the girls gather around sadly because this is their friend’s home and they want to see the pictures,
and you show them and eat dinner and come inside,
and you grab the phone to call your husband because you’re like, What just happened? but you can’t because he’s on that retreat and none of your blasted phones work,
and so you tell the internets, instead.
Yep. That happened.
Other strange happenings at the house since Jeff’s been gone: The girls all surrounded me last night at the table to eat dinner with me, and Momsung has been arranging my lunch on a bamboo mat in her room for the 12p pirate soap opera. I think it’s the Cambodian version of Downton Abbey, but with pirates. They must all feel very sad on my behalf since Jeff is gone. Also, today Srey Leak came over to work on the assessment tool we’ve been creating and stayed after to hang out for a while. This has never happened. Momsung joined us, and I learned that Momsung is the owner of the property and has been here for 42 years! She was here during Pol Pot time and shares the land with her brother and sister. I also learned that the dude who sleeps here every night is a security guard Momsung pays $80 per month for.
After Srey Leak left, Momsung took my hand and marched me through the village to by a Sprite from a special vendor. I had no idea we were living with a superstar. She knows everyone, and we bypassed several cold sprite coolers to buy from what I assume to be a friend, and the Sprite was warm. Go figure.
On the way home, I learned that she’d had a husband but he died. I learned it through the handy thumb symbol and the word for husband: propone. It’s a total girl party around here with J gone, though it’s only been 30 hours and I miss him SO much, and I was totally responsible with thumb thing so I haven’t screwed up any more funerals.