Thursday, July 28, 2005

LAST MEAL IN SIEM REAP


I took a shower. My outlook has improved. Most of Cambodia is out of my system and off my body (with the exception of the mosquito bites that dot my legs inspite of the mosquito coils and the deet). This was the first hot shower I have enjoyed since I was in California. Oh, I am so happy to be coming home.

Before I get on that big silver bird, I must share the story of My Last Cambodian Meal.

Tuesday evening. D and N had been talking about taking ME TO THE SOUP PLACE (OOPS, CAN:T SEEM TO TURN OFF THE CAPS LOCK ON THIS jAPanese KEYBOARD). i HAD THOUGHT IT WAS A RESTAURANT, BUT IN REALITY IT IS THE sOUP dISTRICT. iTS ON THE ROAD TO tONLE sAP lAKE. eVERY `HOOD IS FAMOUS FOR SOME SORT OF FOOD. d`S VILLAGE IS RENOWNED FOR THEIR FRIED CHICKEN. tHE SUN HAD GONE DOWN, AND THE STREETS WERE MUDDY AND DARK. wE ALL PILED ONTO d`S MOTORBIKE. d HAD SERIOUS DOUBTS THAT HE COULD ACCOMODATE TWO PLUS-SIZE AMERICAN LADIES (i HAVE SEEN ENTIRE FAMILIES PILED ON ONE) (AND BEFORE YOU SAY, oH, cAMILLE, YOU AREN`T PLUS-SIZED, LET ME JUST POINT OUT THAT THE AVERAGE KHMER WOMAN IS 4`10" AND WEIGHS 90 LBS). wE MOTO`ED ALONG FOR QUITE SOME TIME, i THOUGHT IT WAS GOING TO DIE EVERYTIME WE HIT A HILL AND HE HAD TO SWERVE TO AVOID PUDDLES (YOU NEVER KNOW HOW DEEP THEY ARE, AN INOCUOUS LITTLE PUDDLE COULD BE DISGUISING THE BOTTOMLESS PIT).

wE LEFT THE MAIN TOWN OF sIEM rIEP AND THE COUNTRY SIDE STARTED GETTING RUSTIC. mORE HUTS, MORE ANIMALS. wE ARRIVED AT A LARGE CAMBODIAN-STYLE RESTAURANT. tHE BOTTOM STORY WAS OPEN, AND THE SECOND STORY WAS PRESUMABLY THE PROPRIETOR`S HOME. pICNIC BENCHES WERE SET UP, AND TWO MANGY MONGRELS PARTOLED THE FLOOR. a FEW NAKED FLOURESCENT TUBES ILLUMINATED THE AREA. i NOTICED AN ODOUR. iT REMINDED ME OF BEING AT THE CIRCUS OR AT A ZOO. iT TOOK ME A WHILE TO REALIZE THAT IT WAS AN ANIMAL SMELL. i THINK WE WERE RIGHT NEXT DOOR TO A BARN. knOTS OF LOCAL MEN OCCUPIED THE OTHER TABLES AND THE FLOOR WAS LITTERED WITH BEER CANS. i DIDN'T SEE A SINGLE jAPANESE TOURIST. oNE OF THE DOGS, A BITCH WITH HEAVY TITS (HA HA, i ALWAYS WANTED TO WRITE THAT!) LEFT US ALONE, BUT A BLACK LABISH LOOKING FELLOW (YUP, AND HE WAS PACKIN' HEAT-- GETTING ONE'S ANIMALS SPAYED INCLUDES TAKING THE ANIMAL ON A 5 HOUR TRIP TO pHNOM pENH, AND IS BEYOND THE MEANS OF MOST PEOPLE) TOOK HIS POST BY MY SIDE.

d ORDERED bEEF sTEW. oUR WAITRESS BROUGHT THE CAMP STOVE AND A LARGE CLAY POT WITH BROTH, AND A TRAY OF MUSHROOMS, NOODLES, "MEAT," (THE LIGHT WAS SO LOW, i REALLY COULDN:T IDENTIFY IT), GREENS, FRIED TOFU, LITTLE CONDIMENT BOWLS OF SAUCE. wITH A PRACTISED HAND, d THREW THE GREENS AND MEAT INTO THE BROTH. i ASKED THEM WHY THEY LEFT OUT THE NOODLES, AND THEY INFORMED ME THAT THE TIME FOR NOODLES WOULD BE LATER. tHE BROTH CAME WITH FISH BALLS, AND D, KNOWING THAT n DIDN'T LIKE THEM, PICKED THEM OUT FOR HER. i TRIED ONE, AND YES, IT WAS A FISHBALL. i FIGURED THE GREENS AND THE TOFU WOULD BE SAFE, i GAVE ALL THE MEAT TO MY LITTLE FRIEND ON THE FLOOR. aCTUALLY, i NEVER ACTUALLY FOUND ANY MEAT, SAVE ONE LITTLE SLIVER, THE REST WAS NOSE-PARTS, EARS AND CARTILEDGE, AND WAS ALL LOVINGLY DEVOURED BY THE "LAB." mY STOMACH HAD BEEN FEELING QUEASY ALL DAY, SO i DIDN'T HAVE SECONDS AND AFTER A WHILE i GOT A HEADACHE THAT i SUSPECTED WAS FROM THE MSG (THEY PUT IT IN EVERYTHING). d AND n ENJOYED IT SO MUCH THEY ORDERED SECONDS.

iN THE MEANTIME, i HAD TO USE THE LOO. d DIRECTED ME AROUND THE CORNER. i GRABBED A HANDFUL OF PINK tp (EVERY TABLE IS STOCKED WITH A ROLL) a GROUP OF WOMEN WERE SQUATTING ON THE GROUND, RINSING THE GREENS IN LARGE TUBS. i DIDN:T WANT TO INQUIRE TO CLOSELY AS TO WHERE THAT WATER CAME FROM. tHEY STARTED LAUGHING WHEN THEY SAW ME AND DIRECTED ME TO A WHITE DOOR WITH THE WORD "GRILS" SCRAWLED IN CHARCOAL ON THE FRONT. i HELD MY BREATH AS i STEPPED OVER THE HIGH THRESHOLD. IT WAS A SQUATTIE, THE KIND WITH THE RESERVOIR OF WATER AND THE BEAT UP TIN BOWL FOR FLUSHING. i TRIED TO FLUSH, BUT i DON:T THINK i DID IT RIGHT. i WASN:T SURE WHAT TO DO WITH THE TP, SO i DONATED IT TO A PLANT. ITS BIODEGRADEABLE, RIGHT? tHE MALE PATRONS DIDN:T EVEN BOTHER WITH THE LAVATORIES, THEY JUST USED THE SIDE OF THE BUILDING.

NOT SURPRISINGLY, i SPENT TUES NIGHT LISTENING TO THE WEIRD SOUNDS MY BODY WAS MAKING AND COMING TO THE GRIM REALIZATION THAT i WAS OFFICIALLY SICK. wHATEVER GERM THRESHOLD THAT i HAD, i HAD CROSSED IT. i DON:T THINK IT WAS ANY ONE THING, i SUSPECT IT WAS A CUMMULATION OF MANY MANY LITTLE THINGS, TAKEN BY THEMSELVES WOULD HAVE BEEN FINE, BUT AS A WHOLE, BECAME A DISASTER. oN WEDS, BOTH D AND N WERE BOTH FEELING UNDER THE WEATHER. d WITH A FEVER AND N WITH THE RUNS. SO ITS NOT JUST ME.

wAS THE SOUP GOOD? i SUPPOSE IT WAS, BUT i HAD TO TASTE IT TOO MANY TIMES AND IN TOO MANY UNPLEASANT FORMS TO REALLY GIVE AN UNBIASED OPINION. bUT IT TRULY WAS UNFORGETTABLE.

AND THE TAB? 5 BUCKS, FOR TWO HELPINGS, A LITER OF WATER AND AN ORDER OF SODA.

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I blog about life and soup, but mostly soup.

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