My mother told me to get rain boots for Cambodia. I sighed a sigh of gurgling duck-like fed-up-ness each time she proceeded through the rationale for obtaining boots:
“Monsoon season, lots of water.” she explained. “Disease.”
“What do the Khmer people do? They seem fine,” I snapped.
“You’re not real Khmer. You need boots,” she reinforced. “Disease.”
So I got boots. (They were a pair of black rubber boots from the little girl’s aisle at Payless. The choices were limited. It was either 1) Get that pair, 2) Get a pair with a cacophonous pink heart print reminiscent of 1990s Lisa Frank paraphernalia, or 3) Get Disease.)
Rain has fallen every single day since I’ve been here. I’ve yet to wear the boots.
But that’s not the point of my story, and it most certainly is not my intention to prove my dear mother wrong – the boots do deliver a sense of mental security against the threat of deluge. The point of my story, so mysteriously entitled “Rain,” is to say that the rain is a stunning gadget of nature.
Some relatives took my aunt and I out to Phnom Oudong on Wednesday. The place is about an hour’s drive outside of Phnom Penh. You can tell it’s Phnom Oudong because it’s a hill, which is phnom in Khmer. Literally, it’s like the dirt and plants schemed together to fashion themselves into what looks from afar like a lone, green, leafy hump on the very flat back of a very yellow camel. We spent a good afternoon with family there, lunching underneath a tall house on tall stilts, swatting flies in the motion of a monarch’s gracious wave to a crowd, admiring the trees and the burgeoning fruits of their labor, looking at cows that were bored with us looking at them, and explaining the art and science of popping corn. But the skies were preparing for their afternoon ritual again. They were churning winds and turning grey. So we paid our respects to the hosts of Oudong and started the drive back to the city. (I would return to Phnom Oudong in December to go up the mountain and also find the genocide memorial located near the base.)
And the rains did come. And it was stunning. (Well, it was stunning if you didn’t concentrate with worry on the fact that we were on a narrow strip of dirt road with throngs of water angrily spitting at us from the heavens, making it very difficult to maneuver past the oncoming traffic.)
To our sides were the flat lands, now being blanketed by the storm. (Took me back to my Bronte-inspired daydream in which I wander an English moor lightly powdered by rain – I can do without being an emotionally ravaged ex-governess.) Everything was drinking up the water. The lakes grew abundantly larger. The temples got a good, clean rinse. The palm trees swayed, those lanky exotic hippie dancers.
Granted, rain indeed is a Disease when amassed in large quantities throughout a crowded city equipped with a questionable drainage and sewage system. However, rain, from a romantically cloud-ravaged sky, cascading in grey droves, to the beat of an orchestral storyline, is quite simply, an understated beauty.