Drug and Fish Road

A farmily send off at the airport, a common sight - Phnom Penh International Airport, Phnom Penh

A farmily send off at the airport, a common sight – Phnom Penh International Airport, Phnom Penh

There exists a trade route frequented by many a travelers seeking to fare the journey that spans the majestically white-capped Pacific waters. In similar fashion to the ancient world’s legendary Silk Road, this route services a rich intercontinental exchange of exotic and luxurious commodities. It’s a veritable blood vein between Asia and North America. Unfortunately, I was not present for the trailblazing of this historically significant passageway, but I’m just going to go ahead and dub it Drug and Fish Road.

My aunt and I recently ventured on part of this journey together. We departed from the North American continent in Los Angeles and traversed the big water to reach Phnom Penh, capital of the Kingdom of Cambodia. As is tradition upon arrival, we brought out the imported goods as an offering to our relatives, our tokens of love and affection straight from the United States of America. In some cases, homage presentation is recorded on camera, similar to what some American families do when they open presents on Christmas day. This was one of those cases.

The following is a detailed inventory of imported goods:

  • 1 bag of candies (basically mini bite size sugar bombs normally distributed on the holiday Americans call “Halloween”
  • 1 wristwatch
  • 1 bag of assorted eyeglasses and sunglasses
  • 1 bag of assorted pens
  • 1 small toolkit
  • 3 cosmetic bags
  • Assortment of small pillows
  • Assortment of jewelry
  • Assortment of drugs and nutritional supplements: Tylenol, Bayer, Bengay, Prilosec, Garlic Pills, Vitamin C, Calcium, Gummy Bear Multi-Vitamins, Ensure, and several other items I can’t remember but I know for sure were buried in the bags somewhere

From the list above you might very well presume that this part of the passage from North America to Asia is called Drug Road. That would be a correct deduction.

This last Sunday my aunt completed leg two of the passageway by crossing the big water to North America and taking with her essential Cambodian goods to complete the intercontinental exchange. Unfortunately, preparing for this passage did not go as smoothly as we would have wanted it to. The task of packing up the cargo was a boisterous affair.

On the day of her departure, the living room was full of activity. Two large cardboard boxes sat open on the ground, with packing foam and paper spewing across the floor. We were weighing goods, moving them around, reweighing them, and moving them around again. Eventually, after much weighing and moving, we got everything to fit.

The following is a detailed inventory of exported goods:

  • Kilos of dried fish and shrimp
  • Some potato thingy I don’t know the name of
  • Kilos of dried fish and shrimp
  • 1 small tub of palm sugar
  • Kilos of dried fish and shrimp
  • 1 carton of frozen freshwater lobsters
  • Kilos of dried fish and shrimp

From the list above you may further presume that this part of the passage from Asia to North America is called Fish Road.

Once we got things packed and loaded into the car we headed to the airport. It should have been a routine affair. But it was not.

My aunt carted the boxes and belongings to the check-in counter. We could see her since the front of the building is made of glass. Some time passed and she came back outside, boxes and all.

“They said one of the boxes is overweight,” she reported.

One of our army of relatives instantly whips out a plastic bag containing a pair of scissors and rolls of packing tape. (We are a prepared and resourceful people.) Two cousins take to the box, rip it open, extract the necessary number of parcels in order to lighten the box, and proceed to stuff them into one of my aunt’s carry-ons. Box shredded open was taped back shut, and we sent my aunt on her way back inside. We saw her successfully check-in the boxes and make her way towards security.

In less than a minute we saw a familiar figure through the glass wall. It was her again.

“They said I have too many carry-ons,” she reported.

Indeed, it appeared she did. She had a backpack, a carry-on suitcase, and a large plastic bag containing the extra parcels from the overweight boxes. The cousins went at it again, extracting parcels from the plastic bag and stuffing it into forced-created spaces in my aunt’s backpack and suitcase. We send her on her way through the doors again.

She was back outside in less than a minute.

“They said the suitcase is too heavy,” she reported.

This was true too. Why do we continue to fail in noticing these things? Well there was nothing left we could do but check in the suitcase. (A convenient service provided to you by Korean Air for the mere cost of $200.) We sent her on her way back inside again to check-in the suitcase. It looked like someone at the counter opened the suitcase and tried moving things around or out, but eventually, they got the piece checked in. My aunt scurried on towards security, with half an hour till her flight would leave.

Our little huddle of relatives stepped back to get a look at the second floor of the airport, also outfitted with glass walls. If my aunt got through security we’d see her through the glass as she would make her way to the terminal. We stayed to make sure she got through this time. Five minutes passed by and we didn’t see her. This wasn’t a bad sign. At least it meant she wasn’t coming back outside. Just as we inched our way towards the parking lot, there she appeared. I issue an unashamedly big wave. This was goodbye now. I’m on my own with these friendly family strangers. We sent our blessings her way for the passage across the big water.

And so everything and everyone made it across the Drug and Fish Road. Well, except for the tub of palm sugar. During the layover in Japan, security confiscated that swag.

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