I’m eating lunch – too much of it – in a nonprofit cafe, upstairs near the racks of books. They were selling dragonfruit muffins downstairs, the color of rose wine, and so I bought one. They taste just like apple muffins, and don’t contain much dragonfruit, but they’re such a beautiful jelly color that it felt worthwhile. There are five tourists from China playing Scrabble in English – one of them got “router” as I sat down, with appreciative murmurs from the rest of the table.
I’m back in Siem Reap after the first half of my fourth round-trip night-bus ticket. This time the employee who handed out wet wipes and asked us to please remove our shoes looked very young; I could see him swallowing a few times and counting down before starting his Khmer-English speech about the duration of the trip and the three provinces the bus would cross on its way to Siem Reap City. Before the trip, he came onboard with an air freshener for the back beds, so the air was a fug of bubblegum and jasmine as we left.
I fell asleep right away, but I’ve still been tired all day. At four I’m going to an NGO for a tour; in the evening I’m hoping to meet someone in town for another interview. Worries about getting traction here have given way to worries about what I’m going to do with all these words when I come home.
The tuk tuk driver who picked me up at the bus stop started laughing when I opened my mouth and said, “Oh! I think you are like man!” and then asked me about my plans to go and see the temples. He was disappointed when I told him I was there for work only; most of the drivers can only make any amount of money through temple fares.
The drivers who go from the bus station have a strict queue amongst themselves, and the driver I had last time told me that they had to pay a dollar a fare (out of three, unless they think they can get five) to the bus company to pick passengers up there. The street for a mile or two in either direction is deserted that time of day, and there are no tuk tuks nearby.