Once upon a time I would have said that friendship was a magical connection that was made so rarely that it should be treasured and nurtured. I had a tight inner circle as sacrosanct as that of Arthur’s knights.
My well organised life was full of lovely people and I categorised them into a bewilderingly bizarre, teetering hierarchy. ‘Friend’ was the highest accolade and few made it to those dizzying heights. There were more mundane positions which were easier to fulfill such as ‘people I know’ or ‘people I like’ and even ‘people I like to say hello to’. ‘Nice ladies in shops’ were good for a quick chat as were ‘bus stop people’. I defined my relationships and used these distinctions to keep people at a distance despite being essentially quite lonely. I rarely allowed movement as I was a fan of my slightly melancholy status quo. I left that ivory tower life and jumped headlong into the unknown.
Have I become more breezy. Is it possible that I am easy going. I doubt it. The Asperger Path will always be a challenging route . However, now that I am travelling there is no status quo for me to protect from would be friends and so my relationships do need to be scrutinised into the calcified classifications of before. This means that my use of the word friend has become more generic and as result my life feels a little less complex. I’m still awkward, clumsy and inept and I avoid some situations but I no longer bestow friendship like some coveted prize to be earned like a knight’s spurs. These days I have more friends and my relationships are governed as much by proximity as any other factor.
So if you’re in Battambang, are not a racist, like to laugh and have a reasonable level of intelligence chances are I see you as friend. It is as simple as that.
I am woken every morning by the birds with their playful chatter. I go to bed early so the dawn chorus is perfectly timed to gently rouse me from my slumber and help me embrace a new day. That fresh hour before dawn is my time to celebrate the new day and to reflect on the joy and wonder of life before the rising sun takes to the sky.
Once the sun is up, the birdsong quietens as the heat intensifies. The first light brings a realisation that life must be lived as well as pondered. Most days I am out and before eight, purposefully scurrying around the town before rewarding myself with a long lazy coffee. I have a few daily chores and by ten my enthusiasm will be stifled by the heat and I will seek shade, caffeine and a moment to watch life pass by.
Later, just as the sun peaks, I head out on my bicycle. I am the mad dog, the English man setting off on my stately bike with a sun hat to protect my barang head. A short cycle ride brings on a sweat and I arrive at work, damp and crumpled like some second rate colonial clerk. If the birds are awake they are too hot to sing and the air hangs hot and still. My brief hours of teaching finish as the day starts to slide into evening and soon after sunset my first yawns begin to punctuate the evening.
My life is simple but never prosaic. Here in the Kingdom of Wonder I have time to reflect on the majesty of the everyday. I live here as a barang, a foreigner, and I observe life unfolding around me like a lotus. Tomorrow there will be the wonder of morning birdsong before the rising sun and a new page of my life will start.
I went to market, Psar Nath, yesterday and bought a few bits and pieces. A smiley lady reminded me that communication is much more than words and home I came with a bag of goodies. It’s been a month or so since I had access to a cooker and I have eaten out come rain or shine. Now if it’s raining I can stay home and dry and eat. It’s going to be awesome.
I tend eat my own version of Asian food. I have a wok and a love of veggies so a stir fry is the usual choice. Last night I sat in my kitchen and cleaned and chopped and peeled. It was so relaxing. The wok went on and soon as I smelled the garlic and ginger releasing their aroma I knew dinner was going to be great.
Simple home cooked food is a joy for me. A one pot approach and an emphasis on plenty of vitamins and nutrition. A second shopping trip this morning and I experimented making soupy noodles with some leftovers. I’ve still got enough for supper.
So tomorrow I’ll be off to market again. I’m hoping I’ll get another smile with my shopping.