copyright by Morgan McFinn
People familiar with a book of mine entitled ‘Out of the Loop’ may recall that I established a newspaper called ‘The Daily Pageant’. It was devoted to chronicling news, sports and weather on the idyllic island of Koh Samui in the Gulf of Siam. There was never a shred of truth to anything published in ‘The Daily Pageant’ and nobody on the island ever read it but, I got a kick out of writing the damn thing. I now think it’s time to establish a version of ‘The Daily Pageant’ here in Kampot, Cambodia where I live with my wife. So, here goes…
Attack of the Red Ants
There is a rather pristine compound called ‘The Dead-end Sanctuary’ along the Kampot River north of town where long term residents live in wooden, Khmer style bungalows. We here at ‘The Daily Pageant’ recently dispatched a reporter to investigate this compound and interview some of the residents with regard to their thoughts about living there. “Pristine” was actually a word that one of those residents used. Naturally, our reporter had no idea what the word meant but, our editorial staff liked the sound of it so we decided to toss it in. It should be pointed out that our editorial staff consists of an elderly, gay couple from France. Being French, they are far more concerned with the sound of words than the meaning.
Some residents did complain about a cacophony of barking dogs in the neighborhood and a bit of racket emanating from a scrap recycling business next to the compound but, for the most part, they seemed pleased to be living there. Until recently, that is. The onset of the mango season has resulted in a swarm of flies and, particularly irksome, legions of red ants that have invaded the compound.
“Bloody nasty little blighters!” exclaimed one resident. “They stick to your skin and sting like hell.”
According to our research department, red ants in particular rouse that sort of approbation. They simply annoy the hell out of people. The more common black ants pretty much mind their own business and they appear to be quite congenial. If you observe lines of black ants going in opposite directions they each stop to greet each other. We do this at ‘The Daily Pageant’ quite often…especially on slow news days. Fortunately a member of our staff is familiar with ant-speak and has translated what the black ants say to each other…“Hey Fred, how ya doin’?” “Nice to see you, Gloria. Love what you’ve done with your antlers.” “How’s the wife and kids, Sam?”
“Yeah, all’s good with me, Charlie. So nice of you to ask.” That sort of friendly, casual banter.
Red ants, however, are a bit different… “Hey asshole, watch where you’re going!” “Up yours, buster!” “Heard you were slummin’ down along the wharf again last night, Margaret.” “Get the hell out of my way, you moron!” It’s the red ants’ version of road rage.
Past history (is there another kind?) indicates that the scourge of red ants should begin to taper off next month. We hope our report will provide some solace to the residents of ‘The Dead-end Sanctuary’. As is our motto at ‘The Daily Pageant’… “We feel your pain”.
The rainy season in S.E. Asia is underway. Precipitation abounds. (Love those big words, uh? Five or six syllables in this one, right?) That means water particles are falling from the sky in rather large quantities. Cambodians like this season because water particles falling from the sky (precipitation, if we may) helps the rice grow. These people are very fond of rice. In fact, many of them eat it three times a day. Same throughout S.E. Asia. Needless to say, that’s a shitload of rice requiring a shitload of water particles falling from the sky.
So the rains are upon us here in Kampot and that covers the weather.
In the 1960’s and early 70’s Cambodia was known to produce some talented tennis players. The country always did well competing throughout S.E. Asia. Then the Khmer Rouge took center court and systematically killed off the competition. Thirty-five years later the situation has not improved. That mostly has to do with the fact that there are very few tennis courts in the country. There are very few athletic venues of any kind. Not many parks, either. Kids play on the pavement. Cambodia consistently ranks last in the SEA (South-east Asia) Games.
The only semblance of a sport in Kampot is what The Daily Pageant refers to as “moto-chicken”. Contestants hop on their motorbikes and head into traffic. The idea seems to be to steer your bike towards an oncoming vehicle and get as close as possible to it without colliding. The driver who pulls out of the way first is the loser. Of course, if neither driver pulls away then it’s a tie…they both lose! The real problem is that many people find themselves involved in this competition without wanting to be.
We’re hoping the country starts building more tennis courts!