Cambodia, Expat, Personal, Phnom Penh, Travel

The Exorcism?

Francois Henri Galland

It can be difficult to describe a typical day in Cambodia to a friend back home. Maybe that’s because in my opinion, there is no such thing as a “typical day”. Waking up to get to work around 8 and getting my tasks done until about 5 and then going work out; it sounds pretty ordinary. And for the most part, it feels that way.

What I do forget throughout the weeks that fly by is that I’m simply just used to a lot of the weird stuff. The cock fights on the side of the road. The vendors trucking around hundreds of small, seasoned clams in the baking sun, “street clams” as we call them. The fear of getting Dengue Fever rather than a common cold.

I can’t manage to explain are the feelings that rush through your body as you charge centimeters away from a rickety truck teetering with overstuffed bags of limes as you sit on the back of a moto during your morning route to work. Or how once I got to the office yesterday- ready to smash out an article and meet with the head of the airport marketing team- I was instantly inundated with questions from colleagues about whether I had heard about the exorcism.

Pump the brakes. Exorcism? Yes, that would be just another one of the bizarre occurrences that happens here at my office in good old Cambodia. As monks came to bless the building, room by room, with incense and tossed flower petals as they hummed incomprehensibly, not an every day, or even monthly, occurrence (at least that I know of)-I tried to wrap my head around the peculiar situation. A friend is currently creating and developing a photo book of such incidents, photographed himself, although much in more serious and extreme situations throughout Cambodia. After seeing photos of some of the things he’s captured- shivers crept down my spine.

As the monks made their rounds, I could only respectfully take my headphones out, try not to laugh as my coworker (DUNCAN!) jumped about a foot in the air as a flower hit him in the head, and waited for the smoke of the incense to clear. I believe in a lot of things and I won’t be one to dash the thoughts that something spiritually evil could be taking place in one who works in the same building (she’s downstairs, I don’t know her).  The stories don’t vary all that much from each person, but I’d rather stay out of it as much as possible. I’m a huge fan of the paranormal- but in specific categories: extraterrestrials and cryptozoology.

While there was talk of fights, malevolent behavior, mysterious voices, stories of the building being an old haunt of a hanged Karaoke girl, and strange activities- I realized it’s hard to believe or understand until you’ve witnessed it yourself.

I hate to compare living in Cambodia to someone possessed, but when it comes to mystery, the unknown, beliefs, or suspicion- there is simply no way to visualize or bring to life something so foreign and alien unless you’ve got an incredible knack for blind faith.

I was talking with Ritchie about my sister returning to the town where she currently lives and wondering what would come of her life as it unfolds there. Would she find solace and comfort in her new home, a job at the town gym, and be happy with her four roommates and weekends out on the town? Or would she encounter the same emotions I eventually did when I went back to Washington after my Cambodian vacation. I couldn’t begin to explicate what a day like was in Cambodia, to anyone-and still can’t manage to really find the words to do it justice. I don’t think she will be able to either.

I wonder if she acted as a medium during her time in Cambodia and was able to perceive the activities surrounding her, or if that like many, her experience in the Kingdom was just another country to check off her travel log.

Regardless, I myself will never see or know Cambodia the way I hope to. I am not of here or from here, and can never embrace what makes it so irresistibly enticing. What I have seen though makes me believe that it is an incredible, vivid, and wild place even with all of its destruction, corruption, and the generations that are healing, uprising, and learning.

Ghosts or not, I’m here. And for the time being, to stay.

I have nothing to fear.

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