Being in the wrong place at the wrong time, bad luck or bad karma, I'm not sure what to blame it on but these last few weeks in Cambodia have been a test of my endurance, both physically and mentally. Starting with my broken computer a few weeks ago, my injuries in Kampong Cham and now a little bit of thievery while settling into my new home in Kampot. The fact that I'm blogging about these events from my private [yoga studio attached] bedroom, after finishing [a home made] dinner just goes to show that things must not be that bad. Current situation aside however these last few weeks just go to show that travel isn't always full of rainbows and butterflies [or rather sunsets and cocktails].
If you were following my adventures last summer you'll [possibly] remember that I was having computer issues at that time as well. What turned out to be a broken logic board and dead battery was finally resolved when I returned home in August. Upon preparing to leave again I contemplated leaving the computer behind, but chose to lug it along as I had just invested in repairing it and didn't really want to leave it tucked away in the back corner of a closet. The first few months were going well, my downloaded movies and TV shows proved to be useful, pictures were quickly uploaded and I was blogging like a fiend, but then I came to Cambodia. Okay, Cambodia probably has nothing to do with the failure of my computer, but it was in Phnom Penh that my computer decided to quit. Thankfully my brother was here visiting so I was able to ship the heavy, expensive, seemingly only good for a paper weight, back home with him.
Moving on...let's fast forward a few weeks, skipping over the whole motorbike accident and multiple hospital visits thing, arriving in Kampot. Nearly a year ago I came to this city and absolutely fell in love with it, a [used to be] sleepy riverside town that people just tend to get stuck in. This year the story isn't quite the same, but it's only been two weeks, situations are different, people change and it's not every day you get your bag stolen, so I'm still holding out hope for this place. I'll draw my final conclusions on the city of Kampot later down the line, this post is just a fun story about my misfortune.
If you're unaware I'm currently living in Kampot as a voluntary yoga teacher at Banteay Srey. I visited the spa last year and knew I'd find a way to return, even promising my quickly made friends I'd do so within the year. If nothing else this post proves that I'm one to keep my promises. After a long busy week teaching twice daily yoga classes, English lessons and helping around the spa I was ready for my day off. I began my Tuesday with two lengthy Skype sessions before deciding to make a trip into town. I wanted to get out and enjoy the sun, get some exercise and run a few errands. Rather than walking the long road to town I grabbed one of the bikes and set on my way, cycling along the riverfront, through some old streets, past schools and across the deteriorating old bridge. To make a long story short(er) on my way back to the Spa I made the stupid decision of tossing my backpack in the bicycle basket, thinking I'd be safe in this quaint little town.
As a motorbike with three teenage boys drove oddly close to me I didn't realize what was happening, but as they drove by and one lifted my backpack from the basket my mind quickly shifted to the thoughts of something starting with F and ending in uck. I froze for a second in disbelief before peddling my little hear out, following the boys while screaming to onlookers for help - yes, I probably did look like a crazy little white girl. A handful of people saw what happened and watched my distress with a mix of confusion and sympathy but of course no one did much to help. As I peddled down the street wanting to cry my thoughts were along the lines of 'You've got to be kidding me", before anger even set in I was in disbelief that this had just happened to me. I've been told nuuuumerous times to secure my bag if putting it in the basket, heard stories of others getting stolen and yet here I was, screwed.
I had no idea what to do with myself but luck was minimally on my side as my Cambodian friend, Sary was working at Naga house that day, only meters from where I was biking. I rode up the driveway, threw my bike to the ground and went to tell Sary my woes. I was halfway between crying and laughing at the situation as I explained what happened, not knowing what I was looking for in return, a hug? a quick pursuit on motorbike after the criminals? stiff drink? Sary and a few others listened to my story and did what they could to help; comforting me, sharing electronics to try and track my phone (love technology), and contemplating a high-speed pursuit. As I watch the motorbike drive away with my bag I knew that I'd never be seeing it again, but it was fun to pretend there was a sweet ending to the shit I'd been served that morning. Unfortunately Sary had to work so jumping on his motorbike wasn't an option, instead I returned to the spa; first letting the staff know their keys were floating around town, then canceling my credit and debit cards and eventually trying to relax.
By the end of the day it wasn't the things I had lost that I was upset about but the entire situation itself, my trust, enthusiasm, and love for the city were quickly tainted and I'm afraid won't ever be quite the same. As I rode on the back of Sary's motorbike the next few days I found myself tensing as other motorist passed nearby or gave me a second glance. I wanted to chalk it up to stupid teenagers, boys being [idiotic] boys, but as the week went on I met more and more people that had experienced a similar attack. I chose to file a police report which actually helped give me peace of mind, and will hopefully allow me to recoup some of my loses (happy to have bought that travel insurance).
Money and things (except my pictures and journal) can always be replaced, but it's the feelings I'm left with that I just can't shake. Replaying the scene in my head I get so mad at myself for not realizing sooner what was happening. Maybe I could have diverted them, slowed down, sped up, or turned away? I regret not wearing my backpack, a thought that went through my head as I placed it in the basket! Or at the very least why didn't I look at and remember the motorbikes license plate. These 'what if' scenarios are something my brain excels at so I don't expect them to fade anytime soon, but I am trying to look for the silver lining in all this garbage. While practicing [thrice daily] yoga, breathing and meditation sessions I've had some time to think and have actually come to some pretty solid realizations, but not quite blog-worthy publishing ones, so I'll just keep those simmering on low.
Update: Since writing this I've talked to numerous others in the community who have (or have friends who) experienced similar situations. Amazingly enough a few weeks ago three boys were caught after stealing a camera from a couple at a guesthouse. There's no proof that it's the same three who came after me but in small towns coincidences or patters like these tend to arise. It's most surprising that the police even took action much less caught the culprits. Although I never recovered any of my lost items I've moved on and now it's nice knowing the culprits [likely] were caught.
Only recently has this country shown up on the SE Asia tourist route. With a dark, harrowing past it's amazing to see the smiles spread across the locals faces. I've met travelers with mixed impressions, but if you're lucky enough to connect with a few locals I'm confident you'll fall in love.