Friday, July 4, 2008

Getting on the plane

He’s not very expressive, our Vannac, but when something strikes him, he lets us know. He doesn’t excuse himself when he bounces around the airport like a little boy during our 4 hour layover in Hong Kong, although his smile communicates a half-hearted plea for forgiveness at his uncurbed enthusiasm. He figures out the airport signs and leads us to our departure gate, still yelping at the moving sidewalks, but after the first one, no longer falling over.

The departure from Phnom Penh was momentous, to say the least, with thirty of his closest friends and family all packed into a bus to take him to the airport. Good thing we got there three hours before the flight, just enough time to have my picture taken with every family member one at a time, Vannac with his friends and the Phnom Penh International Airport sign behind them. The grandmothers in their bald heads and sarongs gave Vannac their blessings, and villagers tucked hard-earned dollars into his hands to send him off with. They hung around the entrance as we checked in, ran around the side to get a better view as we stood in line, waved at us as we went up the escalator to immigration and security, and were still waving again after security. As we boarded the plane, Vannac was sure to give a quick call down to let them know we would have a red dragon painted on our tail and liftoff was meant to be at 11:30. After that, they would all go home again.

Since we left them at the front of the building, every detail of our trip has been carefully recorded on the telephone camera for subsequent viewing. Although we have been doing everything together, with Sophie and her sister Lucy in Sydney, and Nicky and James here in Cairns, he is very much out of context here; you can all but see the entourage of friends and family that he had brought with him to keep himself grounded and to keep matters in perspective. He can’t share his experiences with me, as I wouldn’t understand, but his people would know how utterly bizarre and huge this whole trip truly is.

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