Phnom Penh is the capital city and the most populous city in Cambodia.
2010. I was wondering around the city center in Phnom Penh in the late afternoon-early early evening hours. The intensity of the heat was beginning to slacken so that I didn’t need to escape into the shade for a beer every other block.
I came to a fairly wide, cement sidewalk along one of the city’s three rivers. At first, I was admiring the river but then realized the better view was the endless, moving mix of people streaming up and down the sidewalk. The people were animated and dressed in low budget, urban-chic clothing that could have come from Walmart.
Earlier in the day at a tourist site, a guide had stated that fifty percent of the Cambodian population was under the age of eighteen (attributed to the violence of the Khmer Rouge). Youth has its own vitality. The sidewalk buzz reminded me of a college town in the first weeks of September.
As I was making my way through the crowds and the noise, I came upon dancing. After watching a bit, I joined a line doing zumba-like dance moves on the sidewalk. Next to a blaring boom box, a “leader” directed us on what move to do next. The others in my line seemed amused that I had joined them and encouraged my efforts. The dance moves made me hotter, but I was determined to keep up.
The other line dancers on that sidewalk were much younger than me and much shorter than my five foot, five-inch stature. They seemed to have bigger smiles though. I recall feeling like a vampire absorbing their vibrant energy and good cheer.
I passed by three other zumba-like lessons on the sidewalk that evening. In a place requiring much hard work, I had joined in playtime! May they retain that love of life.
“When I die, my only wish is that Cambodia remain Cambodia and belong to the West. It is over for communism, and I want to stress that.”—Pol Pot
“Cambodia is not going to be bought by anyone.”—Hun Sen
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