The Facebook Chronicles: Outtake One
A day in Kratie, Cambodia

Mia…

gets out of bed with a plan for the day, for once. And a somewhat ambitious one at that.

will rent a bike, take it on a boat to an island, bike around for a few hours, come back, rest and eat if there is time, and leave by 4 pm for the hour bike ride needed to catch the dolphins feeding at sunset.

is disappointed that the hot water she changed rooms for (and paid more for) is lukewarm at best.

sorts out boiled eggs to go and a bicycle rental but remains unable to get WaMu to mail her a new ATM card to either Cambodia or her home address in New York.

is off the internet and finally ready to start her bike trip, but gets drafted into giving an email lesson to the owner of her guest house. As in how open your account and write one.

is amazed that the things she thinks of as intuitive are of course not at all to someone who isn’t used to them (ie computers) and (yes) has never sent an email before.

realizes her first challenge of the day will be getting the bicycle, which is heavier than it looks, down to the river, as this involves a lot of steps followed by a dirt hill that she kind of wishes had steps built into it.

would have felt at least a bit more comfortable with the unsolicited company and advice of the random well-dressed man had he not told her, the first time they appeared to be saying goodbye, that he would ‘sleep tonight and think about’ her.

takes creepy man’s advice and waits for ‘the old man’ to help her carry her bike onto the boat, but sees no old man arriving so goes to take it herself—of which creepy man is now quite approving.

is thankful that the camouflage-clad figure with the red gloves, who it appears may in fact be a woman, lifts her bike onto the boat after she gets it down to the water’s edge.

is crossing the Mekong on a small wooden boat with 27 other people, various parcels, a bicycle and a big red mattress decorated with a cartoon of unknown origin.

has her bike carried from the boat onto the sand for her by the man who powered the engine, who she realizes now must be ‘the old man.’

it got picked up.

The mattress I shared the boat ride with. It was the lucky one; it had a vehicle waiting to pick it up.

has no idea how she would have made it across the beach if there hadn’t been a bamboo plank laid out over most of the distance.

The plank I walked (my bike over)

the plank i walked (my bike over)

is having her first truly physically challenging experience of her trip.

feels moderately pathetic that this entails only pushing a bicycle across the sand and then up a small hill (of sand and then dirt).

stops briefly for boiled eggs on a bench and then hits the (dirt) road.

realizes she actually learned some useful information from creepy guy that helped her make her way around the island.

still wishes she hadn’t had the encounter with creepy man, as it put the only damper on her day thus far.

is said hello to by literally almost everyone on the island she passes on her bicycle. And literally everyone under age 10.

is trying to remember to sit up straight so as not to end up with a back full of knots.

befriends a group of adorable small children who become expert whistleblowers (with one already-expert bubble blower among them).

the whistleblowers

the whistleblowers

finds it amusing that more of the kids are interested in trying out the whistle on her backpack than seeing the pictures of themselves on her camera.

is thinking about the word ‘whistleblower.’

whistle-blowing boy and bubble-blowing girl

whistle-blowing boy and bubble-blowing girl

thought she was the only foreigner on the island until she ran into a French couple—who ‘made a reservation’ for lunch at a house where the family does homestays.

discovers oxcarts galore, hay storage huts, the world’s smallest horses, and fields with cows grazing that are inexplicably stunning to look at.

ox cart and hay hut

ox cart, hay hut and more hay than the hut can hold

spends a lovely day biking the perimeter of eight kilometer-long Koh Tong island.

Cows grazing the day away in the fields

Cows grazing the day away in the fields

gets a Khmer lesson in numbers, days of the week and more from a woman who stops to talk to her about the orange she’s eating on a bench at the end of her bike ride.

is finding the pronunciation so difficult she is sure she will neither remember the words nor ever say them correctly.

ends up surrounded by schoolchildren and the lessons become a give and take. They are much more advanced in their English than she is in her Khmer.

hears a boat and thinks it’s time to split.

is unceremoniously bid goodbye to by the schoolchildren. (The woman had made her exit earlier without any formal farewell.)

rinses her filthy feet in the Mekong before boarding the boat.

is glad it’s hazy now, but still hopes the boat isn’t going to wait to fill up before leaving, as that could take hours if it happened at all.

is more comfortable in the boat with seven people than 27.

is surprised to discover, while waiting for more passengers to materialize, that beneath the face mask of the camouflage-clad, red-glove-wearing woman who works on the boat are lips outlined in dark red pencil and, upon closer examination, eye makeup.

is especially surprised considering that when she first encountered this figure she didn’t even think it was a woman.

realizes she noticed lipstick on several women and schoolgirls on the island today and wonders what’s up with that—which makes her realize that she rarely saw women in Laos wearing makeup.

had a pleasant boatride back, punctuated by one final bike-carrying-to-shore by the ‘old man.’

is helped further up the hill, and then later the steps, by a young man who seems to pity her in her struggle with the bicycle.

is happy to accept the help.

is filthy and grimy and wants to wash at least some parts of her body.

screams briefly when she sees a huge cockroach scurry across the bathroom floor and this brings back the haunting Homer Erotic song she’s had in her head for days: ‘the roaches all run when I pull on the light / in the heart of the city tonight.’

realizes that was most likely not a gecko she saw scurrying up the wall last night.

puts on a skirt, washes the rust out of her pants leg, hangs them up to dry and heads out to the market.

realizes the couple from Portland were right about the fly problem and thinks perhaps it’s not wise to eat most of the food in this particular market.

misses Thailand for its street food, which she never had to think twice about eating.

bypasses a bag of plantain chips and finds a woman deep-frying whole bananas and thinks: fresh-cooked = hot = safe. And buys one.

can’t find any container of water between 1.5 liters and the size you put on top of the water cooler.

buys a big ol’ bag o’ peanuts, thinking she will carry them while exploring Angkor Wat and beyond.

has a still-damp pants leg and is ready to hit the road.

eats a few handful of peanuts for good measure (ie energy).

is biking down a main street which has less traffic on it than any main street she’s ever seen.

realizes she probably should have eaten more than that fried banana and ziti-shaped potato snack junk food for lunch. Thankfully, the peanuts were a good call.

is pretty sure she is following guest house owner Pete’s directions correctly. Left at the roundabout, keep following the river.

is porous with travel fever and glad to be on her own (and wonders if she should point out that this is a Joni reference for the benefit of the one person reading this who might otherwise be offended by that statement).

is trying to remember to sit up straight so as not to end up with a back full of knots.

realizes that one hour’s ride on a smooth road is not really the same as one hour’s ride on a bumpy-ass road.

finds the term bumpy-ass to be perfectly fitting at this particular moment.

wonders if she’s halfway there yet and is immediately subjected to Bon Jovi by her brain.

the one photo I stopped to take on the way to see the dolphins

the one photo I stopped to take on the way to see the dolphins

is mostly enjoying being said hello to by every child and most every adult she sees on the road.

feels like she’s been riding a really long time and begins to doubt she’s gone the right way.

finally sees the river again and is reassured she is going the right way.

hopes it’s not going to be too much longer now.

sees the carved wooden dolphins for sale every five feet and knows it’s not going to be much longer now.

sees two other foreigners sitting on the steps close to the river and feels better that she is not the only would-be sunset dolphin spotter.

sees those two women start walking up the steps as she is walking down and her heart sinks a little.

learns that the German women (or were those accents Dutch?) already saw dolphins, and did so out on the river in a boat.

decides she really likes those German/Dutch women who asked how long her bike ride had been, spotted one dolphin to show her and said, ‘There you go: one hour and fifteen minutes.’

the boat I didn't take to see the dolphins

the boat I didn't take to see the dolphins

is approached by a boy whose job appears to be to take his boat out to see dolphins, though he seems only to want to chat and makes no offer to go back out, even when she inquires, ‘How much?’

is told by the boy that there are 40 dolphins in the area and, when he asks her how old she is, replies: ‘Forty. Like the dolphins.’

spots the dolphin a few more times (The same one. There are no others in sight.) and decides she should take some video as the only possible way to end up with one decent photo to show for all her effort.

is recording the world’s most boring video. A river. Almost still. With perhaps some slight movement just under the surface that may or may not indicate the presence of a dolphin.

is doing several videos instead of one long one because she’s convinced she’s wasting time, memory and batteries.

always seems to just miss the dolphin coming up for air, clearly due to the above-described method of video-making.

decides it’s time to give up and view her videos to see if she got lucky.

suddenly finds boat boy beside her on the steps, looking at her videos with her over her shoulder.

shows her new friend the world’s most boring videos and he seems to get the joke.

discovers, with boat boy looking on, one tiny second of dolphin in all the videos.

hears her new friend say ‘Time to go? It’s almost night.’ and watches him get back on his boat and pull away from shore. They wave goodbye.

wasn’t particularly amused by the ‘Someone might steal you.’ line from the guy in the parking lot getting on his motorbike and telling her to be careful. She’d assumed he was talking about riding in the dark.

seems to be relatively ‘Hello!’ free this time around and is theorizing about the cause: Too dark to tell she’s a foreigner? Knowledge that shouting to someone who can’t see you could scare them and throw them off their bike? The fact that she is singing makes them think ‘This one’s a loon, better not to say anything.’? Once she dons her head lamp she knows she cannot be mistaken for a local, and still: almost no hellos.

is relieved at the hello-free ride home.

is faster only than the oxen.

has an achy butt.

tries to shift on her seat but her butt automatically shifts back to what it knows.

thinks she remembers Dan Glass, when he told her she had to get a Petzel head lamp for Africa, saying the battery would last 30 hours.

assumes she hasn’t used her head lamp anywhere near 30 hours in the last two years, five countries and counting.

is the only person on a bicycle using any type of light at all.

is learning to try not to anticipate far down the road ahead and instead focus only on the two yards in front of her that she can actually see.

is thinking there is definitely a metaphor in there.

is ‘Oy, my aching butt.’

is glad to finally be crossing over this bridge, but worried that there may have actually been three bridges on the ride out.

sees a songtaew-like vehicle that is empty and could conceivably have transported both her and her bike back to town and hears herself say ‘Please take me with you’ in a whiny voice as it passes her.

hopes her count is wrong and there were only two bridges. Three seems to mean a much longer ride.

is glad dogs have eyes that shine bright green in the dark.

wonders if there will be streetlights on the main road.

thinks she really should spend some time—perhaps in Siem Reap or Phnom Penh?—working on both her supposed book proposal and the editing job she agreed to do and keeps forgetting about.

is ‘Third Bridge!’

thinks this must be the main road, as it is wider.

is ‘Oh my god, streetlights!’

recognizes signs and shops but cannot remember how far into the ride they were, so is helped by this recognition not at all.

is ‘Yay, roundabout!’ and says ‘Yaaay’ aloud in a voice that sounds to her both meek and weak.

saw the Happy Night sign again and, noticing that it indeed featured a cartoon man in a tux on one knee before a woman in a short dress and go-go boots, decided she had to stop for a photo.

There really didn't appear to be an establishment to go along with this sign. Just a dark empty wooden building and a woman selling steamed buns near the street.

There really didn't appear to be an establishment to go along with this sign. Just a dark empty wooden building and a woman selling steamed buns near the street.

discovered dim sum underneath the Happy Night sign and bought two steamed buns, one of which was shaped like an empanada.

takes two bites of her steamed bun at her bike parked (barely) at the side of the road before getting back on.

realizes she is starving.

momentarily contemplates trying to take the bun from the basket and eating while riding. In the dark.

realizes this is a damned stupid idea.

is back at her guest house having a beer after a long day of cycling.

is about to start writing and oh-my-god ‘Who Let the Dogs Out’ starts playing.

knows she should eat a real dinner but kinda doesn’t want to.

is ready to give up on the idea of posting this on her blog tonight.

is such a fucking quitter.

is already sick of the Neil Young being played across the street.

is ‘Oh, could that be because ‘Rockin the Free World’ is being played for the second time in what has to have been less than four songs?’

has eaten more than her share of peanuts today, but still ate all the ones they brought her with her beer. They were warm!

is ‘Oh no, Phil Collins!’ Luckily it’s the song that, though once one of her most hated, is, thanks to Phil’s appearance on This American Life, one that she now has at least sympathy for.

really doesn’t want to be eating all the ginger that’s in her ginger beef dish, but is too lazy (and it’s too finely sliced) to try to pick it out.

thinks she may just post this after all, even though the guest house restaurant/lobby/internet place is literally closing down around her.

wishes they’d stop bringing her new dishes of peanuts.

realizes this post would be much better with photos but may just have to post it tonight anyway, just to know she did it.

will let the sweet guy who works at her guest house go to sleep now.

is ‘Here it is, a same-day blog post!’ And to all a good night.

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