Up River in the Cardamom Mountains, SW Cambodia
Photo by Ryan Libre
Ryan and I have made it to back to civilization a little ahead of schedule. After weeks of sharing a tent and subsisting on dry noodles and rainwater on deserted island beaches, it's bliss to take a cold shower, sleep in a bed with sheets and hang out in the guesthouse garden like we're doing now, working on our laptops and listening to chickens squabble across the way.
Someone wise once defined adventure as "discomfort improperly recalled." We've had lots of adventure. Most of the story is still jotted in ragged notebooks, but I'm in the process of transcribing everything onto my computer. Chapters are taking shape and characters emerging, but the only bit that I've polished is the first chapter, Christmas in Cambodia, which covers only our first night in country.
I'll post excerpts to the blog as steadily as possible over the next few months as the book develops. The trouble is that Cambodia is a complicated place, overflowing with ugliness and beauty, a riot of emotion all mixed up and confused. I hope Ryan's photos and my writing will be true to the place and fair to the characters involved, but please keep in mind that the unfinished pieces you see on this blog don't reflect the whole picture. This is my first experience of making a book, and I hope that watching the process unfold on this blog will give Loyal Readers a window into the creative process as everything coalesces.
I feel very lucky to travel and work with Ryan Libre, not only because he takes gorgeous photos, but because I can't think of anyone else who could stay calm and cheerful while drifting out to sea on a sinking boat with a broken motor, or when trying to decide if we should fear for our lives as drunken men with hatchets circle our tent late at night during a raging thunderstorm. Please click here to see Ryan's photos from Week One, in and around Koh Kong town.
These are direct links to a few of Ryan's photos that I think are particularly good.
Me talking with a squid fisherman one morning in Koh Kong
A fresh coat of paint, Cham Muslim village south of Koh Kong
Pool Sharks, Koh Kong
Showing off diplomas, Smach Ngam village outside Koh Kong
The first scene of the very first chapter is posted below. It involves a Cambodian immigration officer extorting money and then explaining that he must overcharge for visas because the Cambodian government is corrupt. I've tried to be as honest as possible, even about subjects like drugs and prostitution, which will appear in future scenes and might disturb some readers (Hi Mom!). Comments are welcome - I especially want to hear if the dialogue sounds natural.