It was 8 o’clock in the morning when David looked at his mobile phone’s incessant ring. He didn’t recognised the caller’s number, yet he answered it as usually it could be someone trying to reach him with a last minute work related issue before his plane took off.
“Good morning, Mr David” said a soft-spoken woman’s voice. “I'm calling to inform you about the result of your recent stool sample. You have a parasite called Giardia”.
Sexy, I know. David had caught the intestinal infection marked by abdominal cramps, bloating, nausea and bouts of watery diarrhea a few weeks prior, in clean Singapore, and had been feeling quite ill from it. “Doctor Wong recommends you to take a course of antibiotics, eat plain food, drink lots of water, and most importantly, have plenty of rest “. Not long after the call ended, and before David could process what had just been delivered to his ears, he heard Changi’s loud speaker announcement: “ Last call for flight MI 210 to Siem Reap. Please proceed to gate 15A immediately”.
That’s where I come into the picture. As usual, it had been my idea to visit our neighbouring Cambodia. My husband had never been one interested in exploring temples or monasteries dated to early centuries - he would much rather spend the long weekend in a quiet and relaxing white sandy beach.
Feeling inspired with the possibility of exploring yet another exotic Asian country, I had planned 3 days of full-on activities. My main goal besides trying to satiate my insatiable appetite for discovering an unknown culture, was to make our kids more sensitive about impoverished communities. What I did not take into account, however, was Siem Reap’s scorching temperatures at that time of the year, and the unbearable stomach pain “Patrick” (yes, myself and the kids actually gave his parasite a name) was inflicting on my poor husband’s body.
The occasional stomach spasms did not stop David from joining us on our first day out, when we braved 40 degrees Celsius weather to cover the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Angkor Watt and surrounding temples. Excited about my brand new DSL lens in hand, I tried to capture shots while pushing my way through crowds of impatient tourists, as well as trying to handle my kids’ constant whinging, telling me they’d rather spend their day at the hotel pool with their iPads, or doing headstands and cartwheels.
The next day, we visited Tonle Sap Lake’s floating village. I was determined to personally donate some of our kids unwanted toys to unprivileged children in the area. Upon arriving in the rustic village, I explained to my then 6- and 3-year-old that the floating houses did not bear any electricity, and that the locals used canoes as a way of transport between one place and the other. The first question came from my eldest: - “Mom, if there’s no electricity in this village, where do they charge their iPads?” I was suddenly glad our local guide didn’t understand English very well.
Next, we stopped in a modest floating restaurant, and were delighted to indulge on a cold drink as a relief from the burning heat. When I saw a local girl and her father rowing a small wooden boat towards us, I realised that was the opportunity I was after to donate some of the toys we had brought. With the help of our guide, we found out the five-years-old girl’s name was Arunny. I then asked the guide to ask Arunny if she’d like some toys and necklaces our girls had brought from home. Shyly, the little girl nodded her head, and I then proceeded to tell my kids to hand Arunny the generous gifts.
All was going well according to plan, when suddenly my younger one started sobbing and screaming. I first thought she had been stung by a bee, or other local insect, but it turned out she decided she didn’t want to part with her old toys anymore. It took a lot of tears, compromising and bribing, and when we finally left the floating restaurant, I was ready to dive in the murky lake waters and swim back all the way back home, drawing with embarrassment.
So, after this trip, I realised that as much as I love travelling and discovering new places and cultures, my little family does not feel the same way as me.
From then on, for my own sake, I plan trips that fit both our expectations of the perfect holiday. As they get older, I’m hoping this status will change. In the meantime, I’m planning a photography trip to India at the end of 2018, and I will most definitely not be bringing them with me. And as for Patrick, if you really want to know, he’s been eliminated for good, hopefully never to be returned.