Monday, August 11, 2008

The Durian Farm in Kompot

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Susan and I left the sanctuary of our tree-house bungalows at the Veranda Resorts and hired a Tuk-Tuk ( a motorcycle driven carriage) to take us to a durian ( a rather pungent but popular local fruit) farm in Kompot about 60 minutes away.

She and her friend Arn-Chorn Pon own the land and support a local family in caring for it. She tells me about Arn who is quite a celebrity. As a child, he survived the horrors of the Khmer Rouge regime by playing revolutionary songs on the flute. Today, he is an internationally recognized human rights leader and speaker, the recipient of the Reebok Human Rights Award, the Anne Frank Memorial Award, and the Kohl Foundation International Peace Prize. He is also the subject of the Emmy-nominated documentary, The Flute Player. Arn is the founder of Cambodian Living Arts, . He has dedicated his life to healing and to helping others heal from the trauma of violence and war, bringing solace and renewal to war-torn Cambodia by helping to revive its great artistic traditions.

It’s a beautiful day. We make a pit stop so that our driver can fill up his tank from an old Sprite bottle now pressed into service as a petrol container. There are a few other such assorted bottles of fuel displayed on the rickety looking wooden shelf at the family run road-side gas station. I chuckle to myself as I think of what Chevron, Exxon or Shell Corporation might make of this.

Between the expanse of rural life unfolding all around us and the inspiring conversation I am hard pressed to imagine a more pleasant afternoon. Just before we pull into Kompot, Susan alerts our driver that we are to stop in town to pick up a 50lb bag of rice to bring to the young couple living on the farm. They have one child with another on the way – a bag of rice will go a long way for them. I decide to chip in for the rice.

They are delighted to see us as we pull up. Immediately, they begin preparations for us to have a rest in hammocks after our brief journey from Kep. Language is a barrier but we are shown around the land, marvel at the lovely river running through it and are invited with great pride to use the western toilet that was a gift from Susan & Arn. Between sign language and smiles that speak volumes we enjoy each others company.

As often happens in South East Asia, the sky suddenly begins to turn dark and the winds begin to kick up. It’s time to head back . A monsoon is brewing. Susan and I ride back together mostly in silence as we watch the rain begin to fall. The driver offers to pull down the tarp to enclose our Tuk-Tuk. We decline. The wet feels good against our skin and the view is dramatic against the backdrop of mother nature’s tears.

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