Sunday, July 7, 2013

It's the Little Things

A motorcycle on a Cambodian country road as the sun sets.

When you finish a trip to place as majestic as Angkor Wat or unique as Cambodia's "bamboo" trains, it's hard to predict what memories are going to stick in your mind. The workshop I just finished with Gavin Gough was a great experience. We accompanied an amazing group of workshoppers through Cambodia and they made a great set of pictures.

But the memories that always stick in my mind from a trip like this are the little details.

Like the sunset. We were blessed with near perfect weather. It rained once while we were in Battambang. It was a brief, but intense storm and when the rain ended and the clouds, quite literally parted, we were left an amazing sunset. I asked a tuk-tuk driver to hold my flash as a motorcycle came down the road and I made exactly one frame.

Another memory, for which I have no photographic evidence, is the impromptu party our tuk-tuk drivers had at the gate to Angkor Thom. Our workshoppers wanted to photograph the giant statues that line the bridge. While they were on the bridge, I asked my tuk-tuk driver if he knew Sinn Sisamouth. He looked puzzled by the question, which came out of the blue and completely lacked context. I could tell by the way he was looking at me, that he thought I meant another tuk-tuk driver.

While he struggled for an answer, I pulled out my iPhone and started playing some of the old Khmer rock songs from the 60s I've collected over the last few years. A giant smile broke out on his face and he exclaimed, "Ah, Sinn Sisamouth!!" And then he and his colleagues started doing a little Cambodian twist dance in the road. I switched to Ros Sereysothea and they laughed and started all over again. Houy Meas (who had a beautiful original song called "Sekong By Night") and Pen Ran kept the party going. The party ended as quickly as it started. Our workshoppers piled into the tuk-tuks and we putt-putted on to the Bayon.

People often ask me what was my favorite assignment or most intense experience. But it's the little things - the human connections - you remember the most. A 56 year old American spinning Cambodian tunes recorded forty plus years ago (all of the singers were killed by the Khmer Rouge after their victory in 1975) for a group of 30 something Cambodian tuk-tuk drivers.
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