Monthly Archives: August 2014

You, Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh, you so ugly sometimes,
with your dirty roads blowing dust in my eyes
and your rubbish piles that stink of rot and dead rats;
with your broken people everywhere.
Phnom Penh, you so stupid sometimes,
with your traffic jams that come from nothing and go like smoke,
and your blocked drains that spew filth in front of houses
and your police that just sit, or blow whistles and take fines.
Phnom Penh, you so cruel sometimes,
with your beggar kids with sores, and dirt in their cuts,
and your ten-thousand hookers outside karaoke bars every pink-lit night
kissing drunk mouths and sweaty bodies
to rent a single room with no furniture.

Phnom Penh, you so wounded sometimes,
with your eyes that stare
and your corruption that never goes away,
and your people too scared or poor
to give or care or plan for change
because everything falls apart or dies
sooner or later.

Phnom Penh, you so beautiful sometimes
because you’re so broken by pain
but still you invent and discover
and improvise and survive.
And still you tell me,
“Hello! Where you from?”
and because you smile
and your smile is a lie
but the truth also.


Learning to love Phnom Penh is an ongoing process. We are feeling so much more at home here than even six weeks ago, but Phnom Penh is a difficult city. Like a difficult person, a difficult city is the way it is for many reasons. We are growing deeper and deeper in our understanding of those reasons, and Phnom Penh is rewarding us with more views of the beauty that is actually here, and not simply the smile it puts on for the tourists.