Refuelling

We stopped for fuel on a dusty highway
halfway between Mui Ne
and Nha Trang.
Ahead of us would come mountains
so green
they were almost blue
but all we saw were low-tumbled rocky hills.

“Sang?” I asked a woman in a shop-front,
then, trying again,
“Xang?”
She nodded and pulled forward
a rusted hand-pump on metal wheels,
and it clattered and rumbled as it rolled,
empty.
She said something to me,
three or four quick syllables
that I immediately forgot,
and pointed at a plastic bottle,
twenty-five lurid-green litres of petrol.
I thought of the slim men I’d seen lifting things like this
with apparent ease,
though their pale-brown forearms and fingers
were taut as cables,
and I decided I would not drop it.

The fuel poured out into the pump over a long minute,
the same green as the ice-blocks we kept in the freezer when I was a child,
rushing evenly from the bottle,
the liquid surface creased
like a fast-flowing river,
before splashing and gurgling
into the metal
funnel the
seller
held.

My body and arms ached
from the unfamiliar weight
and I felt so happy
that it was like feeling well.

It’s easy to become accustomed to life just about anywhere I guess, and after less than two years, I find Cambodia very familiar now, so I don’t notice things they way I did when we first arrived. However,  I travelled to Vietnam this past month for a holiday with a friend, and we rode motorcycles around the South of the country for nine days. It was really wonderful to be somewhere that was different again, and to be reminded of the new experiences this part of the world has given me as I’ve lived here. Amongst other things, it’s led me to look again more closely at Cambodia, and try to really notice it again.

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