The Name of the Spice: For the Women and Children of Cambodia

<em>The sun burts through the clouds and clearly remind em’ …-Mos Def</em>
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Took me a few to get out of the room this morning but I felt it was time to get going to get out of the room with no windows. So after taking a few more moments to freshen up and pick out my hair which was flat in the back from dreaming I grabbed my 2 bags and forwarded to the lobby of the guesthouse hoping for a bus ticket to Sihanoukville.

Leaving my luggage with the receptionist since I had a ten minute wait for the bus ticket vendor I stepped out to get candy from a local shop. Sisowath Quay St. is different from night to day. Gone are the flambouyant nightlife watching western men in collard shirts, shorts, and leisure sandals arm and arm with Vietnamese and Cambodian slaves with numbered chests. Gone are shirtless men and men with shirts standing outside looking like predators shaken predators the stinch of decietful attitudes and obvious emptyness smelling up the corners.

It was a joy to feel grandfather sun and the wind on my face. Tonle Sap was flowing in a channel nearby, the trees standing in concrete blocks but standing non the less. The children I saw, a little girl with a bowl asking for change in cambodia change isn’t metal but paper. Children approached me as I walked to the store seeking a sweet change from the hot spice I remembered.

I bought seven bracelets from a girl who walked with them on a hanger. A little boy approached me asking me to buy postcards I told him I didn’t want postcards but he was consistant so I asked him if he wanted a dollar he said tank yuu, he was probably five years old, and walked to his friends.

In the store for the candy I sought I couldn’t believe the prices, they were of or about the same as in an american convenience store. Cambodia’s second currency is the dollar I read and heard. I didn’t know the price of items in Cambodian riel because they had dollar prices on them, then I was told why…

Before I’d purchased the bracelets before I bought gummy bears I smiled walking by two women. One an older sistah in a beautiful outfit. I hadn’t seen many sistahs at all in S.E. asia, especially older ones. As i crossed the street to pick up my bus ticket she smiled in recognition and said she was happy to see me. We touched hands and she and her friend invited me to sit with them. The story began with pleasantries like hello, what are you doing, where are you from, where are you going, where have you been? Then I found out I was sitting with sculptor Sana Musasama, a New York based artist who travels in Cambodia working to help heal women who are or once was a sex slave. The art they do together might orient towards crafts such as this years project handmade dolls. Every stitch like stitching themselves whole again. The women she works with didn’t have a childhood and probably never owned a doll since many of them started as slaves when they were seven years of age. Sana and her friend, a Vermont based glass blower who helped to craft the eyes of the dolls began to inform me of where we were sitting…

The western men we were seeing were called johns some of them thought they were helping the economy by being there, hence the high prices in the stores the area was mainly for them. The children selling bracelets and postcards weren’t supposed to be there that was the security gaurds main task, to keep the beggars away so that the westerners didn’ see ‘that’.

It appeared the spice I felt the night before was called rage, anger, and grief. The wind helped more than me to calm down it also touched Sana’ friend who before then wasn’t feeling so good because of the atmosphere of the area. Sana and her friend knew the feeling of wanting to cry, wanting to love, and wanting to kick someones FUCKING ASS!!!.

It’s a task to compose at times what helps is to name the people I love who are closest to me, it’s calming to call their names one by one like I love my mom…and so on.

At the bus station a man I could barely see because he was in the nearby store stood and waved to me. My first instinct was now what…but as I walked by the door waiting everything became clear. Sort of like when you’re having a conversation and a word registers a little later. A vision became clearer. I walked into the store to see a black man eating his food. He stood and cleared a space for me offering what he was having. An african brothah in Cambodia he was so happy to see a sistah. Pleasantries again then we started to speak of foodweb stories and my interest in Africa and what he was doing in Cambodia. He told me the east and the south of Africa was probably better the west not so good. He shared with me that my hair was like his sisters and that I probably would go unnoticed in his country of Nigeria. He said he would support foodweb stories by visiting a website and sharing information with his collegues. We went outside to get catch our buses me with his card he with foodweb stories written on a small sheet of paper. We said we’d keep in touch. Today I realised  the stories are there waiting to be shared just look for the inviting smiles and feel the energy as you walk to the unknown if it feels good take a chance. There might be a story there. Its sad to see the way men are with women here in this country. As I was standing by a booth a local man walked by with his cigarette and blew the smoke also in my face as he continues off to what he was doing. Cambodia a rich land looks barren in certain places feel hot in others and its not just the dry season.
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I had this idea that foodweb stories would mostly be about water, animals, and plants but I’m realizing that I can’t leave the humans out it appears that humans need help and it’s going to take humans to heal them.

Sana Musama’s website is:

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