Swimming Upstream


The equinox has just passed, the sun sitting directly over the equator drives the shadows into light and it’s freaking hot. I venture out in the morning and late afternoons, even then scuttling from shade to shadow. Phnom Penh is ticking over, buzzing, grinding with new buildings. Scaffolding wrapped in huge sheets of green plastic. From the roof top where I teach yoga I’ve counted 14 new buildings swathed in green. Many of the designs are generic across Asia, perhaps a consortium of Chinese business men are reusing a design again and again. Hotels, apartment blocks and high end shopping mauls all the same in Sri Lanka, India, Singapore and Cambodia.

Local residents are displaced to build these colossuses, and the safety standards are appalling, people weld with no eye protection and wield electrical equipment wearing flip flops. Whole families live in the building sites, children snake amongst the wood and metal. From my house I can hear the teevees, arguments, crying babies, general hilarity and music. I live next door to a large half built apartment block. The incessant buzz of machinery in the tall structure annoying as it is, ceases in the evening where more normal sounds of neighbours emerge. I can smell the meat and onions being cooked and despite the noise I appreciate the deep shade afforded by the monolith over our little house.

I am teaching yoga in Phnom Penh, and like any new enterprise the way to proceed is difficult, the market is diverse, expats, volunteers at NGO’s, well to do locals, travellers and poor families. Yoga is a luxury item, freedom from stress is a luxury item, yet it is the only way to live that know of. I can’t imagine living without a period of contemplation every day. Most people can’t afford or want the luxury of self awareness.

I am working with a swim coach and heaving my way through laps of butterfly, it feels like I am on every level swimming against the tide but my stronger legs, arm and torso tell me to keep sweeping my arms through the water and hope it takes me somewhere.