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Published: June 20th 2006
The house at which we were guests for the weekend was located smack-bang on the river running past the township of Kampot, one of the few that reached all the way to the water’s edge, complete with timber wharf and Khmer-style riverfront hut. Though we had been in for a quick swim on the previous days, today was the first time that we found ourselves free of Germans and Americans, housekeepers and guards. It was just the three Happy School ladies, hanging out for a laugh after the numerous Asahi cans we had ridden of their contents.
Zeni dived in first, I followed suit, and Nika decided it would be safer to enter the water by way of ladder. She had made a deal with me to swim to the other side of the river and back, though after a few strokes, the giggling got the better of us, and we were too occupied with trying to stay afloat whilst our bodies shook with laughter.
‘How you do that?’, Nika queried as Zeni took a second dive into the cool, hibiscus-strewn water we were paddling in. ‘Easy.’ She got out again to show Nika, explaining that she need only bend her knees, like so, and stretch her arms out above her head, as such, and then push off. Belly flop by Zeni. Lots of laughs and giggles by Maria and Nika.
Take two. This time, both Zeni and I demonstrated, as Nika stood watching behind us. She was shrieking with delight and busting to try it out. With both the Aussie girls back in the water, Nika positioned herself on the shaky pier, arms crookedly in the air, her boney knees together in preparation for take-off.
One, two, -
No! I caaaan’t! You don’t count. I have to collect my feeling.
Zeni and I laughed.
Ok, honey, take your time. It won’t hurt, I promise.
With her toes wrapped around the edge as I had shown her, Nika had the same look on her face as an astronaut seconds before his first mission to the moon. She was determined to conquer this, as she was with so many things in her life. She was bending up and down in her dive position, like a human spring ready to go, planning the operation in minute detail.
Yet when her preparations reached a climax, all that seemed to continuously eventuate was Nika scwealing at the top of her voice and jumping into the water, feet first, arms still high up in the air. It was the funniest thing to watch this head-strong, I-can-do-anything individual faltering on a simple dive.
I scared to hit water with my head!
Honey, you won’t hit the water with your head, because you have your arms over your head to break the water first!
Yeah, ok, I try again.
By the third splashing excuse that wouldn’t even pass as a jump, let alone a dive, we were all unable to contain our amusement anymore, resulting in three girls hanging onto the pier, treading water. The funniest thing of the matter was that the water level had risen to just centimetres below the pier, making for the least-scary diving platform possible. But, alas, Nika was not going to master this one.
As we floated in the calm water, the mountains and rice fields in the background with the setting sun, the chanting from the nearby pagoda faintly audible, the orange flowers sent from a Prince upstream ordaining the water around us, we all went quiet for a moment. I cannot be sure that the other two were feeling the same bliss as I was, thought it certainly did feel like it. I was having another moment of clarity, of peace, of just being alive without having to add any thought, justification, comment or questioning to it. We were all just indulging in the moment (and digesting our beers??)…
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