Inside My Hotel Room
09-Feb: 2015




Battambang, Cambodia.

In a way, there's very little that distinguishes this hotel room. It needs paint, the ceiling's ugly and the drapes are worse. It's number is 107, numerologically an 8. I looked up the meaning of eight online, but the meaning didn't mean much to me when I read it. This room does have two things going for it, however: a door to the porch and white towels the maids fold on the bed in the form of leaves or flower petals. The maid's handiwork adds beauty and care to a room that is otherwise all perfunctory - a cheap television set and vase with a plastic rose. The folded towels are a small touch, but the open door is crucial. Because of it, room number 107 has been very good to me. I can leave the door open and stay inside for as long as I like without feeling I need to go outside. I've been staying in, redesigning my website and writing.

The open door is less than six feet from the desk where I write. I hear the traffic sounds all day and night, but they don't bother me. There's been a Cambodian wedding in the neighborhood. Cambodian weddings can go on for days, and the custom is to begin blaring wedding music through cheap loudspeakers as early as 5:00 AM, but that doesn't bother me either. I get up at 5:00 AM. Its either warm or hot in the room, but if its hot I turn the fan on. So the room is a kind of temperate paradise, far from the East Coast blizzards the U.S. has been having. Cold is an abstraction here, except for the ice cubes they serve with the beer. I'll have one of those beers pretty soon since it's nearly the end of my writing day.

. . .

I did have a beer with dinner. On the way home I noticing a playing card in the middle of the street and turned back to see what it was. Amidst motorcycles hurtling by I could see the card was the king of hearts. When I got back to my room the gecko was on the wall and the fluorescent light nearby him was was all the light I had. I opened the door to the porch and looked up the meaning of the king of hearts. The first site I went to said the card means suicide. Great. In fact, I don't feel suicidal now, but last year I did. I don't mean I contemplated suicide, but I did learn what it means to live through several months of depression. The king of hearts holds a sword through his head, and that was how I felt.

The King of hearts also means "recoving from periods of hopeless romanticism with a greater knowledge of love." To become reborn. I don't know how much I've learned about love, but I'll happily take the love of oneself that I've been feeling a good deal of this year. Just basic well-being. I do feel reborn. I turned sixty last year, and it's kind of funny to think that maybe all I went through was just adjusting to getting older, just getting used to being sixty.

After looking up the king of hearts I took another look at the numerology of number 8. It turns out the numerologists were right after all: "The 8 is goal-oriented, focused, has good judgment, can discriminate and is practical, a realist." That's all me. At least that's how I've felt for the last month and especially the last eleven days I've spent in room number 107.

. . .

They're building a nine-story hotel across the street. It will be the tallest building in Battambang, but right now it's just a skeleton of concrete and bricks and, in fact, seems to have been abandoned. No one has been working on it. Maybe the builder ran out of money. I thought those thoughts until today. During my morning meditation my eyes wandered and I looked out the door. I saw sparrows twittering about the building, and then I saw a bucket being hauled up a cable. The building was still in construction after all.

Today the sparrows are flying all over the nine-story building across the street, but the bucket isn't moving and I'm left once again to wonder about the status of the construction crew. Usually buildings go up in a hurry here. The building or lack thereof isn't all that's going on outside my porch door, two cats will each occassionally wander by. Scrawny cats, like all the cats here, not existing on canned food but instead having to earn an honest living eating mice, rats and sparrows. The cats are bony, puny and typically skittish. You wonder how they could take down a rat. Maybe they can't, but probably they can.

The overhead fan is spinning. That says it is hot outside. It is, but here in the room, in the shade with the air moving, it's just fine. The only thing that tells me I'm hot is that my fingers are sweating. They're kind of sticking to the keyboard, slicking up the keys and making me aware how sensitive our hands are. A breeze come down from the fan overhead, but also through the open door, a door and a view I am most grateful for.



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This is one of a series of essays under the overall title, Cambodia 2015. - Bill Scheffel

What Makes Something "Cambodian"?

Durian, Food of the Future?

A Morning Walk

The Cambodian Market: Wheel of the Quivering Meat Conception

Inside the Temple Grounds