I love to go swimming. This is my current swimming hole in Sihanoukville. I usually like to watch the clouds in the sky when I swim backstroke and watch the play of light on the sand when I do the crawl. Today, my thoughts wandered a little. I haven’t left Sihanoukville in over a year, but I’m still happy here. I know others are not, though. I overhear conversations, have conversations and see people frowning over a meal or a beer. These are my random reflections on life in Sihanoukville while swimming today.
This is where I swim. I used to go to Sokha Beach, but I ran out of medicine for my knee. I don’t have to walk in soft sand to swim here at Victory Beach. I walk out onto the pier and jump off. When I return, I have a route that is all hard sand until I get to a broken down boat ramp. You can’t see the beach at the end of the headland, but that’s where I swim to. Sometimes I go further, but when the wind is blowing, I stop at the edge of the beach.
When no people are out on the rocks, I sometimes swim between the rocks to a little nook I love. I can watch the leaves of the trees dance in the wind and listen to the water lap against the rocks. It stretches out my swimming time and I just enjoy relaxing in my sometimes private little nook. When people are there, which happens often, I just swim back to the pier, but today I was lucky. Too bad some thoughts started intruding on my tranquillity.
The first thought that came to me was a conversation I overheard the other night. A guy said, “I feel like I’m in prison in Sihanoukville.” That struck me as an odd comment. It’s nothing like prison. You just need to take advantage of what’s here. Swimming is the only real exercise I get since my knee went bad. Even when I don’t feel like going swimming, like today, it always makes me feel better. It’s the exercise, I’m sure. I know a little bit about the guy from other things he’s said. He basically stays on the Hill, stays up late, gets drunk and spends his money on taxi girls. He’s in a self-imposed prison.
Then I thought about a guy who left recently. He used to like to talk to me while I was having dinner. Every night it was the same thing. First he talked about how he was a Marine during the Vietnam War. Then he talked about the 40 years he worked as a concreter. It was the same every night. If not that, he talked about current events. One Australian guy I like talking with called him “Mr. Doom and Gloom.” He was kind of right. The guy never had anything positive to say about anything. He also lived in the past, as I learned when he repeated the same stories every night.
These kids swimming near the pier have a better attitude. They have much less than we westerners have, but they make the most of what they have. They laugh, play, jump off the pier and generally fully enjoy themselves. I see the same kids frequently. They see me, too, and now they say hello to me and I say hello to them.
So those unwelcome thoughts intruded when I was having a swim today. I used to think I wasted my youth when I became a yoga fanatic. I’m not so sure now. I learned that thoughts are like birds in the sky. You can pick and choose the thoughts that run through your mind. Why focus on the negative when there is so much to be positive about. It’s like the people who complain about the trash on the beach. Yes, it’s there, but so are palm trees, sand and the warm ocean. Get beyond the shoreline and there is very little if any trash. Get beyond the beach and you don’t see trash on the rocks. Why focus on the negative when there is so much positive to focus on?