A red dirt track running through flooded paddy fields
A large, flat area dotted with palm trees.
Yellow rice drying on tarpaulins in front of the houses.
A green sign at the corner points the way to the orphanage.
Our bodies are shaken by the badly worn road, and sway as we drive over the puddles.
Our cheerful hearts watch on; I rediscover the same gaze as when looking out to the Atlantic.
In front of the playground, the children wait to receive a document with their name and date of birth written in the Latin alphabet.
Some of them get out of line and start running, raising their arms, holding the thin page in their fingertips into the wind; just like a floating kite symbolizing their identity.
A flurry of arms wave their prized document in the middle of the shady courtyard: just a game. One of the papers flies away and ends up in a palm tree: out of reach!
The children’s hustle and bustle stops immediately, and a shower of flip-flops hit the palm-tree with a vengeance. Their stubbornness may seem laughable, but it’s pretty damn effective: the document glides back down, and is picked up by an accomplice who finally finds the child with the same name.
Then the whole troop, with their flip-flops back on, head back to us.
Now we can get started, but their solidarity has already kicked-started their treatment.
A little girl, battered by her early life, receives a blue blouse with small white flowers, delicately buttoned up. She comes to life, slowly raising her hands above her face, watching as the long sleeves finally cover her skinny arms.
Shade for children
I longed to return to the south, in the shade of this courtyard.
The timeless Hill still protects pastures where cows ruminate on another time.
A breeze shakes the grass in spurts, like the mistral wind of childhood.
Noisy shovels just behind the wall of the new building site: the rhythms of beasts, skies and Men.
Cheerful new colors on the walls; the same narrow school desks; and those ever-renewed children’s smiles.
This place has changed a lot, and so much the better for it.
Taking a break, I approach a room that opens onto the courtyard, where children are playing jacks with pebbles on the ground. I settle in with them, rediscover the joy of cat and tiger paws, and soon succumb to the dexterity of the two girls.
Behind them, I watch in surprise as two little girls, already treated, play at osteopathy.
One of them impeccably repeats our university 12-point diagnosis test. I’m amazed at how smoothly she plays this game. The full joy of her practice is magnificent…
Life touched, touching under fingers: as the victim of a serious accident he is now disabled. Life has protected itself in him, deforming him as best it can before the fracture of a nearby part of his body: an imprint… With the hands of a friend, he finds the soothing release of this compression, his breathing, and his focus.
The last treatment, a woman complains about the back of her neck, yet her belly beckons: she’s pregnant. Life appears here too. With another friend, this new life is finally welcomed by this overwhelmed mother…
A hill of light emerges from the forest
A dazzling spectacle! A veil before my eyes.
84,000 Buddhas smile motionless, contemplating the uncertainty and impermanence of the Men of the plains so green. Ah, their silent smiles!
The Buddha at the top is seated facing East, renewal and the first light of day.
And so, all is well. Our plants brush against the steps above misery, loneliness and violence. The permanence of this delicate smile remains before our World, and the scent of flowers carried by the gentle wind.
The Sihanoukville cleaning lady
An old lady with shaved hair limps up the steps towards me. Touching and dazzling; all is quiet here; even her dry density is calm. This cleaning lady works at the Grand Pagoda, the translator tells me; pure moments of encounter. After the treatment sessions, I make for the destitute Pagoda.
In the midst of casinos, it’s nowhere to be seen by my tuk-tuk driver. I head back towards the beaches along the boulevard, protected by the vehicle’s tarpaulin, and contemplate the illuminated facades of the casinos programmed to despoil the masses. I invoke the Buddhist woman who sweeps the path to the unchanging smile in this hidden pagoda every day. In the airless night, my artificial lights gradually fade.
The next day, Sophea, wearing a French Embassy T-shirt with the 3 long-forgotten virtues of our Revolution, “Liberté-Egalité-Fraternité”, finally takes us to this pagoda on a hill, once overlooking the bay. A brightly lit room, set back from the other buildings, where silence and incense already permeate the courtyard. At the far end, the statue of the Lady in Black awaits us. And here we are, barefoot, motionless and at last relaxed. Like the black Madonnas back home, its calmness surrenders you to the grace of the moment. Between the neon-lit walls of casinos and the skeletons of interrupted towers, standing between Las Vegas and ghost neighborhoods, this is a place of silence where a Lady fulfils all.
Sophea and Danith, our two guardian angels who know this country, its orphanages and its stories so well, always translate the Cambodians’ requests for us with their restrained elegance.
What remains is a consciousness of presence that permeates bodies and space, followed by a perceived silence that is unforgettable and indescribable.
Thank you to them for their presence; thank you to docOSTEOcam and HVO for initiating this osteopathic assignment.