I didn’t really believe we’d get to this day. The day when we’d make the trek for the last time to the Olympic stadium for our final farewell. In the end, it was just two of us who made the long walk. But we have been to every session, whereas others have not managed to, therefore there was a certain appropriateness in finishing what we’d started together.
We didn’t join the first aerobics class, instead having a wander around to soak up the ambience for the last time. It really is an astonishing place. It will be my abiding memory of the city of Phnom Penh I think. The one place in this heavy city where I’ve felt safe, calm, accepted and absolutely happy in the moment. Albeit, it occurred to me mid-dance today that perhaps we are viewed somewhat as the old-fashioned ‘village idiot’ accepted as benign, but pre-disposed to do unexpected and irrational things. I was facing entirely the wrong way at the time, that happens a lot. I’m not sure contemporary ‘village idiots’ are so viewed maybe they never were, it could be a romantic that-never-happened fantasy. In any event, it matters not, I think we are accepted, we are seen as puzzling, but fundamentally harmless, and in need of support and understanding rather than censure I’m sure.
After taking in the views and sights and sounds, we ambled back to join ‘our’ dance class. To our relief, both feisty woman and twerky man – our co-instructors were present. Also most though not all, of our ‘regulars’ with whom we interact. I thought we’d probably be Ok with our cards. I still wasn’t sure how our idea would go down, but we were committed now.
The class itself had our usual favourites. I was delighted I actually cracked one of the more rapper-esque stompy numbers for the very first time. Inward high-five to me. We were very pleased to have the ‘stand by me’ with its ‘that’s class right there’ and ‘what’s my name?’ interjections. It went fast. Before we knew it we were at the finale twist. Just as we leapt into card giving action, another song was put on. Very confusing.
As the ending became apparent we approached the woman first and gave her our card, explaining we were leaving. If I say so myself, the card was a genius idea, albeit it was one that took significant team work to execute. It went down a storm, as we gave it out some could read the English so it was obvious we were leaving. It was a fitting end. They loved the cards, delightedly sharing them out, and we had plenty. We left some spares with the instructors. One guy who we’d never seen before was pleased to get one but most agitated that it didn’t give our contact details ‘what’s the point of this?’ he exclaimed, gesticulating wildly – that hadn’t really been our intention. It was funny though.
We still had some other cards so these got a rather random distribution. Including to a trio of walkers who habitually promenade through our dance class and exchange nods and smiles. They were really chuffed. Also the fruit and drink seller at the top of the steps who was surprised but delighted. We got huge hugs from the diminutive woman who had helped us across the road. It all felt very appropriate. I’m glad we found a way to mark our passing so to speak. We may have missed a few people, which is a shame, but we didn’t just vanish without a word. The flags were good too. I’m impressed at how well the reproduction worked, it was worth the hassle even if it was disruptive to my birthday plans. I think if I was travelling again I’d do a load of pseudo business cards with a picture and flag of UK and give them out like candy, it just went down a storm.
In greek mythology, there were many gods at Olympia. I do feel as if the Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh indeed has mythical qualities. I was sad to leave our dancing deities behind. Great memories though.
We wandered back to Trav coffee for a final debrief. There will be many more farewells before we are done here. I hate the goodbyes. Which is weird really, given how stressful things have been here at times, but it’s still an adventure shared, and the international dimension of our cohort does mean we’ve had something quite intense, that will vaporise and vanish when we come to go our separate ways. I know that when I get home it is likely it will feel as if Cambodia never happened. Oh well it did. Sometimes such strange things do. I’ll just have to try to shore up the memories for as long as I can.
All my olympic stadium accounts are here.