Displaced Yankee Productions | Linna

Linna

21 hours after leaving, we stagger off the plane in Phnom Penh. We are immediately welcomed by the humidity and are all feeling a little punchy from lack of sleep. Art manages to get shaken down (again) by an official at customs for a few extra dollars. We load up with our luggage and walk outside to see a familiar face. Borom, my Cambodian fixer from Cadamon films is waiting for us. It’s great to see him – Cambodia has become such a part of my life that there is a sense of coming home each time I arrive.
All of us are happy to get to our hotel. Megan and I wind up with a room facing the river and it’s a great vantage point. With the rainy season over the street kids are wandering the Tonle Sap in droves again and I watch from the window as they surround the hotel guests who pull up to check in. I try to relax for a bit but it isn’t long before I feel the need to walk around and get my bearings. So, Megan straps on her camera and we set off for a short walk before our two o’clock production meeting. Art, no surprise, is getting a snack next door and the three of us set off. I try to act nonchalant, but have a destination in mind. The street corner by the National Museum where Charam, his mother and his sister all lived. The need to make sure they are there is overwhelming and when we get to the street corner and find them all gone I am more than disappointed. I know I will find Charam at the CCF but I wonder what has happened to Linna and his mom. Did they move on to somewhere else? There is no way to answer the question now, so Art and I initiate Megan by walking her through one of the small open markets. There’s nothing like the smell of meat in the sun or the sight of decrypted looking chickens listlessly twitching on the ground to get into the feel of things. At 2 o’clock we meet up with Borom and our two new crewmembers for a meeting. Our new sound man, Thoeun, and our new translator, Thary. Borom tells me that Ny, my translator from the last shoot, has gone to work for an NGO that works with orphans.
Once the meeting is over it’s time to head over to CCF. Dennis is chomping at the bit to meet Bunlong and I’m anxious to see my “kids” as well. The four of us pile in a Tuk Tuk. Sadly, the driver I have used each time I’ve been here before, Vantha, is nowhere to be found. Megan and Dennis are a little wide eyed as we careen down the street with moto bikes and cars zipping and weaving around us with little regard to traffic rules. It is, Megan notes, organized chaos.

We arrive at CCF and I go tearing inside like a kid at Christmas forcing the others to trail along behind me. But I have a mission in mind! The first class I see in session I poke my head in, and a dozen little faces swivel my way. Suddenly I hear a little shout and Charam is out of his seat and barreling toward me at high velocity. He leaps into my arms, throws his around my neck and hugs me tight. I am grinning like a fool.
The reunion doesn’t stop there. In short succession we see Scott, Fiona (the nurse from Scotland), Nin – the sweet office manager who came with us to the villages on the last trip and of course, all the kids. Scott brings a shy Bunlong over to meet Dennis. Dennis’ eyes are bright with tears and Bunlong wraps himself around his American “dad”. We chat and catch up with the staff while we wait for the rest of the children to come back from public school. Lyda is the first to arrive and she dashes over to give me a hug and kiss. She is wearing the necklace I gave her and shows me some photos she just took in photography class. It isn’t long before I am surrounded by my ‘kids” Leakhena and Layseng, Meng Ly and Nygan all light up with bright smiles as they come through the gate and see Art and I, back at last. Megan and Dennis recognize Nygan from the movie trailer and Megan is struck by his sweet, beautiful smile. Dennis gets drawn into a game of volleyball with the boys and Charam is busy handing out candy to everyone from a bag that Art gave him. Of course he’s got about a dozen pieces crammed into his own pockets and mouth.
We reluctantly say goodbye to the kids. We are all exhausted and ready to have dinner and get some sleep. Fiona and a new staff member at CCF, Annabel, join us for a bite at Friends restaurant, which is right across from Charam’s street corner. After dinner, Fiona asks us if we’ve seen Linna and I tell her that they were gone from the street corner. Fiona sets off to investigate, with us in tow, and lo and behold – Art and I got the spot wrong. Must have been the jet lag! Charam’s mother, surprisingly, greets me with great happiness and is beaming. She recognizes me and apparently has undergone a change of attitude since the last time I saw her. There is another surprise – she is seven months pregnant. All of us can’t help but think – what on earth will happen to another child born on the streets. She can’t even support the 2 she has now. Also – she has no idea where Linna is. We start walking back to the hotel. Suddenly, out of the darkness, the little imp appears – walking along with another woman. Fiona calls out to her and she lifts her arms up to me. I pick her up and hold her close. My day is now complete.

 
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