Some women birth babies others women birth bicycle tours, utilizing their thighs towards creating a slightly different endeavor, an equally challenging affair but a tad less gooey. I dare venture a guess that any woman who has pedaled in the remote central Mekong region would choose the latter. Please don’t misunderstand, after having spent the better part of a decade working with school districts, I do believe that it is fair to say that I enjoy the company of children.
However, in rural Cambodia, it is not the children but a simple matter of being outnumbered by about 567:1 (on last count). Cambodian children do not have a lot of toys by western standards but they do have the occasional tourist to play with. Today’s lot of 567+ youngsters screamed their hearts out with a walloping hello that could be heard in the entire Mekong region, a remarkably fertile area heavily populated by the under 5 crowd. Some of the young welcoming committee ran along beside me and hit Pandemic The Magic Bicycle with pieces of bamboo. While others simply wanted to ride the bicycle, play with the bicycle components or grab my hand as I pedaled by.
My favorite of the young ankle biters are the babies. Babies normally discover their hands at around 6 months old. Here in Cambodia, the moms wave the new born babies hands shortly after the exit plan therefore the babies at around 1-2 months begin waving at tourists. It is truly quite comical to see a new born infant with their little backward fist in the air waving at me as I pedal by. By the time a child is 2, it is firmly engraved in their psyche that when you see a tourist, it is customary to wave, scream, jump, grab and/or chase. Initially, this is very entertaining and I actively obliged the first 200 or so, however as the day progressed I have become convinced of the benefits of all women birthing a bicycle tour and not birthing another baby into the population.
As I sit on the upper porch of a guest house overlooking the banks of the Mekong river typing this after a 92km day of following the Mekong river through villages not often visited by tourists, the tranquil sound of the peaceful current is suddenly interrupted for I have been discovered. Hello, Hello, Hello, I glance down from the balcony and have to smile for there are 4 tiny children bellowing hello and jumping up and down with the energy of a jackhammer. Now that I have parked the magic bicycle for the evening, am hands free and my new vocal crowd is free of sharp bamboo toys, I stand up on the porch and jump up and down with them as we all scream hello, wave and laugh. There is no curbing their enthusiasm for having spotted me up on the balcony of this guest house that is rarely visited by foreigners; therefore, if you can’t beat them you might as well join them. In fact, I am definitely going to start jumping up and down and screaming hello to all tourists when I get home as well, it is indeed quite fun. I am also looking forward to tomorrows jumping, screaming and waving juvenile hello chorus as I head further north up the remote dirt roads of the Mekong river of central Cambodia. I will definitely be venturing north pondering the thought of whether birthing a baby or a bicycle tour is the better idea.