Cambodia : There Be Dragons

We all have our demons. Mine are small and reptilian, and scuttle along the ground, through cracks and along ceilings.

Last night I was sitting at the FCC (Foreigners Club Cambodia), a beautiful old colonial building overlooking the Phnom Penh waterfront, enjoying a Tiger Beer and some garlic prawns. I noticed a quick movement above my head. I looked up – on the wall next to me was a gecko. I jumped involuntarily and started feeling all over myself as if to check that the lizard was in fact on the wall, and not somehow simultaneously crawling through my clothes.

I have a lizard phobia. Specifically a phobia of small lizards. Larger lizards I’m not really fond of either, but there is part of me that would prefer to be in a room with goanna than a gecko.

So – this lizard on the wall next to me kind of freaked me out. I calmed down, told myself: Its just one, its not moving. Finish your beer, and look away.

So I turned my chair around to look the other way – to see another gecko on the wall ahead of me. Oh God. Oh damn. Oh —-! Ok – sip beer, deep breaths. I checked that my bag was gecko free and the zipper firmly shut. I check myself again, down my top, feel up and down my legs.

I forced myself to look out over the water and not at the walls. It was ok. It was just stupid lizards. I had faced this in Mexico, even had to sleep in a room once where I knew there was a gecko roaming around somewhere. Admittedly I had to get quite drunk, and even then it didn’t work particulalry well.

I was reminded that this is why I never backpacked around Asia. I’d actually forgotten that that was why. I was terrified of being stuck somewhere where I had to be in rooms, or even sleep in rooms, with geckos. I had even heard stories of them falling off the ceiling and into people’s hair.

How ridiculous. To let this tiny – even rather pretty – creature, rule me like that.

I took a deep breath and turned around, glancing up at the ceiling.

Oh-My-God. In one glance I had seen at least 10 geckos on the ceiling. And they were not just sitting there, they were moving all around the place. Ok, now I was feeling pretty shaky. Just sip your beer, I thought, then you can get back to the hotel.

Oh god – if there were this many here, surely there were some in the hotel? I got shaky, I really felt like crying now.

Ok, the hotel room is air conditioned (Lizards are cold blooded, this is a good deterrant. I know these things.), spotless and the windows shut. Oh shit – I opened the window a bit this afternoon. Oh shit – oh shit. Ok calm.

The lizard closest to me started to move down the wall. I grabbed my bag and practically ran to pay my bill. A few people looked – oh well. As I was paying my bill I could see yet more crawling on the walls towards the door. It took some effort not to run.

I jumped in a tuk-tuk back to the hotel – after checking the ceiling and the seat – no lizards.

I got to the hotel – not a lizard in sight in the foyer. Good sign.

And then my room. I checked as best I could – no lizards. I stripped off and checked myself. No lizards.

Ok. Deep breaths. Its ok – no lizards.  

My mind started on the ‘what ifs’. What if there are lizards in the hotel in Siam Riep? What if… No point in that. I will just have to face my demons as they come, one by crawling one.

As I calmed down, I realised – its time. Time to be free of this. I have faced far worse and survived. I can free myself of this.

So, if I do face any more geckos this trip, they will be the first step in my facing my phobia. And when I get back, I will get some help to free me of this once and for all.

Time to slay the dragons.