Location: Koh Rong, Cambodia
They must have built the contraption early this morning, as dawn broke. It’s at least twelve feet high, eight across; six tree trunks twisted together with rope to create an axis. The barefoot electricians heaved a giant wooden spool of thick black wire on it. It looks wider most of the fishing boats on the island and I can’t figure out how they managed to ship such a heavy thing here.
The men use the crudely constructed mechanism to hold up the spool so they can spin out the wire as they make their way along the shore, hooking it in loops around palm trees in front of guesthouses. The black cords look too thick, too messy, too much in some places and too little in others. But it’s power, nonetheless. The whole island is finally going to have twenty-four hour power. No more unexpected outages or relying on unpredictable generators. This is the first step toward real civilization; next comes hot showers and then air conditioning. Full wireless Internet and television stations are in the near future.
Long term islanders stare up at the power line, unsmiling. I sense their anxieties. We’re witnessing the transformation of Koh Rong from a quiet beachfront/stoner paradise to an Ibiza-esque party town. This is what everyone knew was going to happen and wanted to delay as long as possible. This is the beginning of the end.
I wander down the beach, following the power lines with my eyes. I’m only on Koh Rong for a couple more days and I’m ready to leave. In the past week I’ve noticed trash building up on the shore; a wine bottle bobbing in the ocean, plastic cups furry with algae buried in the sand, Khmer kids playing with cardboard boxes from construction sites. The party lifestyle has worn me down as well. I could use a hot shower, a clean set of sheets, and a day away from the hot sun. I’m not looking forward to wearing shoes again, but I guess you can’t have everything.