An Unwelcome Overture

5:21 a.m. An apparently godly hour in Cambodia; perhaps the godliest hour in Battambang – if today’s events are any indication. As if yet another weekend of pre-dawn wedding madness wasn’t enough.

The first squeaky notes are cranked out of a semi-dormant, (most likely) pre-Khmer Rouge era amplifier system, into an otherwise silent night.

In my REM-induced haze, I’m convinced that an orchestra has suddenly gathered on the balcony outside my room; perhaps I am just dreaming of what has already been. But no: As I open my eyes, the reality sets in, the ‘music’ is very much honking, creaking and screeching in my vicinity. right into my ears. Thumping through my body. What on earth…?!

I jump out of bed, draw open the drapes and unlock the door. I step outside, and become immediately engulfed by the thickly humid air. Except for the family living just below and across the road – where a single lit bulb hangs above the outdoor cooking area, and in near silence they pack their cart with food to be sold at market – it appears that the whole city must still be asleep.

Everyone, that is, except for the inconsiderate thug who’s dared to switch on the sound system in the church in the field one road over… and crank it up until kingdom come. I can see over to the building which itself is dark, the only signs of life being the tiny twinkling lights on the dwarf tree standing alone in the front yard.

I dare not call it music, because it defies description as such: The scratchingly unfamiliar sounds can best be described as Big Band meets Klezmer meets the Buddha, with a large dollop of heavy metallic atonal Oriental music and an annoyingly monotonous and strikingly out-of-tune vocal track thrown in for good measure.

It’s virtually impossible to tell when a melody (if you deign to call it that!) will end; the music ends as suddenly and unexpectedly as it began. The droning continues unabated, with the ending of each tune catching the silence, holding it just long enough for me to hope that we are done… before TA-DA!, the ear-splitting sounds resume once again.

As if all that isn’t enough, the howling and barking dogs chime in, a baby nearby screams and hollers uncontrollably. Surely they’ve reached their limit – as I have mine. In the end, perhaps because my fatigue supersedes my upset, I manage to snooze for another hour or so despite the cacophony.

Returning to my room this evening, and having forgotten all about this early morning’s events, I am unhappily assaulted once again by this anti-melodic fusion carrying on outside, uninvited, well past dusk. Please, somebody, pull the plug.

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