12 July 2005

Dirt or danger?


They've been repairing a road near my house, the one that runs in front of the French cafe where I eat breakfast and read the news most mornings. (Phnom Penh residents, this should help you figure out where I live.)

Something I've never understood about this process — and I've seen this done in the developed world as well as here — is why sewer improvements always follow road improvements. I mean, why fix the road, dig it up to install the new sewer pipes, and then fix the road again? Why not just upgrade the sewer, and then fix the road?

Anyway, on this street near my house they've laid down crushed rock, dug up the sewers, put in new pipes, and are getting ready to put down crushed rock again.

I hope they stop there. People here see a paved road as a rare opportunity to drive fast, and it's a point of pride not to stop, or even slow, at intersections. In fact, looking out for cross traffic isn't cool — you just honk and sail on through and let others get out of your way. Naturally, this leads to vehicular entanglements, and at the higher speeds afforded by the paved roads, crashes are more common.

So as I contemplated the lake which my street has become, part of me wished for a dry, paved road so I didn't have to wade away from my house. But part of me was glad I wasn't having to dodge speeding SUVs.