Jay: Fried bugs in Siem Reap, Cambodia

After a few Angkor beers with the folks at the hostel, next thing I knew we were at this outdoor festival. It was just like the state fairs back home. At least, it would have been if Idaho state fairs had kids eating snakes coiled like lollipops on a stick.

The sun had just gone down, and there they were, the oil making them shine in the torchlight.

Someone put another beer in my hand and clapped me on the back. I don’t think this sort of thing ever crossed Mom’s mind.

I shrugged my shoulders and pointed. Behind the piled-high platters of bugs, a woman smiled, white teeth shining, her golden-brown skin brilliant. For a moment I thought about asking how she got so many bugs, but stopped myself. What I was about to do was enough.

For a moment my hand hung there, fried antennae inches from my mouth. Beer threatened to leave my stomach.

C’mon you wimp, I thought. Are you a traveler or what?

I closed my eyes.

The shells crunched like potato chips. A leg got stuck between my teeth. I popped one after the other, like popcorn, like popcorn shrimp, like crunchy, crunchy unexpected goodness.

The woman smiled again. I drank another beer. I asked for more fried bugs.

Photo: George Arriola

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