Henning Wessel ObituaryOctober 1, 2012
The news broke late September that Henning Wessal (aka SunSan on the K440, Lonely Planet Thorn Tree and many other online forums) had passed away in Amsterdam, en route to Germany for medical treatment.
The thread in the Khmer440 forums began on Saturday 22nd of September and I have followed it since it started. Almost every day since, more people have added to it, unanimously voicing their sadness and regret that such a liked man had been taken from us.
I made several attempts at posting a reply in that thread, but was unable to focus on it: unable to put my thoughts and feelings into words. Eventually, on the Monday morning, three days after, I managed to put some inadequate words together.
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Quite simply put, Henning was my friend and I will miss him dearly and deeply: I do not know how else I can say it.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Asia, the World and my own life will be sadder, poorer, places without him.
I made several abortive attempts to write something about Henning and I finally decided just to mention the first and the last times that I met him.
I first met Henning back in 2007, when he was living in Siem Reap. The company that I worked for back then had me, among other things, project managing a new business launch in Siem Reap which resulted in me spending two weeks a month there for six months; for someone like me who hates Siem Reap town this was not much fun.
Prior to that I had known Henning as only SunSan, his user name on this forum, as well as the name of one of his Khmer staff, which he’d just chosen at random when he signed up for an account here at K440. We had replied to each other in several threads, swapped Private Messages and had generally gotten to know each other through this website. Upon my next impending trip to Siem Reap, Henning and I exchanged phone numbers via PM and agreed that we should meet up for a beer when I was there.
During the first day of work that trip to Siem Reap, I was stuck all afternoon in meetings with the APSARA Authority – a Cambodian government department that is responsible for managing and taking care of the Angkor historical park and surrounding areas: a huge, slow-moving behemoth of a bureaucracystaffed by Khmers who are mostly related to each other and people higher up in the Royal Cambodian Government – needless to say it was a slow, protracted, painful afternoon …
During that afternoon I received several missed phone calls while I was stuck in these mind numbing meetings, a number that I did not recognise.
Around 5 O’clock I was leaving the office, with something of a headache prompted by all the wrangling when the phone rang again and it was the same unrecognised number – I almost did not answer it, given the frustration of the afternoon and the oncoming storm of a headache that was brewing – but I did and it was Henning, and he suggested meeting up for a few drinks and then possibly dinner, and he would meet me outside the U-Care at the end of Pub Street in half-an-hour.
That first evening he took me to several bars, introduced me to some expats that were living in Siem Reap; (as opposed to the smell, hippy, backpackers that frequented the most obvious bars in town) and then we ended up for dinner somewhere in a Khmer beer garden – some nondescript place with tin tables, plastic chairs and 4,000 riel jugs of Anchor Beer.
After that initial meeting, Henning and I would always get together during my monthly exiles’ to Siem Reap and he made those trips that I hated so much more bearable.
When he called me later to tell me that he was moving with work to Phnom Penh, it was indeed good news.
The last time that I saw Henning was on my birthday a couple of months ago. A few of us had gotten together for a Sunday brunch: an event that many of us enjoy here in Phnom Penh, and over the years we (including Henning) have taken advantage of the various Sunday Brunch deals and discounts that have been springing up around town over the past few years: the Intercontinental Hotel, Raffles La Royale and lastly, the stage for this last Brunch, Bistro Romano in the Naga World Casino.
I was quite surprised when I saw Henning as I had known that he had not been well and had not seen him in a couple of months. We had tried to meet up and messaged each other, but somehow just seemed to keep missing each other. This time it was clear that he had made an extra special effort to come; he was much thinner than before, paler and walked with the fragility of a man much older than us.
However, when he said hello, his voice was still booming and still sounded full of the joy that it had always held.
The brunch, as usual, lasted from 11:00AM to about 4:00PM with much eating and drinking and making merry. I did, however, notice that Henning was not drinking, was not smoking and ate very, very, little. He claimed that he was still feeling unwell, but should be okay in a month or so.
During the last month we messaged each other several times, informing the other that we were going out and that if the other was free we should catch up – “Will be at Elephant Bar Friday after work for Happy Hour” or “On the way to Garage after work” et cetera, et cetera.
But somehow or another we kept missing each other. If only we had known, if only we had had more time.
Rest in Peace my friend, rest in peace.
During my years in Cambodia I have had to say goodbye to more people than in all the rest of my years before coming here, this can be a hard Country for us expatriates, and after this, it will just be harder still.
My thoughts and prayers go out to his family at this difficult time.
God Speed Henning.
Goodbye My Friend.