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Published: January 25th 2010
Flooded muddy fields
Seen through the clouds: blue and white,
brown, and green and blue.
I don't know why I feel such affinity for Siem Reap. Right now is the best time of year as far as weather goes and it's hot. There's a lot of dust and exhaust in the air, there's trash everywhere, many streets and buildings are always being built up from or reduced to rubble, but it just speaks to me somehow.
I had a lovely airport breakfast of shrimp congee with salted eggs, which I've been craving since yesterday when I didn't buy a box of salted, pink-dyed quail? pigeon? eggs at the 7-11. My flight was fine. On the way to the hotel, the escort sent by the tour company told me he'd been a little late because he'd been explaining some hand symbols of the Buddha (mudras) to the other drivers and guides. He talked about how his father and brother died in the Khmer Rouge time but it did no good to kill the KR leaders--this, he said, would only lead to a reincarnation that was also violent. He said that Cambodians must get rid of suffering and forget what
happened. I thought that by this he meant that they must give up attachment to suffering, so I ventured, "I think it's good, though that the children learn about it in school, so it will not happen again." The government just recently required that textbooks discuss what happened during the genocide. He agreed with this and clarified that he meant suffering, not recollection. I said, "Sometimes it's hard to be compassionate," to which he replied that this was true, but that making merit (getting good karma) by helping others was a way that he practiced this.
The hotel is spacious, clean and airy. I did my room routine: Washed my feet, checked for bedbugs, set up a liter of water to purify. Tonight I'll do some laundry. There's a bathtub. This is indeed wondrous in my hotel price range, but then, this hotel is a bit higher than I go on my own.
I've spent most of the day walking around, visiting some of my favorite shops and eating lunch at Khmer Family Restaurant, which makes killer fresh spring rolls. I watched a young woman from Amsterdam chat with a child (but not buy anything from her) for
half an hour, asking her questions about school and her family, switching from English to French for a minute, giving the girl math problems. It was very sweet to watch and I offered both of them a packet of sweetened pumpkin in a banana leaf, as I had twice as many as I wanted.
I wandered over to Singing Tree cafe, an activism/social service/yoga hot spot. The owner introduced herself and said I had the look of someone who wasn't just passing through, which delighted me. She introduced me to a woman who agreed to let me interview her, which went well as an interview and
I was interested in her project. I then walked over to the Villa Siem Reap, a hotel that might become an internship site for my university system. This was a friendship visit: "Hi, I'm in the country and was asked to stop by to say hello and thank you for considering partnering with us." Then I walked back here, stopping to (I hate to report it) chug a can of Fanta at one point because it's hot and dusty, as I may have mentioned.
I may go to a gathering at Singing
Tree tonight and see if I can snag some more interviewees. I'm aiming for 10 on this trip.
I want to say to the world at large what a wonderful partner I have. My credit card was declined, or that's what I was told, and I ran to a VOIP (voice over Internet protocol) shop and spent $8 calling the card company, only to be told their account computers were on. Sweet N took on this task, though it was late there, and clarified the situation tremendously. Everyone should have such a great partner!
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