CAMBODIA

Cambodia took my heart in ways I can barely understand let alone properly articulate. And I will probably write much more about this entire life changing trip. But I wanted to write this before the rawness of these particular feelings begins to fade away.

Our tuk tuk rattled away from the New Hope Cambodia NGO free school with the children’s voices still ringing with I’ll Be Seeing You in my head. I could still feel the love in their hugs and hands as we said until we meet again. They have so little but have so much gratitude for the little we could do for them.

And I cried at the killing fields and at the Khmer/Kamai museum that gave the history of the genocide that was inflicted on the people by the Khmer Rouge. A country of eight million reduced by two million and a million more in the aftermath. A city, Phnom Penh, of over a million reduced to forty thousand in three days. And at the displays showing the twenty five or so million tons of U.S. Ordinance dropped on Cambodia during the Vietnam war.

Cambodia leads the world (and there are fifty nine other affected countries) in land mines and in the number of amputees. They are clearing them but it is slow and many people, including many children are still very much at risk. There are a huge number of minefields and additional unexploded ordinance littering the country.

Cambodia is an ancient country that is only twenty years old. It is reinventing itself in every way. There are virtually no natural resources and they are dependent on volunteers and NGO’s for practically everything. Nothing is wasted, everything can be used. If you walk and drink a water or a soda, hand the can to a mother sitting by the street, it is money for her. She won’t ask for it but will take it with thanks.

We had the privilege of seeing not only the beauty of places like Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and ton le sap, but also the lives of the real people, their real lives. I never heard a single person complain. Children in dirty hand me down clothes gave me their precious candy to share. Everywhere people were gracious and friendly.

My words cannot describe the beauty of a people determined to rebuild a place they clearly love. Every project or destination has a greater purpose – to educate the children and sustain the community beyond the scope of the project or attraction. In a country whose recent history is soaked in a river of blood and death they say only: that is the past, we only look for solutions for the future.

As our plane rose from Siem Riep airport, I again inexplicably had tears in my eyes. On the outside it is in many ways not a beautiful place but it’s spirit is one of the most beautiful things I have ever had the privilege of experiencing. Until we meet again.

Really?

So, the trip of a lifetime started oddly. All day I filled the time with trivial household tasks as I was, I think, very prepared to leave and mentally already gone. Finally time to go to the airport I loaded up and we rolled.

I had this plan that once arrived in Atlanta, with a long layover until my flight to South Korea, I would proceed to Councourse A and have dinner at P.F.Changs. I timed my daytime meals around this plan. HAH! My flight to Atlanta ended up delayed almost three hours. First an inbound flight delayed for weather in Texas, then a complete ground stop in Atlanta. Uncertain as to when I would actually arrive in Atlanta and with dropping blood sugar, I was reduced to a sandwich and chips in Daytona. Anticlimactic to say the least.

So here I am in the ATL waiting for my 15 hour flight to Inchon, to be followed by 4 hours to Bangkok. A year ago it seemed cool to be able to say “I am going to Thailand when I retire.” Today while ironing a shirt it seemed surreal and almost unbelievable that I am actually doing this.

I have taught myself a few basic words of the Thai language. I have Baht in my wallet and intra Southeast Asia flights and guesthouse reservations. And oh my God, I am actually going to Thailand and Cambodia by myself. Meeting people to be sure, but traveling alone.

For the last three years I have been adventuring about the United States, learning to be happy alone, learning to adventure alone. So I have been practicing for this moment, becoming ready to completely step out of my homeself comfort zone and do what I have always wanted to do. See new places, meet new people, live.

Thi di doy (loosely phonetic). Goodby

Solo ~ Just Means Singing Alone

In the last few years I have done a lot of traveling alone. Now when it is during the week and I have a briefcase, people just look at me as another business traveler. And since I don’t really go anywhere interesting, I generally sit at a table with a book to eat my dinner.  When I travel for myself, everything is different.

First, no briefcase. Second, dressed as my true self – generally funkier than my 50 or so year work armor. Yes, I said armor, I have worn suits, or at least dress pants and tops for most of my adult life.  Except when I first began and judges did not allow female attorneys to wear pants in court. As I spent more and more time in and out of jails, with clients, it became necessary to be sure my armor was pants in case of a lockdown. I also thought of professional garb, and heels, as armor as I chose to be a gladiator in a man’s world.  Figure it out.

Anyway third, I don’t need receipts. Fourth, I sit at the bar.  Dressing as myself and sitting at the bar are ways of making myself more open to opportunities, to life.  They are ways of becoming more vulnerable.  But what is funny about all this is that people are always astounded that I, a woman of a certain age, silver hair and all, am traveling alone.

I am currently on my second weekend trip the impetus for which was simply an art exhibition I wanted to see. The first to Oklahoma City where I had a most splendid adventure and now to Asheville where I will do the same. Why are people surprised? I have no idea but I have fun with it and people often buy me coffee or dessert or whatever in their amazement of my solo-ness. Strange.

It gives me great pleasure to just do the things that please me, art, music, food.  Today I surprised a busker by singing harmony to his not so talented melody as I went by.  Today I had a long talk with a homeless man about feet on a bench on a quaint street.  Today I had latte and a warm fresh croissant in a lovely bakery in mid morning with my book.  Today I visited a wonderful bookstore and my favorite chocolate shop. Tonight I will go hear bluegrass for dinner.  What a wonderful day.  Would it be nice to share it with a like minded partner, sure. But solo is just fine with me. Be amazed.