Saturday, April 28, 2012

Back on the Horse!

Heyo! After a brief hiatus, the blog is back! Hope you like the new colors and stuff; it badly needed a facelift.

These last few months have been tumultuous at best. The culture shock and job search compounded with a brief relationship and blooming friendships have tossed me about in very confusing ways. In the midst of all this I seriously considered letting go of the blog. I mean, if I'm not having absurd adventures in foreign countries then why would people be interested in my life? But then there was Dikran. A venerable actor on the stages of Atlanta, we had a very inspiring and grounding talk that completely changed my mind. He believes in both me and the creative process so fiercely and encouraged me so heartily that I have decided to keep writing. So it is for both him and myself that I have decided to continue. Sharing stories as they touch others on paper or across footlights is something that I truly believe in and I am thankful to him for reminding me of that. So here we go. Another chapter begins a new. I hope you'll share it with me.

Friday, March 16, 2012


I'm getting published! Huzzah! Well...sort of. It's only a sentence but, heck, I'll take it. The newsletter for the Southeast Region of the Peace Corps Association asked for story submissions about family members that inspired us to serve in the Peace Corps. Below is my submission and I'll let you guess which sentence is getting published! (Hint: It's at the end.)

When I was young I always knew there was something special about Carol. A close friend of my parents, she had a family in a country that I only knew as a Girl Scout Cookie and her house was decked out in brightly colored swaths of cloth. Carol talked about wearing a lava-lava and going years without seeing her mother. As a 5-year-old her colorful stories of a land far away fascinated me.
It was not until later that I realized Carol's brilliant textiles, hilarious memories and shy visiting family members who looked nothing like her were the remnants of her service in the Peace Corps. As a young woman, she had climbed on a plane for the first time in her life and watched the red clay of her South Georgia home disappear behind her. The year was 1970 and she was bound for Samoa. Since that day, her Peace Corps adventures have been the stuff of legend in my parent's chosen family.
Carol inspired me even as I grew older. Coming home from college and yucking it up over a plate of eggs, she told me how her lasting bond with her host family had been featured in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Her Samoan host family had come to rural Georgia recently to help her bury her mother, over 30 years after she had first stepped onto the sands of their Pacific island. Like the AJC reporters, I found myself wondering how that relationship was possible. What bonds could tie her so tightly to foreign people oceans away? How did that work?
After that brunch with Carol, it took me less than two months to attend a Peace Corps information session and apply for service of my own. And oh was Carol proud. During my time in the Peace Corps she sent me cards, care packages and encouragement, exactly what I needed to withstand the long Mongolian winters. And though I never developed a bond with my own host family in the same way that she did, both Carol and the Peace Corps helped me realize that family is not tied by blood but by brightly colored swaths of cloth.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Call to Service

A few days ago, I took down the Kony 2012 video that I posted on this blog. I was confused and overwhelmed by all of the information pouring out online about this organization. After synthesizing my thoughts I believe in the message at the core of this video- war criminals should be defamed and caught, the global community has a responsibility to the innocent. However, what I don't appreciate about the organization Invisible Children is their obvious lack of cooperation with local populations. Yes, they did get many facts wrong, but the most glaring issue for me as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer is that their endeavor to parachute in, Rambo Kony and bounce is perhaps the least healthy or sustainable way to deal with this issue. It is fantastic that they are bringing light to these atrocities, however the best way for them to bring Central and East Africa to safety is by helping the local populations to take action and not neglect the country once Kony is brought to justice.

It is regrettable that there has been a serious backlash against Invisible Children. What so many people seem to be doing is throwing the very important baby out with the shady bathwater. Service, globalism and awareness are not things to turn one's back on when one organization makes some unfortunate missteps.

Therefore, friends, keep this flame alive! If you don't feel the need to donate to Invisible Children, please do something else service-y. If the Kony 2012 video inspired you, as it did me, but you were taken aback by the sad facts of the organization, don't forget about disenfranchised populations all together. I interned at the phenomenal nonprofit Jerusalem House, "the oldest and largest provider of permanent housing for Atlanta's low-income and homeless individuals and families affected by HIV/AIDS." It has a fantastic history and has made pristine financial allocation decisions- so support them.

My time with Jerusalem House was nothing but phenomenal. The administrative staff was, and continues to be, selflessly friendly. The client population has an earnest desire to pull themselves out of the tragic situation they were mired in. And the children who live at The Jerusalem House are complex, wonderful young people. One of my favorite memories in my history of service is teaching chess to Cameron, a teen who was living at Jerusalem House with his HIV positive grandmother and siblings. It took a while but after a few sessions he dropped his hard front, trusted me with his vulnerability and managed a perfect checkmate.

Currently Jerusalem House is involved in the Home Depot Foundation's Aprons in Action Voting Competition. If The Jerusalem House wins then they will rake in a much needed $250,000! However, they need you to vote. Every day. So right now go to the Aprons in Action Facebook Page, 'Like' the Page and then VOTE for Jerusalem House. Do it again tomorrow. And the next day. Perhaps Invisible Children squandered their assets, but The Jerusalem House is worth the clicks!

PS feel free to share your thoughts about Kony 2012. I'm still trying to figure it out myself.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Learning to Love

If you are hoping for a juicy post about my quest to share love with others, I'm afraid you'll be disappointed. This is about self-love and my journey, both physical and mental, to reach it.

My time in Asia was a roller-coaster in more ways than one. Moving through foreign cultures is never easy but I motion that for women it is just a tad bit harder. There is so much weight (pun intended) given to a woman's waste line in Asian cultures and though I am not an authority on these matters throughout the rest of the world, Asia is particularly difficult to navigate with an unconventional figure.

During my time in Mongolia I gained weight. In Cambodia I lost much of it but still not everything that I had gained. And throughout this, living in countries where I towered over most other women and outweighed them, too, was difficult. It ate at my self-esteem and heavied my heart.

Personal comparisons aside, these inner sadnesses were met with real reinforcement. I was met regularly with comments about how "fat" I was during my service in the Peace Corps; flippant comments from laughing lips of Mongolian friends. In Cambodia, I intercepted comments like "you are fat" from my students even on days I was feeling lean and fit. Still I don't quite know what to make of it when the girls in the dorm would squeeze the flesh on my hips and cry "healthy! healthy!" Of course it's a great thing to be healthy- especially somewhere like Cambodia- but the snide and snorting tone they said it with ate at me. I know I cannot hold onto these things, that they are born of cross-cultural norms and joking friendships. But I still find them difficult to let go of.

And now I'm home. I remember walking through Value Village the day after I arrived in Atlanta, marveling at how the clothes actually fit me and how gargantuan I didn't feel. There were even people there bigger than me! Many of them, in fact. And so I began the relearning process again.

Since returning home I have nurtured myself on seaweed salad and tofu, trying desperately to feed my body in ways I couldn't in meat-and-rice dominated Asia. I have gone to the gym frequently and have been pleasantly surprised while shopping. I have found a man who loves the vistas in the mountains and valleys of my body and am trying to accept that as true. But the voices of Asian fat-shaming are not altogether gone. I find it hard to banish the perpetually underlying image of outdoor markets in which nothing ever fits. Pictures of the tiny jeans that my Cambodian students wore float under each row of GAP pants or H&M tanks. I suppose the best thing I can do now is march forward with seaweed salad in one hand and my pride in the other, trusting that "healthy" is the best thing to be.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Thoughtful Article for a Rainy Day

It's a pensive, rainy Tuesday in Atlanta. It took a great amount of concentration and decision making to pick a drink here at Starbucks but once that obstacle was surmounted I was able to grab a seat by the window and enjoy the drizzly day. Grumpily grey skies weren't too common in Asia and I'm still savoring the rarities there that are commonplace in America. So wherever you are, maybe you're having an introspective morning, too. Here's a not-so-cheery but very interesting article about important lives far away that might give you something to think about watching the rain slide down the window. My good friend Kara sent me this article and I think, though a little rant-y, it provides some good food for thought. Give it a look Implications of Insensitive Media Coverage of Human Trafficking and enjoy the grey day.

PS- Why does Snoop Dog carry an umbrella?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Relearning Curve

It really does feel like I've come full circle in a strange, unintentional way. Though so many miles and months from my first cultural immersion experience, life in America has begun to feel much like my first days in Mongolia. I have vivid memories of being so helpless in my early life in Mongolia. Like a small child I couldn't nourish myself, objects were large and foreign and communication was a constant struggle. Even though I had rocked the socks off of college life I was utterly humbled at the feet of my new world; I was blown every which way by the wind-swept steppes. But now I'm back. In the process of mastering an iPhone, a car and dating life I have become the same newborn creature I was two and a half years ago. Right now language is a struggle, in my endeavors to speak with English learners my vocabulary became emaciated. I'm clumsily trying to figure out which shoes to wear with what outfit and where. But perhaps the most difficult thing thus far has been the job search. I've submitted two applications, a paltry number compared to the thirty or so resumes I know it will take me to find work. But somehow the rejection of my pleas for employment has stung more than I thought it would.

In Mongolia I arrived knowing how to speak Shakespeare, dominate at flip cup, pen beautiful research papers, throw a perfect frisbee flick and juggle a mind-boggling number of friends. However, those skills were rendered useless once I went to Mongolia, despite my sentimental attachment to them and the years I'd spent cultivating them. So I abandoned those abilities and set about learning new ones. And now I arrive back in the same place. My Mongolian language, sweet chili sauce recipe, knowledge of marketplace bartering and so many other abilities are moot. Alas, I think potential employers don't give a flying moneky's that I know how to greet a Cambodian official or order off a Sichuan menu.

So now it begins again. I must abandon the know how that kept me afloat during my years in Asia and become a vigorous student of America; I must learn and relearn my home. I hope I won't ever lose the Mongolian lullaby or 'thank you' in eight Asian languages. But I also hope I find a job.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Just Around the Corner...

Yesterday I took a dear friend to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens and Peidmont Park here in Atlanta. It had rained in the morning and was grey and yucky when we left the house but it turned out to be a beautiful day. Even though it may be snowy Tsagaan Saar on the other side of the world, here spring is just around the corner! Happy Tsagaan Saar to my Mongolian homies, we're sending lots of sunny love your way. Spring's a'comin.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Just Sayin'

Yesterday was 25th birthday. Yayyy! Facing a similar milestone, many of my peers have been freaking out. But honestly I am very stoked. One more year to have fun and share time with the people I love. What could be better? My friends and family (who I consider friends) went to great lengths to make sure my special day was amazing. So I just want to tell the world that...

Saturday, February 18, 2012

What Lies Beneath

Vietnam. It's such a loaded place- especially for Americas. When I was there so many Dutch or Australian backpackers would lean through their cloud of smoke, over their bottles of beer and ask me if I felt bad about the War or got any hostility from the locals. The answer: not really.

Growing up in as a white kid in the American South, history was papered with pictures of Rosa Parks and Doctor King. Strange fruit swung from every lesson in school. Racially charged violence and discrimination has marked this place forever and more often that not the bad guys looked like me. But at the same time I sat in class next to black kids and first generation Americans and though the stories from that time are harrowing and tragic, I don't think I was any more moved by them than my classmates just because of my race.

I think this upbringing colored my trip to Vietnam. Some Americans told me they felt horribly guilty about the Vietnam War. Reflexively I approached the War with the same 'I didn't do it' shrug and deep reverence for those who were affected by it that I examined the Civil Rights Movement. I was neither part of a lynching nor napalm dump but I do feel sincerely sorry for the victims of these acts and a sense of sorrow for those who did them. It's not an insensitivity but a sense of being removed personally.

What did strike me about Vietnam was far more universal. It was the sense that everyone's inner darkness was just a little closer to the surface. I feel very strongly that there is an unimaginably dark side of every person, a masochistic side, a hurtful side. The Stanford Prison Experiment is the most widely recognized piece evidence that this part of us exists and it is evil but there's also proof in daily life. In traffic or at work sometimes people let it slip and their dark side lurches up to the surface, just a little, just enough to show before it is forced back down to the depths. It happens every day.

In addition to the Stanford Prison Experiment, The Vietnam War was another time when this vicious side of humanity was so unleashed. I'm not pretending to be an expert but from the people I've talked to, books I've read and movies I've seen it seems like so many people there were on the brink. Their decent, reasonable facades about to shatter as a darker impulse bubbled up beneath it and pushed.

This dark side in all of us both terrifies and fascinates me. Dexter is one of my favorite television shows exactly for that reason. Well...that and I will to do unprintable things to Michael C. Hall if I ever get him alone. Dexter lets this side of him reign free and calls it his 'dark passenger.'

In Vietnam it seems that though everyone feels this greater awareness of their dark passenger, there are many different reactions. I ran into a bunch of guys, English 'lads', who were very excited about shooting lots of guns from the Vietnam War. Playing with toys of destruction like that isn't really my bag. It scares me. What if I enjoy it too much? What if I hit someone? But then again answering a very present evil with violence isn't a new thing. Although this time the bad is within ourselves. 

When I went to the infamous Cu Chi Tunnels where the Viet Cong hid and fought, a rifle range was included in the tour. Walking through the jungle at the place where so many people had lost their lives on both sides of the War and hearing machine gun fire split the air made me want to vomit. But at end of those guns were grinning foreigners, happily and therapeutically drilling away into the vacant space; behind them were smiling Vietnamese with growing pockets.

Rather than shooting guns, my reaction to this feeling was to think about this and later to write. I hope confronting this part of myself will not be necessary even though I know it will always be there. Unlike those who were affected by the War, perhaps I won't ever have to.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Poem for Hectic Times

It's been a little hectic of late. Last week I spent every day from 9-4 in an intensive grant writing certificate course and this weekend I was in Chattanooga celebrating my Grandma's birthday with her. Today is my first day to actually get things done; real productivity is turning out to be both rewarding and overwhelming. But still beneath the waves of this modern life is the undercurrent of the feeling that my world is beginning to stand still. Sometimes I find myself thinking about the travelers I met in late-night hostels or on buses weaving through the rice fields. I wonder how their journeys are going. It's been an exhilarating rush of meeting so many new people both in Asia and upon my return. The idea, a very Modernist one, of faces in a crowd, of strangers coming together for just a second, resonates with me right now in all this transition. I discovered this little Korean poem and am in love with the soothing drift of it's words, a tonic in a crazy time filled with new faces.

After a Year By Han Cha-Hyeon

This postcard is written in a small hotel room in São Paolo.
Tomorrow morning, I will begin another long journey.
By then, a plane carrying you from the other side of the earth
Will soar into the unfamiliar afternoon.
Sorry I have departed.
Sorry we cannot be together,
To the face I’ve yet to meet,
Yet to be separated,
But still missed in joy,
What is your name?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Swiming in November

It's so strange to come home to such a warm winter. The weather today was mild and beautiful. I feel like God is on my side in saying 'eff the Super Bowl!' just because the air makes you itch to be outside. But somehow at the same time it's the tiniest bit tragic. It's hard to ignore that every ray of sun warming the face is also melting just one more inch of an iceberg. I know it's beautiful weather but somehow it's a little painful because it feels so wrong, so unnatural. We are gloriously warmed by the fire that is burning the earth. It reminds me of a great song that's now one of my fave throwbacks: Sleeping In by Postal Service. It's a great tune if you don't know it and a verse goes:

And then last night I had that strange dream
Where everything was exactly how it seemed
Where concerns about the world getting warmer
The people thought they were just being rewarded
For treating others as they like to be treated
For obeying stop signs and curing diseases
For mailing letters with the address of the sender
Now we can swim any day in November

Anyway, don't mean to be grim. It is quite beautiful out so I'll take what I can get which right now is the door flung open, budding trees and very happy birds. Enjoy the evening and happy Super Bowl, ya'll!

Friday, February 3, 2012


I'm back! Atlanta has opened her arms and welcomed me into her Crisco-scented bosom once again. Hallelujah! It's been quite a journey. Instead of a 12 hour lay-over I managed to weasel my little butt onto the flight that was leaving 3 hours after I turned up in Seoul from Phnom Penh. Not sure what I did right karmically for that to work out, but it must have been something big. There, seated between an obese, whiskey guzzling Vietnam War Vet back from a trip to his Baptist orphanages and a narcoleptic Korean girl, I lost all sense of space and time playing way too many games of Tetris and waiting impatiently for the plane to land. For 14 hours. (By the way, if you haven’t seen the movie 50/50, do it! It made me laugh and openly weep on the plane, much to the confusion of the flight attendants.) But when the plane finally ground to a halt at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, I was once again sucked into a roller-coaster of emotions, a ride I have yet to dismount.

The sky was grey when we landed. The buildings were grey. And like visiting your kindergarten long after you’ve left, the world outside of the portal window seemed smaller and less shiny than I had remembered or hoped. I wondered if I’d made a mistake. I considered asking the pilot to turn right back around. But I had no idea what wonders waited for me in the airport. As soon as I deplaned I was overcome with sheer joy. Photos of lean-to houses and ripe, fuzzy peaches smiled at me glossily from the walls of the terminal. The portly attendants with gravity defying hair sculptures called me 'bay-bah' and chattered about drinking ‘Co-co-lah.’ The border patrol was a regiment made solely of sweet Southern boys, with chiseled jaws and gentle questions, who wished me all the best. And oh the bathrooms! Toilet paper as thick and supple as the world’s biggest cotton ball. Sparkling clean seats to really and truly sit on. What a brave new world I had landed in! I even drank from the faucet just because I could, thankyouverymuch. And how sweet that lukewarm water tasted. 

But then again I plunged. Waiting for my baggage to be pooped out onto the conveyor belt was perhaps the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I could feel the grey hairs squeezing their way onto my head and my chances of having a massive stroke skyrocket. The women in my family have many a blessed virtue, patients is not one of them. I had planned on surprising my parents 12 hours early but how in the world could I when faceless gremlins were keeping my backpack prisoner for crimes unknown? But finally, like a ray of hope, it sprang from the bowels of the airport and trundled its way onto the conveyor belt. I snatched it up, raced the rest of the way through the labyrinth of customs and security cleanings then popped out into the world and onto the MARTA, Atlanta’s metro system.

It’s comforting to know that some things will never change. For instance, MARTA will always smell like chicken wings and cocoa butter and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I plopped down onto a plastic orange seat, breathed deep the smells of my youth and chatted with a good ole American businessman about his work in costume jewelry and my adventures around the world. The voice coming out of my mouth sounded detached and foreign as I talked lightly about living in Mongolia and Cambodia for two and a half years. The businessman, kind and interested albeit a little confused, had never been abroad before. Of all my fears in coming home, I dread being someone people can’t relate to or sounding too big for my britches. I don’t want to be that guy in the hostel bar, chain smoking and telling everyone about how rad homestays in Afghanistan were before the Russians invaded or that if you haven’t seen the sunrise from K2 you haven’t actually lived at all. Everyone’s impressed but no one actually likes that guy.

At any rate, after defending myself in the face of a very persistent homeless man, I plodded off the train and into Midtown Atlanta, from jungle to jungle. I was quite the spectacle, brightly colored boots, greasy hair and toting a massive olive backpack, like Atlas back from his gap year. I even got some amused grins and cheerful thumbs-up from businessmen on their lunch breaks. And finally, after a total of 27 hours, I spilled into the door of my Dad’s office, much to his surprise. I was home.

It’s been good being back, although it’s been less than a day. I had a hefty nap, split two bottles of wine with my elated parents over whole wheat (!!) pasta and smoked salmon then slept like a baby. It had been three days since I’d slept horizontally and for more than four hours in a row. But hometown glory aside, I know it will be hard. My grandmother just got released from the hospital; the first of what will be a continuous dance as we, her concerned and loving family, follow her between nursing homes and hospital beds. My parents are hosting a memorial service for a dear friend’s father at our house today. My hunt for a good job, which will predictably be exasperating, has officially begun. And somehow, in the midst of all this, I feel like I’m still not here for good. Impulsively, I was reluctant to unpack my make-up bag, thinking ‘why bother? I’m just going to leave soon anyway.’ Perhaps it’s an old habit. Maybe it’s true. We’ll see.

But I remain optimistic; so far so good. Right now happiness is an avocado turkey bagel for breakfast while fitting into my old skinny jeans. And being home again.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Goodbye, Miss Saigon

Hey from Vietnam! It's actually my last few hours here in Saigon but I just wanted to check in. Tonight I am taking the night bus to Phnom Penh and then tomorrow I'm (literally) leaving on the midnight plane to Georgia. How fast it's all gone! Time in Vietnam has been amazing with so many adventures and I'm excited to recount and reflect on everything very soon. I know processing this whole transition is something that will surely take a while; it will be perhaps both rewarding and stressful but I really do look forward to it. So much to say but until then sweaty love from the Cu Chi Tunnels!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Zen and the Art of Motorbike Madness

So much has happened since I left Harpswell less than ten days ago. So much to report on. I saw the sunrise over Angkor Wat, sailed on the Southeast Asian seas, lost my heart to a Norwegian boy and discovered the beauty of phosphorescent waters- just to name a few things. One thing that I just have to tell you about, however, was my adventure on the motorbike.

I had never ridden a motorbike before. Over the summer I was quite surprised to have survived biking through Beijing. The hostel didn't provide helmets and all I could think of for half the ride was how pissed my parents would be flying across the world to scrape my cranium off the Chinese sidewalk despite being helmet Nazis my entire life. But I figured I could either A. go or B. not go. I've always been a 'why not?' person and took my chances. Miraculously, I made it.

Historically I haven't been the best driver. At 18 I failed my driver's test with flying colors. I got a ticket for a nearly running over a police officer once. I have a hard time driving my mother after that time she politely notified me I was about to commit mass homicide by plowing down a titanic heard of businessmen in a downtown crosswalk. The divers seat pecking order in my family goes like this: Sister, Dad, Mom, Deceased Family Dog, Me. And after being lucky enough to have such a wonderful man in my life as Somnanag, my tuk tuk driver, being out of practice behind the wheel is something of an understatement.

But on a moto the driving stakes were higher. I had to learn and perfect an honest-to-God, no-protection, wind-in-your-hair motorbike. It was the only way to really explore Kampot, the sweet little riverside town that my friend and I were in, so I sent a little prayer to my battered helmet and trepidly saddled up onto my red and white puttering steed. After a few starts and stops away we went, over back country roads and between sunburned rice paddies. And Lord, did all God's creatures decide to pour out onto the road just at that moment. Motos ladened with grown men screamed by us while massive SUV's kicked up dirt and sand as they sped down the lanes. Even a horse cart carrying an entire family halted past, the wizened matriarch smiled at us with her jack-o-lantern grin. It was a struggle at first, I just couldn't find that illusive spot between glacier-melting and bat-out-of-hell. If my speedometer had worked I'm sure it would have looked liked a conductor waving his baton after downing a hefty speedball. But soon my dire urge to strap on an adult diaper faded and I found myself in the zen of motorbiking. The wind rushed by me and I even mastered a one-handed wave as we zipped by small children hollering at us from their play in the rice fields. My thoughts freed themselves to churn around peacefully in my mind and the muscles in my throttle hand memorized the motions. I even started to love the freedom of it. Everything was hunky dory- until we reached the village. We pulled into a small pagoda village guessing it was the one that touted a centuries-old temple tucked away in some caves. But we weren't the only ones there. A massive welcoming committee of village youngsters were poised to greet incoming foreigners. One tiny girl with a massive bicycle decided that it would be a great idea to bike next to me and drill me with questions. She peddled closer and closer to my moto and kept trying to ply me with inquiries. Not knowing where I was going, unsteady on the bike and horrified that I'd somehow end up with child pate on my wheels, I panicked. Somehow the ground came up at me so fast and the gravel inserts itself into my skin so quickly that I'm convinced that there was nothing between vertical and horizontal. The next thing I knew was the spinning of the moto's back wheel and the stinging dust in my eyes. The little girl was nowhere to been seen (I'm assuming she hightailed it) but I attracted the attention of a fair number of her cohort munchkins and curious monks. A kind traveler reached out of her tuk tuk to give me a wet wipe so I could tend to my scraped palms and knees. Something about the body shock or the breaths that I missed made the caves a less than spectacular sight. I dreaded getting back onto the bike, espeically with pained and bloody hands. But with grit I clinched my teeth and remounted for the trip back to our hostel. I tensed my entire body willing my dirty fingers to close themselves around the throttle; the engine revved again. And somehow, balancing between the tropical flowers and rice paddies, I managed to survive another bike ride.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Hold the Phone!

I officially have a new life plan. All previous goals and dreams have vanished at the feet of being...A BABY SLOTH BATHER! How does one get that job exactly? For real I'm going to figure this out. Watch this video and tell me you won't be my competition for this job. Seriously.

In other news, big love from Siem Reap! I'm done with work in Phnom Penh and am now traveling a bit before jetting off to the USofA on February 1st. Sunrise at Angor was amazing! More updates later.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Rules for Living

Having seen a good chunk of the world (though by no means all of it) I've noticed a few things. And over time I have developed a set of rules to live by, things to remember. Not really pep talk-y stuff but just things I believe, deep down, to be true. Only recently did I realize this and I wanted to share some of them. They are:
  1. Laughter sounds the same in every language.
  2. All God's children got problems.
  3. Others treat you based on how you demand to be treated.
  4. People are infinitely more complicated than we realize.
  5. There will always be someone bigger, badder or better.
  6. Really, everyone just wants to be loved.
  7. Give back.
  8. Being unabashedly friendly is the best way to go about life.
  9. Pictures of baby pandas is the real great equalizer.
Do you have life rules? Anything you believe to be true and always true? I'd love to hear other peoples thoughts and ideas so please share!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Moving Markets

I spend a lot of time in Phnom Penh en route. The dorm isn't particularly close to much of interest so I end up spending some quality time in the tuk tuk every day. I don't mind; it's actually fun. I hang my hair off the back of the seat to fly in the sun, relax and listen to Coffee Beak French when I'm feeling productive. But mostly I just look around. Traveling in the open air enables you to really get into the street scenes and be a part of the world around you. I've been in a car twice since getting here and it felt so stifling. It was like a dulling of the senses, being insulated from the smells and sounds of the streets. One of the most interesting things about the street life in Phnom Penh is that little market stalls are everywhere. Not just situated plumply on the sidewalk, but actually in the traffic itself. Vendors have come up with some remarkable ways to ply their wears while still in motion. The perpetual motion of vendors gets a little frustrating because you never know when anything is available and a craving for noodles could become quite a mission. But it really appeals to my love of markets and motion, espeically now at such a dynamic point. There's something in transit that appeals to me, the moving of people, things and money and the mobile market stalls of Phnom Penh take this to a new level. So I tried to take a few photos of the merchants and their contraptions of commerce. It was quite a challenge, as all the photographing had to be done from a moving vehicle. For every picture here there are 100 more amazing and absurd wheeled stalls and stores but these are the ones I managed to snag. I hope these are interesting!


Thursday, January 5, 2012


This is my first post in a long time. Sorry about that. I suppose sometimes these pauses linger for some reason or another- speechlessness, uncertainty, schedule. Then I become saddened by my lack of enthusiasm and embarrassed at having let you down, not being the faithful writer that I want to be and I feel you might want me to be, too. But I'm breaking the silence.

So much has happened since I last wrote. I've reached a turning point and have decided to move back to America. I hope I'm not too easily put off of development work; I only submitted one application to further a potential NGO career in impoverished countries. But I'm tired. I'm 24; I shouldn't be tired. But I am. There's a long list of reasons why I feel the deep and urgent need to return home, home to the sticky summers that birthed me. It wouldn't be best to laundry list them here; needing to go is enough. However, I do hope that by running back into the arms of loyal and constant friends and family, I am not running away from unknown others who need help. Somehow, despite misgivings, this feels right. I don't think I could do another term of service in a foreign land right now. Perhaps later.

I know it will be difficult to become stationary, though now I lust after it. A work that has always resonated with me in my travels is Alfred Lord Tennyson's 'Ulysses,' a poetic riff on hoary Homer's tale. It has buoyed me through journeys far and wide and speaks eloquently to the experience of the wanderer. I've taken the liberty of extracting a few bits that really strike me now. I would recommend reading the whole thing; it is beautiful. But here let Tennyson speak to what I loathe to leave:
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: all times I have enjoyed
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vexed the dim sea...
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honoured of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers.
In the Odyssey, Odyssus returns again to his home in Ithaca, joining his abandoned wife and son. Though he has seen much and been tempest-tossed to the ends of the earth, the protagonist returns home. I'm not so grand as to assume myself a hero of yore; I harbor no such delusions of greatness. But something about the story Odysseus, and the universal commonality of journeys, beckons me to yield to my instincts. Like the pulling of the tides, the sojourner must end up where he started. 

Though I grow anxious dwelling on what I will find (or might not find) in America, my friends tell me it will be a new adventure. And I want so badly to believe them. So with that I will leave you with Tennyson's closing lines:

Though much is taken, much abides; and though  
We are not now that strength which in old days  
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will  
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

I hope it will be so. 

PS I will certainly continue posting; there is still so much to say and I'm not leaving yet. I just wanted to give you an update. Stay tuned for pictures from Christmas/New Years in Paris and more Cambodia stuff!