Thursday, December 10, 2009

How are you tomorrow? I'm fine yesterday!

My bike and the Elephant Terraces
Yeah, people put these ni their yards. Oh my!

Yellow moth


Lacewing butterfly

Coolest praying mantis I've ever seen

Sonaya and butterfly

The kind Khmer family that gave me a coconut

Typical house and vending stall. Palm sugar is popular here
Kids near Angkor Wat
Colin, former Trailblazer volunteer and kids at the orphanage we visited

Hey ladyyyyy, you want tuk tuk?

Yep.

Angkor complex

Angkor Wat at sunrise

Sunrise

Sunrise

Bayon

Ta Phrom

Seiha, a girl I met at a food stall who treated me to my noodles and chatted for an hour with me.

Narem, the man I am helping at Trailblazer in the garden with our home-made epic compost


This is a common saying here and pretty much embodies the playfulness of the Cambodian people. I am absolutely in love with the kindness and constant joking that happens here. It's really interesting to see how tourism has distorted that though; the immense difference in how I am treated, being white, when I am walking around Angkor Wat or the Night Market where trinkets and t-shirts (yes, I bought one) are being sold and when I get bold and wander off the main roads a bit.

Today is a perfect example. I had a spectacular day. It is a national holiday here, something about not working and so naturally, we all abide by it and nobody was at Trailblazer today. I took the opportunity to breakfast at the place that gives me a free bike for the day if I eat there and ride to the ABC- Angkor Butterfly Center. It is located 25 kilometers away from Siem Reap in the Angkor Wat complex but I didn't know it was that far when I started and I had all day, so I went for it.
Riding bikes is such a phenomenal way to see the countryside. I felt so happy to be taking things slower than the hundreds of other tourists that were whizzing by in tuk tuks and tour buses. There were no other white people on bikes once I got out of the main Angkor Wat area and everyone I passed waved or smiled, especially when I said hello in Khmer to them. Kids and adults alike.
After I while I got thirsty and bought a soda. I sat down on the side of the road in the shade of a tree to drink it, and a "Hello!" was shouted at me through the trees from a small girl playing by her house across the street. She came over to the side of the road and started trying to talk with me, but we didn't get far because neither of us spoke much of the other language. That did not deter her, and before I knew it I was across the street sitting under her stilted house with her mother and little sister and brother drinking from a fresh coconut they had chopped open for me. Ok, this is Cambodia. I mostly smiled at the antics of the small children and tried to learn Khmer harder than I ever had, to no avail. But I did have a picture of my parents and me so I showed them that, a great success! Family ties always strike a good connection!
After a while they said they had to go to Siem Reap, so I continued on my way. I felt so happy and dazed at what had just happened, the kindness and happiness just enveloped me. Compared with the restaurant and t-shirt stalls that line the edges of all the ruins, with women yelling "Hello ladyyyyyyy, you want cold drink? You want something to eeeeeat?" (Let me take your $10 and give you change in reel so you don't realize I just jacked $6 from you. Sorry for the cynicism, but that was a stupid mistake on my part I haven't come to terms with yet.) I was so elated about the genuine connection I had I just sang to myself until I reached the Butterfly Center, where I spent a delightful hour laughing and chasing butterflies around with Sonaya, my guide and butterfly expert. It was there I learned how far I had ridden my bike through forests and rice fields...and how far I had to go back.
Such a fantastic day!

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