It has now been exactly one week since I have physically been in the country of Cambodia.
I feel slightly pathetic for not having taken the time to compose an entry until now and it’s a personal shame as I’m sure I’ve lost key details that would so interest a reader from abroad (or even near in proximity) through a glorious haze of sleeping pills, indulgent foods, a riotous assortment of human beings-some in particular proving to be intricate and special, and every rogue insect in between.
I’ve read through various blogs, pings, tweets, notes, forums, and the like that emotional pain last only 12 minutes and that anything further has been self inflicted. This theory (entirely unproven by scientific fact) has in many cases been tested wrong after crying jags lasting 6 months or longer but not proven actually correct personally until my departure from Washington. I chose to allow myself to mourn the loss of a domestic and wonderful life in Tacoma with the comfort of friends, cats, and loved ones for a week or so before my leaving knowing that it would ease my emotions as the actual date of my leaving came. I don’t regret that one bit. I spent full, rich times with co-workers turned best friends and best friends turned family that will nourish me for months to come and I hope that my gratefulness for this crosses oceans.
It came down to this: I had the choice of spending the entirety of the 21 hour flight to Cambodia wetted with tears and to check my melancholia along with two fifty pound suitcases or shedding my fears and sadness of detachment along with my zippered boots at security. I chose the latter.
The goodbyes were ritual, sticky and necessary, and on several occasions was told that “I hope you find what you’re searching for”, but nothing proved to render me incapable of placing one foot in front of the other until I arrived at Gate S11. The heaviest thing on my shoulders was the gigantic Poler Duffalafugus that I so smartly purchased before leaving.
A whirlwind is what best describes what I arrived to when my plane touched down in The Charming City, Phnom Penh. Five hours after landing, I boarded a chartered bus along with twenty four other people for a retreat as the staff of Beyond Interiors to the Mondolkiri Province, roughly eight hours from the capital.
To attempt to accurately recreate the experience everyone shared in Mondolkiri would be an insult to one’s senses, but I’ll go ahead and butcher it anyway. Our first day we visited our first waterfall, although lovely in it’s own murky, slippery way it left some to be desired after witnessing some of the most fantastic during a recent Summer trip to The Rolling Huts in Eastern Washington (“WATERFALL BITCHES!”-J.M.) I got the first taste of the unrivaled passion that Cambodians (Asians?) have for taking pictures, posing for pictures, and taking pictures of people taking pictures of people posing for pictures and realized that in fact, the peace sign is still avidly used in photos around the world. I did also receive a suitor of the leech variety and unknowingly brought the slimy character onto the bus all while being fed on. We were lucky enough to stay at a resort-ish place called “The Nature Lodge”, whose name fully describes the experience. The cabins were open enough to the elements that you really did feel as if you were sleeping under the stars and on the grass, but with a mosquito net dividing you from the elements. Families of long-lashed cows, velociraptor-like chickens, and roaming horses greeted our group as we ascended to the Lodge’s restaurant, perched unceremoniously in a gigantic tree and a symphony of cicadas and frogs rose up as the sun set.
Over the following 2 days, our group visited the much grander Bousra Waterfall further into the province, felt the velvety rough skin of rescued elephants at a reserve, and tried to understand a little better the effect that illegal lumber trafficking causes on the natural world and it’s inhabitants. Pot bellied jugs of rice wine were drunk through long stemmed straws, (unknowingly Freudian) teamwork building games were played, and a bond between humans and the outdoors was forged that can only happen in the deep wilderness and open arms.
So far, I’ve found myself feeling unexplainably ecstatic. During glittering, fleeting moments with legs slick with soft, warm rain while riding a tuk-tuk driving on the “wrong” side of the street or hearing a familiar and favorite song in an Andy Warhol inspired bar or looking up over a baguette and seeing your mother’s all knowing face or realizing that you recognize the street you were sure you could never find on your own or being woken up in the middle of the countryside by deafening lightning or getting drunk on Frangipani (aka Plumeria aka a species of flower) in a bathtub like breeze.
Someone wise told me I’m in the honeymoon phase of my travel. But if this is what I came searching for,
then why would I ever look back?