Is there something about traveling that makes writing seemingly so utterly tasking?
Maybe not even the writing part, but sorting through every moment and compartmentalizing them so they make sense in some form of linear way. So that I could even begin to piece sentences together and deconstruct the jumble of nuances, emotions, and thoughts that have built up over the past week.
Like a swarm of honey bees- memories and experiences that dwell within my consciousness restlessly buzz, crawling through the honeycomb of my mind- but can’t seem to be released in an orderly manner. I’ve been itching to write everything down so as not to lose a particular moment in time or a thought or whim, but my hands have been too occupied and my eyes too bright and my mind too hyperactive to sit down and piece it all together. Last night when I got back to Glasgow I decided I finally needed to sit down whether I wanted to or not and get some things down and out. Now I find myself drinking a massive Americano at The Tinderbox listening to David Bowie, Midnight Juggernauts, and Jake Bugg trying to keep myself from people watching and my eyes on the screen.
I sit and recall the times I went to New York with my friends, when everything was such a blur of new and old, shiny and dull, erratic and dismissive people, crossing paths, getting lost and finding myself- and the moments I will cherish for a lifetime from my few times there. I never wrote anything down from those trips- and even while they live in my mind like tiny animals, I wish I had even tried to capture those points of my life even if diluted by time, drink, and emotions.
I’m extremely impressed by travel bloggers and writers, freelance journalists and writers who have the self discipline to create a formula, a plan, a schedule- but I suppose if that’s your lifeline you’ve got to have some sort of focal point to get the job done. I’ve now been in Scotland and Ireland for one week now. I’ve been anticipating this trip for months to come and now that it’s halfway over I can’t seem to remember what I had planned for before. Being here has me filled to the brim with emotions ranging from resenting my life in Cambodia to thinking of how comfortable and lucky I am to be in the position I am in Southeast Asia and being filled with gratefulness for the things that Cambodia does offer to young professionals and families alike. Then in one second I feel like packing up and leaving and living here and in the next (usually after hearing the cost of taxes and childcare) feeling a wave of relief that I took the chance to move to Cambodia and never wanting to leave. Having and find such a life rife with small luxuries that will only carry on to be life changing as I get older, have children, and think beyond myself.
After nothing short of a heinous journey through Qatar Airlines (I’ll save that for another entry- I’m still awaiting a response from the now…six…emails and messages I’ve sent both to the regional and worldwide offices), Ritchie and I landed down on his hometown Scottish ground in Glasgow on August 17th. Immediately when I stepped off the plane I realized that packing silk shorts and filmy camisoles was a waste of space and that although I had overpacked, it definitely wasn’t of the correct attire. While the wind nipped at my skin like the irritated claws of a kitten struggling to get away from the grip of a toddler, the memory of its lovely sting instantly returned.
While it’s summertime here in Scotland, it feels like winter in Washington. Since I haven’t been back home in the past two years since living in Cambodia it’s a shock to feel and see so many of the similarities that Glasgow, and Scotland in general, share with my home. Of course the accents are different, the seasons vary extremely from what i had imagined (it’s deadly cold here- definitely lacks the windows down, Royksopp blasting, face in the sun on a road trip type of weather that the Best Coast offers), and the history of the very land itself trumps that of baby Seattle. The streets here aren’t thick with Evergreens and Pines and instead of McMansion residential areas are quaint, century old homes that have seen generation after generation. It reminds me much of Boston, the hauntingly beautiful graveyards and sprawling parks sopping rich with history and the cobbled roads one is bound to find when wandering aimlessly. Wendy and Richard gave us the warmest welcome we could have hoped for, a delicious home cooked dinner of tender roasted chipotle chicken, crunchy corn, and black bean salsa made by Richard in Torrance, endless treats found only in Scotland, and a home that evokes comfort and homey-ness that I haven’t encountered since we sold my childhood home in 2010.
Since I have another week in Scotland and many more delightful and exploratory experiences to come within these coming days I’ll focus in on the past three days I had spent in Dublin with Ritchie and his father and his respective family. We flew in on a tiny, clover covered plane across flatlands and rolling hills of green and heather to another part of the UK- and in the overly used and tired expression so adored in Cambodia, Ireland and Scotland seemed “same same but different”. The air was warmer and lacked the bite of Scotland, but I shivered as I stepped off the plane regardless. At the gate, we were met by David, Ritchie’s dad, and per usual it was unadulterated energy and laughter and inappropriate comments between father and son: the perfect start to our time in Ireland.
Over the next few days we walked the streets of Dublin, popping into one of a kind vintage and curios shops, waking to the sounds of the piano and cars passing slowly outside the stone home. Taking part in the must-do tourist activity of walking the steps of the Guinness Brewery and smelling hops and learning how to properly drink the “black stuff”, taking a journey through the advertisements for the past century, and finishing off with a chocolatey pint at Gravity Bar with a panoramic view of the city. Gazing at the Trinity University and the old churches and buildings that were once banks and now home Costa Coffees and book stores.
We spent time in an open, bright kitchen with David’s partner Heidi, a truly brilliant and engaging woman and her daughter, Georgie- full of energy and never without a thought to share or a new talent to show off. We felt welcomed, entertained without pressure, and like it was as much our home as theirs. We met Dave, aka “Bakey”, a fantastically talented musician from Jersey (a fellow American!) who stay with them and tours with David along with Bosco, another young man who also lives with them as he studies at Trinity College Dublin. I had to hold in my starry eyed excitement the first night I was there when I found out who the man dropping his daughter off at their house was: Ken Friedman, the manager of The Smiths. While it turned out I had more to talk about with his wife (Celine handbags and Italian leather), I couldn’t help but be a bit giddy that he was sitting next to me and found it even funnier that we were surrounded by children’s drawings, animal themed board games, and “Bum Magic”.
One of my favorite moments during my time in Dublin was after a day out window shopping, walking cobbled side streets, perusing novelties, and steadily laughing but ready for a solid nap was coming back to the a house filled with three little girls wanting their nails painted. And paint, we did! Luckily, thanks to my beautiful friend Christina from Phnom Penh whom I miss dearly, I had some nail jewels in my wallet which made the whole experience even more exciting. I spent hours with little Georgie, Chloe, and Sophie talking about gemstones, rings, plaits, rocks, fake eyelashes, plastic band jewelry, and applying and re-applying nail jewels that had fallen off sparkly ruby nails and electric purple fingers. I haven’t had a chance to spend time with children in literally years and the life that their young, wide-eyed and innocent selves full of energy and excitement brought will bring a grin to my face for months. It’s one of the many things that aren’t part of my life in Cambodia. Unless you’re teaching, have family, or friends with children- interactions with engaging, intelligent kids are scarce and I forget how much I appreciate being part of their wee little worlds and them in mine.
Later that night, after a lemon curd cake baked by the little girls (and surely a lot of help from Heidi) for an early 30th birthday treat for Ritchie, we had a few pints at The Taphouse- a bar and lounge along the lines of the ACE Hotel in NYC, Oddfellows in Seattle, and Beaker & Flask (apparently now closed) in Portland. We had the chance to connect with Angus, a Glaswegian friend from Phnom Penh who played football with Ritchie who now lives and works in Dublin along with his girlfriend, Jenna. That connection so unexpected while surrounded by Ritchie’s dad, Bakey from Jersey, Natasha from the Ukraine, Bosco from Burundi, and Ritchie and me made the world feel very, very small and very, very wonderful. Maybe it was the third pint of cider, the crisp air that flooded in every time someone stepped out for a cigarette, or the sheer thrill of being somewhere first world out and about- it felt like I literally had not a worry in the world: that tomorrow didn’t matter, that wherever I end up things will be perfect, and that time was only beginning and life was undefined.
Some of the most magical times I’ve had during this trip have been the smallest. Minute acknowledgments of that around us or the things we move through and the people we encounter. Walking down streets hand in hand, ears warmed by hats and chilled noses picking up the smell of macaroni pies from Gregg’s and delicious scents from the spattering of shops on every corner from big box chains to small independently owned cafes. The ease of walking into a shop and having service given promptly, quickly, and professionally. Taking an hour or two to step out the door and see where the time and paved roads take us. They’re moments that will give me the strength to continue on in the red, dusty, humid, frustrating, deluded, slow, infuriating, yet paradoxically charming city of Phnom Penh and life in general in Cambodia. But it’s a journey that I chose. One that I am proud of, that I will stick with for the time being, and one that will continue to not only teach my lessons but give me strength and memories that will fill me with nostalgia one day. Maybe not today, but one day: one of the things I can be sure of.
Written August 24th