Road Warriors

Some of you wonder if, when I talk about the bad traffic and dangerous road conditions in Cambodia I am exaggerating. While certain facts or stories may be a bit embellished, for the most part, I try to be exact. This week, while driving in the provinces, I narrowly avoided hitting a baby cow about to dart into the road. There have been other near misses, in other vehicles, on other roads. What I regret is that I've never captured these on film to adequately document the phenomenon and could rely only on my storytelling abilities.

And now I don't have to.

Thanks to my alert sister, this news story found its way to me. Apparently the Google car (who knew there was such a thing?) had an incident involving a deer. Now this is sad, but it is a great reason why the Google car has no place in Cambodia. I'm not sure that Google maps could afford the damages every time they nicked a cow or water buffalo. Not to mention kids on bicycles, motorbikes loaded down with stuff, or horse-drawn carts. In any case... this is a taste of driving in Cambodia. Without the constant adrenaline rush and heart-pounding terror, of course. You have to pay extra for that.


Facing Fear

I arrived back in Cambodia just before the beginning of a holiday (not surprising, as holidays happen here about once a month). This time it was Chinese New Year. I know some of you are thinking, "wait, wait, she doesn't live in China!" and you would be correct. However, a large portion of the Khmer population is part Chinese, and so the holiday is celebrated here with lots of fake paper money burning, sacrifices to ancestors, and a day off school. Also with firecrackers. Which is the subject of the first funny story of the Year of the Ox.

Last year, during Chinese New Year, I was consistently surprised by the firecrackers going off in the neighborhood. So this year, having forgotten that the holiday was even approaching (let alone here), I said to my house cleaner on Saturday morning, "Hedia, they are doing some construction or something. There is this constant banging, so don't let it frighten you. I have been jumping at the sounds all morning." Just then, another BANG sounded. She looked at me curiously. "Kate," she said, with a great deal of patience, and not a little amusement, "That's a game."

Aside from being annoyed/scared by the noises coming from outside my house, a greater fear-inducing problem exists (potentially) inside. Some of you may also remember that there have been several instances in which a mouse has been spotted in my house. During those dangerous times, I was vastly reassured by the presence of my very own mouse assassin (and roommate), Deanna. However, she has returned to the US, leaving me vulnerable to mouse attacks once more. Since my return, I have been on the lookout for any signs of furry creatures. Several pieces of circumstantial evidence point to the existence of a mouse-like intruder, but I haven't actually spotted it yet. The question remains: to trap, or not to trap?


Cambodia (Reprise)

My friend Katie wrote this week about her to-do list after arriving back in the Philippines after time away. I think it's safe to say that we're sharing similar experiences. I've been sitting at my computer all day, trying to craft email responses, complete arrangements, and make a plan of attack for the next few weeks. I've failed utterly.

I'm not sure if it's the fatigue from traveling or simply the transition from a month of being "away" and working in a different capacity. I've actually done very little "online" work, having to communicate face-to-face with those I would normally phone or email. The break was great for me; a chance to put some distance between myself, my work, and Cambodia. On the other side it has made me grateful to be back, excited about the coming months and the work ahead, and, I must admit, a little bit lazy about some of the follow up.

In fact, as I sit here contemplating my own laziness, I'm finding it difficult to even put my thoughts together for this little update. My body is still adjusting to the time here, and my brain is stumbling to catch up. I know I'll be spending a good portion of the weekend clearing my to-do list in preparation for some of the things that await next week.

All in all, I suppose this means I am "back," at least in the physical sense. The swelling in my feet has finally gone down, and the aches and pains of sitting in an airplane seat for 12 hours are fading. Mentally, it will take me a few days to catch up with what's going on and to reconnect myself to life here. I'll push past the listless feelings, the fatigue and the transition, and life will resume. In the meantime, I'm going for a massage. Might as well clear up the aches and pains first.


Heading Back

Just a brief update as I wait at the gate for my final flight of this journey. I'm now surrounded by the familiar tones of the Khmer language as there are several Cambodians waiting to board the plane as well. I've been "stuck" in the Korean airport all day-- which isn't so bad considering they have free wireless and a Starbucks... but I can think of better ways to spend 11 hours.

I've told a couple people that this time the trip back and forth is interesting for me. There is sadness in leaving-- friends and family I see all too rarely-- but no sorrow in going. What awaits me when this plane lands is a comfortable (for the most part) life, full of familiar faces and yes, even joy. I'm returning to a full list of things to do, in fact, a meeting at 8:30 tomorrow morning! Yet I can't help but wish the stretches in between seeing all those beloved friends and family were shorter. I missed getting to spend time with a few folks while I was back, and that's disappointing. Yet I know I was missed in Cambodia too. I guess this is another instance of the aches and pains that come with growing in and out of new homes.

Nine more hours, then, and I'll be back in familiar territory. Further away from things that are dear to me, but very close to new places and people that have captured my affection. In some ways, being in transit is easier... it's very isolationist, being a stranger in a strange land, all anticipation and longing at the same time. Or perhaps this is just what I feel now because I've been traveling so much. With that, I'm going to board and say good bye to Korea, Starbucks, hot showers, and modernization for some time. It's a bittersweet farewell, though, and in just a few hours I'll be waving hello to friends, humidity, and sights and sounds of Cambodia that have come to represent, in some way, comfort.


Update Overdue

Because of my travels, I've not had much time to organize my thoughts. I've now visited 6 states, been on 12 planes (with 4 more to go!) and lost my luggage for 7 days. Once I'm settled again, have time to sort through all my emotions and impressions, I'll be back. Until then, just know that the arm warmers have enjoyed their tour of the US. As, of course, have I.