Buddha sat under the Boddhi Tree
Trip Start Jul 23, 2009
25Trip End Apr 01, 2010
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I have the cine reel running in my head and I hope you too share the filmic possibilities from these blogs.
It's with a lump in my throat that I say goodbye as all of you have sustained me in some pretty tough places when I have felt both scared, lonely and exhilarated: THANK YOU!
Phew ..there was that hell hole Sainshand in the East Gobi Desert, and the temporary kidnap by post office officials and after all that, the parcel never arrived; being lost on the Metro in Moscow and the annihilating beauty of the Kremlin: the kindness of strangers and that horse ride across the steppes in Mongolia
I suppose it was a personal journey too as I wanted to know if I could make it and feel comfortable 'in the world' - to be able to colonise it if I wished, if that doesn't sound too pompous, as our nomadic ancestors have done, and people still do, in search of better lives. I've accepted I'm a wanderer and not just suffering from a short attention span and some sort of personal instability.
There was a chance for me to grapple with my 'getting lost' neurosis and be able to learn to manage on my own( internal) resources and then there's the people I met on the way:
Tatiana from St Petersburg whose Utube vid. of her kids performing in a St Petersburg Cathedral I viewed at Christmas time, gorgeously roly poly Yuri, the Russian train guard who looked after me like a father, Owen and Rel and the Chinese students in Yangshuo, China and the firing of the rice terraces in minority country. Kate and Dave whose honeymoon I accidentally joined and Ertum our drinking companion on the Trans- Siberian train to Yekaterinburg: the dark man of Dugestan with gold teeth who wanted me to elope with him and another dark man Thy, from Phnom Penh.
In Mongolia there was lovely Aagii' who burst into tears when I gave her a pair of earrings for her birthday and then there were all my 'girls' at Elstei Ger Camp, and Josh and Nomandahk too: Odette from Russian Experience was great to have on the end of an email
I can eat oysters again thanks to Holly in Perth!
However, I have not forgotten some dark navigational moments when I thought I'd never manage the trains - in China, in Chinese, with 3 trillion other people also trying to do the same - and being dumped in a dark street on the outskirts of Bangkok one dark night by a taxi driver who had lost patience with trying to get me where I wanted to go.( I did develop an antipathy to taxi drivers in the end and tried to do my own navigating on public transport, beast permitting and the beast, well, we get along better these days).
I balance this against the courteous Russian families - Babushka in charge - who felt compelled to look after me on trains and the deferential Japanese and Chinese men with whom I shared train compartments
The family gets a mention too - the three lively little Australians, my granddaughters who sang their hearts out at my mum's 90th - and the NZ crowd - a chance to get to know my sister and her fabulous kids a little better and a chance to aid my mother's return to health and there was her 90th bash of course. Then there's Jo my niece and Damion, with their great brood of seven kids; my niece Esther - her horse Twink.......
It's been an emotional time for me as now on my second trip to Cambodia, I'm no longer a tourist and the contradictory realities of this post-genocidal country of smiling people whose smiles hide tragedy strike home: every family lost members through starvation and execution in the seventies. This is a country where people trafficking is still a multi-million business.
I found it difficult not to cry when I met the Voices for Change Team of the Somaly Mam
Foundation as each of these young women had been trafficked and rescued from brothels and each of them welcomed me with their hugs
Thy and Dara put me back together again with gentle words and kindness when overwhelmed by too much Cambodia in one day, I blubbed about just about everything. I cherish the gentle people at Boddhi Tree where nothing is too much trouble and their lush gardens opposite Toul Sleng Museum of Genocide, are a haven for the shell shocked recovering from a visit to the old prison S21, now Toul Sleng Museum of Genocide: tourist buses cram the street and I even saw one for Explore the other day.
Buddha sat under the Boddhi tree, didn't he?
I've been out to two hearings of the Extraordinary Courts of Justice which are in place funded by the UN and others to try remaining Khmer Rouge so I saw Khier Sampan (originally Head of State after Sihanouk) appealing his continued detention and Ieng Thirip also appealing her detention - she headed the Department of Social Affaires during the Pol Pot era. This lady in a previous hearing cursed the prosecution to the 7th level of Hell which is one big curse in Buddhist terms, but this time she confined herself to references about her illustrious ancestors and how she belongs to the elitist of Cambodian families and how her father had been a lawyer and his father before him, blah, blah..She must indeed find it difficult to realise that she too is accountable but actually she doesn't accept any responsibility as she is in a state of denial
I found it riveting as I watched the Cambodian and International lawyers do battle: however, I believe both appellants will remain in continued detention. I also found people watching very interesting and the provincial people - notably the Chams - a Moslem group shipped in from Battambang were especially interesting and wonderfully, colourfully dressed. I thought they looked really lovely and they liked the look of me too.
Unfortunately a pale skin is a plus in this society and you can work out the rest. The Chams and Malay Moslems were targetted during the Pol Pot era and almost annihilated. Pol Pot the biggest rat of all has escaped justice by dying.
I'm in an extraordinary world now: I am in a Khmer world and privileged and couldn't ask for more. I see crowds of bignoses ambling about and hoards of NGO types in places like the Foreign Correspondents' Club but it's too white and samey for me.
I've just come back from Sihanoukville with Thy where we explored tropical islands off that coast and I have a Khmer wedding to go to...and just back from a Krousar Thmey Centre (new family) for street children some of whom work here at Changiville which supports Riverkids - a home for vulnerable children
I've certainly got one if not two adventures on the go right now and it's scary sometimes but I'm planning to return to Cambodia so I'm counterpoised between the UK, Australia and NZ and I hope to do something useful. As I've been bitten by the writing bug I will be writing my 'dispatches' from my own web page in the future and I hope you will join me.
As a Jordani friend once said to me, "This is not goodbye"...