blog by Sue Wallingford
So, finally after working hard to get acclimated, find our ground and get much needed rest (even though I write this at 3:30 am), there is some time to share a small bit of what we have experienced and shared together so far…. Please stay tuned as we share more tomorrow about our trip to Angkor Wat.
Wednesday and Thursday: Getting Here
Our journey began when we left the airport Wednesday morning on different planes – Katie H and Katie M on one plane, Marissa and Emma on another and, Meg, Tracey, Arianna, Aimee, and me on yet another. After about 20 hours of flight, and stops in Vancover, Singapore and Seoul we arrived in Cambodia late Thursday evening, finally going to our first night of rest at our hotel. The time then was just around mid-night Cambodian time, which is 13 hours ahead of us in Colorado. Jet lagged, bleary eyed but with a buzz of excitement to meet up with each other again and begin the 3 week trip that we have prepared for the last year and a half we met our Cambodian shuttle driver waiting patiently to take us to our hotel, just a short distance from the airport. It was apparent from the beginning that the language barrier would be a challenge, but the gentle nature and welcomed smiles of these Cambodian people would make it easy for us to ease into this very different environment. We fell in love pretty much instantly.
Friday: Going to the sacred city of Siem Reap
We rose early Friday morning, some of us having gotten a good night’s sleep and some of us not, for our 6 hour long bus ride to Seim Reap. The ride was full of rich imagery, new smells, and sounds, as we traversed this Cambodian Landscape. Following, in the spirit of what we call the Body, Speech, Mind discipline at Naropa, is a series of snapshots of our first “real” day……
The bus is full, people from everywhere I think. All sorts of colors – both skin and clothes decorate the insides of the bus. Familiar and unfamiliar sounds resound all around. Languages I have never heard, and voices familiar mixing together to create a sort of soft background hum with the steady and sometimes not so steady movement of the bus. My sense of smell is alive as my brain registers all the new and different scents around me, instinctively determining the safety that is here for my students and me. Reminded by these smells my mouth waters, anticipating the tastes that will delight and nourish me in the days to come.
Peering out the window I see….
Stretches of rice paddies, with tall rooted green filled trees held by a backdrop of gray and silver clouded skies. Burst of Bougainville pink. Muddy, and neon green puddled waters with lotus blossoms reaching out of the fecund decay of histories past. Children running naked in the rice paddies splashing water at each other. Imagined flies and worms waiting to feast on something – a memory of the past when rancid human flesh was abundant. White cows with every bone expressed feeding on the scarcity of the land. Visions of families, and generations perished, torn apart, living and thriving together again. Dusty fish smelled air dampened, turned into slippery mud by the refreshing afternoon shower. Houses, sun bleached gray, and eaten away by the bugs or time, standing on stilts. Outside, under-house dinner tables surrounded by brightly colored plastic chairs, with skinny stray dogs scraping for left-over bones. Whispers of stories past maybe uttered here. And big ceramic pots collect rain and clean water from roofs.
Mopeds and bicycles filled roads zoom past going somewhere to make the daily bread. A silhouette of three far out in the field, following the afternoon rain, obscurely lit by the fading sun. Fabric colored windows, tattered and color faded adorn. Foot worn wooden staircases, painted light blue or turquoise leading upward to an ornately decorated door and inside a place I have never known. Wood-stacks, hay-stacks and garbage-stacks and hammocks sway. An occasion pig or rooster dotted front yards. Smoldering smoke filled backyards cooking up the evening family meal or burning yesterday remains. Little girls and boys in school clothes of navy and white walking or riding home, clean and fresh, while I hear lady Gaga, singing her songs on the radio as we make our way on the road to these people’s sacred land.
Golden shrines popping up in the most unusual places. A row of happy fat Buddha’s line the road surrounded by heaping piles of used up trash. A small treasure is found by barefoot and dirty boys sifting through the discards. A small frail young mother shoos flies from her baby’s mouth, holding her tight as if she might be ripped away. And yet, they still smile, kind eyes with soft gazes hiding horrendous pasts as they wish me a good luck day.
It is the first day, and this is only a little bit. I am already transformed. I know it I have much to learn and open my heart too here. I feel very thankful, guilty and so much love.