Sunday, January 5, 2014

It's Not About How You Look, It's About How You See (well most of the time anyway)

Every time I have travelled alone on these adventures I eventually hit a wall.

The first year, I hit the wall in Bangkok, underprepared and under financed to manage a city I had neglected to remember was massive and unwieldy and expensive. I skipped out of town and went to solidify my isolation on a desolate island. Maybe I freaked a little there too, but in an eco-friendly, sit-on-the-beach-with-a-book sort of way.

The second year, I made a mistake and did a home stay in Bali without really checking that out. It was really far outside of Ubud, it was raining, and my friends were all staying in uber deluxe yogi blissed out niceness far away from me. I prayed the bugs would not do me in and was thrilled the next day when there was neither electric nor water so I could justify my instant departure from the pushy well-meaning lady I had rented from.

Last year I got knackered again in Bali, wondering why I was traveling ALONE AGAIN to such an exotic, erotic and spiritual center. I bounced in a cab ride for ever, thinking "never again!" until I got out of the cab and thought "why don't I move here?"

This year I kicked off my travel month with an incredible trip to New Zealand to see my son Nick and Ellie. It was so unbelievably fun and I remembered two things that I had forgotten: traveling with others is awesome and I am an outdoorsy person. We SURFED for heaven's sake!

After that, I arrived in Phnom Penh to get ready to do my much-loved work with the amazing girls and staff at Transitions. It was a longer slog from New Zealand than I had considered, another 13+ hours of air travel plus ferry/bus/airports/tuk-tuk plus a 6 hour time difference. So I spent a day getting my bearings. I spent the next day getting ready for my workshop and five-day program with Transitions.

Truth be told, I was already feeling dispirited.  I missed Nick and Ellie and the constant adventure of New Zealand. In Phnom Penh, you can spend a lot of time not talking to anyone and getting a little too existentially wound up about aloneness, time, grief. So by the time I was getting ready to teach my workshop yesterday, I was READY to connect.

Enter martial law. Or some version of it. Two days short of the holiday that celebrates the 1979 end of Khmer Rouge, there was more bloodshed in an altercation between the ruling party, Cambodian People's Party (CPP) and the opposition party, the Cambodian National Rescue Party.  Hun Sens has led the CPP since 1998 and last year's election has been widely disputed.

There is a garment worker's strike and the political situation merging to bring hundreds of thousands of CHRP protestors to the streets. On Saturday the CPP used military force, at least three died, and they called an end to the protesting. The U.S. Embassy in Cambodia suggested that we should not leave the house today as they expected violence to erupt and road's to be blocked.

Well, shit.

So I freaked out a little bit. Not like it is a wussy thing to do in an unstable, developing country with one airport on the other side of the fighting and Delta Airlines on terminal hold dealing with cancelled flights due to snow, ice and global tundra. But it was definitely fueled by my annual dive into loneliness on the road to adventure and service.

I figured out how to get out of town just in time for everything to settle down enough for me to believe, at this moment, I can stay for the week as planned and start my work tomorrow.

But today was weird. We cancelled my workshop at NataRaj in the moments when it seemed everyone would be stuck indoors, before the opposition party cancelled the planned demonstration and called for non-violence. So I had another day to wander around in the heat, again, and find various hangouts to check out Twitter feeds about Cambodian breaking news. I am extremely happy to report that for now, it seems things are okay in Cambodia. I am not sure how long it will last or what it all means, but peace has been temporarily restored.

But it didn't necessarily uplift my mood and by the end of the day I had to do something to shake things up, to set a new tone. I zig-zagged the streets in my neighborhood, seeing if there were any new shops or restaurants that seemed interesting. I took some photos. I stared in a lot of windows.

And that's where I found it, my stuck-in-a-rut-again-but-this-time-in-a-rioting-country cure!

Eye. Lash. Tinting.

Most of the time, I believe 100% in this wonderful saying I found on a sign in Raglan, New Zealand: It's not about how you look, it's about how you see. Today, I needed to care about how I look AND how I see.

I can't control the political situation or knowing when I will leave Cambodia or the ultimate fate of the girls here. I can't will a relationship into existence, no matter how hard I might have tried.

Tomorrow is a new day. I will teach the girls and Transitions' team about grounding, centering, orienting, breathing, connecting and nourishing. And I will be nourished for it. Tomorrow night I am sure I will be back on cloud nine, assuming peace rules both Cambodian parties.

Tonight, I am happy to be reasonably less afraid with my new dark and alluring eyes.


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