Source: How to Mount and Elephant
Shots from India
Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world. Source: Beyond the Lotus Flower
Source: Beyond the Lotus Flower
I am learning to be home again. To return to the familiarity of Kuala Lumpur, the walk up the hill from the LRT with its mixtures of smells and rocky sidewalk tiles, and the modern simplicity of this city. I realize how insignificant my life is in a world so full of wonder. The world that I have always known, the tiny chunk of New England, is a wonder in its own beauty.
Asia has opened me. Starting with the Lotus flower and so far ending with the temples and fishing villages of Siem Reap, which houses Angkor Wat, the Elephant Palace, the palace of the Leper King and dry shallow moats. Somehow these places have survived with their people. A place where the effect of dormant land mines is everywhere. A place that survived the Khmer Rouge, and that still survives poverty within a calm of Hinduism, motorbike riders wearing facemasks, and tuk-tuks carrying tourists from temple to temple at dawn. The smell is of Mexico, the food an imitation of India, China, and Malaysia. The thing one takes away from this place is a sense of peace carving its way back after years of strife.
I ask myself where I have been while I grew up listening to the black and white news on TV about this region of the world. What do I know? How can I begin to imagine what the people who are now my age survived when they were six years old? When I asked our guide about the effect that the Khmer Rouge had on him, he told me he was sent to the rice paddies at six years old, split from his family, and that he lost his father and brother. We agreed that there was no way to for him to describe to me his experience or any way that I could begin to understand it. What can I possibly begin to know of that?
How can I know anything of the little girl and boy who clean out the garbage can after I throw away my morning egg and toast? I reach into the trash for the little girl and open my wasted breakfast. She rejects the toast and takes the egg to feed to her brother.
I find him later befriending tourists and picking at their breakfasts while hundreds of tourists from all over the world wait with the cameras for the sun to rise over Angkor Wat. And it never really does. The light leaks into the sky, fading the silhouettes of the towers built miraculously of tons of limestone carted from 25 kilometers away.
Angkor Wat is magic. Despite its tourist attraction, and multiple children selling postcards and cooing 1 dollar, one dollar, I was still awed by it. The irony of people absorbed in their selfies surrounded by such spirituality and wonder struck me. The vanity of the human race overwhelms me, and I still have that serene desire to curl into a cocoon and be alone with the universe as I continue my journey.
The world continues to be a treasure hunt. The pile of gold that I have accumulated continues to heap up bringing me closer to myself and that mysterious place called home for which I continue to search. I saw what must have been a mile-long carved mural of the Ramayana, and like so many other spiritual guides, he too was searching to rid the world of evil, to increase its goodness, and to try to understand what it is to be human.
Like India, there are few words for my short weekend in Cambodia. It was a whirlwind tour for me who believes that less is more. When I visit a place that is grand, I want to go to one place and absorb it, rest with it and let it wash the soul. I will go back to Cambodia because it only takes two hours to get there. My hope is to start doing some trekking to get away from the tourism and closer to the people of Asia. There are many things that everyone should experience in a lifetime: the Special Olympics, rowing a wooden Kaschper in perfect synchrony, raising children, India, New England, giant thunderstorms over the Pacific Ocean, body surfing the perfect gigantic wave, skating on black ice, swimming many miles. My list is infinite, how fortunate I am that it is.