At last a morning with a short agenda and no 5 am wakeup needed. I sleep until 7 and leisurely read a British tabloid on the veranda after straightening up my belongings and cramming them back into my suitcase. We are going back to the temple area today, but only for a short bit, and not to burn through more film and memory sticks. We are going to just SIT. Find a shady quiet corner and sit and read or journal or meditate. We are both really looking forward to this, and head out at the much saner hour of 9 am to Preah Kahn, a temple we decided to skip yesterday in part due to my delirium (and apparent inability to distinguish either a men’s room or a cow). It has come highly recommended by our new 22 year old friend named Susannah, who works at the Cambodian Daily by night and volunteers at the CCF during the day. After meeting her during our visit to CCF on Thursday, I ran into her on the steps of Angkor Wat on Friday afternoon. Quite funny – never expected to run into anyone we knew there, and if we had tried to meet up in that humungous complex, we probably couldn’t have done it. Even funnier, while standing chatting with her, I got a call on my cell. So surreal getting a local Cambodian call while standing in the midst of something you had to hack your way to through the jungle, the landmines, and the mosquitoes to get to not all that long ago.
Anyway, we took a cool morning Tuk Tuk ride to Preah Kahn and were delighted by the basic lack of tourists. Apparently the Japanese tour busses all stop first at Angkor Thom, a bigger temple. Phew! We just weren’t in the mood for all that today, especially since we had but an hour and half before we had to Tuk Tuk it back to the hotel to meet our car for the 6 hour return ride back to Phnom Penh.
We settled into a back corner area and split up to each have our quiet time. I know that both of us have been wrestling with conflicting emotions and perceptions during this trip. This country is the land of contradictions. Extreme poverty backed up literally next door to wealth. Utter chaos coupled with a calm persistence by its people. The need for so much help countered by the obvious corruption on the part of aid agencies. The excitement and desire to be a tourist in this country tempered by the guilty feeling of taking part in a new style of colonialism. It’s really gotten my head into a new and uncomfortable place. I came here, high up on my idealistic horse, knowing that I would be going back to the states to finish what we started with (it) magazine. To make a difference. To perhaps make a difference in the lives of some of the very people I was rubbing elbows with this week. Wow. I now wonder, what can I possibly do that isn’t just an unnoticeable drop in this big futile bucket of a world filled with pain, poverty and all kinds of ignorance.