Battambang, I hardly knew you … but it’s time to go. Nothing personal – it’s a fine place, I imagine, I’m just not moved to stay here. Or to explore much further than I have.
I didn’t pay attention to those thoughts that crept in as I was still in Siem Reap, the ones that said, “hey, maybe I don’t really want to go to Battambang, even though I thought I did; maybe I’ll just head to Phnom Penh and forget one more place.” Yep, I ignored them, but there was some wisdom there trying to get my attention. Trying to say, “hey, it’s been a really full and frenetic time and maybe it’s time to just stop.’ But I didn’t and now I realize it.
It’s nothing catastrophic, certainly nothing is ‘wrong’ particularly. Except that I want to pay closer and more astute attention to listening to those voices. And creating a life out here (everywhere, really!) that reflects what is most life-giving and nurturing. That changes regularly – what feels ‘right’ today is different than what is so last week or next week. So it requires my exquisite attention and discernment and impeccable awareness and honesty with myself.
Fuck the itinerary! Pay attention to the truth of the moment! What do I want right now? What feeds me? What supports my truth and my longing? How can I get there? Breathe. Slow down. Digest. Reflect. Remember why I’m out here. It doesn’t really matter where I am, it matters how I am and how I stay congruent within myself as I learn to connect with the outer world in such a foreign place.
Even just sitting here writing for awhile feels better – more grounded and spacious, more congruent with how I want to spend my time and energy. What’s interesting, amongst a kazillion other things, is noticing that it takes me awhile to realize how I feel and what I want. Sort of like how they say that it takes your mind 20 minutes to realize that your stomach is full when you’re eating. It feels that way with learning about myself out here. Like I think all is fine and then I notice that I’m not feeling as peaceful as I was and I’m more cranky or impatient, but not sure why. And then I learn that I’m not on course within myself. I’ve gone off somehow without even knowing it. So then I find my way back, steering ever so determinedly to that place that will keep me whole and centered; and try, as I must, to be patient and compassionate with myself along the way!
It’s not always ‘easy’ to be here and I need to remember all that it takes to move through life in cultures so far from how I ‘normally’ live (yeah, some like to say that Puna is the 3rd world, but let me tell you, even Puna is still very much the 1st world!). Here in Southeast Asia, life is different – with its crowds of people, its overwhelming noises and often putrid smells emanating from every direction – it’s seeing garbage everywhere, strewn literally across the entire landscape and feeling the disgust of it. It’s seeing the poverty in which people live – seeing the dilapidated structures of falling apart buildings that likely couldn’t withstand a strong wind; it’s seeing the mother holding her infant child, both of them covered in rags, as she begs from the foreigners at the restaurants, and as they resist making any eye contact with her (me included sometimes); it’s seeing the crippled men, landmine victims, hobbling down the street on stumps of broken bodies, spirits wavering, but trying to hold on; it’s seeing the filth that covers almost all the clothes of the children as they walk barefoot through the village; it’s seeing the mange-covered animals, looking desperately for morsels of food that might be dropped in the marketplace, and watching them getting kicked mercilessly by a passing motorbike rider. It’s hearing the constant whirring of those motorbikes, and darting through them in traffic, recognizing that simply crossing the street is an act of courage where only the bold survive!
Yes, it’s seeing all this and so much more and refusing to look away, refusing not to be affected by it, letting myself feel the anguish of how life is for people here, letting my heart break … wide open. Yes, it’s important to remember all that it takes to be out here … on my own, in 100+ degree heat, 90+% humidity, finding my way, staying open and curious and kind and patient and humor-full and sometimes letting it be just fine that I feel tired and cranky and weary. And even in the midst of all that, as I walk down the street and smile at the local people congregating outside their simple homes, feeling the pleasure that I do when I receive their smile in return; or when I go to the very, very local restaurant for a cup of tea in the morning and when I go to pay, I give the man 2000 riel (50 cents), he takes the 500 note out of my hand instead, but then mama comes to the table and hands it back to me, saying in her broken English that I didn’t even eat anything and insists that I take the money back – 12 cents that she won’t take, as poor as she is – she refuses the money and only asks that I return tomorrow for some food! Yes, those moments are blessed ones for me – those connections across culture and language and socio-economics – those simple, momentary human connections make all the rest of it melt away and they carry me through to my heart and to theirs, and then I remember, I remember just some of the reasons why I’m here and why I want to be here.
So, these are some of my thoughts as I prepare to take my leave of this Battambang city – I’ve bought my bus ticket for tomorrow morning and off I will go! Headed to Phnom Penh, but only for a very short visit on my way to the southwest coast of Cambodia. I thought to go directly there, where I’d like to hang out for awhile – find a place to just ‘be’ after all this ‘doing’. But all buses go through Phnom Penh to get to the coast; and actually I do feel called to stop there, if for no other reason, than to go to the Killing Fields. So that I will do. But I have no intention to linger in the big city.
Because it’s getting to be time for some of this for awhile: