Translation, please

Greetings from the Kingdom of Wonder!

I’ve struggled with these entries lately. I’ve typed out pages upon pages, released them, then took them away and stored them as drafts.
It’s sometimes difficult to submit my personal thoughts and experiences into cyber oblivion.
I change my mind, and I am constantly learning.
I don’t even want to imagine what some of my posts could have been, had I typed out some of my inconclusive thoughts when I first arrived here. ..whoa.

I’ve come to the realization that I’ve been in 100% culture shock since I landed.

Wow.

I’ve resisted the label, even if it meant lying to myself.
Maybe I pushed out the thought as some sort of personal survival tactic.
Either way, I’ve realized it, and accepted it.

I feel the tourist to expat transition approaching.
There are constant new experiences and changes happening in my life here, but I’m learning to master the basics. It was just a matter of time, anyways.

I drove a moto on Thursday. That’s huge for a girl that always just held on.
Laughed my butt off the entire time while my friend (moto owner) and another friend (security man) blocked the surrounding parked cars lol
(I got the hint….trust me a little bit!)

I did it! And I didn’t get kicked off ;) I’d be capable of owning one with an hour of practice. Tops.
Until then, I’ll just cruise.

I absolutely love it here.

Small town girl in a big, new world.
I can promise you, there is absolutely no where on this planet like it.

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Meghan and our friend on the way to her home province.

20130518-152041.jpgFried Bananas ((:

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20130518-152122.jpgChicken garlicy goodness in Kandal

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20130518-152227.jpgSugarcane juice cart

I picked up a friends class at a new, smaller school and I really love it. I’m the only westerner, the staff rocks and these kids are so much more than kids. Easily the best class I’ve ever had. They’re changing my life, and we just met.

It feels good to feel so foreign but it is definitely a scale that can be tipped either way. Sometimes, it’s just down right embarrassing.
Nothing shows who you really are until you’re the only thing you can pronounce.

Sometimes I feel like an ambassador.
What has been here before me?
What’s expected of me?

The #1 thing I miss the most besides my family is AMI, without question.
Comfort and monogamy.
Just me and the beach.
But I’m embracing it.

Be…..yourself. It’s all you’ve got, really.

Everything is shared here. Beds, vehicles, food, phones, staplers, whatever.

If you don’t want something touched…leave a note. haha
It’s incredible, frustrating, interesting, and hilarious but so beautiful to me.

You are 100% responsible for yourself in so many ways, but so deeply connected to what and who surrounds you.
Selfishness translates into karma.
Take care of your brothers and sisters now because you had to be selfish that one time.

Pretty simple, but powerful to witness.

I’m taking more and more from this everyday.

It’s black every time I blow my nose and I’ll never be able to eat a pineapple or mango without craving spicy sugar salt, again.
I sweat everything inside of me out within a matter of hours, and I’m learning one of the rarest languages in the world.

It’s easy to get lost, physically and metaphorically speaking, but I’m blessed and so grateful for everything this place is and has done for me.
There’s hope in this country, and it’s beating like a drum.

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Knom sahbai cheit (:

-A

In A Nutshell

We’ve got one life.
A simple phrase can be powerful when you really let that concept sink in.

One Life.

What do we do with it?

I’m more of a linguist, but this particular entry of mine is different. I’ve decided to provide my readers with a minor glimpse into what I’ve been doing with mine through my eyes via photography and video mediums.

(More photos are available in the “Photo Gallery” page located on the homepage of twopointonemore. Go take a peak. All photos were taken myself on either my cellphone or Sony Cybershot.)

I’ve mentioned in previous posts how Cambodian iced coffee comes in a bag. This has raised a few questions of how it’s done. Here’s a video of my friend doing what he does best. And yes, it is delicious.

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On my way from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. The following videos are of the countryside, the infamous “Tarantula Village”, and a little taste (no pun intended) of their Market.

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Proof that I did, in fact, consume a tarantula. After we left the village, I had some extras left over to share with the others on the bus. I contemplated…”I have two tarantulas in my purse. How many people will ever be able to say that?”

Some of the kiddos singing what I believe to be a Chinese chant to me at one of the villages we stopped at on our way home from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh.

This video is of a school performance at the Cambodian Cuisine Festival. The festival itself was a fundraiser for a major school in Phnom Penh and was outlined with booths featuring food from surrounding provinces.

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And most recently, these are photos of some of my beautiful students. I teach twenty 3-5 year olds. This particular day, one of our lessons was learning about traffic lights. These photos were taken during our break time. One of the students whips out a toy car. I had a red marker, a green marker, and a yellow potato chip bag. I tore a corner of the bag off (improvise….always!) and was “vroom vrooming” around the markers and chip bag. When I’d pass the green marker the kids would shout “GO!!!!” and when I’d pass the red marker, they’d shout “STOP!!”. Great practice, and lots of fun.

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A little party never killed nobody. Some of my closest friends breaking it down during our free time on Saturday.

“Teach me how to Dougie”

I could post thousands of pictures and hours of videos, but there is no way to ever portray this experience in its entirety.

This is two months in a nutshell.

Enjoy (:
I certainly am.

Love,
-A

Learning To Let Go

To free your mind of whatever or whoever it may be that wears you down; it’s quite the complexity, as we are guided through our lives with varying factors, both internal and external that I believe we are physically programmed to learn from.

Some blame the world for their problems, others absorb the negatives and beat themselves up over circumstances that have occurred in their lives.

We are all human. We all make “mistakes”, or say things we don’t mean, or hold on to certain behaviorisms simply because we believe that’s just “how we are” or that’s just “how it is”.

We all have fear. We all have a history.
Some let it define them. Some don’t.

Where do the lines of acceptance, and freedom of self meet?
Who controls our lives, the way we spend our days, and how we treat those that surround us?

There was once a specific time in my life when I was drowning in fear of losing someone that I believed to be the most important person I had ever met.
This fear and self-doubt changed the person I was. I behaved differently, said things I’d never said before, redirected my career path, and ultimately crashed and burned.

Resentment is a difficult and abstract emotion to understand.
It’s even more difficult to conquer and channel into something much more healthy and productive.
But it is not impossible.

I’m sort of bouncing around with this entry, but my ultimate purpose of writing is to remind myself and those reading that it is OK to to feel lost sometimes.

There is one time to change the way we think, and it’s right now.
Let go of what is bothering you.
Even if those around you remind you of the past by saying “you did this” or “you said that” or strike that heart string of saying “you’ll never change”….smile inside, because today is a new day.

Use whatever or whoever is weighing you down for empowerment.

Take a walk.
Read a book.
Put your favorite song on repeat and turn the volume all the way up.
Plant a garden.
Take photographs.
Send out a “Thank You” card, just because.
Write.
Dance.
Volunteer.
Laugh.

Trust and never ever give up on yourself.

You have a purpose.

Sincerely yours,
-A

Look Around You

What does it mean to truly be alive?
Is it a heartbeat? A thought? An emotion? A sight or sound?
Is it waking up every day, drinking your coffee, looking outside your window, getting dressed and going to work?
Is it lying in bed all day just because you want to?
Is it picking up the phone to call a friend?
Is it lying in the grass just staring at the stars?
Is it a PH.d in Biochemistry?
Is it finding an open field just to scream your lungs out?
Is it traveling the world over just to see what it all looks like?

I am nothing but a single person in a small world. I have no wisdom beyond what my experiences have shown me. I have no obligations to anyone besides who I choose, which is oftentimes no one besides myself.

Call me selfish; and sometimes that may be true.

I have family by blood and soul, friends from all corners of the world, and I’ve been blessed with more than I feel I ever deserved.

I’m a 22 year old girl living a life in a world most could only dream of, and it hasn’t been until recently that I have felt alive to my bones.

We all have something we are searching for. We all have that one goal or dream that we believe will lead us down to the path of eternal happiness; but I believe there is more to it than that.

Each and every one of us is filling a void. We search, search, and search some more for something to fill it.

Here is my truth:
Happiness is as momentary as sadness, anger, surprise, curiosity, serenity, and confusion. They all come and they all go with each passing day and experience.

We waste our lives searching for this happiness and miss out on all that surrounds us.

It’s like when you see that girl, all dressed up, surrounded by her closest friends, and she is still staring at her phone.
What more is she looking for?

To be truly alive is to observe. Accept where you are, who you are with, and how you are feeling. It may not feel right at the time but every single one of us is exactly where we are meant to be at that exact moment in time.
It’s what we choose to take with us from these experiences, good or bad, that define us. You wouldn’t be where you are now if it weren’t for where you had been before. Everything in life has a meaning; if not to you, then maybe to the person beside you.
Embrace it.

Find relief in changing someone else’s life for the better as opposed to the self satisfaction you crave.

We are all in this together.

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For now,
-A

Writers Block

Big time.
Where do I begin?

I have moved past the euphoric, oh my gosh ness of being in a new country; Phnom Penh is my home.
I feel comfortable there. Maybe it’s been an adjustment to culture, but I feel strange when I’m not in Cambodia anymore.

I sit here typing through my block in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The Khmer New Year is coming up so I have taken this as an opportunity for a little vacation.

It’s so crazy to me how a few borders can completely turn a world around. I partly expected to feel at ease upon arrival because I’m still in Southeast Asia… right? How different can it be? Ha!
Culture shock all over again.

I’m looking forward to making my way to Johor Bahru and Singapore in the upcoming days.
I feel really intimidated because I have no tour guide showing me around, no local friendships, no familiarity. I have my backpack and my eyes on my surroundings.
(I’m being safe, Daddy! Stop worrying! and I love you!)

Moving on,
I met a man that thought Florida was next to California. It’s hitting me more and more every single day that to billions of people, America is just another country. Can you list off every province in Cambodia?

Exactly. We are one Earth but we each live in our own worlds.

Who’s to say what one way is the right way? I know people that drive on the opposite side of the road and eat with their hands. Who makes the rules on what is normal or correct?

Pass no judgement, on anyone. Ever.
People do what they have been nurtured to do. Smile, nod, and observe.

Be proud of where you come from but do not let it poison your opportunities to embrace someone completely different from you.
Love everyone.
Respect everyone.
Live and let live.

And with that, I say goodnight.

Until next time,
-A

Wanderlust

Phnom Penh is undoubtedly a one of a kind city. It’s difficult to describe and reach conclusions because every day offers a new challenge and experience, so I figured I would attempt to break down what i have experienced so far into categories.

Here we go:

My Living Situation
I have my own room with two twin sized beds which is convenient because I obviously take the other beds pillow and use two to sleep. I’ve been so exhausted between jet lag and a nonstop schedule that I could easily sleep on the floor, so the two pillow thing makes me feel spoiled. ;)

My room has an air conditioner and a television with one channel in English with Chinese subtitles. So, because of these amenities it’s been a smooth transition as far as Western style living is concerned.

What has taken some time to get used to is the bathroom. It’s one big room with a toilet and a water hose hanging beside it. (I call it the butt sprayer lol) so purchasing toilet paper has been a must.
A few feet from the toilet is a shower head. There’s nothing separating the shower from the toilet and the water drains into a hole in the corner of the room. I’m literally redefining “peeing in the shower” every day.
A few feet from that is my sink.
I can pee, shower, and brush my teeth all at once if I wanted to haha

The hotel itself has a nice set up. There’s a little bar/restaurant downstairs with a pool table, enough coffee to satisfy even the biggest Starbucks addict and full WiFi which has made the luxury of Skyping my family very convenient. (I miss you guys so much)

Transportation
Ahh..the most exciting/terrifying/one-of-a-kind aspects of my day to day life. There are generally 3 forms of vehicles.
1) Motos. Thousands of them. By law, the driver must wear a helmet but the passengers do not. I enjoy the Motos because there are many times when you’ll see families bringing their children to/from work or school and the kids will wave and smile or become shy and smile looking down. It’s adorable and you can’t help but love them.
2) Lexus’ (with LEXUS in big bold letters across the entire side of the car. I guess they like to “represent”) ……
3) Tuk Tuks. They’re carriages that are pulled by motos and it’s not uncommon to see 6+ people riding in these.

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The Food
Unique. Apparently, it’s not as “flavorful” as the food you’d come across in Thailand, for example, but I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve eaten so far. Just be careful with the bag of chili powder sugar stuff you’ll usually get when you buy pineapple. It looks sweet but it’ll kick your butt lol.

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Fabulous. I try to eat something new every day.
It’s also not uncommon to find coffee carts. They pour coffee, sweetened condensed milk, and ice into a bag, shake it up, and put a straw in it. Nearly every coffee you order to go will come in a little bag. I think this is made easier for you to hang it from the moto’s handlebars. Genius. (:

The People
Beautiful. I feel repetitive in saying that but there’s really no other word to describe them. I have yet to encounter a single rude person. Everyone says “Hello”, “Good Morning”, “Coffee?”, etc every time you see them. They will do their best to help you in any way that they can. Chivalry is not dead. Everyone is so kind and I am constantly struggling with myself to set aside my Western behaviorisms to ensure that I do not offend anyone.

You know that feeling when you’re giving a speech, for example, and you’re not quite sure what to do with your hands? I feel that every day with my entire body and every word that comes out of my mouth.

“Saving Face” is a major aspect of Khmer culture to be taken into consideration, as well. You do not blatantly correct someone because it will embarrass them. If you do embarrass them, you yourself have now just lost face, as well. So, instead of saying “No, no, you’re doing that wrong”, you simply smile and try your best to explain better. I love that, and hope to carry that mentality with me no matter where my life takes me.

The Language
Different from Chinese or Thai, Khmer isn’t a tonal language. But learning it is daunting, nevertheless. I can’t pronounce many of the words unless I plug my nose to get a nasally sound lol. It’s going to be my biggest challenge, but the simple phrases I’ve learned so far have helped immensely and you can tell that the locals appreciate you trying to learn their language as opposed to constantly trying to force English on them. I’m here to be a teacher, but this is their country, after all. It’s a healthy balance, and I love every Khmer lesson I’ve had so far.

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“Alexandra” written in Khmer
(It took me about 20 minutes to copy this down lol)

I could write for hours but hold consistent reluctancies with every word I type as I do not want to make assumptions or conclusions that are erroneous. Like I said, every day offers something new, and I am having an experience of a lifetime.

I love Cambodia, and I am looking forward to the rest of my time spent here.

Until next time,
A.

Eyes Wide Open

At the present moment, I’m on my way to Siem Reap; a town located in the Northwest territory of Cambodia. A crickity, but air conditioned and comfortable bus is bringing me on an 8 hour journey from Phnom Penh to visit the temples at Angkor Wat. It’s the first time since my arrival in Cambodia where exhaustion and a million sounds have not clouded my concentration. It’s my first journey out of the city and what I’m seeing is hard to put in to words.

I feel like I’m in a time warp, the Twilight Zone; the saddest analogy to describe the human conditions of a “third world country.”
The “real” Cambodia, you could say.

Heat, dust, and poverty.

I have witnessed all three in the city but there is a vibe to Phnom Penh that quickly distracts you and brings you somewhere familiar in your mind.

The countryside is different.

No hotels, no “girlie bars”, no loud music or tuk tuk drivers in sight hassling to give you a ride.
There is only the occasional patch of green grass, and hundreds of dilapidated shacks sitting on stilts, built from decaying wood and rusted sheet metal with cloths for doors.

There are naked, barefooted children walking around everywhere, people lying in hammocks trying to sleep off the heat, and women sitting outside just watching us go by.

This is the shit you see in those UNICEF commercials during the holidays.
It’s real, people; and it’s all around me.

It’s absolutely heartbreaking and so unfair.

But so beautiful in the truest form.

They have nothing to the Western eye, but their daily struggle for basic life necessities that has just slapped me in the face encourages me and definitely puts some things into perspective.

Family is number one.
Help your neighbor.
Work hard every day but take time to just sit back and relax.
Breathe deep and love everyone.

Your text messages are fake and your television is giving you cancer.
That shiny car is nothing but a misinterpretation of what really matters.

If this experience has taught me anything so far, it is that you can search high and low for “happiness”, “success”, “wealth”, “status”, “security”, or what have you, but the fact that you can sit in your air conditioned room, reading my story from your iPhone, and never felt a hunger for more than a few hours is the biggest indication that you were already born with more than you ever needed.

Do not confuse luxury with necessity.

These people have zero materialistic value. They have each other. They are surviving, but they are happy.

The most beautiful people and I am so blessed to meet them and to see it all with my own two eyes.

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Thank you, Cambodia.
I’m listening; and my life will never be the same.

We aren’t in Kansas anymore

My first glimpse of daylight confirmed the undeniable truth that I am in the Kingdom of Cambodia.
Horns honking, a steady flow of motos, tuk-tuks, bicycles, and working trucks. With seemingly zero traffic regulations, (as far as a stop light or sign is concerned)..the locals know how to get around. Everyone seems to get where they need to go and I haven’t heard any road rage from someone being cut off. Everyone just…goes. It’s very interesting.
There are some unwritten rules around here.
I honestly don’t know how I’m going to cross the street… besides carefully. lol

The sunlight offered more than a view chaotic traffic down below, however.
I stepped outside for a moment, and was pleased to catch a glimpse of an incredibly beautiful building to my left. The French influence of architecture in this country takes my breath away. There is so much detail in their structure, and I feel a wave of comfort standing beside these buildings every time.

As I stood looking around me, distracted by the hustle and bustle of my new city, something caught my eye.

A little dirty dog walking across the busy street.
Silent tears, instantly.
How silly, right? I’m in a country recovering from genocide and my first tears being shed belonged to a dog.
I just wanted to pick him up, feed him a bag of Purina, and take him to the vet.
Maybe it’s my first bout of culture shock, exhaustion, or my love of animals, but it made me so sad.
This was only momentarily, however, as a woman walking past was quick to shoo him away.
I was relieved to see him run away; comforted by knowing he still had that much strength to move that fast.

I came inside after that.

I feel very small.

Here’s the view from my room:

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Off to shower and view the city!
Until next time,
A.

“Two weeks” was so two days ago

Time is all around me.
It’s rewinding, pausing, and fast-forwarding all at once; tapping every molecule in my life, and continuously knocking at my door.
It’s bizarre; like a dream, almost, to think that I have reached this time in my life where I “branch out” to the fullest of my definition and to soak in the realization that this new chapter has given me a once in a lifetime opportunity to help others from an entirely different corner of the world.

A microcosm of emotion and reality. 100%.
I’m interested to read this 3 years from now. I wonder what’s going to change.

I’ve been the nomadic type since I was capable. I guess I don’t like to sit in the same place for too long. Maybe I just totally suck at going through the motions? Or maybe I like to just enjoy the change of scenery.
No matter how you spin in, this is the VERY first time I feel like I’m about to do the ultimate.
Only this time, I’m not running.
This is more of a stroll with bonus support from those closest to my heart.

Is this really my life?
Hell yes, it is.

I’m leaving.
Like…really leaving.

And I’m leaving soon.

I’m excited.
And I’m scared.

But I’m ready.

-A.

Three weeks and counting

And so….it’s official!
I’ve purchased my flight and will be leaving for Cambodia in three weeks.
It’s completely surreal that my remaining time in good ol’ America is coming to a close.

Everything is coming full circle, and I’ll be spending the next 21 days tying all of my loose ends together but I feel so much better knowing that I have the major aspects of this transition taken care of.

I was seriously stressing about finding and paying for my flight. It’s such a relief.

My nerves are unyielding, but I’ve accepted the fact that they’ll probably stay that way until my feet are planted firmly in Phnom Penh.

It’s such an interesting combination of emotions; like nothing I have ever experienced before.
Maybe I’m simply too busy for my own good? I love it.

By setting aside the “fear of the unknown”, I can focus on the fact that I have more to look forward to than ever before.
(:

Happy Tuesday, everyone!
Only Love,
-Alex