Thursday, April 29, 2010
One thing niggling away at me has been the prospect of transportation in Phnom Penh. There is no public bus system in the city, no subway, no trains. The presence of cars is scarce, limited to wealthy expats, diplomats and government officials -- not that I would even contemplate purchasing or renting a car for my stay.
Of course, I can choose to walk, or to ride a bike, thus testing my sluggish reflexes against the congested arterials of this decaying French colonial city.
And then, there's the motorbike, the ubiquitous mode of transport in SE Asia. You can purchase a used motorbike in Cambodia for less than $200 USD. With one motorbike adventure under my belt, why do I suspect that having my own may be more dangerous? Oh, that's right -- because, even on foot, I am tragically clumsy and uncoordinated.
And, if nothing else, when I tire of pounding my feet on the scorching pavement, I can hire a tuk-tuk, which is a rickshaw attached to a motorbike, a lovely way to zip across the city.
I am undecided. This will be sorted out, I'm certain, next week.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
There was Meriwether's for a "farm to table" brunch (yes, they have a farm and garden) with Mami, Connie, and Jeanice.
There was coffee with Becki, who single-handedly ensured that, even in the remotest dust-covered parts of the Cambodian countryside, I will have a Lychee moisure mask and DIY manicure to pamper myself. Ha! There was shopping, but, alas, I forgot Odessa is closed Sundays.
Nostrana. There were hugs and words exchanged, cast-off issues of The New Yorker donated for my reading pleasure (thank you!), and bellowing laughter.
There was a trip to Foster & Dobbs, where I hemmed and hawed about buying more truffle salt, and where I decided instead on cheese and preserves.
Let's be honest. I miss Portland terribly, so much that my heart still aches. But it will be there when I decide to return.
P.S. There were some decent Mayle and See by Chloe consignment finds, if anyone is interested.
Friday, April 23, 2010
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
But today is sunny, and Jeana's beautiful video (thank you, Jeana!) makes me want to walk under the warmth of the sun. It also makes me want to don a floral dress. I think I will do both.
Being at the airport also did another thing: It snapped me into focus, like a slap across the face. I am moving to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (Writing it out helps.) Friends and colleagues often ask if I am not scared, and, when they do, I sometimes wonder if they think I've been imbued with some magical strength that makes me impervious. Of course, I am scared. I am scared of living in a country where I know not a soul (except for the other international and local lawyers who I met briefly in December); where I expect to stumble as I navigate the language, the culture, and the legal system; where the likelihood is high that I will contract worms and/or some other ailment that makes my skin crawl at the very thought; where any Western glorification of human rights lawyering will probably dissolve into a darker reality; and where I will learn about all these things and more, in painstaking detail, alone. (Writing it out does not help.)
And yet, the potential gain from this rare opportunity weighs on me more heavily than the growing list of warnings, eclipsing everything. I've wanted, for a long time, to explore law, legal systems, or the lack thereof abroad, but I swallowed whole the idea that such experiences were saved for later times in life, that such were luxuries you allowed yourself only after you had worked at the billable system for 20-30 years, only after . . .
So, what happens when you deviate, when you voyage out? This year and this move, to begin with, are my experiment. Now, if only I would focus. Hopefully, this picture of Bagan will help.
And, on that note, I'm off to cut my street urchin locks and to grab lunch with Cherlou.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Sunday, April 18, 2010
I've been told that some people make an elaborate ritual out of breakfast: coffee, fresh-squeezed juice, fruit cut up neatly and tossed over granola-covered yogurt, made-from-scratch ricotta pancakes, a quiche. (I'm talking to you, Mami.) I've never been such a person -- not that I wouldn't mind partaking in this ritual, perhaps even enjoying it. For years, however, breakfast was spent in my office, in front of my laptop, cup of coffee in one hand and densely-written text in the other. It was always a hurried affair, not necessarily bad, just necessary.
I think it may be time to explore this breakfast ritual. This morning, I woke up craving languorous mornings started over golden banana pancakes with a drizzling of condensed milk and a cup of masala chai tea. Simple and delicious, no? I'll soon find out, as I am going to try my hand at a banana pancake breakfast, tomorrow.
Today, I'm off to Silverlake for brunch. Most of my weekend was spent holed up, so I am determined to make the most of what is left.
Friday, April 16, 2010
Do you have a place that entrances you, calls you? I do. And for me, that place is India. I remember, quite clearly, how this fascination began. In the third grade (or, was it the second? the fourth?), I was assigned a project -- not a book report, which was the usual fare, but a three-dimensional model of anything that interested me, a project prospect I found far more exciting. Disinterested in erupting volcanoes and United States monuments, I must have flipped through encyclopedias, searching for something beautiful, though I knew not what I was looking for. Then I saw it, swelling in its architectural grandeur, and I knew instantly: the Taj Mahal, that was what I would build.
And by saying "I would build it," I must have meant "my engineer/artist dad would build it and I would watch, provide input, and throw some clay around." Because that's what transpired. My humble replicate was pretty impressive, as far as grade school projects go: constructed of clay rather than marble, with selective etchings, a ceramic-painted blue and silver reflective aluminum pool, and four minarets flanking the structure, all of this occupying two wooden planks. A few years later, my dad would help me build functioning Roman aqueducts. I don't know which is my favorite. I digress.
That is how, at a young age, I fell in love with India. Since then, my fascination has grown, not so much from a love of the country's structures (which I am sure are breathtaking), but from all other cultural aspects. Also, any culture that piles on color and texture with such abandon is magnificent in my eyes.
I've never been to India. Last fall, while crossing the Laos-Cambodia border overland (they make you walk the 4o meters between the two countries' outposts), I met Sabine, a German-Pakistani peacekeeper on sabbatical, who introduced me to her friend, a woman who started a women's rights organization just north of New Delhi. Sabine shared with me her insights on volunteering at the organization, and I was taken aback by stories of the women, their plight and their strength in the face of domestic violence and, from what I gathered from our talk, a cultural framework that may make legal recourse for such violations very difficult. I don't profess to know anything substantive about this, but I would like to learn. You can file this in the "someday" category, but I'm determined to make it there, to New Delhi and elsewhere. Now, if only time would permit.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
There's also an issue with my departure date, presently slated for the last week of April. I may have to push it back a few days to make sure I am in tiptop shape for the move. Logically, it makes sense to do so -- every ounce of health precaution now is important, given the general state of medical facilities where I am headed. It makes sense. And, what's a few more days in the course of things, right? Yet, sometimes, I am an unreasonably inflexible, dogged person. It is my nature, and the thought of changing my travel plans puts my mind in a frenzy.
Theraflu and a nap are due.
P.S. Another good reason to pile on color, here.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
According to Cambodia's Ministry of Cult and Religion, the predictions for this year aren't so good: killings, violence, floods, and bad crops -- to name just a few social ailments. Thanks for the tip, Lady Penh. I will come prepared.
On a brighter note, I am looking forward to trying the "royal nap" while there. I like afternoon naps.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Tassels and pom-poms are details I cannot resist as of late. It is also spring, so I crave white, tea-stained, and ivory dresses as evidence of the season's change. I really, really like this dress, its ease, comfort and versatility being the main draw. Only during moments like these, when I am filled with consumer-lust, do I start to miss my old firm gig and the security it provided, wondering if I could convince myself to go back, to take the safer more linear path. But those moments pass, more swiftly now. And Cambodia beckons. Now or never.
My list of moving essentials is growing.
I need a bathing suit for my tentative weekend trip to Bali. I'm aware of how obnoxious that may sound. Let me start by saying I'm not a weekend-in-Bali-jetsetting kind of girl. Reality has never been so extravagant. But Portland friends are visiting Southeast Asia this June, and I've agreed to meet them wherever they land, for one weekend. Bali cast its net and drew them in. So, unless the human rights org I'll be working for has other plans for me that weekend, I intend to go to Bali, bathing suit and beachball in tow.
My daydreams of beach lazing and bathing suits always resemble these images: leisurely glamour and bright smiles.
That lovely gal in the sunglasses is Desiree, one of my dearest and oldest friends and my once-upon-a-time fellow clothes swapper/co-conspirator. When we were very young, by which I mean too young to afford our own proper wardrobe, but not too young to dream up something grand, Desiree's dad would attend to our bi-weekly clothes swap: every few weeks, he would drop off a bag of Desiree's clothing, stashing it behind the over-sized terracotta pot near the door of my house, while picking up a bag of my closet-wares for Desiree. This cyclical borrowing continued for years.
The gal with the street urchin locks is me. I cannot be bothered to get a haircut (or to continue packing my suitcase or . . .), but I can spend time peering idly at woven things and boy blazers with flat wooden buttons and eating fresh-picked fruit, for hours apparently. I'm glad my priorities are in order.