Since travel is so much of Modern Mumu, I’ve decided to dedicate a greater portion to this blog to my written and photographic documentations of the travels that inspire MoMu and the adventures I encounter while searching for the clothes. I love to write. Back when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Bulgaria about 7 years ago I kept a blog that detailed that work and ridiculousness. I’ve so many in the years since and feel like I’ve grown in unimaginable ways. So I hope as I dig back into my past and bring out my stories, that you can become a part of them too!
I recently returned from 2 months in Cambodia volunteering in a small rural village, taking a reprieve from American reintegration and finding MoMu treasures. This series are my journal-cum-travel essay that details that incredible experience. Welcome to my world. And my crazy head.
December 20, 2013
I step off an airplane and out of an airport full of Koreans – a people that seem more normal to me than my own kind and coming from a place that has become home. Yet I am still not one of them. Such is keenly evident when they rush to their booked-in-advanced tour buses and I head straight for the tuk tuk drivers feeling like I have a special in or travel sophistication that somehow makes me superior. The elitism I ooze stemming from pride in not being conventionally elite is one just as injurious as the latter – and one I need to shed. It’s the root of all my problems in America. And it’s only there or in communities where normalcy and elitism (in my warped view) are present that the problem is evident. In this dusty village, the same feeling that destroys my life in other places contributes to my peace and happiness. What does that mean?
I win the tuk tuk game and fly through the outskirts of Siem Reap at 2am taking in its familiar smoky nighttime air as it whips across my face. At some point in my journeys the lingering smell of burning trash against humid air has become sweet and comforting. It’s oddly chilly now. I arrive in the center or town to the hostel that is less comforting. Am I too old for this?
The next day I wander about town taking in the sights and sounds. This is when I find silence in the madness. And I keep walking aimlessly. I lose myself in the brightness and color of the pagodas and make friends with friendly, meandering monks. Eventually the dark arrives and the time comes where the night becomes madness of foreigners. Pub street and its young, drunken debauchery or shameless old white skeeze draped over Cambodian women is everywhere I don’t want to be. I’m more aware of my solitude at this point, but I don’t feel as lonely as I would have thought. I long for the village.
The next morning aboard a bus full of foreigners headed across the border to Bangkok, I’m the only passenger to disembark on the side of a road in a no-name Cambodian town. I feel oddly triumphant and a bit more at peace as that bus drives away and I’m alone in the “wild frontier”. Perhaps its because I bask in solitude? Or I feel like it’s a challenge to triumph. Or because I know not a single soul in this entire city is like me…? I hop on the back of a moto to the market. He runs at of gas and I have to walk the rest of the way. Oddly, this same thing happened in this same very place nearly 3 years prior. I get to the market and time becomes irrelevant. This time I know I’m going to wait hours to get in a taxi.
On the road from Sisophon I step out of my reality in a dream-like sequence. I realize nothing is shocking – the sights, sounds, smells and series of events are all so normal to me now. Well except the child on the lap of her grandpa in the market desperately waving at me and earnestly saying “hello” to the tune of “I don’t want no short, short man” by Salt-n-Pepa beating in the background. Those juxtapositions never cease to shock and give me a good chuckle. I try to take my memory and senses back to a time where this was all new and seem to be weaving in and out of my current reality and distorted memory. Perhaps this was the start of a really drugged feeling. I’m thinking the bus stop joint sold me some roofied Oreos. I can’t keep my eyes open or head steady in the bumpiest ride I’ve ever taken. I’m jolted awake when the car stops so the women in the back can barf on the side of the road.
We arrive in Banteay Chhmar and I’m immediately so happy to be back. Village life. I’ve been waiting for it. Dreaming of it. Believing it can solve all my problems. It can’t, but I’m happy to pretend it will. I immediately start my integration plan and in a few hours make more progress than I have in 8 months in Los Angeles. Why can’t I do this at home? I think how far I’ve come since I landed in *Boboshevo nearly 7 years ago and how many practical skills I actually took from that experience. Sometimes I wish I could go back and do it so much better. But that was the starting point.
Dusk begins to approach – my favorite time of day in the village. I find a quiet strip of land separating two ponds in a rice field and read. My presence was a little strange for the men trying to bathe and the dozens of tractors full of people coming back from a long day of rice harvesting. But I’m at peace and so happy to be there. The rest of the world doesn’t even seem to exist. Here days are long, yet slow. Food, family and rice are what make one day end and the next begin. It’s simple, but hard work. Then I start to yearn for a life with fewer choices – where life just is because that’s what it’s always been.
Boboshevo – the small village in Bulgaria where I did my Peace Corps training in 2007