Monthly Archives: August 2014

Sentimental journey 1

IMG_2141Colorado has the most beautiful skies and here are some samples I took on a sentimental journey to Colorado University and Boulder, Colorado.

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It’s been 50 years since experiencing my first days of freedom as a freshman. Sure I abused that a bit; what freshman doesn’t?

Today, I  traveled on a bus from Broomfield to Boulder and spent some time on the open mall, trying to find anything that looked familiar, but instead found street performers, lots of shops, and a few old buildings. And I got caught in the rain; was soaked to my skin and trying to find the bus terminal. Every time I asked directions, the answer was different. Then, I walked into a bank, with clouded glasses, soaked to the skin, limping on a sore leg, and a teller went above and beyond to help me out.

She handed me some paper towels, and an umbrella that must have been in a pile of umbrellas once used for advertising. Again, people stepped up to help me everywhere I go. Amazing, good people in the world.

 

 

tie up loose ends

I’m in the midst of trying to finish up the Cambodian experience, with the sponsorship of Albany Univ. in New York and the Global Service Corps.

Americorps needs to release the stipend for the University and while I’m in the process of finishing up with the correct paper work, I’ve learned that my search engine won’t work with the government requirements.

So I must now head to a library with the hopes I can get it done there. I’m at the mercy of my niece who’s at work, but is always ready with a helping hand. So, looks like I’ll get acquainted with the Broomfield Library soon.

I’m right now hanging out at Scotties in Broomfield where I am reading all my mail and Facebook posts.

I’m realizing a difference in the people of Colorado and those in California. Here in Scotties, there have been big tables of men and now a table full of women. They dress differently than those women I know in California. There we see jeans and t-shirts, jogging outfits and very casual clothing. Here the women have dressy blouses, skirts and fancier shoes. Very conservative looking. It reminds me of my mother’s Lady’s Aide organization of the old days.

 

 

I’m almost home

I’m at my lovely nieces home in Broomfield, Colorado, near Denver, my hometown. It’s good to see Colorado again.

My nephew, John picked me up and took me to lunch. What fun!

I’m being well cared for and look forward to getting up to speed with all of my obligations and countless paperwork to finish up the AmeriCorps and the Cambodian experience.

Next, in a few days I’ll be in Vallecito, where I lived for several years…high in the mountains. Lovely…can’t wait.

Now, back to the flying business: when I was in San Francisco I was called to the reservation counter with the request that I fly out on an earlier flight. So I did, and then waited on the tarmac for another hour. I began to worry about where I’d pick up my luggage and would it be with the old flight or the new flight. And where would I meet Lori?

I went round and round trying to figure it all out, and then I got a message from Lori telling me she would wait for me at the train. This would be after I pick up my  luggage and go through one more check. She was there….

Then, I began to wonder if I had made a huge mistake by booking my carry on in regular booking. It had my camera, medicines, gifts and so much more. I was stupid to do that, but in Cambodia, the suitcase was a bit overweight and I just didn’t feel like adjusting the weight between the suitcases and then get back in line for another one hour wait. I’d take the chance.

So, the suitcases were where they were supposed to be, we checked that with a customer service who had the information on the computer…amazing how they can tell you right where your luggage is.

We picked it up, stopped on the way to Lori’s place at McDonald’s for an American cup of coffee, and then at Lori’s house, I reluctantly looked into my luggage, which I saw that it had been forced opened.

Well, everything was there; along with a note that the customs agents had broken into check it out. The note said it was to keep travelers safe..My son Brad, said  that was probably part of Homeland Security.  My pad lock was wrapped up in cellophane paper.

All is good!

 

Hoops and ring around the customs, and I’m in San Francisco

It’s not easy traveling these days in this world. I don’t even know how many times I’ve shown my passport since leaving Cambodia, but a huge number of times, for sure.  I just walked it seems like two miles to the United Airlines gate – one of them anyway. I didn’t think I’d make it in time, but yea, I did.

 

 

The last supper

It’s almost 6:30 p.m. and I just had my last supper with the Global Services Corp. Country Coordinator, Sophak and a new volunteer from New York, Marcos.

We ate at the first place Sophak took me to when I arrived. I had an omelette with Acacia leaves and Cambodian iced coffee.

We talked about photography and our experiences in life, and before dinner, Sophak and I spoke about my experiences here in Cambodia. I had an extraordinary time. It is the most exotic place I have ever been so far in all of my travels.

I was lucky to be in a country with such friendly, warm people.

I wished Marcos well, and (not part of Cambodian etiquette) gave Sophak a hug. I asked him first. It just seemed so un-final without a good old American hug. After all, the experience was to share our cultures. Sophak was compliant and gave a hug back. He’s a great guy doing a very good job.

Two more hours and the taxi will take me to the airport and that will be the end of my Cambodian Buddhism Immersion program.

I am grateful for the experience.

Becoming a practical person

I’m still in the Golden Gate Hotel in Phnom Penh until later tonight when I head to the airport for the long flight to Colorado.

I had arranged for one night at the hotel, with check out at 11 a.m. this morning. But since I’m leaving late at night, what would I do all day long dragging my suitcases around with me? I could have left them in the hotel, but still, what would there be to do?

I’ve purchased all I want and actually have seen enough to satisfy my curiosity. Of course, there’s always more to see and more to buy and more restaurants to try out, but I made the decision to buy one more day at the hotel, even though it won’t be for the night.

This is something I would have never done in my past, but my decision making has become more practical as I get older. Why not pay for the day, when if I was out roaming the city, I’d end up spending nearly the same amount of money

So I’m taking it easy to get ready for the 24+ 2 hours it will take to get back.

 

 

Lots of photos posted and please read the four stories posted here. I’m catching up

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An everyday learning experience

It’s been an everyday learning experience here on the Pagoda, Kultortoeng. Just for starters, I’ve learned the name Wat and Pagoda are the same. Here, the Monks call it pagoda, with the accent on the pa part of the word, sounding like pa-ga-da.

I have experienced some of the ritual, of Nuns’, shaved heads, wearing white, arriving first to lunch around 10:30 a.m., to chant, followed up by the Monks, who walk in single-file, wearing their orange robes. They sit higher than the Nuns and chant. Nuns serve the Monks, and it is the last meal of the day for the Monks.

They continue throughout the day with their study and routines. No one offers food wherever they go after the lunch meal. But before breakfast and lunch they may go into the villages to receive food from the villagers, as the Monks do not purchase food; it is always given to them.

The kitchen helpers work quite hard bringing large bowls of dishes to the center of the Nuns eating area, and the chanting and eating area for the Monks.

The kitchen helpers bring bowls of food into the center room and dispense it around the tables when it’s time for the Nuns to eat. Prior to that, Nuns pick up the food and take it to the seated Monks.

After lunch there is more chanting with a leader at a microphone.

The kitchen crew cleans up, taking the dishes in the big tubs back to the cooking area.

My meals are served close to where the kitchen helpers take the dishes and bring out the food. I eat alone where the family, who takes care of the facilities live. Tim Chi cooks breakfast, lunch and dinner for me.

 

I have had the lovely experience of having a Monk knock on my door to greet me and to help me understand Buddhism and the lives of Monks, as well.

I have spoken to seven different Monks, and one of them twice. They are gracious, kind, friendly, and make me feel welcome. They are also attentive to my questions and answer to the best of their English abilities. I am in admiration of their dedication to the discipline and learning.

The school where I teach English is simply a joy. The teenagers are lively, funny, some noisy and some shy, but all with a desire to learn English. They come to the school after they have attended a public school, so for that much schooling, I’m impressed with their tenacity to learn.

I usually have something planned that will make them think a bit, and then I offer a game or a song of some sort. They all seem to have a good time. I’m hoping they are learning something from me.

I find that since they are mainly learning from non-English speaking teachers, while they learn from their textbooks, their pronunciation is not well understood. I sometimes have a difficult time understanding the teachers, myself.

Teaching here is a challenge, but has its rewards, especially when I’m greeted as I get off the tuk tuk in front of the school, with a prayer-pose and bow, and the words, “Hello Teacher.” How can you not love that?

 

Monks go back to their houses after lunch.

going back from lunch

I ADMIT IT! I am sentimental

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My son, Larry, came back into the apartment and handed me a 50 dollar bill. “Here, Mom, buy something for yourself.”

I was in Half Moon Bay, and Larry had just delivered me there and would drive my car back to his property to store while I’m gone.

 

I was so touched. that the $50 stayed in a special place in my billfold. I waited until the very last moment to spend it. Reluctantly, I took it out and used it for a gift to myself.

 

It is a gold ring with green stones that are arranged to resemble a flower. It was fun to negotiate for the ring with the seller. The first seller was a young girl, who began handing me one ring after another and I kept telling her, “that one.” “That one.” The first one is usually the right one.

 

All of a sudden her older sister and older brother arrived, I suppose to give the young sister some support so the white haired lady wouldn’t cheat her.

“Here, try thing one.”

“This one is pretty.”

“I want to try on that one, please.”

So, finally, I got to look at the ring I wanted to see and lo and behold, it fit!!!!!!

The negotiation began. “How much?”

The older sister got her scale out, weighed the ring and put some figures into her calculator and came up with $76.

Actually, I thought that was pretty good, but you’re expected to bargain a bit. I read that Cambodia and Viet Nam were good places to purchase gold reasonably.

 

“That’s way too much for this ring. I’ll give you 35 dollars.”

The older sister pretended to faint.

The brother laughed.

“Oh, no. This ring is more. Sixty dollars,” big sister said.

“No, I will go only $40.” At this time, I should have walked away, but I knew it was worth it.

Big sister said, “45.”

“Okay. 45 dollars.” She began to put the ring in a velvet pouch and I told her I wanted to wear it. But she didn’t hand it back to me and I had already given her Larry’s 50 bucks and she gave me change in Cambodian paper money.

Then they started pulling out bracelets, necklaces, earrings, and do dads galore.

“No, that ring is all I want.” I pointed to the ring in big sister’s hand.

“Look at this madam.” She pulled out a tray of earrings. Now the whole counter was loaded with sparkling stones of all colors.

“No, I just want that ring.” I pointed to big sister’s hand.

“You don’t like jewelry?”

“Yes, I do like jewelry. But I just want that ring.”

She handed it to me and I put it on. “I like it.”

I had to leave so they understood that I got what I wanted.

Thank you Larry.

 

Being a minority and other observations

Well, if it’s one thing I’ve learned about human nature is now I know what it feels like to be a minority. I have been stared at, gawked at, laughed at, followed by people and barked at by dogs.

There is a beautiful little girl about 5, whom I have often smiled at, and who has taken an unusual liking to me. Today, she pulled up a chair next to me while I was listening and watching the chanting. She got close up to me and continued to stare at me. I smiled and then got unnerved and left, with her following me all the way to my room. Weird.

Then I walked with my computer in the bag to the radio station, in the hopes I could post some stories, but no one was in the building so I walked back to my room. On the way, I walked by some Nuns and another woman, who asked, “where you go?”

“I’m going to my room.”

Another Nun on the walk back motioned to my bag. I opened it and said, “my computer.” She laughed.

Today, I wanted to return the three books loaned to me by Monks. One of them had told me to take it to the information desk so I did. The person in charge, of course, didn’t know what I wanted to do with the books.

I pointed to where the Monks live and put up three fingers. “For three Monks.”

He took me into a room, a library, and put the books on a shelf. I took them down and put them on the table, and again, pointed to the Monk area and held up three fingers, “for the Monks.”

Well, that little episode seemed to bring about a lot of laughs.

Happy I can bring about some smiles, laughs and curiosity even though I don’t know what it means. I can only believe that it is a response to something very different from what they are used to, and that is completely understandable.

This is Thursday, and I have this day and one more day here with two more teaching nights.

A few different sites for me to experience were the following:

A Nun with a very long bamboo pole and a bag with something weighing it down used it to shake fruit off of the trees. Yesterday, it was a man using a pole to shake down mangoes.

Cats and kittens are everywhere. One has a broken and crooked tail, another has no tail, and all of them skinny as can be. I see the larger cats jumping on the counter where the Nuns and others prepare the food for themselves and the Monks. Cats gotta do what cats gotta do.

I have become friends with two cats that a Nun who lives next to my room feeds and gives loving care. One is a grey striped tabby and the other is white with orange trimming. When they see me sitting close by, they come right over to me for a cat massage. They understand English.

Workers on the property, use wooden trailers to transport old wood out of the area, and bicycles and motorcycles to bring in equipment. This includes long pipes traveling sideways on the vehicle.

As much as I’d like to get off the beaten path and wander through the jungle, it is highly discouraged because of land mines still embedded in the earth.

The many children I see on the pagoda do not seem to have many toys. However, they do seem to stay entertained by each other.

Nearly everyone owns a cell phone, which people are often seen using.

Often seen in the open part of a home, are large, but short-to-the-ground tables. Whole families sit on these tables to eat or lounge on. I saw an old table under a house built on stilts, where about 5 men sat watching a television. How that was hooked up is anyone’s guess.

The tuk tuk stopped for gas last night, at a stand in front of a house. A little boy came over with a bottle of fuel and put it into the tank. I have seen many of these stands with glass bottles of fuel. At least now I know what they are; before I knew, I thought it was something to drink.

Oxen are often used in plowing up fields or carrying wagons full of various objects. White cows are everywhere and appear to be as happy as California cows. They are being fattened up for food.

All over you see little fires being built to clear away fallen leaves, tree limbs and trash. They sweep the fire away with a long broom.

The Pagoda grounds are kept clean by often sweeping.

Children are responsible for doing many of the chores. No one could be considered lazy.

Last night, one of my classes asked me how they could learn English faster. I advised them to watch English television programs. They don’t have TV, however, they do have Internet on their cell phones. I suggested they look up the lyrics of their favorite American and British pop bands.

I also told them there are many instructional YouTube videos to learn from, such as cooking, demonstrating a ‘how to’, and lots of other ideas.

I advised them to practice speaking to each other and to their teacher. Practice, practice, practice, I told them.

I am not one to give advice, but their regular teacher said they asked him to ask me, so I did my best.

The classrooms these children use, should embarrass any American complaining about our education. While we have air conditioned rooms, computers set up, instructional materials, libraries full of books, teachers with impressive credentials and on and on, the children sit in a dark, hot room, on wooden benches and tables attached, with one light above a high ceiling, a twirling fan, and no books, no library, no computers.

This, of course, is only the English language school, so maybe the public schools are better. I don’t know.

When I arrived back to my room after teaching two classes, I heard a rustling noise, and I checked around and saw the culprit. It was a frog that was leaping away as fast as it could. Good idea, frog; you could be dinner.

I admire the tenacity of the Cambodian people and how adaptable they are, and positive. Cambodia has experienced wars and turmoil all the way up to just a few decades ago, and they are in the rebuilding process, both infrastructure and with themselves. I honestly believe, since the population is 95% Buddhist believers, this is what keeps them moving forward, but taking a day at a time to rebuild. They have my utmost respect.

What a people.