Monday, October 31, 2016

Recollection and Reconnection

Hindsight is 20/20 and I am, partly due to my love for history and partly because I am somewhat of a masochist, notoriously bad for reminiscing on the past. I reflect on it angrily, melancholically, nostalgically, romantically - you name it, I've done it. I can push memories aside and suppress them and I have been known to deliberately alter the way that I remember a situation on some occasions. 

It's not at all negative, mind, at least when it comes to reflection because I am a firm believer in actually trying to learn and interpret from the past. Hence the degree in archaeology. Even when I rearrange my own memories it is for my own greater good in preserving them. Think of it as cutting the dry part of the cake off so that you can enjoy the moist part just behind it rather than tossing the whole cake. Do you understand? 

I decided that the lyrics to Little Mix's 'Shout out to my Ex' were pretty valid of my past situation, and I kind of threw myself into just having fun being a singleton. I have had three dates in the  past weeks! Three! Nothing suss, just that I met up with a few very nice guys and got to have some great conversations with some new people - you know me, I love meeting new people. 

And whether or not I think that any of the dates are going anywhere the point is that I had fun and I am that step closer to my past affairs, especially that awful one over the winter, actually being lost to time. Am I erasing memories? No, they aren't that painful that I feel like I need to forget. But I am remembering the good parts of them - some a little differently to others. I can't change the past but I can control what I take from it, what I learn from it and how I view it. This is all part of moving on and just enjoying my life for what it is. 

I'm kind of enjoying being single and just dating - well, loving to hate the dating scene at least.

Meanwhile someone else, a fling from my past, was brought back into my life when they were funnily enough much harder (and less necessary) to forget than the other. I can't help how I feel and I found I missed them - so I figured why not let bygones be bygones? To be fair the only excommunication came from an intention to be more faithful and respectful to someone no longer around. Meh! I can talk to whomever I want to this holiday season especially when I really don't feel the need lately to settle down in anyway. 

I mean I don't need kids, I don't need a house and I don't need a husband in the next few years. Do I sometimes want those things? Sure. Do I want them today? No.

So it's all part of the reflection process in reevaluating what I really want from life and how I am going to get it. Reconnecting with people for better or worse, letting some things fly from mind, trying new things and meeting new people - that's all what life is about now, isn't it? 

At the end of the day I'm still in my 20's. I'm adult enough to make my own choices and deal with their consequences in my own way. If that's going on some average and terrible dates then great. At least when I'm old (if I make it that far) I'll have some interesting stories to tell.

Sam xox

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

One Year in Sydney

I remember what happened a year ago yesterday almost like it was yesterday.

Well, not really I only remember the night and that it was my last night living in Perth. My bags were packed, I said my farewells and I was spending my very last night in my old bed.

A year ago today was the beginning of an amazing new adventure as I boarded the plane, left my teary parents behind, and set off in pursuit of an entirely new life.

The decision to move to Sydney had come to me months earlier in July when I had started to become depressed in my current situation and my best friend had been called to office on the East Coast already. The will was there before the means and everything from that point was a twist of fate leading me in the right direction.

I've spoken about this before so I won't rehash it all, but in the year that followed from that moment boarding the plane to today I have seen and experienced so much that I have well and truly become a different person. I have met new people, tried new things, been new places, and had one of the most varied, colourful and unpredictable years of my entire life.

In the spirit of celebrating my amazing one year anniversary, let's have a look at the top twelve (one for every month) moments, experiences and events of my first year in the big city:

1. I started a brand new job. 


Starting a new job as you'll all know can be scary at first but also exciting. Depending on what you move from to begin it can even be anything from a change of pace to a different field or discipline and just ripe with more to learn and new experiences. Any new skill in life you learn will add to who you are and what you bring to the table so starting this new job has not only provided me with a different view of the world I hadn't had before but also new approaches to both management, support and customer service. And, what do you know, I'm pretty good at it!


2. I got to learn what it is like to permanently live out of home. 


Considering that this year I turned 26 this seems like a strange one to have in my top twelve. However as I come from a generation that does actually spend longer at home before moving on due to a lot of different variables I am going to include it. Before my move to the big city I had spent two weeks of every month living on a Pilbara mining camp, 6 months of a year living out of hostels in La Vie Europe, I managed an entire travel shop and the majority of my travels were solo - so I was hardly without independence.

This was still different, however, and the past year has seen me not only getting used to a lot of things but doing my best (more so on some days than others) to be more mindful of my home life so that I don't irritate the hell out of my flatmate (turned close friend). It as been a learning curve for me in some areas more so than others but it has also brought a huger aspect of freedom and independence in a totally different way than before. For example living out of home and 4000 km from my parents has sort of activated my dating life in a sense, has improved my ability to cook and bake, has amped up my need to eat healthily and sees me out most evenings after work either socially or in some form of exercise. I don't spend as much time watching TV on the couch and drinking tea as I used to - I miss it sometimes and so I do it, but I don't feel like life is passing me by quite so much any more.

Though I could write an entire post about what it has been like to live out of home in the big city but for today I won't, though suffice it to say that my flatmate and I, and our past third member, have had some amazing times, some totally crazy times, and some awkward times. I might do a top ten list of crazy, awkward or awesome housemate moments in the near future.

3. I drank a lot of wine. 



The benefits of moving in with a vino enthusiast is rather limitless especially since we tend to have our shelves stocked with appropriate bottles of not only wine but spirits, too. We frequently have events, create events or have drinks for the hell of it. Some of our craziest moments have involved red wine and venturing rather spontaneously out into the suburb for night time adventures. We have stolen Christmas trees, gone for classy nights, baked, ordered midnight pizza, bathed together and seen the sunrise under the influence and each occasion has been a fabulous story for the future.

Not to mention that more than one of my new friends have joined the party.

4. I played the not-so tourist. 


Even from the day after I arrived in the big city I have been known to go on explorations and adventures, often to places the locals don't seem too exciting at all. No offence to the New South Welsh, but most things here are new to me and one of the things I love is to get it there and see those. 

I have been on cruises, taken ferries or trains to unfamiliar territory, toured into the Blue Mountains and walked along the rocky beach inlets of the coast line. On the cultural side, I've been to museums, on historical tours, ghost tours, and to virtually every festival or free event that I could. The Sydney sights that are oh-so regular to the commuters were brand new to me such as the harbour bridge, Luna Park, Taronga, the Rocks and the Opera House have been taken over by my desire and thirst for soaking in the atmosphere of this new Wonderland. 

But since this was my home now I wouldn't consider myself a tourist - I was just new.

5. I finally enjoyed Australia Day. 


Before I lived in the big city, virtually the heart (at least in Colonial terms) of modern Australia, I used to hate our national holiday. Where I can from and from what I observed on the news it was nothing but a big booze up in which racially driven fights broke out every year and the less intelligent prejudiced would comment on immigration. White Australian pride always seemed to ruin my day and there was actively nothing about it that I really supported or enjoyed about it anymore. 

But this year, even sick, I got to really enjoy the proud, multicultural and fun side of the holiday. There were drinks, sure, it was hot - definitely - and being ill I wanted to die by the end of the day but it was so different to everything that had come before it. Instead of a cloudy blow up pool there was ferry races in the harbour. Instead of casual racism there was multicultural inclusion. Instead of angry there was fun. There was croquet, a photo booth, and so much more that I had a fantastic day. For the first time I didn't hate Australia Day after all and I was actually proud to be a part of it.

6. I nipped up and down the East Coast. 

Perhaps one of the sillier things I was most excited about in moving to the East Coast (you could say back to the East Coast as I do technically come from Tasmania) was the close proximity to Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Tasmania where I have family and friends. There's also something to be said about being suddenly in the epicentre of Australiana whereas back in Perth everything seemed like it was happening so far away and when people though of Australia it was a culture not necessarily your own. You'd be surprised just how different Western Australia is to the rest of the country. 

So being able to travel only a short distance to these other places really kind of left me giddy. And although I have only travelled to Melbourne and Tasmania so far in the year that I have been here the option is truly there for the future. I've certainly got some fun that I should definitely keep having.

7. I went on dates and met new men. 

One of my New Year's Resolutions this year was to finally meet someone nice and I suppose in a sense I have met that requirement in that I have met lots of nice people and that includes nice guys. Not all the men I've dated this year or want to have dated have been nice, but they're out there.

I have met men all over the world and somehow I never felt quite so apart of it or noticeable until this year. I used to be this much more boring, wishful, hopeless romantic who barely got a date and had much less fun than I do now. Moving really changed that and in the past year I've had flirtation-ships, teeny relationships and - let's just say - other sorts of adventures as well. I've met great guys and I've met awful guys but the biggest thing to take away from it is that there's fun out there to be had. Also, well, hey being single is kind of awesome when the alternative is settling someone less than the kind of amazing that makes me want to break into song. 

There have been musical moments this year in more ways than one and although I've not met anyone to last I am hopeful and positive (on good days) that I'll either surely find one or I won't really care. I'm sort of enjoying this freedom without putting too much heart into it.

8. I started pole dancing. 

 

Yes, you read that right! 

Something I'd sort of always thought I would try someday came around via a new friend and now I'm hooked. The work outs are fun and new, the people are great and the adrenaline that pumps through my veins as a result really revs my engine. Some of the most fun I've had in recent months has been at pole classes or social events. 

Don't get me wrong but it does hurt like hell and I am far from being a pro, but I love it. It's healthy in more ways than one and I genuinely look forward to my time. I suggest trying it if you never have because you could be keen like me.

9. I ate a cricket. 

 
Let's not dwell on this one because it was so gross I never want to do it again even if it was an experience. In context on my recent trip to Cambodia I was offered crickets at dinner with a local community and despite being resistant I was challenged. I'd refused the tarantulas and scorpions days earlier so my tour mates figured I needed to eat something strange to me that trip. Don't recommend crickets, but I do dare you to try them if you're game.

10. I developed new traditions. 


This list is so brief that I can't relay everything or even all my new traditions but some major ones that has been modified is baking my own ham at Christmas, using different candles for different occasions, soaking in different bath salts for different healing purposes. 

It's only been a year and so traditionsnare still being built but I hope running down the street dressed as the White Rabbit at Easter or with a Christmas tree like the Grinch is one we get to repeat again. 

Here's to forming even more new traditions.

11. I went on an IKEA spree. 



Two days after arriving in Sydney I moved into my house and went on an epic IKEA shopping spree for furniture and the works. It was everything I'd ever dreamt of until I got home, the flat packs were delivered and I spent a solid two days assembling them all. Mostly alone. Buying the furniture? Dream come true, added all items to cart. Constructing my entire bedroom with an Allen key, wooden pegs and picture instructions? Nightmare. 

I don't need a man for much but constructing all my furniture would have been a good occasion for one. That in might I do however have the knowledge when I look at my bedroom that I did sort of make it all myself. 

Which is why some parts are not quite right.

12. I closed the door on things best left behind. 

 This never had to be a New Year's Resolution as we always talk about moving on from the bad things that we can't change, but as I mentioned I have changed a lot and left a lot behind this past twelve months. 

For example not all my friendships have survived the transition (only the weak ones tapered) though the majority have and proved how strong they are even with distance. There were friends I had that were unsustainable in one way or another and despite whether their loss was upsetting at the time or not they are best left behind. 

In another way of thinking aspects of my personality have suffered the same fate. I haven't changed enough that you wouldn't know me anymore or that I'd have lost the spark of what made me me, but my outlook is different and that old rose-coloured view of the world is not as applicable as before. That's not a bad thing - especially when you consider my view on ideologies such as romance have erred from Disney-fied to a more realistic approach. I've sort of been disenchanted and I digress that it is not a bad thing all the time. In order to grow and grow up a part of that Disney persona had to be left behind or continuing to survive in the modern would would not have worked so well. 

There have been other things I've left behind, other men as well, but we don't need to really talk about that when I have already in the past on more than one occasion. But leaving things behind, closing the door on things that don't help you or that actually encumber you is a healthy way to live. People say to forgive and forget, or to be the bigger person, but I don't think that's always the best option. If sometime hurts you and you have a choice to leave it behind? Consider it - it might be worth doing for your own sake. 

-

It's been a crazy year and I could go on and on about things that have happened, people I've met and things I've done that this year in my life could effectively be a book. Or a television series. Or a two-part movie. There is simply too much to say.

I will however leave you with this:

Some of the best moments of my life have occurred this year and some of the best people I have met have been here. My only regrets are from things that I didn't do and at the end of the day I am so proud to have done what I have in my own way. No one controlled me (those that tried got their butts handed to them, trust me) and I was so supported in everything I did that I only hope that the next twelve months bring just as much. 

So cheers to the future!



Sam xox

Thursday, October 20, 2016

My old bed

I sit at the Opera Bar sipping a cold glass of sparkling Janz . To those unaware that is both the bar beneath the Sydney Opera house and a glass of sparkling wine, like Chardonnay if you will though I don't know a lot about wine except for what tastes good and what I am happy to afford or not. 

I've just had a very busy few weeks in Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand and then visiting back home in Perth for a long weekend. 

I sit here with my drink reassessing once again the best ways to draw enchantment out of my ordinary life because that's what keeps me going. I accepted that property and assets, the way that I spend and what I prioritise, are unlikely in my near future, and I have moved on from the recent 'heartbreak' that whilst was entirely hurtful was surprisingly shallow in nature. I do feel a little bored now that my adventures for the time being are over and whilst I know that I am a good person, I have a lot to give and that yes, sure, I suppose there's someone out there for me I won't need to convince myself to like or feel I am settling for; today I sort of don't really feel like anything. 

I'm sitting here just wondering what I should do with my weekend and why I feel so apathetic about everything. The noodle markets are on - id love to see that. Michael Macintyre is in town, he cracks me up and I can get a ticket if I want to. I have a date with an attractive guy, sure it might go really well. It's Halloween in less than a fortnight, then Dias de Los Meurtos, then NaNoWriMo, then my mum is visiting again and then next minute it's the Christmas season. We are very quickly approaching my favourite time of the year and yet I feel so disenchanted with life today. For zero reason at all. Why?

Last weekend I was back in Perth and managed to quite fluidly catch up with almost all of my friends still there bar one, see the majority of my family including my cousins new baby (we'll talk about that another time because I cried), and felt like no time at all had passed since I had seen any of them. It's intensely comforting to know that my friends are still exactly that - I didn't see them for a minimum of 6 months and yet it could have been a week. I've never felt so grateful to have the amazing friends that I do, and considering how grateful I usually am that says a lot (note: that's very grateful, my friends are amazing). 

Even at my old house everything was more or less the same and all the pets dived straight for me; the dogs on my bed, my old bed this time, the birds chirping I. English as the where the hell had I been and driving my car again required no awkwardness in rememberence in gears. It has almost been to the day one entire year since I left for Sydney and Perth felt like it had been maybe 2 days. It was safely comforting after what I had been through and I had been so very right in assuming my experience when booking my tickets in the first place. 

So when combined with the death and rebirth, metaphorically of course, that I somewhat experienced in Cambodia spending that time in Perth was like reconnecting with roots. I exorcised or killed off a negative entity, I was reborn in foundation, and I reconnected necessary wires to overall strengthen my rebirth. Like a robot or a house. 

So now my sitting here feeling disenchanted over a glass of wine sort of makes sense: I am rescanning data (to use the robot metaphor) for purpose. I wiped part of the slate clean and it's like writers block as to what I am going to replace it with - do you get me? Sort of an existential 'now what?'

Even just muddling through it makes me feel better already. 

So, what is the next step? 

Obviously snap myself out of it because the best time of the year is coming and I don't have time to be a sap. I have a lot to do and a lot of passion, albeit a little watered down today, with which to do it and I'd best get ready for it. 

Sometimes when you are feeling disenchanted or disheartened or bored with life it's worth sitting down over a glass of wine and pondering why that is, and how to fix it. Everyone is their own hero and worst enemy. You decide which one wins every day (unless of course we are delving into deep mental illness territory in which case for god's sake see a psychiatrist because I can't help you and don't listen to me). 

Sam xox

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

You Did Good, Kid

Have you ever made a decision, or a choice, that once you do and see it through it feels like the universe is smiling down on you? And friends and family alike are ready to pat you on the back?

Today I had to, for my sake, take that final step and sever the very last tie that I had to the man.

It was just time to end it all, and I am glad for it, especially after he made it very clear by posting more couples photos and videos of himself with this other woman. I wasn't angry, or sad, but I did realise that I just couldn't stand by it any more and that It was time to enact on the last part of my original plan over a month ago: to phase this whole thing out.

I went to Cambodia and I left some things behind, it changed me, and now I know for sure that I don't want to be in this situation at all any more. There is no use in hanging on to the hopes of a weak friendship any more. So I finally went and cut the cord.

The best part is that I did it on my own - I knew what I had to do and I did it, I didn't need any one to press the button for me and I knew without the shadow of a doubt that what I was doing was the right thing.

I feel now like a weight is off my shoulders and that this bad romance has finally been laid to rest.

Sam xox

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Angkor Wat: Cambodia Kampuchea Part Two

There are no proper words to adequately put into words the way it felt to walk through the temples of Angkor Wat in the dark through puddles in effective silence. To arrive before the main structure just as the sun began to rise and to find myself standing before this:

  

Breathtaking, spiritual, unbelievable. It felt like a pilgrimage to a place of sanctuary and quiet like I've felt before in Lascaux...even with the other tourists and selfie sticks crowding around. But after I glared at one women encroaching on my space no one bothered me again and I was able to remain content. It truly was a spiritual experience and the entire time we spent at the Angor complex over the following two days I was happy despite the heat and missed archaeology like hell. 

Contrary to popular belief, Angkor isn't just one temple and actually consists of hundreds of temples across a large area in Siem Reap throughout the juggles. They were built between the 9th and 15th centuries and each time period does have stylistic differences. The three major temples complexes that most will be familiar with include Angor Wat (see the sunrise picture above), Angkor Thom (probably my favourite), and Ta Prohm (or Bayon, or the Jungle temple). All three have featured prominitely in people's visits to Angkor, visual imagery from the area and generally what they'll show in films such as Tomb Raider. You know those iconic images of Lara Croft drop rolling through the ruins? That's the one. 

 

 
It had been my dream for ages to come to Angkor and see the temples, reenact out scenes from Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones as well, but most importantly to really reconnect with myself as an archaeologist and historian. It really was like balm for the soul.

I mentioned sunrises and possibility last time, and as a matter of fact from arriving in Siem Reap and spending so much time wandering through the ruins of what felt like archaeologist Disneyland I felt reborn. In a sense I let something die on the road from Phnom Penh and found closure. I gained perspective and I feel like a better person, a weight off my shoulders. 

And temple raiding wasn't the only thing that made me feel so at home, so completely in my element. We had massages, we went to the night markets, had a night out in Pub street at the Angkor What? Bar and the Temple Club (in case you didn't know I really love themed bars), relaxed by the pool, went for a quad bike run through the rice paddies of the countryside, and to the Phare Circus. I recommend all of these things and I would happily spend much more time doing just this. Even as hot and humid as it was I would have happily stayed for weeks longer in Siem Reap slowly rebuilding myself and relaxing. You could say Ive reaped what I've sown and if someone could have handed me an adventure suit and a pith helmet I'd have never stopped living in my imperial fantasy land. Why should I have? 

Between the Phare Circus and the New Hope, both institutions designed to education young Cambodians and offer them the opportunity for a better life, my time in Siem Reap brought a more positive perspective than Phnom Penh had - rather than perspective from the past there was vision for the future and the good person I want to continue to be. I prayed in the temples (not hypocritical because I am spiritual, just not religious) and I donated plenty of what I had to the people who so obviously needed it more than I. I asked the monks for blessings and the ties back on my wrists remind me of the wishes I made and peace of mind I asked for. If I can, by supporting the Cambodian people, try to bring an ounce of that to them then I will consider to have done the right thing. I can't donate everything I have but I can do my best to help when possible - everyone has a cause, right? 

Alongside my Amazon rainforest conservation dream I would like to come back to Cambodia and help the people more. How exactly I'm not sure, but I want to do something down the track. I keep saying that I have a purpose in life and maybe one of these adventures will lead me right to it - even if I never realise what it is. Maybe something that I do or say will end up being necessary to someone who does change the world even if I am not the one to change it. 

When I think back on it I can't believe I was even for a moment so upset about a man leaving me who was so obviously wrong for me. He wasn't for me, and all negative things i could say about it aside I really did know better. I wanted it so much because i thought it could be that which I have always wanted more than anything, but now I am ashamed of how I felt. Why even bother? It hurt and I was angry, but why cry over spilt milk anymore? The tarot cards, when I go to see someone, never predicts love in my future. They have however on occasion told me that I need a strong man in my life for that to work although I haven't come across one yet but why settle for a half-assed romance when I could dedicate my life to spreading out the incredible amount of love and passion that I have to help those less fortunate? Why waste any more time and energy on someone who brings nothing positive to me? Hang him, he can keep his untalented new girlfriend, and I don't need his watered down friendship or his patronising hippy comments. I am many things but a vigilante has always been one of them - I don't forgive those I don't deem to deserve it until I think they actually do. I'm a good person and I would fight to my death for what I believe in but I'm no Buddhist monk - I don't always channel my zen or a higher power to forgive all. I'm too human. Maybe one day I will, it wouldn't be the first time that years later I have reached a point when I can. Just in this situation not right now and I am not ascended so high that I can or actually care to. Some say life is too short to hold grudges, but I say that life is too short to read bad books and give your time to those that don't deserve it. Rant it out and file it away until you forget all about it in time. 

I want to retain my passion not ascend beyond it. Use it to save the world one UNESCO world heritage site at a time. 

Sam xox


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Cambodia Kampuchea Part One

A year ago it started with Cambodia, and now at the end of the road for that man and I it ends with Cambodia.

I had briefly been to Cambodia before in 2014 at the end of La Vie during the cruise that eventually brought me home. We stopped in at the southern port of Siahnoukville and spent the day riding around on Tuk tuks and visiting the markets. 

My first experience of Cambodia had not been particularly immersive and so i found then that it was not really my thing. I didn't feel strongly about it at the time and not only because I had been unable to make it to Angkor. I was surprisingly and ashamedly ignorant of Cambodia outside of the picturesque and archaeologically desireable realm of Angkor Wat, and after briefly experiencing what had seemed to me like most other Asian countries I had visited, except for Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore, that was culturally shocking and uncomfortable to me because I never knew what to do. It was not until after becoming an agent that I was first educated on the people of Cambodia and their tragic history by a representative of a tour company who came one day to visit me in store. He told me about the Khmer Rouge, the killing fields, the communist rise and I was horrified by my ignorance and that these genocides, similar to Rwanda, flew so far under the radar. A proud nation of people, not unlike India and Vietnam, that had had a party supposed to lead them to a better life only to betray them so painfully instead. Unfathomable to a 21st century Australia, granted from immigrant family stock, whom had been ensured to have the best that her ancestors could give her. 

Everyone faces a different humanitarian battle and mine has always been women's rights, ending rape culture, fighting for our right to be not only equal but globally respected. I support women of all ages and cultures and want the best for us. I also support finding cures for cancer, animal rights, childcare, proper and open-minded education, homosexual rights (like gay marriage), and generally equality amongst people. My dream is to go to the Amazon and help to rehabilitate animals, or to see justice for rape victims and to those who've mistreated women, children and animals. I know poverty exists, I don't like it, but my stance on poverty was always very clear: tax the church. Use that money to do the thing the church has for centuries been preaching and help the poor and the needy - religion, constructed by man for man, should not be exempt from contributing to things like medicine, housing, infrastructure and soup kitchens. It seems harsh, but look at how much money goes into the maintaining of this religious culture that, in my personal opinion, could be better spent on ensuring that the less fortunate have a future. Believing in something doesn't cost anything, and I implore it, but maintaining religion is costly in more ways than one. Not to mention the sheer amount of wars and discrimination it has caused over the Millenia.

So, that in mind, I've always felt that poverty was a rather solvable problem that whilst worth fighting for wasn't my fight. It feels bad to say but I am only one woman - I have my battles already and I can't fight them all. I contribute when I can and even if you can't always tell I do care - I care to my very soul. My great criticism by many is that I am too sensitive, I care too much. 

I met that man last year as he readied to spend time in Cambodia building infrastructure for the people. I don't remember where, though I had been impressed and humbled. He is that person - though let me tell you that person is not always the one you want to have at parties. Not everyone can save the world, although this may sound harsh sometimes the people who do nothing but bend over backwards to join every charity can be exhausting to be around. Not to mention how it feels when it makes you reflect on your own life. I am a 21st century woman lucky enough to have been born in the western world in a relatively well off family who worked their way to be there. I do my part to contribute when I can so I don't like to feel that it's never enough. It probably isn't, but I could sell everything I own and give away all of my money and it still wouldn't be enough. I don't like hanging around the people that make me feel like living my own life is wrong, or that I am a bad person for buying myself a lipstick instead of giving that $15.00 to charity. And you know, sometimes in comparison, I felt that way.

I knew though, even though it is over and buried, that Cambodia would remind me of him. I knew that it would and yet I also knew that as it had in Vietnam coming to Cambodia finally would not only bring me to that temple of Angkor that I had so longed to see, but to replace the associations I had with new memories and the most beloved perspective. 

We crossed from Vietnam to Cambodia by land two days ago now, our bus taking us straight from Saigon to Phnom Penh through the monsoon where we met with cyclos (similar to cycle rickshaws) that took us on a bit of a tour through the city. The prime minister, an uncomfortably paranoid man on very good terms with Nort Korea, lives in the city across from the monument for Independence erected back in the 1950's after France released, sort of, Indochina. We went past the marketplace and the Royal palace, both locations we would visit the following day, and had dinner at the FCC (foreign correspondents club) which felt very much like an imperial outpost quite similar to one you might have found in Cairo during the 1920's and been unsurprised to have encountered Poirot in. This very much set the tone for our time - the days in Phnom Penh filled with history and the evenings stimulating the economy in tourist driven establishments specifically designed to help us give back to the population. Friends, a hugely famous locale, consisted of a restaurant and shop run as a school for disadvantaged children to help train them in English and skills, the proceeds of which went back towards this education. 

Considering, also, that Phnom Penh was a ghost town for years just before the Khmer Rouge's reign of terror, it was one vibrant and happy town. At least during the day. 

It was not hard to imagine, however, that the city had seen some horror especially after visiting the Cheung Ek killing fields and the S-21 prison both on the outskirts of the modern city. Whilst the prime minister and the current king of Cambodia reside in the city now, so too did the Khmer Rouge in the 1970's up until the Vietnamese army - fresh from their own hell - stormed in and arrested the leaders of the communist party. Before I explain further for those unfamiliar let me start by saying that all those officially involved in the goings on of the Khmer Rouge until 1979 are either now dead or have been properly tried by the UN for war crimes and crimes against humanity. What happened cannot be undone but in a sense justice has been had. I'll let you make up your own mind on whether that was enough. 

The Khmer Rouge rose to power in the early 1970's as a communist party led by Pol Pot, whom in his youth had gone straight to Europe and learnt, as students often will, about politics and yearned for utopia. As we've seen with Adolf Hilter, already a historical figure by this point, utopia can very quickly become distopia at the hands of the wrong person. Pol Pot's communist Cambodia was fortunately short lived although so desperate to retain his harsh lifestyle the leader of the party became so paranoid to intercept any possible interference from either the CIA or the KGB that he led his own people to genocide. Just like Hitler before him he manipulated the people, predominantly intellectuals at first that he suspected of espionage, into his prisons (such as S-21) where they were promptly tortured for information that they didn't have and later led out to the fields to be executed violently. Between 1976 and 1979 the numbers of those who either disappeared or were sent 'to study' soared up to over 20,000 across multiple makeshift prisons and killing fields. Cheung Ek itself after being exhumed in 1980 was found to have the remains of over 8,000 individuals in 129 mass graves. Men, women and children - even infants. Pol Pot was so paranoid that these people could have been spies that he executed them, their families and their whole villages. The intention was to not only eliminate the threat but the possibility of future vengeance. Entire corners of Cambodia's people just gone - and for what? The Khmer Rouge was disbanded in 1979, Pol Pot placed in house arrest until he died in 1998 and the monarchy returned with constitution. Foreign aid from Japan, Vietnam and the US, a growing tourist boom and education increasing in their favour. It's a slow process but the Cambodians are improving, the genocide of their people in vain but never forgotten. 

My perspective was achieved and my own life humbled, just as it was as I stood in Auschwitz, the War Remnants museum of Saigon, and so many other places of tragedy before. I am grateful for what I have and that not only do I have a choice in life but that I can choose to help people less fortunate than myself. It might not be every day in the same way, it might not be monetary, and it might not be everlasting. I may never change the world but I owe it to the world to fight those battles that I do for I have much and I am free when there are millions who are not. 

So it starts and ends here with Cambodia. This first half of my time here has seen death, the rest will see life and sunrise and possibility. 

Sam xox

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Via Singapore to Saigon

Travelling for me is like a drug, and believe me when I say I have an addictive personality.

It has been over a year since I last left Australia for adventure, and although I love living in Sydney being back out on the road again is like stretching a muscle or having my humours all realigned. I feel the same when I get some action after seeing none in a little while (sorry mum, but that reminds me it's been almost 3 months and I need to stretch). Nonetheless it feels great to be back out seeing the world again even though this chilled trip is only set to last less than two weeks. 

To be honest, as you've seen, I've really needed it. Samtember is hours away from being over and though I said we could have Samtober there really shouldn't be a need to do so. Besides October is for Halloween, November for NaNoWriMo and December for Christmas. I don't want to overshadow or ruin these holidays and events by dwelling more on my past failures, disappointments and men that don't deserve me. Samtember was about picking myself up again and reclaiming some of that lost self esteem by reminding myself that not only am I amazing but that I've been riding solo my whole life already and shouldn't let that bother me.

At any rate I have been awake since the ungodly hour of 4am Sydney time and now finally sit here typing at 9pm local time in Saigon - I legitimately struggle with the city's proper name for no reason at all. It's been a very long but pretty great day since leaving Australia at dawn, cruising most of the light hours at high altitude and spending some very nostalgic quality time in Singapore's Changi airport. The last time I had spent much time there was at the very beginning of La Vie back in 2014 - also the last time I was in South East Asia.

It's been a long, entertaining day that really got off on the right foot when the Singapore Airlines lady took one look at my passport photo featuring myself as a brunette and told me to stay blonde. You win, hair, light it is for the foreseeable future. I started as a blonde, and now I'm just back to basics. 

It was made better by the number of cocktails I pushed on the plane and the comedies I watched to get me through (Angry Birds, Love & Friendship, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates). I had been down again the night before but damned if I am not leaving those woes behind on September 29th. Instead I embrace one moment after the next from the Sunflower Garden at Changi that looked just as I had left it, to the traffic in Saigon that crossing the road made me feel that perhaps I was going to die. I am not a religious person in any way, though I am spiritual/agnostic, and I was so scared of making a crossing at one point my knee-jerk reaction was to make the sign of the cross. Wow. This is not my first time in a place consisting of mental traffic, and in fact Cairo was worse, but I suppose that given the nature of the trips premise and theme I am not quite on my game as I have been in the past. For that matter Al, my best friend and frequent travel partner, and I rated styles of travel. We classes South East Asia a Level 3, with Level 1 being such as the United States and the UK, Level 2 being non-English speaking First world European countries (ie France). There were others, such as Morocco, Turkey and Egypt being close to Level 5. But that was based on our experiences entirely.

Arriving in Saigon was seamless and so much more relaxed than I anticipated; for once even as tourists it didn't feel too much like we stuck out. In such a contrast to our experiences in Turkey and Egypt we walked down the street without anyone seemingly to really care too much - it's refreshing to not be catcalled, stared at or propositioned in the street. Not to lie that occasionally by the right person that can be flattering (like maybe 5% of the time), though generally when travelling to places like this it really isn't. In fact it can get downright threatening and I have been known on occasion to get my back up about it, modern woman that I am. That in mind we still did have some lovely interactions for example with a coconut vendor who not only helped us cross the street but chatted to us and then handed Al and myself each an iced cold coconut, lopped off the top of it and handed us a straw. It was some of the freshest, tastiest coconut water I've ever had and the experience alone made the entire thing worth it. 

Considering the atrocities handed to the Vietnamese people of the last century by the French and US (Australia and the NZ-ers too by default) they are some of the nicest people I've ever met. 

At the War Remnants museum, which brought me to tears in a way I haven't been since Auschwitz, there was a very clear line in the sand about what the war has caused the people. Agent Orange, civilian massacres and unwanted interference during a fight for independence ravaged the proud nation and left hundreds of thousands dead, maimed and psychologically torn. There are plaques littered throughout the museum that piece together the beginning, middle and end to the war that became a bigger and nastier deal than it should have been because the US violated the terms of the agreement set out in the Geneva Convention. There is no sugar coating it - war crimes, crimes against humanity and effective genocide was committed because the US, originally funding the French, couldn't just stay out of it. And it's even worse knowing that Australia, hero worshipping its big brother US after the Second World War, let ourselves be dragged into it. It's disgusting, I'm ashamed, and I cannot fathom the level of unmitigated arrogance that must have come from the US officials to even consider that what they were doing was right. But then considering these same idiots are looking more and more like they will actually end up electing Donald Trump as president after all I am almost unsurprised. It's like watching a trainwreck involving a big, dumb jock who thinks that his tramping around is actually doing more good than harm. There is so much face-palm in effect I can't even begin.

War is not something I like to think about, though I think that world peace is an unattainable pipe dream as everyone's idea of utopia is different (um, Adolf Hitler, anyone?), and this museum really just reminded me of how much history seems to just repeat itself all the time. The human race is the best in the world for lying to itself, as I well know, that what it's doing isn't wrong like what happened before. Did the US miltary relate itself to the Nazi party in the 1960's when it was burning villages and disembowelling civilians in Vietnam? No, but they were stupid to think that they were at all better. The difference was that the Nazi party was more organised and clear in their goal. Think about it.

And yet Vietnam is one of the most friendly places I've ever visited to date that it is actually incredible. It's humbling and it stirs my need to fight for justice again like the not-so closet vigilante that I am. I may wear hippy pants today, friends, but I am no hippy. 

I do feel relaxed however in a way I haven't truly felt for a few months - all baggage in Sydney and filed back into perspective. I've strolled, chatted, snapped pictures, bargained in the market place and laughed a lot already. My only wish is that I could be away longer - oh, and that there had turned out to be an attractive, eligible bachelor on our tour for me to flirt with. The 'raincoats' that I very hopefully packed have gone out the window, but the welcoming and kind group of people we have joined are definitely a better balm for the soul. I do still need to wash that man right out of my hair, though - even just to kiss someone else again would be enough. He, who betrayed me, needs to be gone. 

I'll be back to the market place, relaxing, taking on every new experience that I can and immersing myself every step of the way. It's a whole new world. On a side note, however, it's a bizarre thing to walk through a public park in the heart of downtown Saigon and see crowds searching...for Pok√©mon. 

Sam xox