I’ll be leaving for Cambodia this Friday and I’m so psyched, I can’t concentrate at the office. I’m too easily distracted. Seriously. As much as I can’t wait to be in Cambodia, I’m sure that when I’m there, I’d be itching to come home so I can upload some photos. This itch needs some restraint. Seriously.
My friends told me of some strange temporary monks and plastic pails of alcohol. I read about the landmines and the usage of pot as garnishing. (Pat, I hear that silk shawls there are US$2/each. Catch me before I leave!)
I’ve also been reading a well-worn travel guidebook that was handed down from friend to friend. I don’t even know the person who owned/s it. And apparently, someone who used this book previously circled some interesting places such as “Heart of Darkness” and “Manhattan Club” under the nightlife section. Dodgy. Oh, how I love used things/second-hand books.
(Side note: I once bought and Eastpak bag for my sister from a second-hand shop and the guy there told me that they get their goods from America. Then he whispered, “The Americans think that they’re donating to a third world country.” Ah. Right. I paid RM50 [approx. US$14] for a bag someone thought was going to charity.)
(The shop closed down sometime later.)
We'll see you soon.
p/s: sorry for the lack of updates of late. If I'm not posting here, I'll be at Being, where try to post daily. And by the way, have a listen to this, if you will.
So I have a photoblog now. It’s called Being and you can find it here. (I’m still figuring out how it works though. And if you're observant, you will see that I added new links and changed a tab here.) I will try to be a little bit more consistent.
I’ve been extremely busy lately, but I had fun. We made body glitter with the kids on Saturday. I didn’t expect the boys to like the idea, but they were eager to have a go at a little shine.
Boys with glitter playing football. David Bowie will be proud.
My sister took that photo of me taking this photo. I didn’t know. Apparently, I don’t know a lot of things.
But here are some things I know (rather roughly):
- completeness and rest go hand in hand
- we live in a wreckage
- we can make it beautiful
- thunderstorms make me feel small, but that’s ok
- surrender is not a bad word
- free airline tickets are the best
- deadlines make me nervous
It was unusually good to wake up at 5am, make some last minute amendments to my shirt (cut and sew), skip breakfast and drive off into the sunrise. I like having dew on my car, it makes me think of mint and grass. But I think I like escaping the office more.
We reached Muar a little later than expected and everyone was waiting—the kids, teachers and the food. The flood came and left them with discarded computers, watermarked walls, clogged drains, lost records, deaths and an extremely dry season. By the time we passed out the stationeries, books and cookies, I was literally melting. I don’t know if I have any sweat left in my body.
Later, we visited another school in an oil palm estate away. It was built in 1941 and had an old building with a glass cabinet filled with taxidermy and dust. Strange, indeed. Fun? Of course.
As I was wandering around, four little kids stumbled upon me. Everything about them is so tiny, you could so pick them up with one hand and carry them off. I was talking to one of the girls and she’s got one of the biggest set of eyes I’ve seen. Really beautiful and arresting. Our conversation went something like this:
What’s your name?
And what’s your brother’s name?
… And who’s the Raja (King)?
Good Friday is coming and she’s been on my mind.
She was a little quieter than usual, and maybe a little bit more serious too. She came into the room with a basin of water and a towel over her arm. What she was about to do seemed familiar in the imaginary sense, but none of my imaginings prepared me for this reality.
A little apprehensive at first, but I knew I had to get my feet in the water. It wasn’t comfortable and neither was it natural. But it was freeing. Something about it seemed so wrong, it must be right. Looking at her from where I was seated, I was looking at her upside down.
So this is what He meant.
After she washed our feet, we got on our knees and washed her feet. One by one, little digits and gaps. She didn’t ask for it, but we knew we had to follow. Not in the obligatory sense, but in the I-know-this-to-be-true sense.
That night, we washed each other of our skewed ideas of what it meant to love. Like a child again, someone else was washing me. Like a child again, I was learning and relearning, ready to love and be loved. It was as though we were ‘baptizing’ each other into each other in all our vulnerability.
I found a different kind of grandeur.
This was years ago, but it’s still ringing for me. Thank you for showing me what it meant to follow and be found.
I was at flea market and saw many fake Rolexes and old vinyls. I haven’t got my turntable fixed and could not carry off a fake Rolex so all I could afford was a spiffy glass with little chipmunk illustrations.
I’m going to Cambodia at the end of this month. Ecstatic.
My dad and I don't get along that much. When I was young, he left me outside a movie theater while the family went inside because I wouldn't stop crying because he wouldn't buy me some snacks that I don't remember because I'm probably repressing the memory. When I was slightly older, he kicked me out of the house because we argued over something I don't remember as well.
He's never the kind of dad who is verbally expressive or affectionate and I'm the kind of daughter who finds the term "daddy's girl" foreign. He'd say stuff, that my mom will later tell me, he doesn't mean. My mom knows him better than he knows himself.
We argue less these days because we talk less. Movies with father-daughter scenes still make me cry because 1) I can't relate and 2) I want to relate. Having said all that, he's not a bad father. I was just a difficult kid.
On Friday morning we visited his father at the cemetery. My grandpa died young in a barber's chair. He drank too much, partied too hard and worked too little—that's what my grandma said. My dad doesn’t speak much about his father, but he did mention that as a kid, his father would make him eat vitamins that tasted bad. My dad would pop them into his mouth and pretend to be a good kid. When his father wasn’t looking, he’d run to the balcony to spit them out. But one day someone discovered all the tiny tablets of goodness on the ground below. It didn’t make anyone happy.
So we were at the cemetery and the Buddhist temple. My dad brought the hell-notes, paper clothes and shoes and made a bonfire of it. Nothing really Buddhist about it actually, but it’s a belief that has found its way into tradition. My dad doesn’t see it that way though. We see things differently.
But we are so alike.
That morning he asked me to get some flowers for grandpa. He called it my contribution. It was like an invitation to join him in remembering his father. I was glad. It wasn’t a “grand gesture” but I enjoyed picking the flowers. I liked how my dad asked me with a smile. I liked that he asked me. And that he liked me.
And that I saw glimpses of another Father in him.
Here are some black and white photographs I took that morning.
And here are some happy colored photographs.
These are from the Buddhist temple. I thought pagodas and ornate doors are too familiar so I took a bunch of “rubbish”—my dad’s description of my kind of photography. Above: some thorny plant and below: a cup of burnt joss sticks. So my dad is right (sometimes), I know. But I like the way the colors turned out anyhow. For more rubbish photography, head to Flickr and Virb. My photographs are here and there. You can find some holga shots there too.
Unfriendly nuns are scary.