Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Dispatch from Cambodia, 9 // So Much Reading

I’ve said many times that I don’t know what I expected this time in Cambodia to be like. It’s mostly true-- except for this sliver of me that did imagine it might be some kind of grand adventure. That I'd come to know Phnom Penh like the back of my hand, that I might rent a small room in the middle of the city and spend my days writing and walking and maybe even scooting around on a moto. That’s how imagined the two months after my parents left would go. 
Fear begets fear. Power begets power.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail 
It’s been almost the exact opposite. I’ve allowed myself to stay in the warm, occasionally-stifling care of my aunts. I now understand that one of the reasons I keep myself at a distance from family is to avoid absorbing all their worried energy. I love connecting with them and discovering all the things we have in common and learning about their lives, but the degree to which they worry about me is debilitating. I don’t feel like my best self when I’m infected with so much fear.

On the other hand, it’s also nice to have a time of quiet and routine. There's a satisfying rhythm to the process of washing dishes in the backyard, using the minimum amount of water necessary. I'm getting better at wringing out my clothes to hang-dry. Nightly lessons in Khmer have me reading almost at kindergarten level. I’ve a room in which to write, and a nice cafe nearby for occasional internet binges. 

In the last three weeks, I’ve read six books: the first four books in the Game of Thrones series (which at times feels like a train wreck I can’t tear my eyes away from), The Motorcycle Diaries by Che Guevarra, and Wild by Cheryl Strayed. The latter two are both good books about journeys. I related to each of them. I’ve never been able to bring myself to indulge in marginalia, but I am wont to write down passages from books that strike me, and I've gathered quite a few from each. 

The last book about writing I read said that sometimes reading is an escape from writing. Hm. I’ve read eight books so far during this trip, and after a one-day pause, I started on the ninth: The Land of Little Rain by Mary Austin. But I am writing, which I can say for certain is one of the things I came here for. Soon after I arrived, Zen Pencils released "Air and light and time and space" and I remembered that there is always time for writing. As I veer closer and closer to my return to California and all that's waiting for me there, I'm holding that  thought close.
One of my writing spots at the farmhouse.

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