When CeCe and I plopped ourselves down in this internet cafe in Phnom Penh we found ourselves surprised that it has been 10 days since our last post. Sure, internet connections haven’t always been available, and we’ve been busy, but 10 days? Our mothers certainly thought we were goners, another pair of victims of the high-energy (though mercifully mostly silent) particle collider that is Phnom Penh traffic. (It’s completely insane. If there are rules for drivers, I have yet to discover them. The one rule for pedestrians? Stay inside.)
But we’re fine. All still in one piece. Although I have much less hair than I did this morning. The Cambodian barber took most of it, leaving the back of my neck looking suspiciously like the Polish flag. I’m still losing weight, down two and a quarter belt loops officially, so I ate two lunches today. Lunch #1 was spent discussing the merits of donuts and New Jersey amusement parks with two American middle schoolers whose parents are missionaries here in Phnom Penh. Dunkin’ Donuts and Great Adventure won out.
But I think our internet reticence mostly stems from the gradual diminishing of the novelty of South East Asia. If you count our week in Yunnan we’ve been traipsing around these parts for two months now. I think the familiarity is good for us. I think we’re acquiring a deeper knowledge of the places we’re visiting, and it’s giving us an opportunity to reflect on how this amazing opportunity that we’ve been afforded will impact us as people and as professionals when return home sometime in 2009.
We’re currently both struggling to envision what our lives will look like whenever the airplane (and it almost certain to be an airplane as much as we’d like to find a more environmentally friendly way of quickly crossing oceans) delivers us back into the arms of the Good Ole U. S. of A. Whatever paths we choose, I have a hard time believing they won’t stem directly from the series of experiences we have had these past five months.
Maybe at some point CeCe will share the thoughts she’s been having, but for me, I’m thinking a lot about food. Right before I left, I read a New York Times Magazine cover article by Michael Pollan discussing the role of food, gardens and personal responsibility in the current climate crisis. (He also recently wrote a similarly-themed open letter to President-elect Obama in the same magazine that I think everyone should read.) The greatest message I took from that first article, as we were about to embark on an admittedly selfish undertaking, was that we should produce (give) more and consume (take) less, of food and of everything else.
On this trip, I’ve cherished the opportunity to eat the wealth of local foods produced in the regions we’ve visited and have greatly enjoyed the limited opportunities we’ve had to interact with farmers. I’ve also been surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed teaching the five English classes we’ve been privileged to attend. Add to the equation some of the things I’ve been missing most, besides Milo of course – our garden at CeCe’s parents house, the fun Baltimore farmers’ markets, and tomatoes – and maybe I’m getting somewhere.
Looking ahea, besides maybe applying to graduate school with CeCe, I’ve resolved that I need to do even more to explore these interests so that I’m fully ready to take up Pollan’s challenge when I return home. So that’s where I am. Maybe that’s not why you’re tuning in to Letters to Milo, but so be it.
For those of you who only want tales of international absurdity, about five minutes before logging on, CeCe and I stopped to gawk at a 10 pound monkey crossing a busy Phnom Penh intersection in the only sensible way I could think of: using the telephone wires.