Time Travel

Time Travel

Alarm at 3:30am. Tuk Tuk pick up at 4:30am. It’s dark outside, the air is cool and breezy on the ride to the ticket office. Every day, hundreds of people get up really early and then all meet up at the Angkor Wat ticket office. From there everyone gets on the Tuk Tuk again and takes a ride to the actual temple area a little further away. When we arrive close to Angkor Wat, the main temple of Angkor, all those people wishing fora beautiful sunrise meet again. They stream towards Angkor and most of them halt in front of the two ponds that reflect Angkor Wat and the colors of sunrise in the sky above. It is indeed pretty but not too fascinating, as I think… It’s about what you expect it to be like.

A little later, as I walk through the temple, the light is just stunningly beautiful. Amazing carvings, statues, pillars are lit up by the golden morning sun. The only thing missing is someone to share it with. I’m on my own, without someone I love, and without someone to take portrait photographs of.

The second temple we visit, Bayon, is even more amazing than the first one. It’s not as busy and you can find a couple spots where you’re pretty much on your own. I’m encircled by huge smiling stone faces. I sit down and feel the acient energy. My favorite temple.

The fourth temple is very busy, which unfortunately steals the power of it. But it’s impressive how the enormous trees trail their roots around the old blocks of stone as if they wanted to claim the temple for themselves. People are allowed to climb parts of the ruins which are covered by deep green moss: Something that you wouldn’t experience in western countries.

Please Don’t Walk Through the Mass Grave.

Traveling is changing plans. On Friday, I left the school. I just couldn’t bear it anymore, it all got too much. It was dirty, I was feeling lonely, bored, frustrated, I couldn’t really talk to anyone. I just wanted to cry and scream and throw things on the dusty floor. So I made a decision and told the teachers I’d leave. There wasn’t much of a reaction. The students were sad and disappointed. One of them even said I was betraying them because I had PROMISED to stay two weeks. He didn’t understand when I said that’s what I need right now, I should stay for them, he said. Yes, I did feel sorry and a little bad because they’re always happy about foreigners staying at their school. But I was mainly proud of myself. Proud to have made my own, authentic, true-to-myself decision – and as opposed to the previous couple of days, I was very happy to be on my own, because I could just do what I felt like doing.

 

 

 

 

I got a “taxi” to the hostel in Phnom Penh I had booked and it was really nice. Probably even nicer because of what I had experienced before. When I went to go eat something, it started raining so hard. I found shelter under an awning, and a friendly Cambodian offered me a chair to sit down. It was so interesting to see how the locals reacted to the rain. They moved their mopeds away from the road onto the sidewalk, they put on their plastic raincoats that covered their whole body, they arrived home, soaked, and they didn’t seem to care. They’re just used to it and they accept it – in contrast to people in Germany who always appear as if rain was this new and really annoying thing. After 45 minutes the rain had pretty much stopped. But the street was FLOODED. People were wading through the water that went up to their calves. That was another thing they didn’t really seem to worry about: how dirty that water was. There was a market close by, so the rain soup definitely contained remains of fish and other dead animals, maybe shit, pee, plastic, food leftovers, and I don’t even want to know what else. By that time I was starving. So I dared to walk through the urban brew to get to the restaurant. Yum. But to be honest, after those few days at the school, I didn’t care too much. After all, it was just my feet.

 

 

 

 

The same night I met Alex from London, whom I spent a lovely night talking to. I finally got to speak English again and, even better, got to do some deep talk – or as Alex taught me, DMC (Deep Meaningful Talk). Thanks, Alex, for letting be the English student after teaching it for a few days 😉

The next day, Alex and I went to see the Killing Fields (Choeung Ek) and the S-21 (Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum) which are both famous tourist sights close to/in Phnom Penh. They’re both remnants of the brutal Khmer history. The S-21 is a former high school that the ultra-communist Khmer Rouge, under the rule of Pol Pot, changed into a prison to torture people that didn’t fit into their ideology. When there were too many people to kill and bury, they brought people to a then-orchard which became the Killing Fields. The Khmer Rouge ruled from 1975-1979 and aoround 1.5 to 3 million people (approx. 25% of the Cambodian population) were killed in their genocide. It’s shocking how few we learn about other genocides, regimes, wars, etc. in school and media apart from World War II. I can’t say it was nice to visit the Killing Fields but it was definitely an experience I wouldn’t want to have missed. It’s very different from European monuments. When you enter Choeung Ek you’ll see a memorial straight ahead. It looks like classic Cambodian architecture, almost like a temple/ pagoda. But when you come closer you see hundreds of skulls. You can walk around the huge glass box that contains skulls and all kinds of human bones. They tell you how a person was killed by means of the different kinds of fracture or color of the skull. They would never do that in Europe. Maybe they wouldn’t even excavate all the dead bodies, skeletons and bones. Another thing that is very divergent from the European, or at least German, style of remembering cruel crimes is the balance of cold horror and fresh beauty, darkness and light, death and life. All those bones, the mass graves, historical displays, and on the other hand the calm pond, plants and trees, chickens walking around, and colorful bracelets visitors had hung on trees and the mass graves’ fences.

It’s not a place I wanted to take photographs at, but I remember it all quite clearly. Just like I remember one of the signs saying “Please Don’t Walk Through the Mass Grave.”

Sweat Shower

Sweat Shower

Phew, first day. Felt very long, but so beautiful and interesting. And yummy.

A lot of walking, a lot of sweating, a lot of being scared of dying when crossing the road (now, after this day, I’m pretty chill about it), a lot of bananas. I was thinking of not showering, because I had already showered in my own sweat. This place is like a sauna. Hot and humid.

I met Colette this morning, she arrived at the hostel last night. I couldn’t sleep, so I saw her and I was like, that;s ma girl. She’s traveling on her own as well, so we had a really nice time today. Central Market, Wat Phnom (a temple), David’s Home Made Noodles & Dumplings (very delicious and very fascinating to watch the boy make the noodles!). And two of the best things today were places we stumbled upon. Another temple, but one that was way quieter and relaxed and not so touristic, and a food market that was only frequented by locals. It was really dirty, but after India nothing can shock me. I love how the most interesting places are usually the ones you don’t expect to see.

And then another awesome place for dinner after chatting on a rooftop bar. Feeling happy and ready for bed.

Tomorrow I might decide to wear a sign that says “No Tuk Tuk, thanks.”. We’ve been asked “Tuk Tuk?” for about 5000 times. Probably not blending in with the blond hair and the camera in my hand…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#3: Anna, how do You protect Yourself?

#3: Anna, how do You protect Yourself?

“I protect myself by one of two ways: avoiding or preparing.
Either, I suppress negative thoughts about exams, awkward situations or conversations so I can avoid stressful sentiments.
Or, when a situation is inescapable, I prepare for it by soothing myself. I have learned that negative thoughts are exhausting, so I try valuing my thoughts instead of judging them. It’s more relaxed and makes me happier.”

– Anna (Berlin, Germany)