The Kingdom of Wonder is how Cambodia promotes itself. My friend calls it the kingdom of blunder while I generally opt for the kingdom of wondering. One thing is certain, life isn’t predictable.
Today is certainly not going quite to plan. All that was supposed to be happening is not. That’s usually a red rag to my inner bull. Yet the china is intact in the shop. So here I am in limbo and goodness knows I’m not built for that kind of flexibility.
My flat isn’t ready just yet so I cannot move in. Until then I have to live across the hall. All my dreams of spending my Saturday making my new home look just a little bit less unloved and a bit more ‘me’ have been shelved.
So here I am in the empty old flat cleaning what I have left because I can clean what I am going to. The bathroom has a baking soda freshness it never had when I lived it and surfaces are so free of dust that I realise my flat wasn’t subtly grey and was just a bit grubby. I move in, I clean then I do the same when I move out. In between the dirt that live in is mine and I am happy in that.
So here I am limboing like I have a flexibility many would confirm I haven’t possessed when under duress in the past. Life isn’t quite going to plan. I haven’t lost my temper or shouted at anyone. In Cambodia, even I have become unpredictable
I have no plans, no bucket list and no aspirations. For now, I am living in Cambodia and teaching grade 1 English. That might change tomorrow or next week but I have a roof over my head and there is food on the table. Often that table is shared with friends so life is pretty sweet.
I have no partner to consider so, for now, I walk the Asperger Path alone. That could change but I feel there is potential for hurt and loneliness in loving someone like me. As I travel through life I try to change myself for the better. Small changes mostly because they can be easily implemented and maintained. However, I find that my love affairs, and some of my friendships, seem to boil dry so I still have work to do to minimise my negative inpact on others. Expectation is a hard task master and failure has been a constant companion in days past.
Although I travel a path both physically and spiritually, I am not getting there because I am living here. I won’t be here forever. So I am just going to live for now, for now.
Once upon a time I would have said that friendship was a magical connection that was made so rarely that it should be treasured and nurtured. I had a tight inner circle as sacrosanct as that of Arthur’s knights.
My well organised life was full of lovely people and I categorised them into a bewilderingly bizarre, teetering hierarchy. ‘Friend’ was the highest accolade and few made it to those dizzying heights. There were more mundane positions which were easier to fulfill such as ‘people I know’ or ‘people I like’ and even ‘people I like to say hello to’. ‘Nice ladies in shops’ were good for a quick chat as were ‘bus stop people’. I defined my relationships and used these distinctions to keep people at a distance despite being essentially quite lonely. I rarely allowed movement as I was a fan of my slightly melancholy status quo. I left that ivory tower life and jumped headlong into the unknown.
Have I become more breezy. Is it possible that I am easy going. I doubt it. The Asperger Path will always be a challenging route . However, now that I am travelling there is no status quo for me to protect from would be friends and so my relationships do need to be scrutinised into the calcified classifications of before. This means that my use of the word friend has become more generic and as result my life feels a little less complex. I’m still awkward, clumsy and inept and I avoid some situations but I no longer bestow friendship like some coveted prize to be earned like a knight’s spurs. These days I have more friends and my relationships are governed as much by proximity as any other factor.
So if you’re in Battambang, are not a racist, like to laugh and have a reasonable level of intelligence chances are I see you as friend. It is as simple as that.
I took a moment the other day to look at the pond skaters living on the surface of the water. I should have been concentrating on the sun slowly rising over the ancient Angkorian temple but the Asperger Path often gets diverted. My Syndrome give me an ability to focus but also makes that focal point quite random.
I am, of course, digressing.
The pond skaters were there and I was pondering. I watched them whizzing about on the surface and creating magical patterns on the solemnly still waters of the pool. I was captivated and hadn’t even thought to look deeper. The fish were pointed out to me and then I saw them in the shadowy depths. Solid and sturdy, these creatures barely moved while above, their ethereal neighbours performed a showy cabaret.
Here in Cambodia I feel like a pond skater skimming the surface of a culture that is too deep for me to comprehend. Look at me I want to cry out I’m in the water! I have come to make a difference to the pond. As I skate around, making a big performance, real life carries on beneath me, oblivious and untouched by my presence. I am living on the surface. One day I will fly away from this kingdom but the fish will still be there quietly living and flourishing in the deep wonders of the Khmer culture.
Today I walked the tourist trail rather than the Asperger Path. I got up, more early than bright, and headed off with two strangers for a rather ambitious full-on day of marvelling at the ancient culture that both my companion and our driver are descended from.
Just when I thought the sun would not appear it rose triumphant like it has for nearly a thousand years over the ancient temple. I saw the dark stones slowly reveal themselves and the true wonder of the Kingdom I live in was revealed. The temple did not fail to keep me gasping as level upon level was explored. I came away feeling that my day could not improve.
I was wrong. The tuk tuk driver suggested that we head to the most northerly point of our trip next and I assured him that as long as there was a coffee on the way that would be great. The long awaited sun was already making its presence felt but the forty or so kilometres were covered with ease, breeze and an interesting conversation. My companion give me an insight into ancient Khmer culture and growing up in a country scarred by the tragedy of it’s recent history. Our steep ascent to see waterfalls and lingas was testing as the heat rose but being greeted by Vishnu hanging out with Ananta, Lakshmi and Brahma was a delight I was happy to share.
As we slowly headed back wonder upon wonder was revealed. Each different and yet linked which created a sense of uniform splendour surrounding these amazing early architects with mathematical precision and an ability to see divine inspiration in three dimensions.
The real joy of my day though was its ease. I was comfortable with strangers in intense heat and following a physically demanding itinerary. I accepted help graciously and was not worried about time or schedules. I was as lost in the landscape as those temples once were. I was asked why I kept smiling and I was able to answer that I just felt happy. That in itself is a wonder. I forgot who I was and in doing so found myself in receipt of a wonderful day.
He says he loves me. He says it when no one can hear. I know he loves me. He shows me when no one can see. Love should be so simple but life is so complex.
He wants to keep me away from the public eye so that my very existence cannot taint him. Yet the thing he is afraid of isn’t me. It it inside of him. It goes where he goes and he cannot escape himself. These feelings he wants to suppress overflow like lava and each eruption confirms that he is not who he wants to be. So he has placed our love in a cage. A well defined place with limits and boundaries. He puts me in purdah behind a rainbow screen and, because he can’t deny himself, he denies me.
At the moment he hates himself and by seeing all that he hates in himself reflected in me, he hates me. He could start down the long road to self acceptance. If he could learn to love himself as he is, our love would be so different. I cannot tell him what to do. He needs to make these decisions for himself.
I am what I am. I am my own special creation. But so is he.
Beauty comes in many shapes and forms. As I travel I see that some countries are more striking than other. They hit you full beam and leave you breathless.
For me, Cambodia is not breathtaking. Its beauty seems more subtle. It doesn’t stun you, it seduces with its smoky sunsets and purple horizons. The palm trees and the flat plains worm their way into your heart until, like the rice fields and the buffalo, you are immersed in their subtle watery beauty.
I rarely take pictures here. I cannot capture Cambodia with my camera. This is not Australia with its dramatic coasts, rolling hills and parched the deserts that pose daily and demand a snapshot. Everyday my breath was taken away in that vast continent. Here in Cambodia the landscape breaths with me until I am lost in its calm tranquility.
Beauty is everywhere if you open your mind and look for it. So, one day, I will leave this seductive place and seek something different but equally beautiful. But I’m not getting my camera out and my bags packed just yet
It’s been a tiring day and I am feeling every one of my fifty years. My students are a happy, chaotic bunch. I learn new things about them every day. Today was phase two of our poster making day. The theme was ‘all about us’. Having established that the word post and the word poster are not as intrinsically linked as they had supposed, we ditched early attempts at envelope making. We went gung-ho into a world of frantic colouring, with rather more reluctant sentence construction, but slowly a picture came together of each of the individuals I teach. The posters are up on the walls and I think they were genuinely proud to see their bright colourful efforts on display. .
With twenty nine in one class and twenty one in the other, I admit I don’t know them as well as I ought. With a ten year gap between the youngest and the oldest, I am often trapped, dazzled in the headlights of the differing needs and demands of fifty children. I don’t do hugs so luckily I have an assistant who deals with that for the very youngest. I remember to smile more than frown and I can see they enjoy the time we spend in class.
My mantra of working together and helping each other featured in a few pieces so I guess they have listened to more than I give them credit for. We love our teacher said one poster. My name wasn’t spelt correctly but they did a great job getting my baldness on to the page. I love my students too. However most days I leave school feeling quite overwhelmed because love divided by fifty doesn’t leave much of a remainder.
I am a bit stressed and anxious. Life has come along and overwhelmed me. I was not thinking or planning and I was quite happily suspended in the moment. A traveller resting in a tranquil bubble. When I am away from anxiety it feels like I am away from reality because, sadly, anxiety is the most real feeling I know.
Anyway along came reality. Would I like a promotion? Experience should say no. My mouth says yes and even as it is being said the scenarios start playing in my head. I call it the what if chain. My mind can string countless hypothetical situations together. The first one or two are where the world discovers the genius that has now been hidden in its midst for fifty years. Then the disaster movies start. In each I play a leading role in my own humiliation and downfall. There are more sequels than a Rocky movie and the plot is always formulaic. I play the loser and the tragedy is that I am brought to the ground by my own shortcomings.
The joys of the Asperger Path are manifold and diverse. I have amazing skills but I do not hold a broad portfolio. I have so many blind spots and I am a great deceiver. The other day I was talking about being a good friend and my companion said I didn’t sound like a man on the spectrum. Reality has taught me harshly that talking the talk and walking the walk are too very different things. I know my weaknesses and my how I have analysed them in detail. Knowing you’re blind doesn’t give you sight and knowing that I’m not a “people person” doesn’t make it easier to be one.
I will go back and explain that I am not the right man for the job. Humble pie with sour cream will be my plat du jour. Hopefully I will stay where I am but, more likely, I will move on . Am I a traveller seeking the next adventure or merely a man who is constantly running away from the last debacle?
I’m feeling sad because across the world my family is in trouble. I’m not sure how other minorities feel but for me, every lesbian is my sister and every gay man, my brother. I am a part of a great big family and I hope that we have more than oppression in common.
The gay movement has always been at its finest under duress. We come together and fight for our freedoms and rights. We put aside our many differences and we are brave in the face of adversity. I am European and my expectations are high. I demand respect and expect equality. I want the freedom to live and love as I wish with minimal intervention from state, religion and judiciary. I have fought in many ways and can see the benefit of my labours. The rainbow is our symbol because because through the tears of oppression comes the sunshine of liberation.
The world is a multi faceted place. My brothers and sisters lead different lives in different parts of the world and their struggles for freedom are not yet as advanced. In places it feels like we are moving backward. Would I be brave like if I lived in Russia, Uganda or Saudi Arabia? The truth is I don’t know.
My family is having a tough time but hang in there brothers and sisters because one day the sun is going to shine and we will see that rainbow all across the world.