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.
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.
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
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?
The post started by asking when respect had disappeared. There has been an long exchange on the Siem Reap expats page of Facebook. An American has ranted about the noise of loudspeaker outside his room and the lack of respect in modern Khmer culture. I should have sympathy for him as not so long ago I was the victim of a Cambodian wedding’s speaker volume. However the exchange has brought much darker issues to the surface.
There is a man, a Swedish man, who is blaming the Cambodian people for the Khmer Rouge. He is coming to the defence of his American friend. Now I am not known for my pro USA leanings but I try not to blame any stray Americans who cross my path for the startling catalogue of dubious activity which that bastion of democracy has achieved. A people and their governments or regimes are not the same thing. Cambodia is not a perfect country and it has had a terrible recent history that will take years to recover from. I am lucky to be here and work as a teacher. I hope that the lives of the Cambodians I have met will continue to improve. Poverty and corruption are easy to find but so are happiness and laughter. Living abroad is a great gift and one that, when done through choice, is a gift that only the relatively privileged can afford.
Complaining about being disturbed by weddings, muttering about respect, and then randomly moving on to not wanting to be forced to get a work permit doesn’t sound like racism, that sounds like a petulant toddler who can’t have things just so. However hese two friends have shown, through their comments, that they regard themselves as intrinsically better than their hosts. Now, I don’t know what you think, but that does sound like rascism. These two men might be great people. I’ve never met them so I can this Facebook debacle is all I know of them and it has not parented them in a favourable light.
Living in a different culture is always a challenge. It brings both amazing rewards and unexpected problems. Being on the Asperger Path I know a lot about frustration and how cultural differences can put you off kilter. Dear reader, if I am ever racist or xenophobic while I write this travel blog please let me know. I hope that am respectful even in my most difficult moments.
I write what’s in my heart. Or what’s in my head. Sometimes it is both. But what I write has been through a process not unlike photoshopping. I take an image that’s real or an event that’s happened and I tweak it a little. My primary school teacher used to say I embroidered the facts and I like to think I’m still quite handy with a needle and thread.
People say believe half of what you see and some and none of what you hear. So my blog is a grapevine of my musings for my own amusement I am not hindered in my story telling by honesty or reality. This narrator is totally unreliable but, let’s face it, sometimes reality needs a little lift.
So the Asperger Path will take you off the straight and narrow, divert through La La Land and even add a little neon to the sunset. So come with me as I spectrum disorder the universe around me . Follow me as I blunder through the Kingdom of Wonder and try to make pictures from words and form words from my senses. Welcome to the fiction of my life where the facts are filtered, the details developed and the people processed.
Being a water buffalo must be awesome. Outside it’s 40 degrees and the sun is baking and there you are standing in a flooded field in lovely, cooling muddy water. No targets to think about, no deadlines to meet, just day after day of hot sunshine tempered by a cooling foray into the water for a sub-aqua graze.
Tilling a rice field sounds like hard work though and many buffalo in Cambodia are made to earn their keep this way. Around Battambang the fertile rice plains could keep an aspirational buffalo busy for years. If I were a buffalo I might promote the idea of Asian mozzarella. Everybody loves pizza and the Cambodian people are no exception. And being milked sounds like a better life than ploughing.
Mozzarella da Cambogia could be a winner. This agricultural country isn’t big on dairy farming and the cuisine is a dream for the lactose intolerant. However, Cambodia is changing fast who knows maybe the Cambodian water buffalo could be the vanguard of a culinary revolution.
I guess everybody has a job these days, even the water buffalo.
There were three of them. I judged them on their expensive box fresh trainers and concluded they were Japanese. They sat and watched the sunset. The clothes they sported will never be worn in the chic, urbane bars of Tokyo. They sipped potent highballs perching on perilous high stools.
No doubt they are here to see temples and experience the Angkorian serenity of the massive complex. Buddhist-Hindu fusions that have defied gravity and time and still reach into the heavens. From these dizzy heights to the rather less divine, but equally disorientating, highs of sin city’s bars they have descended like a million others before them.
You can purchase a great deal more than sheep and oxen in this temple town and the money changers are sitting pretty on every corner. I am a resistor. I say no the marijuana from the tuk tuk driver and politely decline the myriad of earthly delights that my dollar can purchase. No happy herb pizza, no happy ending and no ecstatic shakes for me. The Asperger Path has become so straight and narrow.
Perhaps I should buy those elephant print trousers but for now I will leave that to my young highballing friends in the high end trainers
This chaos is my life. This wonderful, amazing life I am leading is just a sequence of disasters held together by a touch of bravado and good deal of hoping that everything will be all right. I have never had dreams or ambitions. There isn’t a someone I forgot to be. I am here and now and I’ve got my wits about me.
So I career, without a career plan, across jobs, countries and friends. My life is like bunting. Piece after piece, each little moment of beauty is separate and yet strung together hanging in the breeze for all to see.
Many of my colleagues in the spectrum disordered world have strong deep passions and life long obsessions. My obsession, if I have one, is with the new. I can’t bear to bored or stuck in a routine though ironically I create them. I hem myself in, experience a moment or two of safe, comfortable acceptance before I feel it. That irritating itch as if I am allergic to my own contentment.
I don’t have dreams. My life is lived in stark reality. I’m on my own and I have created the Asperger Path and this, this chaos, this is my life.