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 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.
How do people feel about their lives!
My life is amazing, in theory. Every day I teach great kids who, for the most part, are engaged and happy. I feel that they are growing under my firm care as I teach them the joy of learning through helping each other and sharing things. I am much more than an English teacher. In my role, I build good relationships with children, perhaps more distant than some, but I give them my honesty and authenticity. I guess I make a difference.
Returning to teaching is not the only thing I’ve done in the last year. I lost my job as consequence of discrimination and I made the wise decision to spend the money doing things I had never dreamed of. I travelled across a continent and then moved to another and started a life in Cambodia. I have seen unbelievable things and met some pretty awesome people. As I approached fifty I decided to open my mind and my life to new opportunities and I turned a bitter experience into a sweet solution. It’s horrible knowing that you have lost a livelihood because of a disability and discrimination is very ugly. If teaching is one thing I excel at then rising like a phoenix from ashes of a disaster is another well honed skill I’ve developed
Howver those things I have never dreamed of worry me. I’m living the dream but I don’t know who it belongs to. I wish I had some dreams of my own I could follow. I stand next to my life and feel almost untouched by it. The good and the bad roll by and I watch each with an air of
detachment. I know other people feel about their lives. I just don’t know what they feel. I’m not envious. My life may seem an odd place to live but I wouldn’t want to be anyone else but me.
I can see that I am blessed. I know it. I just wonder what it would be like to feel it.
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
“I think to myself, what a wonderful world.” I am in that place with Louis Armstrong today. A few weeks ago a film company announced on Facebook that they wished to screen a film in Battambang and were looking for places and audiences. I contacted them to suggest the school where I work.
Today I saw the fruits of that company’s labours. I sat in a room with a hundred or so students, none of them mine. We soared over pristine rainforest in the Cardamom Mountains before skimming the surface of the Tonlé Sap and the mighty Mekong. We surveyed the northern plains and the highlands of The East. I saw all of the natural beauty of the Cambodian countryside.
More marvellous than the landscape, and the focus of this documentary, were the many and diverse creatures that form the fauna of The Kingdom of Wonder. The call of gibbons in the wild forest near Angkor Wat echoed through my soul. The sight of a majestic elephant stopping to scratch its belly as it stepped over a fallen tree caused laughter in a room that was mostly quiet and captivated. The beautiful Giant Ibis, the national bird, now sadly endangered, was seen roosting in the trees.
My eyes and mind were opened wider today. It’s a wonderful world and I hope that those students will appreciate the beautiful fragility of the country they call home.
I’m still in Battambang and I’ve got the small town blues. I’m living in a backwater and it doesn’t matter if I have a paddle or not. This hot, dry season means the creek is a murky brown and my boat is going nowhere.
It’s time to stand still which is an odd thing for a traveller to do. I’m going to take a moment. I will count my blessings and realistically that should take a while. My life is charmed and The Asperger Path is rich in experience and diversity. I am strong and healthy. I am surrounded by good people who I should lean on more often. I have carefree days of writing and relaxation and I live life at a slow pace. There’s time to smell the flowers and time to savour my beloved flat white. My young students are interesting and kind and my teaching is going well. Life could be more interesting but it could also be more stressful.
A new day is dawning and the only blue I should be worrying about is the sky above. The air hangs and that’s not the blues, that’s just the heat. I am still, in Battambang.
I have been seduced. I have been lulled into a real sense of security. The Asperger Path has become a park and I am playing on the swings of good fortune.
Funny how life conspires sometimes to throw handfuls of happiness at you. This life I am not building, this uncharted course that I am taking has moved into a safe haven and it’s time to drop anchor for a while. There are still no plans and few ties and I could be ready to sail next week. For now though, I’m living in the moment and from moment to moment. Those cherished moments are blossoming into memories and experiences that are cushioning the sharp corners of life.
So I will work, rest and play in the park for a while but I know where the gate is and one day I’ll be gone. For now though, Battambang, work your lazy magic and swing me gently in the evening breeze.