Has Mad Men gone Mad? Season Six Premier Review (spoiler alert…)

11 04 2013

My friend and I were bubbling with anticipation as we cozied up on my couch to watch the double episode kick off to Mad Men season 6. As avid fans since day one, we were both prepared for some awkward interactions, strange dream-like sequences heavy on symbolism, sudden time jumps, the introduction of a random new character or two, lines of dialogue that seem to pop out of nowhere and even some major WTF moments … After all, these are the defining qualities that have made Man Men such an interesting journey to be on. As we watched, the furrows in our brows deepened, and we exchanged raised-eyebrow glances and exaggerated shoulder shrugs. Here are a few of the things that incited those glances and shrugs.

I’ll start with Betty. While Betty’s instability has been enhanced through the years with her seesawing back and forth between coldness and warmth, her alternating desire to fit into ‘the mold’ and to break it, when she turns to Henry in bed and playfully suggests that he go into the next room, stick a gag in Sally’s new friend’s mouth and “rape” her (“I’ll hold her arms down”), not only did I instantly grow more uncomfortable (not in a good way) than I have ever been watching this show, but A. No matter how flip-floppy Betty’s character has been, this was completely out of character. B. Henry’s momentarily horrified reaction did not nearly match the new level of psychosis from his wife. C. The dialogue totally undermines the storyline of care and concern that Betty displays for this young girl and D. Why the fuck is this Sandy even there? Sure, it’s reasonable to believe that in the time that has seemingly passed since the season 5 finale, Sally would make a new, close friend. But there is absolutely no indication as to why she has become part of the Frances ‘inner circle; – Sally doesn’t even seem to like her.

When Don and Megan return from their blissful Hawaiian holiday (which I’ll address in a moment) to witness their doorman, Jonesy collapsing in some unexplained medical emergency, time suddenly jumps forward to after his recovery. Did the script supervisor somehow not notice that Megan wearing the same exact outfit would confuse the hell out of the audience?

Then, there’s the new agency employee, Bob – a hanger-on-er seemingly desperate find an ‘in’ with the agency’s creatives. Perhaps the time spent on this Bob character is simply a way to establish that the company has expanded, or a way to show that Cosgrove has turned into a complete dick or maybe even just set-up for storylines to come, but it felt forced, almost as if the show’s writers felt like the show needed a ‘new Pete’ – the guy in the office willing to sacrifice his dignity to be noticed. And speaking of Cosgrove, what the hell was with his questions at Roger’s mother’s funeral. “Is your mother still alive?… Is yours?… What about you Don?” This is a character who found his way into my heart because of his writerly wisdom and here he is acting like a brain dead robot.

On to the time jump. It’s no surprise that a year or two has passed since season 5’s end. And there are a few successful ways in which the passing of time are represented – Megan’s acting career has taken off, SCDP’s expansion (though why still the “P”?), Peggy’s increased confidence in her new position. I have always found Mad Men’s ability to evoke a strong sense of time and place with it’s costuming, subtle mention of current events and references to celebrities representative of a particular year. But many of the tools used to establish time in this episode – the ever-present reefer, the shaggy appearances of most of the male characters, the St. Marks squatters – were so generic and over the top, that they felt obligatory and almost condescending to the audience’s intelligence.

Peggy’s storyline is the only one I found truly interesting, and the only one that displayed any consistency with the show. The shining moment of this episode had to be Peggy’s one-sided phone conversation with the pastor. The highlights of the episode, for me, all surrounded Peggy’s creative process and problem-solving prowess. The inside look at the beginnings of one of the most powerful modern industries has always been a huge part of the Mad Men experience for me. Without Peggy’s storyline, this component of the show would have been almost absent. And her channeling of Don’s client management abilities with the headphone CEO made me wonder, ‘is Peggy the new Don?’

Don. Oh, Don. In my experience, there are two kinds of roller coasters. The first are the ones that have you squealing with joy, clenching the safety bar with nervous anticipation for that next dip and turn, exiting the ride only to get right back on the end of the two hour line to ride again. And then there are the sort that have you doubled over, green faced, praying for it to end and put you out of your misery and, when it’s over, making a beeline for the nearest toilet to puke in. Draper’s character arc in this episode was the latter. At first, during the Hawaii sequences, it seemed as if Don had simply reverted back to his old ways – walls up, determined to keep his emotional (and verbal) responses to his surroundings in check to save face. Then, however, Don tells the execs from The Royal Hawaiian how Hawaii changed him. This, to me, broke the golden cinematic rule, ‘show don’t tell.’ Nothing about the Hawaii scenes at the beginning of the show, nor any of the scenes that follow indicate that Don has had some major epiphany. Is he just bullshitting the execs to try to sell his idea? An idea which, not only came out of nowhere but which he is so attached to that he actually breaks his own golden rule – never let ‘em see you sweat.

When the double episode had finished, we looked at each other, bewildered, both shaking our heads from side to side. “Does the show have new writers?” I asked. I mean, it wasn’t terrible, it was just… different. It was like seeing an old, close friend after an extended absence only to discover that the friend had developed new habits and philosophies that didn’t seem congruent with the things about their personality that drew me to them in the first place. Do I still see hints that the person I have come to know and love still exists? Certainly. Do I still love the friend? Yeah. I mean, it would take a lot more than a few new character quirks to undo my deep-seated feelings for them. But should those new quirks overtake the traits that I find endearing, I might find myself much less enthused about spending time in their company.





봊꽃

29 03 2013

cherry blossom season, to me, is this annual reminder to slow the fuck down. stop. look. reallylook. i forget. I get swept up in the hustle. the sensory details of the day to day often evade me, simply because when you’re in your head, well… you’re in your head. I love my life- it’s full of wonderful people and things. but when I say full, I mean FULL. i almost never have downtime where there isn’t that guilty tug of what I could or should be doing. today, i allowed myself to pause in the midst of my clusterfuck of a schedule to really look. to absorb. to smile.

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This Island

23 02 2013

It amazes me that I have access to the Internet right now, as I’m on an island that only has electricity from 6pmish to midnightish. I’m sitting on the front porch of the most beautiful seaside bungalow, in the aptly named ‘Sunset Bungalows’ on Koh Rong Samloem.

our amazing bungalow…
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the view from our porch…
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We had decided to come here as the result of positive correspondence with the local dive shop, and a slew of enticing google image results. I was determine to prove all of my friends who said that Cambodia diving is shit wrong. I’ll get to the diving in a minute.

The island. This island. It’s probably the least developed place I’ve spent a significant amount of time (6 days) in. The only thing I have access to here are the things to meet my basic, basic needs. It’s a pretty dramatic change from inhaling eggs Benny and cappuccinos in Siem Reap or tapas and sangria in Phnom Penh or the crab in coconut curry in Kep.

My options for food are: three shacks that sell either rice or noodles with either vegetables or pork. Three shacks selling ices coffees, semi cold sodas and fresh mangos, bananas and pineapple. And one more shack with a small selection of western style breakfast along with burgers, tuna sandwiches, quesadillas and, strangely, poutine.

our local fruit sellers…
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The final food option, the one we have gone with for dinner every night, is to inform the family that lives next to our bungalows by 4pm which of the 5 menu items we want, and within 20 minutes of the electricity being turned on for the evening, the food arrives in the porch of our bungalow. Tonight we had squid, which was grilled in a little stone grill on our porch, with sides if veggie fried rice and Khmer salad (best salad ever!).

delivery menu…
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Seriously, aside from accommodations (about 12$/night each) and from diving, I’d be hard pressed to spend more than 10$/ day here. Seeing how the villagers live is humbling, but these seem to be happy people despite how little they have.

the village and some of our neighbors…
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Beside the villagers, this Island seems to have just had a massive population explosion of puppies and kittens. We have had several of the local dogs ‘adopt’ us, including El Blanco, who is apparently the island’s pooch pariah. We’ve also befriended the four three-month old puppies who look like rodesian ridgebacks – we would name them but we can’t tell them apart, so we just call them THE puppies. We’re not sure if it’s the same one who visits us each night or if they take turns. There’s another litter of puppies down the road, and we’ve taken to feeding milk to the runt, who seems to have been rejected by both his mom and siblings. If it were possible, I would take him with me.

el blanco…
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THE puppies…
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my little runt…
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his brothers…
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On the other side of the village is Marine Conservation Cambodia, who are teamed up with Island Divers to survey and protect the marine environment surrounding Koh Rong Samloem. They also contribute to the village through running a small English school (which I had the pleasure to visit with my guitar one morning) and building a playground at the local Khmer school. MCC is staffed by young people from all over the globe through projects abroad. It always impresses me to see such young people getting out in the world… I wish I had done so in my twenties.

Ali, an Australian dive master at Island Divers/MCC…
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So. The diving. The first dive was at a site called ‘back door,’ which is the reef just offshore in front of our bungalow. We had attempted to snorkel there on our first day, but when we got to the edge of the slippery rocks and dipped our faces in the water, we discovered a wall of huge urchins blocking our path. We were so freaked out that we frog-fished our way on the rocks back to shore. The visibility was terrible and the dive was meh. But then the second dive, to a site called corner bar, just off of the nearby Koh Kon, was gorgeous.

The next day, we decided to take along with the conservation project on a seahorse survey dive. There were 11 of us on the dive. As we descended the line into zero visibility, I had a total fucking meltdown – one of the worst panic attacks I’ve ever had. Two of the dive masters brought me back to the surface, while the others attempted to continue the survey. I sat on the boat trying to wrap my brain around why, after doing over 60 dives, I suddenly had this massive freak out, and I realized that the last time that happened was also when descending on an anchor line in a strong current with low visibility. This is a fear I am going to have to conquer if I ever want to be a dive master.

We did three more dives after that. We revisited both of the sites from the first day of diving, and the visibility was much better. It was on these dives that I fell in love with a bat fish who joined us halfway through our dive and swam with us right until our safety stop at the end of the dive. We added him to the list of pets we had accumulated on the island. Our last dive was with Merlin (yes, that’s his real name), a young German guy. There were five of us on the dive and the current was strong. We swam into the current for a bit. Drifted back. Repeated the process. It was the best vis we had so far, but Merlin wasn’t the best underwater communicator, so there were some comical moments where he signaled to Anne and I and we had absolutely no idea what he wanted us to do. So we just drifted.

After the last dive, we boarded the ferry back to the mainland. I had a moment similar to the one when I left Gili Trewangan six years ago. I sat on the deck of the boat, tearfully watching the island until it disappeared from my view. From what I understand, a few companies have bought property on Koh Rong Samloem, and it is about to undergo some major development. I know that I visited at this moment in pre-development time, when it is still feels truly off the beaten path, when the only businesses to support are run by the island’s indigenous people, when it’s simplicity, isolation and lack of amenities is what makes it so special. The world, as it’s going now, is soon to be without many places that are really untouched by the tourism industry. And as sad as this makes me, I feel lucky to have visited Koh Rong Samloem in it’s current state.

some more shots of the Koh Rong Samloem…
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otres. otres. otres.

23 02 2013

Way back in Siem Reap (which feels like a year ago despite the fact that it was less than 4 weeks ago), an expat named Ed made me promise that when I made it down to Sihanoukville, I’d forego the seedy party-fueled shitshow that is Serendipity and head to Otres Beach. When Ed and I said our goodbyes, he looked at me with urgency and simply said, “Otres!” I nodded, and he repeated the word twice more as I walked off into the night.

Between that night and the time we boarded our mini bus from Kampot to Sihanoukville, every single cool person I met who had spent time on the coast affirmed Otres as a must. On our last night at Bodhi Villa, just before my gig, I met Jordan, a New York cook and kindred spirit who was bound for Vietnam the next day. He had just come from two weeks in Otres, and provided an even more specific recommendation, a hostel called Wish You Were Here.

When we arrived in Sihanoukville, we jumped straight from the minibus into a tuk tuk and told the driver to take us to Otres. “Otres 1 or Otres 2?” he asked. We shrugged. Nobody had mentioned that there were two Otres Beaches. We told him to take us to both. On the road into Otres 1, we saw what was, perhaps, the most amusing thing we saw on the whole trip… a Turkey in the middle of the road who amused himself by chasing tuk tuks. I struggled to get my camera out of the bag as the turkey tried to catch up to us, but by the time I had successfully gotten it out of it’s case, the turkey had done a 180 to chase a tuk tuk headed in the opposite direction.

After seeing how teensy Otres 2 was, we opted to go back to Otres 1 (which wasn’t that much more developed, but had more accommodations options) and headed straight for Wish You Were Here. The common/bar area was inviting, but unfortunately they had no rooms available, so we settled into Mean Mean (pronounced Mi-En Mi-En), a motel style joint next door with private bathrooms. Although it didn’t have a whole lot of character, it was clean, comfortable and situated just across from the center of the beach.

It turned out that Sean, an old friend from Busan who has since moved to Vietnam, was also staying in Otres. We met him at a fancy-ish place for dinner. The food was disappointing, but the company was fantastic, and we became three for the remainder of our time in Otres. And strangely enough, we discovered that Sean was staying in the room directly across from ours at Mean Mean.

The next day, we made it our mission to wake up early and claim large, rattan bowl shaped chairs perched on the shore in front of one of the restaurant/bars that line the beachfront. Successful in our mission, we sat there from morning until sunset, having the perfect chill-out day. We did nothing but swim in the bath-warm sea, read, play rummer (an amazing card game that we learned that is a mix between rummy and poker), order grilled langostinos from a woman who sold them from a basket on her head and served them with just some lime and fresh ground kampot pepper, drink coconut milkshakes, eat skewered baby squid that we ordered from a lovely woman who cooked them beside us on the sand on her portable barbeque, purchase a spot on a three island snorkling trip for the following day, and swim some more.

our perfect day in otres…

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my buddy sean…
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langostinos…
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sunset squid…
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Finally, when it got dark, returned to our room for a shower before heading to Ritchie’s for grilled barracuda served with a gorgeous salad and whopping pile of mashed potatoes for $5. Later that night, as I sat on the toilet, I watched a strange looking bug make it’s way up the bathroom wall, which led my eyes to what, at first I thought was a hallucination. Higher up on the wall was a gorgeous blue and red gecko about the size of my forearm. I shouted for Anne and ran to get my camera. Anne managed to snap one shot of the beautiful lizard before it disappeared through the thin exposed space just below the ceiling.

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The next morning, we were picked up for our snorkling trip by a tuk-tuk and driven just down the road to ‘Happiness’ resort, where we were given a few options for the free breakfast that was included in the $13 day trip package. As we ate, a boat came and went, but nobody directed us to get on the boat… so we didn’t. Alas, another boat pulled up. We were promised a boat with a maximum of 15 passengers. 23 of us boarded, and when we arrived at the first snorkling spot, we discovered that not only was there no reef to speak of, but also that there were only about 6 functional masks/snorkles. After a quick swim, everyone on the boat agreed it was time to move on to our next spot. There was a lot of grumbling, as it appeared that we had all been taken. One group of young English guys had bought the tour package because they were told there would be cliff jumping involved. The next stop was Bamboo Island, where we were to have lunch. We plopped into lounge chairs while our boat captain fired up a portable grill, only to be told that the chairs cost $1 to sit in. Now, I am aware that $1 is nothing – but we still opted to vacate the chairs and place our sarongs on the sand on principle. After a pretty gross lunch, they kept us on this nondescript island. The water wasn’t bad for swimming, or so we thought until one of the members of our boat tour returned to the beach with a foot full of sea urchin spikes. After of sitting on the sand wondering aloud why we were still here, we finally boarded the boat to go to our third snorkling spot, which actually had a reef which was too shallow to explore without the threat of coming into contact with the huge urchins that populated it. By the time we arrived back at the (un)happiness resort, we were pretty pissed off about having wasted what could have been another perfect day in otres.

We quickly showered and hopped in a tuk tuk driven by a guy named Hero to Serendipity Beach to seek out the dive shop I had been corresponding with by email. We were a little conflicted about whether to head to Koh Rong or Koh Rong Samloem, but after chatting with the awesome ladies at Island Divers, who told us that Koh Rong was more of the ‘party island,’ we decided to stick to our plan to visit the smaller, less developed of the two islands. As we agreed on a 7am departure the next day, I got a text message from my buddy Mike, a fellow Busan resident. We picked up Mike and his guitar on our way back to Otres and learned that Chris and Minhee, other friends from Busan were also in Otres. People reading this may think, ‘wow, what a small world that six friends should meet by chance on this random beach in Cambodia.’ But that’s how we Busanites roll… Part of the reason most of have stayed in Korea for so long is having Southeast Asia as a playground for the long vacations our university teaching jobs afford us. Had I been in Thailand, I likely would have run into fifteen or twenty friends from Busan. As it was, the six of us had a laughter filled reunion over dinner and drinks. Toward the end of the night, Bec, my new friend from Phnom Penh, showed up and we headed to Wish You Were Here for a beer in their chair-swings. Bec had decided to join us on our trip to the island, and agreed to meet us in front of Mean Mean the following morning.

As we groggily hopped in Hero’s tuk tuk the next morning to catch our ferry to Koh Rong Samloem, we had yet another sad goodbye with yet another magical Cambodia destination. Little did we know that we were far from done with Otres Beach.





River Livin’ and a Crab Quickie

19 02 2013

Kampot. Bodhi Villa. This is one of those instances where, in my memory, the destination will inexorably be forever linked to the hostel I stayed in and the people I met there. Kampot, itself, is a quaint little city with gorgeous French colonial architecture and tree lined streets, set on the bank of a grand river. It’s not at all like I would have pictured any city in Cambodia to look. That’s been one of the best things about Cambodia – the constant surprises. When we arrived at Bodhi Villa, we were led to a three wall bungalow in the garden. At first, I was a little freaked out by how exposed to the elements it was, and my inability to keep my belongings secure. But by the time we settled in for our first meal at Bodhi (Beef Lok Lak and Vegetable Tempura), most of my reservations melted away.

As it turns out, we arrived on the evening of Bodhi’s first ever Trivia night, which was strangely reminiscent of the trivia night I regularly attend in Busan. Since we were only two, we were joined on our team by a Belgian mother/daughter and Jos, one half of the couple that owns Bodhi After acing the first two rounds, we shot from first place to last after the music round, as the girl who hosted opted to use music from a you tube playlist, containing a mix of pop and obscure rock that wqsn’t even close to mine or my teammates’ music wheelhouses (although the Belgian girl’s knowledge of music blew me away). We wound up losing the triv, but losing to a team called, ‘I pull out but my couch doesn’t’ took a bit of the bite out of it.

When we finally retreated to our bungalows, Anne and I made a pact that if one of us needed to use the bathroom, we would accomany each other with our iPhone flashlights into the dark night. When this did, in fact, happen, the only wildlife we encountered was a bunny named Flopsy, who hopped along the well-lit garden path and a frog in the well of the toilet. After one of the best nights sleeps I’ve ever had, I was more than a little sad that our bungalow had been booked for the next two night and that we had to move into a room in the main house.

our garden bungalow…
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Bodhi Villa…

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We spent the next day exploring Kampot on the 1$/day bikes we borrowed from Bodhi. Here, it’s best that I just use photos to tell the day. I’ve raraely seern a place that was more photogenic is the afternoon sunlight.

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Nico had come down from Phnom Penh to join us at Bodhi, and so the three of us borrowed Bodhi’s kayaks the next morning to explore the river. Part of me is kicking myself for not bringing a camera on this outing. But sometimes, cameras change the way we look at things, and perhaps if I had been looking through a lens, I wouldn’t have noticed the gorgeous white bird that I followed along the riverbank for a good portion of our river excursion.

Back on the Bodhi dock, we started to plan our afternoon trip to Kep to indulge in a meal of fresh crab with Kampot pepper, which we had heard so much about. A young hippie chick from California (whose name has since vacated my memory) overheard us and asked if she could tag along. We were advised to head to Kep early, so our tuk tuk driver wouldn’t have to navigate the shitty road linking the two cities in the dark of night.

We sat down at Kimly restaurant, the place Jos (who I had already grown quite fond of) recommended. We settled in at our seaside table with a ‘fuck budget’ attitude and proceeded to order shrimp fried rice, noodles with crab, lime and ginger, grilled crabs in a spicy coconut curry, fried crabs in a kampot pepper sauce and a bottle (which turned into two) of sauvignon blanc. By the time we had cleaned the plates, our hands and faces were all slathered and sticky, and our heads all slowly swayed from side to side, as if to say ‘I never want this meal to end.’ On that note, we ordered another plate of the scrumptious coconut curry crab for dessert.
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We kicked around in Kep just long enough to watch the sunset, then headed back to Bodhi, where Hugh (Jos’ husband, a musician who has established a music studio on the premises) and I had agreed to put on a night of acoustic music. By the time Hugh had set me up in a corner of the dock with a level of sound quality that I’ve rarely experienced even in fully equipped clubs, about twenty-five people were gathered in the intimate ‘chill out’ area. From the first note of my first song until Hugh’s last phenomenal jam,’ every single person sat smiling, absorbing, truly listening in near silence except when each song ended and the space briefly exploded with rounds of hearty applause. It was, without a doubt, one of the most appreciative audiences I have had the joy to play for. Hugh’s killer tunes and the fact that he treated me like family rounded out the night as my favorite on the trip thus far.

hugh…

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new leaf studio…

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It was hard to say goodbye to Bodhi the next morning as we boarded the bus to Sihanoukville. But alas, the sea was calling, and my three days at Bodhi Villa was just another reason to add Cambodia to the top of the list of countries to revisit.





phnom penh, take two

16 02 2013

So I left off upon arriving in the capital to meet Anne.  Boarding the bus in SSiem Reap, I had one of those epic travel fail moments.  Out of a mix of exhaustion, impatience and general oblivion, I accidentally boarded the wrong bus.  Same destination.  Same time.  But no sleeper bed.  It was a sleepless, miserable bus ride, especially when I realized that had I waited just 30 more minutes (the buses were running on ‘Cambodia time’) I would have a full reclining bed to sleep in during the ride.

I arrived back at Top Banana at 6:30am and passed out on one of the cushy couches in the common area.  When my eyes cracked open at 10:30, I had several strangers sitting across a table from me eating breakfast.  I wiped the drool off my chin, said a somewhat coherent good morning and then went to check into my room.  Not long after, I learned that Anne’s flight had been delayed by a day.  It was February 1st, the day that began the mourning/celebration of King Sinahouk’s cremation (he died in October).  Since almost everything was closed and most of the roads were blocked off, I decided to take it easy and write, then head out for a late afternoon stroll.

While I wrote, the girl at the next table borrowed my lighter several times, which eventually led to a conversation that quickly led to a partner in crime for my outing.  Nico, a young Seattle based artist a month or two into a year-long trip, proved excellent company.  She was keen on the idea to let our feet take us where they may, changing direction when forced by blocked roads or enticed by an interesting looking street.  After an unsuccessful attempt to walk to the river, we meandered aimlessly until we wound up in front of a lovely little tapas restaurant called La Plaza.  Once again, I was surprised by the authenticity and  eloquence of Cambodia’s international food offerings.  Why can’t Korea get western food right?? After yum’ing and ooooh’ing over our sangria, clams mariniere, marinated pork and stuffed squid, which was hysterically described on the menu as being ‘stuffed with its own legs’) we realized that this little gem of an eatery is just up the block from Top Banana. Our feet had instinctively led us home.

scenes from a stroll…

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La Plaza deliciousness…
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That night, we intended to go see a burlesque show Nico had read about.  But as we had a pre-game beer at Top Banana’s bar, we met Obi,  who had come to Cambodia from Nigeria as a professional soccer player and has since started a small program to teach soccer to local street kids.  AFter a few hours of good conversation, Obi agreed to let us tag along to soccer practice the following day, and then offered to cook us dinner afterward.

We started the next day with an art-fueled visit to Wat Lan Ka, a temple just across the street from Top Banana.  While Nico sketched in one area, I planted myself in front of a Buddha statue for about an hour, where I chatted with a few monks and pet a few dogs while I drew.

wat lan ka…

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Obi picked us up in a tuk-tuk and we headed to the small soccer field, where we met the rest of the ‘staff’ comprised of sveral other Nigerian pro soccer players who donate their time to the project each Saturday.  The kids were amazing, and watching them respond so positively to the structure and discipline that Obi and his friends offered them brought me a kind of joy that words can’t do justice too.  Of course, the two random American women who had showed up at their practice was a novelty for them, as well, and those who sat on the sidelines while other groups scrimmaged hammed it up for our cameras.

nico and obi…

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soccer practice…

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To learn more about Obi’s soccer program and how you can help, visit their facebook page…

http://www.facebook.com/SoccerSkillsFitnessCentre

As promised, Obi brought us to his house, a beautiful, two story gated bungalow with a sweet little yard.  Though Obi’ kitchen was rudimentary, he prepared us a lovely meal of rice and fish in a spicy Nigerian tomato based  stew.  His friend, Michael joined us, yet another Nigerian Soccer player.  I go into situations like this thinking, ok, here are interesting people I have met, who I have something profound to learn from simply because their life experiences are so completely different than my own.  Of course, with any person, if you dig deep enough, you find the common ground that, if not in experiences, lies in shared values and perspectives.  as it turned out, Michael had been a successful screenwriter and director in Nigeria before he came to a crossroads, at which he chose pro soccer.  As Michael and I shared our hopes and dreams surrounding film writing and directing, I realized two things.  One.  That while finding common ground in experience and values makes for good stories and philosophical discussions, finding common ground in aspirations makes for a totally different brand of connecting.  Two.  That my previous assessment of Nigerian men (who, in all of my experiences have displayed an aggression – never violent, just pushy- toward women that made me uncomfortable) was just one more  stereotype that I can happily toss out the window.

obi cooking for us…

siem reap 2 phnom penh 2 153my new friend michael…

siem reap 2 phnom penh 2 155

 

 

Anne walked into to the hostel not long after I arrived back, and we stayed up late excitedly planning the journeys to come.  Although I had been eager for Anne to arrive so we could move on to the destinations that we have drooled over on google image searches for the past few months, part of me was happy that I had an extra day to take in Phnom Penh, to see it more than just an entry, meeting and exit point.  In just an extra 24 hours, I was able to make some solid new friends, get an inside peek at a monumental event in Cambodia’s history (which may be one of the only opportunities to experience a quiet, toned down version of Phnom Penh) and see the amazing work that others are doing to improve the quality of life for local children.

At eleven the next morning, we hopped on a bus to Kampot, where Nico decided to meet us in a day or two.  Todd, the manager at Top Banana, a fellow New Yorker with a killer smile and good taste in music (which I learned when I had asked who’s iPod was plugged in playing Jerry Band) recommended a place called Bodhi Villa.  And tips from like minded expatriates are the ones I value the most.  And this particular tips couldn’t have been more spot on, as you’ll learn as soon as I tackle my next post.

 





interlude…

16 02 2013

The only time I consistently blog is when I’m traveling.  Sometimes, I am able to post about a place while actually in that place.  this happens when the urge to write (specifically about my travels) and good internet access converge.  However, most of the time I’m not blogging because of the whole ‘be here now’ thing.  If I’m in n amazing place which I have limited time in (which is usually the case when you have just a month to explore a country), burying my face in a computer screen is not the way I want to use my time.

Often, I write about the places I have visited in retrospect, from a later destination on the same trip (as I wrote about Siem Reap while in Kampot).  It kind of feels like cheating, but not cheating as badly as writing about it after I return home.  And lets face it, when I return home, real life is going to kick back in and finding the 5-6 hours it would require to do my blog posts justice would just force me to push it off until too many of the details, the feelings, the initial, unconvoluted impressions have slipped away.

So it is that I am sitting on the porch of my bungalow at the Otres Orchid, just three days before I am due  to board a plane back to Korea, feeling the necessity in getting it all down now, while my spirit is still in the grips of this magical country.  I’ve had quite enough sun and sitting here on my shady porch with my laptop in front of me feels perfectly acceptable – if I’m feeling the need to connect with my surrounds, I’ll simply take a break to walk the thirty strides to the bath-warm sea and have a dip.