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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Only One

OK, I'll post one picture. This was taken while going coconut-hunting. All you need is a 40-foot long bamboo pole with a metal hook tied to the end to jimmy the little beasts out of their little treehouse and a machete to hack them to pieces and eat them. You could wear a helmet, but I think a falling coconut would probably kill you anyway.

A tip I learned from my friend who used to live in the forest: the coconut is almost entirely self-sufficient. By which I mean that, if you have a machete, you can chop off a slice of the husk and use it as a spoon to cut the fruity flesh out of the inside, or you can make a little nick in the husk, pull it up, and, voila, you've got a string for carrying the 'nut or tying it to your bike or something.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Where am I now? (As I write, not as You read)

If you guessed Siem Reap, Cambodia (home of the famed Angkor Wat temple bonanza), you win 8000 Cambodia Riel, which is less than 2 dollars but is enough to buy an amazing bowl of lime-spinach-fish soup. It's much better than it sounds.

Last time I wrote, maybe it was from Malaysia? Kuching, I believe. Anyhow. From Singapore, I went to the Malaysian mainland, then made a little foray to the island of Borneo, where I stayed for about 2 weeks, doing some trails and jungle hiking and spelunking (AKA speleologizing) in the largest caves in SE Asia. London's St. Paul's Cathedral could fit inside one of them. Also, sensibly enough, it is among the best places in the world for guano-collecting.

Then to Kuala Lumpur for New Year's, and now to Siem Reap for the temples, which would take about a week to explore thoroughly. You'd have to be a double PhD candidate in Khmer architecture and cosmology to want to spend that much time here though. 2.5 days was enough for me. But I booked too many nights at the guesthouse, (only 6 bucks a night for a private room, with its own bathroom, and breakfast in the morning) so I am just bumming around today, thus the blog entry.

Last night, Chan Tha, the guy who had served as my driver for 2 days (you need to pay someone to drive you to and from the various temples on a minibike) took me to the charity English school where he works at night, and his students (some kids, some adults) did a little Q&A session with me for practice. His director was quite pleased to meet me and gave me a warm beer to drink while instructing the kiddies. After class, Then he took me to a restaurant where we got 1) stir fried beef with onions, greens, and red ants; 2) fried frogs (not just legs); 3) peanuts; 4) rice; 5)a few pitchers of beer; 6)special attention from his waitress friends, all for 12 dollars.

He explained to me that tomorrow is called "Second Life" day in Cambodia, not because everyone plays some ridiculous video game but because everyone celebrates the end of Pol Pot's regime, which was so terrible that his deposition was essentially a rebirth for the nation. Eventually I'll go to see the mass graves, which are just pits filled with crushed skulls and rotting skeletons. I can still remember how sobering Dachau concentration camp was, and I expect this to be even worse.

Anyway, since he has the day off tomorrow, he may take me to the village where he was born, where there's no electricity or plumbing, but plenty of coconuts and fish. Then again, he didn't come to my guesthouse this morning to confirm, so if I don't hear from him tonight, I think I'll just make plans to head to Phnom Penh in the morning, then on to Vietnam, Laos, and then my class. I can't believe I hardly even have a month left.

Sorry that I can't be bothered to post any pictures. If you're curious, I have taken about 2700 photos so far, generally falling into the following categories: jungles/waterfalls, caves, temples/temple decoration/religious stuff, notable/strange foods, and near-daily self photos to document beard growth, which is, to be euphemistic, not quite as awesome as I had hoped, and I may have to content myself with just a 'stache for the time being. I have not yet done the beach thing, but maybe I will in Vietnam.

I have also finished six books so far:
Lin Yutang: The Importance of Living (Awesome)
Lin Yutang: My Country and My People (Pretty Awesome)
Ken Wilber: A Brief History of Everything (Surprisingly not too bad, but also not awesome)
Richard Nisbett: The Geography of Thought (a little disappointing, but not terrible)
Herman Hesse: Siddhartha (not bad, but I hold Hesse to a higher standard)
Kim Edwards: The Memory Keeper's Daughter (Atrocious, but the only English book around at the guesthouse bookswap. Anyway, I love reading and hating on super-hyped bestsellers.

I just bought Gao Xingjian's "Soul Mountain" at a used book shop and am excited to read it, not that I know anything about it or him. I'm also still working on a Korean book that a friend gave to me before I left and am fortunate to have bought an MP3 player that has a Korean dictionary feature.

I think that just about does it.