12:24AM Monday (according to my computer, which may or may not be true as I’ve passed about a zillion time zones in airplanes today):
Earlier today, I wrote in my journal that time was passing so quickly. After making it through security, I had to look at two different clocks to believe that the time had passed and it was already time to board. There was a flight that felt like, barely having yawned to equalize my ears from the ascent, we were landing. I had a three and a half hour layover in LAX that felt like seven minutes.
But now. Now I sit on a flight from LAX to GuangZhou, China. Fourteen plus hours. And, while I knew those hours sounded hellish, they are being drawn out like those Lutheran sermons I used to have to sit through in grade school.
So far, I’ve watched two feature-length movies. Started a third. Drank two cups of tea and four cups of water. Dug around with a fork in some mashed potatoes, and later some fish. Consumed two tiny plastic containers of butter, chunked onto rolls freed from crinkly plastic tents. I’ve washed my hands four times, sprayed this delightful lavender hand sanitizer on them once. Nope. Make that twice (just thinking about it made me spray it again). I have now washed my face twice — once in the cramped bathroom sink, once with the warm washcloth brought to my seat. I’ve taken my shoes off three times and put them on twice. I’ve done lovingkindness meditations innumerable times. I’ve listened to the tiniest larynx shriek protest against the pressure changes and turbulence. I’ve slept for a couple of hours. And still no time has passed.
Get out the computer. Type. Search. No internet. Write offline. Look at downloaded things. Things about Cambodia. Things from home. Home. Home. Home….
A friend, in one of my last texts received from the US, gave the usual wishes for a good trip, but also told me not to think of home. This is the most novel advice I have heard since beginning to tell people I was going on this trip. I am not sure if he said it as a word of warning against missing what I’ve left behind or as a reminder to be mindful in my current experiences, but both are equally as poignant, equally as important.
I do wonder about travel now with infinite possibilities for connectivity. Recently, when I was in England, Scotland and Iceland, I was able to easily keep in touch with people back home. Perhaps a little too easily. I just wonder if that ability to be connected doesn’t distract from a sense of mindfulness, of being present. I mean, when I’m able to check messages on WhatsApp, Facebook, Hangouts, Viber and Voxer, it’s hard to really be focused on what is in front of you (just slightly further than your phone). While I guess this is always a question when at home in the US, it becomes more glaring and obvious while traveling. It allows me to avoid feeling disconnected, but will it keep me from fully engaging when I arrive?
Dawn, Wednesday (according to the sky, as I’m sitting on my balcony):
Well, I have landed.
Picked up at the airport by a delightful American speech and language therapist (SLT – I’ll call her SLT1) working here in Cambodia, I got settled into my delightful apartment the first night (my own giant bedroom! with my own big, comfortable bed! and my own en suite bathroom! with a western shower! (Khmer showers are more like RV showers, where they are just an open shower in the bathroom and everything else gets wet)). Well, actually it was early morning, but SLT1 and her boyfriend were as chipper as if they were picking me up at 1:00pm instead of 1:00am. He did report that he had been getting a bit crabby waiting, but then on the drive to the apartment in no traffic, being able to zip along, making the drive 8 minutes instead of 45, he said that the fun driving was worth it. (Whew!)
The neighborhood I am in is quite Western, which makes for an easier transition. And, while this is definitely true (a bubble of “comfort” is good for a transition!), I am hoping that venturing out even further will come soon enough.
For this moment, I am content to sit on my lovely balcony with a cup of coffee (thanks for the coffee setup, SLT1!), listening to the call to prayer mixing with the sounds of traffic and construction, watching the people zip by on motos and tuk tuks. Also reflecting on the absolutely delicious mushroom and tofu amok (a beautiful curry dish) I had for dinner last night and wondering when I can squeeze in a cooking class…
Overall gratitude this morning that it’s so easy to be mindful and present when everything is so novel!