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Middle Kingdom Podcasts (2005-2017)

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Carry On


The Australian nurses leave tonight. They fly "home" to family and friends after three weeks on the ground.

Some, certainly not all, pack their Cambodian "humbling, life changing experience" in their hand luggage.

One wonders, "how can I get my entire humbling, lfe changing experience into this very small bag?" Her question may trouble her for a second, minute, hour, day, week, month, year or the rest of her short sweet life. It's her experience.  She knows it's impossible to check it all the way through. She has to to carry it. 

She gets it ready. She assembles it on the floor along with fragrant toilet articles, clothing and soft silk scarves. Her experience contains a poor village near Siem Reap. She knows and loves everyone because she lived there. She took care of the people. She cried herself to sleep every night. In the village are thirsty, hungry, exhausted, sick children, women and men. One woman alone takes care of 16 children. 

She puts this one little village and everyone into her bag. To utilize space she discards everything else. 

She saves weight because there is no clean drinking water. She throws in handfuls of cooked rice to give them nourishment during the long flight to Sydney. 

She doesn't know how many will survive. She's finally ready to take her personal humbling, lfe changing experience home.




Yellow Butterfly Guide


Evidence of intelligent life on Earth is greatly exaggerated. It's a rumor. A myth.

I recently wandered Banteay Kdei and Ta Phrom.

Kdei is great for walking through dust. A sun yellow butterfly was my guide. It led me around the perimeter for a feeling of perspective. Being outside gives you the feeling of space acknowledging deep green forest. I do this at every temple. It's rare to see others explore the outside. Intelligence on Earth is rare.

Tourist ants are in a highly disciplined hurry. They march in, follow others, follow the stone path. They wander around, make a lot of noise, pose for pictures and march out. Their time is limited. Many look serious and sad, especially the Europeans. They are clearly controlled by forces unknown to them. It may be a silent ticking mechanism on their wrist near a pulse. They are little robots.

I remember a Tibetan saying, "I would rather be a tiger for one day than a sheep for a thousand years."

I explored outside slowly inside gentle winds from the forest. It's a very slow walking meditation. I engaged all my senses. Thick dust underfoot is a welcome relief after stones. I am surrounded by light and shadows dancing through leaves. All nature all the time.

Butterfly leads me to interior passages and shadowed experiences. Butterfly shows me mysterious art. Deep interior space. It takes ages to reach the center. 

Prohm is where "possibly the most famous photographed tree on planet Earth exists." It entwines itself around and through soft stones. It's a zoo. Human hoards line up to take a photo. They push and shove and jostle so they can have their picture taken with this tree.

Italian, French and German tongues wag like mongrels in heat. Life is a bitch. The Japanese, as I mentioned in an earlier post from The Silk Farm are total photo freaks, obsessed with posing in doorways, passages, with carvings, plants, ferns and leaves. They feel the experience with their cameras. They behave like the temples are one gigantic amusement park. 

Here's the tree. No humans. Actually there is a tiny tourist sleeping inside the third root from the center.

Banteay Kdei and Ta Phrom galleries.




Beng Mealea


The mysterious and magical temple at Beng Mealea is wonderful. Dating from the 12th C., it was built to the same floor plan as Angkor Wat. At one time it was connected by 10 bridges through the jungle to Angkor Thom and Preah Khan. Nature owns it.

You climb over huge piles of stones between hanging vines, exploring a well preserved library, impressive carvings, destroyed central tower and deep dark passageways. Perfect for exploring. An elevated wooden walk way allows for a higher perspective. 

Beng Mealea images...



At breakfast

Three middle aged Americans and two 28-year old girls arrive and sit on soft cushions. One is the niece of the man. They've just arrived from a horrendous scam-filled long bus ride from Bangkok. 

The man is soft spoken. He's an Asian tour guide. He reminds me of Robert Thurman, the Tibetan scholar. His wife is an attorney in Portland, Oregon. She deals with suits. No one at breakfast is wearing a suit. I know her job because of the way she cross examines the two girls. An older woman with regal bearing is with them, perhaps one's mother. She is patient, kind and asks intelligent questions.

She lives in Eugene, Oregon as does one of the girls. The older woman grew up in Eugene, attended Portland State College and loved languages, especially Italian. She moved to Rome for six years. She came back and got her M.A. in Italian and Foreign Languages at the University of Oregon. She taught Italian until retiring. 

The attorney and the woman talk about growing up. The attorney is from Michigan.

"I was only able to get away for two weeks. My boss said, 'What happens if someone sues someone and you're not here to handle the case?'"

The older woman said, "It was just coincidence I ended up back in Eugene. It was hard growing up there."

"Why," said the attorney.

"It was the late 40's. We didn't have enough to eat. It was only steak and they cooked it to a cinder. It was that and potatoes. One brand of rice. I remember my mother and father loading us in the car and we'd drive to San Francisco to buy food."

"To sell?" asked the attorney.

The older woman looked at her. "No. To eat." I hear her thinking in Italian, "Mama mia! What a crazy question!"

The group talks about the bus, lodgings, cost and border hassles. The girls are dead tired. They compare travel stories. One girl has just completed a month teaching English in Burma. She says she managed to find a job through a foreign woman running a tour company.

"Yes," said the man, "there are people there who know the system. Where did you teach?"

"I didn't teach school. I taught teachers."

The man knows Burma. "I see. The authorities are very suspicious of foreigners. It's difficult to really get to know the people."

"I hoped to spend time with the Burmese in their homes but it was forbidden," said the girl.

I see the girl teaching a class of Burmese "teachers."

Half work for a government agency designed to acquire western educational pedagogical plans. The other half work for the secret police. One is a real teacher. Can you find the real teacher?


A teacher.


Clean Water Please


The team of Australian nurses had a medical briefing. The head nurse talked about the biggest problem they've seen in Siem Reap communities since arriving two weeks ago.

"It's dehydration. It's the loss of electrolytes (salt)." 

They discussed primary concerns and physiological assessments. They talked about signs and symptoms. They discussed their progress helping and educating people. They returned to the villages.  

One billion people on Earth do not have access to clean water.


Cambodia Statistics:

Total population: 14,197,000

Gross national income per capita (PPP international $): 1,550

Life expectancy at birth m/f (years): 59/65

Healthy life expectancy at birth m/f (years, 2003): 46/49

Probability of dying under five (per 1 000 live births): 82

Probability of dying between 15 and 60 years m/f (per 1 000 population): 314/207

Total expenditure on health per capita (Intl $, 2006): 167

Total expenditure on health as % of GDP (2006): 6.0

Figures are for 2006 unless indicated. Source: World Health Statistics 2008