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Podcast 2019
Middle Kingdom Podcasts (2005-2017)

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Julia wakes up in Cambodia


Julia is from Stockholm, Sweden. She is 36-years young. She was married for 10 long angry violent years to a Black man from Atlanta.

We met at a guesthouse in Siem Reap, Cambodia. She was a tight bundle of burning anxieties. 

She opened up. "I don't know what I'm running away from. I don't know what I'm running toward." We talked about the amazing passages inside Angkor temples, being an allegory of her travels.

- One door opens and one door closes but the passages can be a bitch, whispered a traveling ghost.

I suggested she'd evolved as a willing victim of old lies, how she'd believed the old lies from the authority figures (family, husband, boss, friends) in her life. How she'd believed, in her heart, the old controlling attitudes and belief systems of others. How her new day in Cambodia, this beginning, offered her new opportunities for awareness and growth.

Like other humans, to become real, she'd eventually face her deep multiple fears. Plural. It was either that or keep on running scared. Wild animals on her trail.

"I want to cut all my hair off." It was long curling blond movie star mane quality hair. We went to a salon. She was naturally nervous. She swallowed hard. A woman cut it off. Julia felt lighter and more free. She altered her outward appearance, releasing old anxieties.

By cutting her hair with bright shiny silver scissors, a complete symbolic gesture, Julia realized how she felt was more important than how her stone cold colleagues back in stone cold freezing Sweden might react. It was a small significant step on her new path. 

One day Julia went far away to see, hear, touch, taste, and feel a temple's influence on her consciousness.

She visited My Grandfather's House and the village school. She bought them a water purifier. She bought them a battery so they'd have lights after dark.

Another day, returning from temples she stopped in a village and met some children.

The next morning she invited me to join her. We stopped at a shop where she purchased bags of toothbrushes and toothpaste. We rolled through the flat countryside passing simple bamboo homes, women selling, cooking, cleaning, washing and working. We were far away from the big bright town filled with happy white tourists doing Angkor.

Julia talked a blue streak...unloading all her honesty, hopes, and dreams well mixed with anxieties and fears.

"I feel good doing this," she said. "I've never done anything like this before. My past life was all about anger. It was shit. Way too many problems and conflicts. Now that I'm in Cambodia, what, less than a week, I'm beginning to learn about myself, seeing how my life was empty with no meaning. How it was all about pleasing others, buying useless things to make myself feel better."

We turned off the paved road onto a thin dirt track leading to a bamboo thatched home on stilts in a field. Half-naked kids played. Old women and men sat in the shade. Julia met the kids and a young mother.

"Here," she smiled, handing them toothbrushes and paste, "these are for you." The kids and mothers were amazed. An 80-year old woman, a former Apsara dancer performed some quick movements.  Julia copied her to the delight of everyone.

We left. "I'll be back," Julia yelled as kids ran behind waving. 

"I now feel more fulfilled," she said. We stopped in a small market village for coffee. Young girls selling small colorful bamboo paper birds descended on us. "Buy something?" 

Julia met Rita, second from the right. Rita's 14 and in the 5th grade. Rita learned her English selling to foreigners at the temples after school. "I saw a leader in the girl's eyes," Julia said as we rode back to the city. "Maybe I can help her, get an English teacher for her village. Give her an opportunity to really grow."

The short version is that Julia had to modify her dream for the girl. "Let's be practical," I suggested. Finding a Khmer English teacher for $80 a month was like finding clean drinking water.

The next day Julia bought a brand new pink bike for Rita. A bell, basket, the works. It said, 'NEW STAR' on the chain guard. We went to a bookstore and bought a whiteboard, boxes of markers and 20 basic English books, picture dictionaries and story books. We loaded them on a tuk-tuk and rolled to the village. 

Rita, her family - they raise pigs, dad kills them, mom sells the meat in the market, older sisters hustle wealthy tourists hoping to get a boyfriend and get out - and friends were waiting for Julia.

"Here, Rita all this is for you," said Julia. "The bike will help you get to school, the temples and home. The whiteboard, markers and books will help you teach English here." Rita smiled. "Thank you."

Rita jumped on her bike and pedaled through dust, broken leaves, around the house. Julia spread the books out and all the kids explored new images, words, ABC alphabets and color. Julia exchanged email and postal addresses with Rita. 

"I feel real good about this," Julia said as we rolled through Cambodia. "Real good. I've made a small difference in a young girl's life. I am so grateful."


Julia and kids...