In between China and crashing into an ox cart I spent a wonderful weekend at this nice hotel called the sofitel because Kurt's grandparents were in town! I was pretty nervous about it even in China, but it was a wonderful weekend in the end. To start off, I biked there and the weather was pretty nice for the ride. It felt really good to not be trapped in some plane, train, bus or taxi. Felt good to flex my muscles again. I showed up at the hotel and asked where I could park my bike, but the security guard, good naturedly, told me I had gone in the EXIT and that I had to leave the driveway and go about 50 meters down the road to the Entrance. I was shocked. Never before I had I experienced such enforcement of rules in Cambodia. This is a country where driving down the road on the wrong side of the highway is perfectly acceptable. This is the country where you can dry your rice on both sides of the road, turning it into a single lane, and not even feel bad about yourself. This is the country where you ride your moto and hold your helmet instead of wearing it and no one thinks that's strange or oddly flaunting the law. So, I begrudgingly turned around, got plenty of oil on the back of my right leg which happens all the time, and went searching for the entrance.
Once I made it in the IN part of the driveway things went smoothly. I took a shower in the nicest shower I've seen in a long long time. The shower was actually enclosed in glass versus being completely open and always getting the toilet paper wet. And then I met Kurt's grandparents. And everything was good. Normally, I get really nervous meeting people that are older than me, whether they're 5 years older or 20 years, but I felt really at ease and I really enjoyed meeting them. Also, the breakfast buffet and the bacon helped my nerves a lot. The sofitel also had a huge pool and it smelled really nice all the time. Also, a PS2. Yes, I still kick ass at Capcom vs. Marvel.
One day, Kurt and I went with his grandparents to see Banteay Srei. I was so so grateful that his grandparents paid to have us driven there. Originally, I had planned on biking there, but it was a lot harder to find and a lot farther away than I thought. Also, while beautiful, the temple itself is fairly small and so I don't think it's worth a bike ride unless you do a picnic lunch or something after.
Oh, and it was halloween that weekend too! I was a werepanda, half panda half human. Kurt was a rice farmer. Then halfway through the night it just got too hot to wear my panda hat so I put it on my belt and became a panda hunter and kurt was just kurt.
It's always interesting to stay in such a nice place because my house 30 km away is a totally different world. I had the same feeling when I walked into the US Embassy a few months ago. There are all these small recreations of the western affluent world in Cambodia and really it doesn't seem fair, but at the same time luxury is something I've, personally, wanted my entire life. If you polled most rural Cambodians, I bet a lot of them would tell you that they want the giant 3 or 4 story house. They want a car. They want a job that pays a lot of money. They want the new tv. They want all these things too and they probably want it more than middle class Americans or the people that already have them. They want it more because they can't have it. To them it's always a dream.
That's the way it was growing up. Having an apartment of my own in Manhattan. Being able to take taxi cabs instead of the subway. Having nice clothes, a respectable high paying job. It's all part of a dream that a lot of people have and that's not a bad thing. It's just ironic that the people that have this dream and that eventually attain it might be the ones least concerned with helping others. You spend your whole life struggling and trying to reach something. To get there you have to devote 100% of yourself and once you get there you try as hard as you can to forget how much you had to struggle in the past. It's a new life now. It's hard to keep in mind how many people probably had to be self-less in order to help you make it. Parents, friends, anonymous scholarship donors, not so anonymous scholarship donors, library volunteers, free tutoring, free music lessons after school, art programs. I worked hard to make it to college and graduate and I have the potential to have a luxurious life style, but I didn't do it alone. It took a lot of people that wanted to help others to help me make it here even if they didn't realize they were helping me. It seems odd to me now, how badly I wanted something that I don't really need. And yea, honestly, part of me still wants it. Especially food wise. I would still love to just be able to walk into any restaurant and order anything I want off the menu. But, I think I'm more willing to be flexible now. It's not an all or nothing. As long as I can keep others in mind and actively work toward helping them then I think, once in a while, I can indulge in something for me.
Sort of reminds me of something I studied for a small bit in college. I think for a class, Maine Social Research, we read an article about a woman on welfare and the article was attached with comments. The comments were just filled with people saying how this woman on welfare shouldn't own a dog. Pretty much blaming her continued poverty on the dog. But, I would ask others how long could you live a sparse lifestyle with ONLY the things you need for survival? People blame the poor for owning tvs or buying a new couch, but it's hard to live life when all you do is work, eat, and sleep. What's the point of living if you can't even have a dog? We're people, not robots.