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Monday, August 22, 2011

From Rocket Launcher to Hipppie

Summer has been pretty sweet so far. I have been racing my bike a decent amount. Some jackass at the Concord criterium crashed me. We had 5 laps to go, my heart was pumping, and my legs were feeling awesome, I was in great position and feeling strong. We came around a tight corner with ledges on both sides, I was on the outside with about a foot between me and the ledge, this crazy dude came flying up from nowhere and in a feeble attempt tries squeezing himself between me and the curb. He wrapped his drop bars around mine, slammed into the curb and went down hard and took me with him. I landed on top of him with my bike flying into the air. I was soooooooooo pissed at this guy. Now I'm usually a very easy going chill kinda dude, and the only other time I can remember flipping out on someone was when this punk kid stole my brand new mtnbike off my front porch. I found him, flipped out on him and dumped a bag of skittles on his head. Anyways, I started screaming at this guy, I saw red, this guy just ruined this race for me. He walked away from me at a more than brisk pace, dragging behind him his mangled bike. I ripped my bike up to hop back on only to realize my derailer had been ripped right off my frame. I picked up a bale of hay and threw it into the street in a fit of rage. Some guy said "hey that's not cool" I looked him straight in the eye, and guess what I said.............. I said..... "yeah you're right" and picked the hay up and put it back where it belonged, took my shoes off, cause I hate walking with cleats and I walked barefoot back to my car, carrying my bicycle with me. Shit happens in bike racing and I know that it is no use getting pissed off over it, but that's really hard to do when you're in the moment and something like that happens. I cooled down quickly from it and licked my wounds and watched the rest of the fields finish their races. After that race I did pretty well though, I took 4th place at the Beverly criterium, 2nd place at the Salem criterium (congrats to Tom Kroot for taking the W), and 6th at the Capital Region road race. I have been feeling pretty strong on the bike and in the category 4 field and I have had some really good finishes, so I put in for my category 3 upgrade and got DENIED!
I put in for the upgrade right before a camping trip with my new job and after everyone went to sleep, I checked my email on my phone and saw that email from usa cycling and my heart dropped when I opened it and saw that I was denied. I thought for sure I was going to get my upgrade. Oh well, that's how life works. I have a couple races left this year and hopefully I can smash it and get some more points.

On other fronts, I have an amazing new beard and I need to give photo credit to Dagan who shot this beautiful candid of me in deep thought at the annual Berkshire Bike and Board customer appreciation party. It was a ton of fun, catered by Craig and it seemed like the entire Berkshire cycling community was out that night. Such an awesome crew of so many diverse people that share one thing in common, the love of cycling!

I spent the weekend in Burlington doing my residency for the independent degree program I started. I met all of my professors and some other really chill IDP students. I really like Burlington college. It's a small private school and they cater very well to non traditional students like myself that have lives outside of school. On the down side, it's a TON of work. I have 24 books to read this semester and over 140 pages of writing to do. I'm taking 2 foundational courses on psychology with one professor, and 3 classes with another professor. They are Shamanism, intro to Transpersonal Psychology and Ecopsychology. I am so stoked to be learning about this stuff, but we will see how I do with planning all my own coursework, reading and researching everything on my own.

Here's a picture of me with a rocket launcher when I was in the military. I weighed about 185 in this picture, I was a LOT bigger than I am now. Hahahahaha

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Home Sweet Home

Ok, so I know it's been a few months since I blogged last and soooo much has happened since returning from Asia.
I took a month off from the internet while I was in Indonesia and doing my yoga teacher training. It was the greatest thing ever! Not being connected and being in one of the most beautiful places in the world was so refreshing, and spiritually rejuvenating.
Ok, so where to start.... So much has happened since I've been back. I just finished my last 3 classes at BCC and graduated with my Associates degree. I start at Burlington College in Vermont on Aug 12th. I will be studying Trans-personal Psychology with a concentration in Native American and Eco-Psychology. I am so stoked to be studying something I can apply directly to my life, and hell, a BA is a BA it's not going to matter what I get it in!!
I started racing bikes again after a 2 year hiatus from racing. I lost all of my upgrade points and I'm starting all over as a cat 4. Bike touring does NOT make you any faster. It is the best way to travel in a foreign country but you don't get any intensity. So my first race I finished in the top 20 which was awesome, it was a super hilly road race and it was a "rust breaker" for me. I finished 5th in a crit, and then I did the Tour of the Hilltowns and ended up lying in the river around mile 50 because my legs locked up. I have never cramped so bad in my life and the river was the best idea I've ever had. I saw riders flying by, looking at me in the river in envy. Hhahaha, I still finished the race but felt totally drained after. It was sooo hot out that day.

It feels really good to be back in the states and have a home base for riding and living. The first time I walked into the grocery store I was totally overwhelmed though. I didn't realize we have 5 million different kinds of yogurt on the shelves. I really miss the sense of community there was in Asia everywhere you went. People live their lives outside and at markets and sure, we have farmers markets but everything is still super expensive and elitist.

Anyways, I am so glad to be home and I have 2 weeks off before I start school!!!! Time to catch up with friends, spend time with family and ride my bike!!!!

But with all of the amazing times, life goes on and there is sorrow. Auntie Lynn and Al both passed away this past month. They were both amazing people. Auntie Lynn was one of the most spontaneous and randomly funny people I knew, she always lit the room up when she walked in, I am so grateful for spending time with her after I got back. Al was also a great dude, he told me all sorts of funny stories about my dad and was always smiling.
I have been thinking a lot about impermanence lately and realize anything can happen and I must live my life to best of my ability every day and try and live every day as it were my last.

Highlights of the last few months,

Grand Fundo!!!!
Swimming in the Green River
Riding bikes with my brother
Hiking barefoot with good friends
Canoeing to islands
Dirt hill climbs
Eve of Destrucion
New motorcycle
Shaving my insane Jesus beard
Hammock on the porch
Berkshire summer evenings
Super Hero Parties

To all my friends, and family,
I love you all dearly and I am grateful and thankful for you in my life. You are the reasons I keep doing what I am doing. I wish you all happiness, ease and non-suffering.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cameron Highlands

This place is absolute heaven to me!!!
This past week I haven't been able to ride at all, the roads in Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh were strewn with crazy traffic that doesn't give a damn about cyclists.
I stayed with a couchsurfer in KL and in Ipoh, they were my first couchsurfing experiences and I couldn't have asked for a better experience. I think it is one of the best ways to
travel. Joslyn was my first host in KL and she picked me up from the train station, brought me to her place and then showed me the best local spots to eat. The second night we went to a Hoobastank concert in downtown KL. It was sooooo much fun, I danced all night long with locals, they loved dancing with the tall mahtsahlay (white guy) with the big crazy hair. Then I headed to Ipoh a town at the base of the
Cameron highlands and my hosts name was Wen, she also took me to all the awesome local spots and treated me to a chinese dish called thunder tea rice, it was amazing!!! It was 5 bowls of food, desert, and a sweet potato drink all for 10 ringgits, which is just over 3 USD. She brought me around to all these chinese temples built into the sides of caves. Ipoh and KL were both cool towns and they have such an interesting mix of people.
I am now in a little mountain town called Tanah Ratah in the Cameron
Highlands and this place is sooooo amazing. I LOVE it here, when I got off the bus and stepped outside it was like 15 degrees cooler. I had to walk into town and buy this super cheesy looking sweater for 6 ringgit cause I was cold!!!! I havent been cold in months!!! Usually by 11 the heat is unbearable.
I went on the most epic ride today past all these tea plantations, strawberry plantations and bee farms. The mountains are about 7,000 feet high and I am right in the middle of them. I rode out to this tea plantation and had a cup of tea and a piece of chocolate cake and then climbed up the mountain to this little view point and did some yoga all by myself, I didn't see anyone else the entire time I was up there.

After some yoga, I got some delicious Indian food then set back on the road for a 10km climb back to town. I could spend a month here and never get bored, theres tons of hiking trails and super cheap amazing food.

I just signed up for a yoga teacher training in Bali starting on the 24th. I was randomly thinking of how cool it would be to take my YTT over here and I googled courses in Bali and 4 days after I fly there one starts and the founder and teacher has a studio and does trainings in North Adams as well!!!! Its called Frog Lotus Yoga and I will be a certified yoga teacher through Yoga Alliance when I get back to the states!!!!

Thursday, April 7, 2011


I have been slacking in the blog department, it's been over a week since my last update. Krabi was the most amazing place. I stayed at this huge hostel with dorms and I met an amazing group of friends that I will never forget. We had all kinds of adventures, from island hopping to jungle fresh water swimming and bouldering and rock climbing on the beach.
My friend Tammy also met me in Krabi and we finished up shooting and editing our video application for the Amazing Race.

I took off from Krabi yesterday and
spent the day traveling and I am now in Subang Jaya, a suburb of the huge Malaysian city Kuala Lumpur. I flew from Krabi to KL and had to
take an hour bus ride to the city center and then take a train to where my couchsurfing host picked me up. I have never seen anything like the train I had to get on. It was like packing a million sardines into a tiny little can, I didn't know you could fit so many people in one tiny space. It didn't help that it was 104 degrees and humid outside, so there was a definite tinge to the air. Anyways I made it here safe and sound and Joslyn my couchsurfing host is so awesome!!! I have my own room to stay in and she took me out last night and showed me some cool touristy sights and then took me for the best meal I have yet in SE Asia!!!! I ordered wayyyy to much food and ended up eating the rest of it for breakfast today.

This place is so much different than anywhere I have been in SE Asia, it is very modern and clean. I saw a Malaysian woman at an international supermarket buying a bag of cool ranch doritos!!! hahahahaha, I was in a shopping mall that was 6 stories high and
they had a big slide you could slide down from the 6th floor, sooooo awesome!!! Theres a big mixture of people here, Indian, Malay, Thai, and Chinese so there is every type of food you can dream of, all for super cheap. Oh man I died and went to heaven, I have been eating all day today. It's also a really rich country so they have all sorts of imported foods 2, so I got a grapefruit from Florida today hahahaha they're my favorite though. Tomorrow night were going to a free concert in downtown KL and then I will catch a bus Saturday to Ipoh and then slowly make my way to the Cameron Highlands for some epic riding, strawberry and tea plantations.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Oh man, this past 24 hours has been totally insane!
I spent the last 4 days in Bangkok and met up with my friend Tammy to work on our Amazing race application. Bangkok is a crazy fast paced city, kind of like NYC but with wayyyyy more street food and vendors. The last time I was in Bangkok I was just arriving in Asia and I felt so overwhelmed, but after being here for a few months and really softening to the whole experience, Bangkok was not that big of a deal. We shot a bunch of footage for our 3 minute video and got this good clip of me talking a tuk tuk driver into letting me drive him around in his tuk tuk, hahahaha it was hilarious.

Ok so here is where the story gets insane. I got a ticket for a sleeper train to Surat Thani which is in southern Thailand and the train left on schedule and everything was good until about 5.5 hours into the ride the train suddenly stopped and some dude came and said in very broken english that we were heading back to Bangkok, now thank god the woman in the seat/bed next to mine could
speak english cause she explained to me that there was massive flooding and we had to turn around. So another 5.5 hours back to Bangkok and we arrive at 5am and get refunded our money, now I'm in a daze from not really sleeping and I have no idea what I'm going to do. I decide to catch a cab to the airport and just hop on the next flight to Krabi, even further in the south. So I get to the airport around 7am and the next flight isn't until 2:45 so I sit around the airport all day and try to sleep on some metal chairs unsuccessfully. Finally I'm in the air
and I can smell my B.O. through the knock off adidas shirt I bought at the market the night before. We land in Krabi and its pissing rain, I immediately thought of the movie Forest Gump when he's in Vietnam describing all the different kinds of rain, and this rain was the big ol fat rain. I got in a van taxi to head into town and the roads progressively got worse as we made our way closer. Everywhere I looked there were people in this brown dirty water up to their waists, I look another direction and I can only see the roof of a car underwater.
Theres a river flowing down every side street, people wearing life preservers, people in kayaks paddling down the street. The driver decides to head back to the airport and it takes us another hour and a half to get back, as landslides were flowing past the road and motorbikes floating down the street, it was absolute chaos. I have only seen natural disaster like this on the TV from my safe warm living room in the states. Being in the middle of it is a whole different story, I have a whole new respect and compassion for anyone that has to go through anything like this.

So I am camped out in the airport tonight and maybe for a day or 2 more, who knows when this rain will stop.

Wish me luck!!!!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Acceptance is hard

So I finally bit the bullet and got medical help. It was Sunday and the doctor I wanted to see wasn't in, so I called his cell and he told me to get some Xrays and then bring them in to him tomorrow. So I began my journey to find an Xray machine. It took me about an hour, I have gotten good at pantomiming and finding the things I need in this country. It was little little dodgy clinic and no-one spoke a word of english. Then the guy who ran the place finally came out and understood me a bit. They took me into this room with this huge machine that took up most of the room, apparently this is what an Xray machine looked like in the 1095's hahahaha, it was rusty and had grease on all the moving metal parts. I had to lay on that plank looking thing and this guy dressed in a creepy X-files looking green thing took Xrays of me knees. They actually came out surprisingly well.

The next day I went to the doc and he took a look at the Xrays and the verdict is there's no major damage such as bone breakage but I might have sprained or slightly torn a ligament or possibly bruised a bone in both knees. So I am having a difficult time accepting I'm not going to be riding my bike for a few weeks at least. It sucks but it's part of life. I am grateful for not breaking anything and by not being on the bike I'll have plenty of time to spend at the gym getting JACKED hahahahaa, this guy I'm in the pic with is a Cambodian body builder I look tiny standing next to him hahahaha, him and his whole crew are all really cool and made me feel at home
in their gym that has no fan or air-con, HARDCORE!!

So my plan now is to head to Bangkok on the 24th and meet up with my friend Tammy who made me apply to be on the TV show the amazing race. I have never even seen the show but she gets all fired up about how good a team we will be hahahah. So we have to make a 3
minute clip to send in with out application so were meeting in Bangkok to make it. I will also go to the international hospital while there and get a second opinion about my knee situation.

This last picture I took the other night. I thought it was hilarious. These security guards are everywhere all over town, this picture depicts how useful they actually are.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

I think it's a mixture of reading The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama and taking a bunch of time off my bike that has allowed me the pleasure of actually slowing down and chilling. This whole trip I have been going 100mph and getting myself into all kinds of scenarios and having all kinds of experiences. Well that didn't stop, I just slowed down and the situations and scenarios slowed down as well, they still happened though.
After the bike accident I continued to ride a borrowed bike a couple days after and on the 3rd day after crashing, it all caught up to me and my knees swelled up like balloons. I thought "oh crap I probably should have taken time off right after this crash". So the past few days have been filled with ice, ibuprofen, tiger balm and lots of movies and reading.
Now for those of you who know me, slowing down and doing these things is not my nature, so it has been very healing for me to just find a nice spot to sit and read
orjust reflect on this whole trip and regroup a little bit.
The other day I had some good chats with local tuk tuk drivers and found out there is a local spot where Cambodian bodybuilders lift weights so I had him bring me there. Man it felt good to actually move my body again. Working out there made me realize how weak my upper body is, it's 2 days later and my chest and arms are still really sore, hahahaha. This gym was so cool, it looked like it came right out of the 70s, the machines were
so old and there were pictures around the whole gym of Schwarzenegger when he was like 20 hahahaha. (check out the pic above this, its the entrance to the gym hahahah) All the people I met there were so nice, not like the big jackass muscle heads in the gym back home who just kind of look at me like I don't belong there cause I'm a skinny little cyclist. After the gym I found a pool to chill out by for the afternoon and read my new book.
If you want to see what a Cambodian weightlifting blog looks like check it out!
I met a really chill family about a month ago when I was in Phnom Penh, we were having breakfast in the same cafe and I listened in as he read a story to his two little ones in a very animated way. I was thoroughly amused and so were his kids. We ended up striking up a conversation and it turns out Guy is a cyclist also, after some normal everyday banter we said our goodbyes and exchanged email addresses. Well it turns out Guy is a correspondent for BBC news. He gave me a call the other day and wanted me to come out to Phn
om Penh to do a story on my travels. I jumped at the opportunity and flew out to Phnom Penh f
or one day and then flew back to Siem Reap the same day. I am writing this blog from the airport terminal. I will keep everyone posted as to when it will air.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Samrong Village School

Being in the middle of the Angkor temples was the experience of a lifetime. To follow this amazing experience I have been presented with another opportunity to meet an amazing family. Laim, the kid I spent a week with in Phnom Penh invited me to visit his family and the school he helped build in Samrong village, about 40km from Siem Reap where Angkor Wat is.
Yesterday Laim's cousin Sa picked me up on her motor bike and whisked me away to the village. It was an hour long motoride down the main road. As we turned off the main road it turned to dirt, we rode another
15km on dirt roads to the single track trail to the village. We pulled up to Laims house which is a simple home on a small piece of land. No electricity, no running water. His mother, brothers and sisters greeted us with big smiles. I sat and talked with them for a while. Then she brought me across the road to see the school. It was also a very simple structure with a thatched roof and a divider made of palm fronds in the middle separating the two classrooms,
sand floors and simple desks. On a side note, I have noticed with each classroom I have gone in that all of the furniture is in good condition, in western schools there's carvings and writing and gum stuck all over everything. These kids really want this stuff to
last and do not take anything for granted. I spent that afternoon playing volleyball with the kids, at one point the game got very serious and there was money put on the game. I
was on one team with 3 other kids and they don't mess around with their volleyball. They are hardcore and spike that thing hard, I was very impressed.

Sa the girl who brought me to the village is also a teacher at the school so after volleyball she brought me to the classrooms where over a hundred kids had congregated. I was to teach my first English class ever. I had no idea what I was doing but the kids seemed to enjoy my teaching.

Sa is a very good teacher and seems so comfortable in the classroom. Sa and one other teacher volunteer their time at this school 5 days a week and sometimes more. It was very inspiring to see all the time and effort she put into teaching these children.

I have agreed to sponsor this school and pay the salary of a teacher for 2 years, and depending on my financial situation or if I can find a way to raise money I will continue to sponsor this school for years to come. It's really is amazing when you can spend time
with amazing people and know that you can help out in some small way.

After class we headed back to Laims parents house and had dinner. We had rice, dried fish, cucumber, and fruit for dessert. They were such nice and sweet people, I am glad to have met them. They taught me some new words in Khmer then I got my stuff and Laims father drove me back to Siem Reap on the motor bike.

I am heading into a week long meditation
and will not have internet or any communication, I am looking forward to taking this time and being in the present. I will see you all on the other side!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Crash and Burn

The magnitude of these amazing temples took me by surprise. I have been reading about the temples at Angkor. Reading about them and seeing pictures online does them absolutely no justice.
As I walked down what seemed like a mile long entrance to Angkor Wat I had Native American music playing in my headphones to get myself in the zone and not
hear the hundreds of other tourists around me. I was in absolute awe of this enormous temple. It took me over 3 hours just to see Angkor Wat. Now after you finish with this amazingly huge temple that is just the beginning of the adventure. the temples here are spread out over almost 40km and there are ancient temple sights everywhere.
I met a French and Dutch guy and an Israeli woman on the grounds of Angkor, they were sitting on the ground stretching and I approached them and we started doing
yoga right there on the temple ground.
You can totally see my bike shorts while I'm doing my headstand, hahahaha. So we all hung out for the rest of the day. After some roadside fruit we all hopped on our bikes and headed towards the next temple. We stopped and fed wild monkeys along the way. Don't look them in the eyes! We got to the next temple called Bayon, this is the one with all the faces. this temple was stunning also. So much to explore in this temple. Secret passageways and wells going so deep into the ground you can't see to the bottom. Hundreds of Buddha faces with smiles on their faces like they know something you don't. We spent hours here and actually only made it around to view a few more temples before it got dark, we did not do any more exploring. Good thing I bought a 3 day pass good for one week.

Ok, here's the story you have all been waiting for. After leaving my friends from around the world I headed back towards Siem Reap and this guy on a black Cannondale road bike rides up to me and greets me, he has clearly been here for a long time. He has a Kroma wrapped around his head. So I started riding with him, he was a strong rider, spinning along at 20mph which is a good pace for me with a super heavy steel bike with a rack and big thick tires. He showed me all these cool back roads to bypass traffic. All of a sudden swarms of bugs came out of nowhere and they were relentless, slamming into my face, going in my eyes, mouth and beard. We were on this quiet backroad and I pulled my hat down to cover my eyes from the swarms of bugs and I asked Bruce if the road had any potholes or anything I needed to watch out for, he told me the road was fine and there were no potholes. We rode on for about 10 minutes or so and WHAM@!#@!$# I slammed into the back of a parked pickup truck. It was the hardest and scariest bicycle accident I have ever been in. I was thrown from bike into the bed of the truck and I slammed into the cab and bounced back onto the ground landing on my bike. Now the bed of the truck was filled with hand-woven baskets that the guys wife probably made. These things saved my life. It all happened so fast and quickly I had about 20 villagers all standing around me and Bruce came over and said are you ok? Hahahaha, I said I don't know and wiggled each hand and foot and thought to myself, holy shit! I didn't break anything. I rolled off my bike and was covered in liquid, luckily it was just water from my bottles busting open. I had so much adrenaline rushing through my veins I stood up and inspected my bike. My tire was bent back behind my toptube and there was a huge kink in my frame. A sweeping feeling of
fear came through my whole body. My bicycle is my life over here, it is my best friend and it allows me total freedom to travel when and where I want. I thought, oh shit I'm going to have to take busses and tuk tuk's and motor bike taxis everywhere I go, NOOOOOOOOO I'm going to have to be a backpaker!!! Bruce insisted we walk away from the gawking crowd so I picked my bike up and we headed down the road to wait for his wife to pick us up. As the adrenaline wore off my knees started killing me. I could tell something was wrong.

It's a couple days later now and I have learned an important lesson. Never let your guard down in SE Asia, cause everything happens so fast! My knees are still swollen and I am resting them. I will most likely have to go to
Thailand and buy a new frame and parts for my bike. I swear now before all of you. I will finish this trip and ride again. Even if I have to buy a motor bike and finish it on that :-)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

What next?

Saying goodbye to my new friend Laim was hard, but after spending a week with him I knew he would go on to do great things.
I realized the day before my visa expired and rushed it to a tour agency, they took it and had it renewed, I couldn't hit th
e road back to Kampot untill after they took care of my passport, so I had to ride hard because I had 80kms to cover and only 4 hours of daylight. I rolled into the small town Takeo just as it was getting dark. I took thenext day off and deci
ded to roam around Takeo. Takeo sits right on this huge lake and also the Mekong river. I grabbed a fiberglass boat and rode for an hour up the Mekong river, my driver didn't speak a word of english. The river villages were like nothing I had seen before, all the people had very serious looks on their faces and barely anyone waved and said hello. I got out at Phnom Da and explored the 6th century temples on top of a big hill. There were caves all over the hills as well. the Khmer Rouge used these caves as cells during their reign.

The ride from Takeo to Kampot was long and dusty. I had a 10km stretch where I rode through 4 inch dust and I could barely breathe any time a motorbike or a truck drove by. I have been pulling dust out of every orifice in my body for the last 2 days. The ride was stunning though, beautiful mountains were in sight the entire ride and the locals were so much fun and very friendly. I stopped many times for mangos because those suckers are in season.

Now I am back in Kampot and deciding
what to do next. I believe I will head to Siem Reap and visit a small village school that Laim got built and his family. Also while in Siem Reap I will spend some time exploring the ancient temples of Angkor Wat.

Today I rented a motor bike and went out on another adventure. I originally was going to Kep because there is some festival going on. I got there and it was just a bunch of ex-pats and back packers getting drunk on the beach, not my style so I headed up into the national forest and made my way down this long dirt trail, the smell of the deep jungle was unlike anything I have smelled before, the deep woods in the berkshires comes close though. After my ride to the top of the mountain I headed out on a single track trail into these villages near the coast. After riding for many kilometers on this bumpy little track that a motorbike should not be on I saw a bunch of people raking puddles and I wondered what they were doing. I pulled over and said sok-sah-bai (hello) and then Su-es-dai (how are you) and then the hook
line and sinker that gets them to smile every time, Barang gee kong (foreigner rides bike) and point to my tattoo, after a long ahhhhhhhh
and a fit of laughter this man comes off his guard. A bonus is that he speaks a little english! His name was Kim Soeuy and this was his salt plantation. I motioned I wanted to rake salt and he had one of his workers lead me into the big puddle field thing and I started raking salt. These are the sort of experiences I am looking for while I travel. The genuine ones, not sitting around with a bunch of westerners getting drunk. I have noticed much of that since being here in SE Asia. It was a great day and I will remember it forever.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Len Laim

I am sitting here with one of the most inspirational people I have ever met. His name is Len Laim and he is currently a medical student in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It hasn't always been that way though. He was born in Siem Reap in a small farming village. He has 2 brothers and 3 sisters who are all still in Seam reap, in school and working on the farm with his mother and father. He was just a normal student in a small rural village until the age 17 when he met a western man from the US named Charles (the man I am crashing with in Kampot). Charles saw huge potential in Laim and took him under his wing along with several other students in Siem reap. This began a long term relationship between teacher and student. Since age 17 in 2007 Laim has been working non stop. He would not be another statistic floating down the stream that is cambodian youth. He chose to invest in a bicycle instead of a motor bike like every other person in Cambodia has. He realizes the importance of preserving the environment and keeping his body and mind healthy. I feel like I share so many things in common with Laim and that we connect on a very simple level. We are both fighting against the stream and trying to live extraordinary lives. Laim's family cannot support him coming to school in Phnom Penh, so he has learned a few tricks along the way to raise money on the internet thanks to Charles and his many try and fail attempts. He cannot afford housing or food while he goes to school so he lives at the local Pagoda (temple) alongside the monks while attending university. All of his spare time is spent studying and preparing for class. He has only one uniform and he told me if he gets it dirty it is very bad and he cannot go to class.

Yesterday I went with Laim to a local computer store and bought him his first laptop. I believe that the laptop is the most powerful tool for a student, especially one studying to be a doctor! He was so grateful for this opportunity and I am totally humbled by his persistence in life and his drive to succeed. I also got him a digital camera, so now he has everything to maintain websites which Charles taught him to create. I believe this is the best investment I
have ever made. Investing in the future of Cambodia and in the people that can actually make a change in this country. He is a classic case of the incredible potential the youth in this country possesses.

His story is one of inspiration, at age 19 he was able to raise enough money and support to have a simple 2 room school built in his village. He also studied diligently and was able to pass the test needed to attend medical school. While enjoying his first cappuccino ever last night he told me of his dreams to create a program in rural areas that will incorporate free or little cost healthcare for all poor villagers. This comes from growing up in a village riddled with land mines and personally experiencing friends and family that lost their lives and limbs to these deadly atrocities. He has lofty goals for Cambodia but I believe he is the perfect man for the job. He is not afraid to stand up to authority and speak his mind like so many other Cambodians are.

I have spent the last two days with Laim and have decided to stay in Phnom Penh for an unknown length of time. I will stay at the Pagoda with him and his monk roommate. He's going to take me around the city and show me all the touristy and not so touristy sites. Today we spent the whole day together and man, he is one of the smartest people I have ever met. He speaks English, Khmer, Japanese and French, all self taught, and I bitch about not being able to to ride my bike because of schoolwork. He's been in Phnom Penh at med school for over 2 months now and he barely has any free time at all. He was doing all of this from computer cafe's that charge 2000 riel per hour. Needless to say having a personal computer at his disposal is going to make his life much easier for him.

Here are some links to pages he has created.
Please, add his as a friend on facebook if you want
to follow and or support him.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Cave temple hopping

Today I rented a motor bike and headed way off the beaten path to the countryside to see what I could get myself into. The entire day ended up being cloudy and the perfect day to be out on a motorbike. I rode down a small meandering red clay dirt road for about 30 minutes when I was eventually greeted by this kid in a bright green shirt. I pulled over to see what was up and quickly I had 8 kids surrounding me shooting off their entire arsenal of english words. The one in the green shirts name was Mab and his english was pretty good. His friends name was Eang and his english was also very good. He asked me where I was going and before I knew it I was the middle of a Barang (foreighner) sandwich on my motor bike that I was no longer driving up towards this temple cave out in the jungle. I had no idea where I was going and these kids grew up here so I figured they knew the good spots to bring Barang. After a short ride we pulled over on the side of the dirt road. Eang stayed with the motorbike and Mab led me through a huge rice field where we were greeted by 2 more small kids, probably around age 9 or 10, both of them spoke really good english as well.The four of us walked and talked for about one and a half kilometers and came to this sloping hillside with tons of rock faces. All of sudden there was this really cool staircase leading us directly into the hillside. Everywhere I looked was riddled with small statues of people previously living here and Buddha. It was very mystical and unlike anything I have ever experienced. There were some beautiful views as we kept ascending up the steep staircase into the mountain. We got to a certain point and the entire mountain just seemed to open up and this vast temple just appeared out of nowhere. The kids showed me many different rock formations that looked like animals. After entering the cave, off to the right inside this 6th century shrine there was a single candle burning, I entered the shrine, took a few sticks of incense and lit them. The shrine was very small, maybe enough room for 3 people to sit comfortably inside, the kids waited for me in the cave, I came out put my incense in the holders and the 4 of us walked back to the motor bike. I gave the little kids a couple bucks for the wonderful guidance through the temple cave and hopped back on the motor bike with Mab and Eang, they then hauled ass down this bumpy dirt road for another 10km and brought me to this beautiful lake out in the middle of nowhere, we sat at this little hut by the lake and had fresh pressed cane sugar juice and fried noodles. They told me about their families and stories from growing up here and I told them about what I am doing here in Cambodia. After that we got back on the bike and headed another 30km to this small town and by this time my ass is killing me from being cramped on a tiny motor bike with 2 other dudes for over 40 minutes, we pull over and get some longan and these other exotic fruits and head towards some more temple caves. These caves were even more impressive than the first one. This was a huge network of underground caves that had buddha statues and all kinds of other relics and statues. It was the most healing and spiritual place I have been in SE Asia yet. Cambodians come from all over to sleep and hang out in this cave for healing and to pray to Buddha. There was a huge reclining buddha and people were sleeping in hammocks all around this statue, it was truly a sight to behold.

After that we hauled ass back to their village and had some dinner. What did we eat for dinner you ask? well dog of course!! Oh man when he said I take to you get some really good dog meat for dinner I kinda freaked out and then I just sort of accepted it and went along with it. The woman at this little roadside shack brought me a big ol bowl of dog meat and it actually didn't taste bad, it was a little gamey but once you get past the fact your eating dog its not that bad. I don't think I will ever eat it again but hey, you gotta try everything at least once right?

So after dinner and meeting what seemed like the whole village while I was eating, I was invited to come back next week for a wedding and to stay in their village for a week! I think I will go to the wedding but we will see where I end up sleeping!

Tomorrow I am leaving Kampot, Charles and I are riding for 2 days to Phnom Penh, we will sleep in a Pagoda with monks tomorrow night. I am going to meet a student I want to help out. I will have the detailed story at some point next week.