Paper wars are none the less wars…pagodas to pain…

To look closer or not? Don’t look away – remember. These killing fields happened within my lifetime. If you are being imprisoned or threatened for peacefully protesting about government policy or actions – then your leadership is only steps away from “killing fields”…remember that dictatorships do this. Dictators do not act alone. 

Dictatorships come in all “shapes and sizes” so to speak. Dictators do not just belong in any one political view point either. Fascism is not limited to non-democratic societies either. 

In one of the killing fields sites in Siem Reap – they have preserved the site differently to Phnom Penh sites – to help people remember it differently. Here it’s not open fields but paved over and covered with pagodas and shrines. 

People come to pray and pay respects and to remember to choose peace. Some come to gawk. Regardless, most struggle with this central and very gruesome pagoda filled with skulls and long bones. Why would you put the skulls on display like this? I hear some of you say. My answer is that because it’s no different to “lest we forget” – only presented much more realistically. This screams “don’t forget because if you forget you forget that these people were just like you”. Pretty or just solemn stone monuments lose real meaning sometimes. 

Sometimes we need to see that the people who died were real, not just symbols of a forgotten past. These skulls jump out at me as women, men and children, not just a “bunch of skulls” as an American standing by casually referred to them as (a gawker). I did basic forensic anthropology and at a few glances – can basically read the suture lines (where the bones join together as we age on the top of the skull) and compare the supraorbital torus (brow) for rough ideas of age and sex. Where the skulls are flipped around the occipital foramen magnus gives further clues as to whether they are male or female. 

The range of ages and mix of sexes make it impossible to ignore that these were not armies, but just everyday people targeted by a fascist government. Stop. Think. Shouldn’t policies support people, not punish them? Do we continue to let a paper war be waged on unemployed, homeless, disabled, single parents, anyone who is struggling? Do our new suicide rates represent the paper war becoming physical? If even by suicide? Homelessness? Despair? Are these not our modern killing fields?

Monks on motorbikes and Cambodian hearses…

Hello from my first proper day in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I arrived at 3.15 pm Cambodian time yesterday after a 2.30 am start in Darwin and was met by Sarry and the V-homestay tuk tuk.

We chortled through Siem Reap overtaking monks on motorbikes and an overburdened tuk tuk carrying wicker to the market.


After an unscheduled dash for petrol I got to sit in the tuk tuk and watch the world go by. Sarry engaged in world class negotiation to obtain to Coke bottles full of petrol and we were on our way again.

V-Homestay – like it on Facebook here –

Is a family business competing against the emerging and foreign owned tourism of Siem Reap. As I mentioned to Vanna (the owner of the homestay) today – I don’t come to Cambodia for a hotel.

I came to Cambodia for Cambodia and Cambodians – not a hotel and certainly not one owned by foreigners.
The homestay is very much like how a number of what you could call working class Cambodians live. They done okay and the homestay is just part of what they do to keep the family economy going. They’ve done okay for themselves.
I was greeted by my new best friend – “Puppy”. We had an early evening aperitif of spring rolls.

I amused my hosts by showing them the vehicle I had videoed on the drive from the airport. I commented “I want one of these buses”.

There was chuckling.

“Do you know what that is? It’s for carrying the dead person to the funeral”, Vanna informed me.

It’s not a bus. It’s the equivalent to a Cambodian hearse…

“Oh! On second thoughts I don’t want one!”

More laughter.

We then took a trip some 3 kms to the family farm plot. Under the moonlit evening we admired the burgeoning project of a home and farm for the family separate to the homestay visit. It will generate food and tours income (come learn about Cambodian farming tours).

Dinner was a lovely simple meal of curry and pork and rice.  As was breakfast this morning.

The accommodation is very basic – but if you love homestays – it’s very good and the family are beautiful.  The kids have promised to teach me some Khmer. So fair it’s just yes, no, hello and thank you.

The great thing about accomodation like this is that it’s not only a great experience but affordable. I get to see the real Cambodia without paying a lot of people to pay others – but direct to a family enterprise.  A whole lot more of these would mean a whole lot less poverty.

Yeah, of course, this is not everyone’s travel ideal and the other styles of accomodation will never go out of fashion – but it sure feels good to my Buddhist sensibilities.

They are also proud to have a “5 star” western toilet in the back outhouse. It’s very flash indeed!

I woke up this morning to monks chanting just down the road and music next door. Lovely comfortable Asian style bed (they are hard but somehow comfortable).

I’m now recovering from running around the pagodas in the city centre….

Have a great Monday! More soon….

6.8 kg. 

Ahhh…and I’m off – well sitting  at Darwin airport.  $4.40 for a small coffee, yeah airport prices. 

My 5.5 kg grew to 6.8 kg overnight – but I have everything I need for 15 days away. 

No fancy extras, just the basics. Sure makes for stress free travel. I watched two very stressed out people dragging 20kg bags for 7 days in Singapore…hmmm…cheaper/less stress to come back with that much…

Heavy toothbrushes? Lol 


And this time tomorrow…

This time tomorrow I’ll be not far from Singapore.

On my way to cross off another ancient wonder of the world…stayed tuned…

However, today, I realised just how laid back I am about travel now.  My visa is being done at the airport when I arrive and I’m not packed with less the 24 hours to go.

I’m also doing something a bit different – only taking one electronic device.  My iPhone.

Let’s face it…it takes good quality pictures and videos and does everything I need.

There is WiFi everywhere at my destination and I don’t need a phone per se.

Ahhh…this is why I LIKE technology.

Travel light, light of heart, light in pocket and light of spirit.  🙂

Not a tree…

I have had a stage II hypertensive disorder since I was 28.  It’s not heart related.  It’s linked to a brain injury and a stint in a hyperbaric chamber for neurologic and musculo-skeletal decompression illness (yeah, that’s the hyperbaric chamber above in Townsville).  Sometimes it goes haywire – particularly if I am stuck in a situation with not enough stimulus or limited physical activity.  That is not useful for keeping the cognitive issues of my “disability” at bay.

I’ve just recently spent a weekend in Alice Springs on doctors orders.  I had been resisting a break away but I recognised I needed people around me who loved me. I needed to accept I needed a break and to let other people care for me.  I didn’t have to worry about anything, there was lots of rest and lots of laughter.

It all went haywire just before Christmas 2015.  50% of that caused by my “shit-o-meter” wasn’t working.  The other 50% was because the medication that was working suddenly stopped working – probably because I am currently in the wrong “place” in my life and I know I am – and I am actually working on changing that.

In February a whole heap of shitty other symptoms started to happen and I’ve just had had two weeks off to do the stuff that fixes it.

Sadly because things were degrading so quickly, I needed to have the time off cause my current routine had begun to fail in order to keep disability issues sorted.  And worse, because my BP was so high I couldn’t do intense exercise – which usually solves most of the issues.

The last 8 weeks have composed of working really hard to get my BP down from consistently 180/120 (one was as high as 200/123) to this last weeks reading of 130/90.  Meditating, light exercise, eating right and reassessing what is next.  It has also been about making some big changes to all of my life.

Cause it became clear something wasn’t working for me.  Managing a “disability” is not something you can “just take a break from” or it gets worse.   It’s not like a diet that you can just stick to so that you keep in a certain size bikini – and then not worry about it over winter cause you won’t be wearing a bikini.

Add to this the side effects of changing BP drugs; including dizziness, feeling like I am walking on a trampoline, nausea and headaches and finally hives all over my body.  Not little dizziness or small headaches either.On top of the regular pain and other issues I face regularly with a smile upon my dial. It’s been a bit of a struggle, but I’ve remained as positive (and vented a few times) as I can.

I’ve worked through it, but it hasn’t been easy, complicated by living on my own and in a new environment with a small support network.

But one of the things my medical challenges have taught me is that sticking around in a job or a relationship or around people that make you miserable is not an option.

I won’t apologise for self respect or self care.  Never.

I will never understand people who have to stay and “stick things out” – even if it means obesity, depression, alcoholism and addiction.  I understand they may lack self love or have predisposing issues.  But it also seems to me that in some instances – misery loves company.  I don’t want to join that company.

It does not make sense to me.  Yes, I am being judgemental.  No, I don’t care.  Not everyone, but some people do seem to choose misery over wellness.

Some people believe that they don’t have a choice in that decision and that defines them.

Call me crazy but I do like the expression “If you are unhappy where you are, change something or move.  You are not a tree”.

I am not afraid of life and I don’t avoid discomfort either.  I’ve had no money and been homeless and committed to keeping trying.  I have never regretted studying and learning and moving and keeping going.

I don’t eternally seek joy or happiness either.  That does not make sense.  I look to feel useful.  I find I begin to feel unhappy when my work or life is only benefiting me and does not seem to have any benefit to others.  I believe a life of service is a life well lived.

That brings me enormous satisfaction and I don’t have to self medicate every night to cover up any feelings of “is this all there is”.

Every emotion is legitimate.  I think sometimes people believe that by “sticking it out” they will take control of things that cannot be controlled.  It’s like they try and force themselves into a happy state by guaranteeing some supposed future security.

Emotions are like a river and damming it only lasts so long.

I want to feel life wholly – in the now and I find when my BP plays up its because I have started to get too future focussed and have moved away from the now.  I have started to worry.

Even if the now is not so good.  If the now is not so good, and I feel it and recognise it, I can act.  I can act to change something or move.  But if I think staying put and always looking for some future magic is not how to live life, nor is searching out happiness.

It’s about just doing what works and putting away what doesn’t.  For me a life of working in service for good outcomes for the world, for a fairer and more just world, is what makes me feel whole.  Not always happy, but in the majority, not unhappy either.

I’d rather live life wholly, the good and that bad than “stay put and miserable” for the sake of appearances.  Hugh Mackay in his book “The Good Life” puts it better than me:

“The pursuit of happiness? Sounds like a wild-goose chase to me. To seek it, to desire it, to yearn for it is to miss it.  It’s not like money, food, power or status: you don’t get it by going after it.  When it comes to you, that’s a bonus all the more welcome for being unexpected. But unremitting happiness is not the mark of life well lived – a good life – any more than unremitting sadness is.  Wholeness is the thing to aim for.”