Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Fifth Sense....and My Favorite Travel Thing

So much for anyone guessing (and even fewer even attempting) the mystery of my sensory piece from last week. Admittedly it was beyond obtuse in the sound articulation, not even choosing onomatopoetic representations but at least make a guess! Anyway....the answer was that I was swimming. The clop clop were my flip flops and the first two sounds were other swimmers doing laps. The "wallop" that became "chop" was a guy doing the butterfly and the sound transition was from my perspective above the water and then later in the water. And the harmony was our three strokes together, slowly breaking down to just my own stroke as the other swimmers exited the pool. The blanket of breeze was the initial jump into the water slowly transitioning into warm tickles as I started my laps. Read it again and see if you "see" it now!

For this week's class I have to turn in my next piece to be workshopped. It's still in development (I'm having a tough time) so I'm sharing my homework for the week instead. The genesis was an in-class writing assignment about our favorite item from our travels. Here you go!
An artist from the Artisans D'Angkor
 My Favorite Travel Thing
There’s no denying it’s bright – subtlety not its strong suit. The first hostess to greet your eye in my room, if the sun is shining just right, its luster is luxurious. And I love it. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Imagine flying over an expanse of green, luscious fields covered in water, interrupted only by rivers, wooden and tin huts on stilts and an occasional dirt or rudimentary paved road. No factories, not even any farm equipment...just water buffalo. This was the sight we saw as we circled over Siem Reap, Cambodia. One of the most beautiful pollution whatsoever for there is nothing to pollute the apparently untouched landscape.

One of our many stops on our trip to Cambodia in 2007 was Artisans d’Angkor, a professional training school founded to help the youth of Cambodia rediscover their artisanal heritage lost during years of war, genocide and poverty. I’d been to similar textile factories in other countries from Africa to South America, but this one compelled me more than the rest. Perhaps the empathetic connection with the country I developed in the weeks I was there was partially a factor.

Cambodia is the poorest country I’ve ever experienced (the average annual salary is $300 per year, but most people make much less than that.) There are few paved roads, or cars for that matter, ramshackle dwellings, and little to no public infrastructure.  Growing up 15 miles from the Tijuana, Mexico border, we spent many weekends in the slums on charity expeditions building houses, playing with children, painting over graffiti. So the lack of plumbing, overabundance of garbage strewn everywhere and squalid living conditions weren’t new to me. What was new was the caliber of people. Despite having next to nothing, the Cambodians were the nicest people I have ever encountered – gracious, interesting, kind; they almost seemed oblivious to their condition relative to the rest of the world. Maybe ignorance truly is bliss? Given the devastation they endured under the Khmer Rouge it was hard to fathom.

At the factory we had a private tour of the silk making process from silk worms to final product. The time, excruciating detail, hours of work and collaborative effort of many that went into the gorgeous pieces was overwhelming. Each piece was flawless and spectacular. Throughout our tour we had met the artisans creating these works of art, learning their stories and how each piece came to fruition. At the end of our tour we perused the boutique showcasing scarves, purses, ties, blankets, and other crafts made on site.

Perusing the shop a brightly colored throw caught my eye.  Shades of orange, pink, yellow, red & white carefully constructed into a gorgeous 7 x 10 foot blanket. I asked about the price – “It is $250 American dollars” the response. “But who made it and how long did it take to weave?” I replied. The object of my affection took two women three months to weave. In awe of an obvious conflict of time and effort versus price I immediately replied, “Sold.” With it I took home three complimentary pillows in reds, greens and yellows. These works of art adorn my bed, always impressing visitors to my apartment. The first thing I share is their origin and labor intensive history. For a country lacking infrastructure, education and resources and having suffered the unspeakable devastation of decades of young people, the products of their human capital speak volumes of the ornate culture, history and tenacity that make Cambodia such a captivating country to experience.

**I don't have a great shot of my purchases but will add one soon!

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