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2012 Brooklyn, Portland, Oregon, United States
Notes from underground
I dreamed that I was in some sort of wheelchair-like conveyance and I needed to pee. I knew that there was a way of doing so in the chair, but I was afraid people could see me, and I was shy.
He was at a big-box store at night recently and a huge flock of geese flew over him. He told me that he could hear them all the way from the store to his car, but he couldn’t see them, and he had a sense of the sky making that noise. He dreamed about it, too, and told me the dream. I am thinking of a friend who asked what I like about him, I am thinking that if I had it to do over again, I would tell this story.
So bad
I just sent him the message that I have tickets for Madame Butterfly. It was a formality; I know he won’t take me up on my offer of one of those tickets. He must be feeling so bad that even the opera doesn’t appeal to him; I don’t think that in my entire life I have ever felt that bad.
I don’t know the source of the strange sort of peace gathering around me on this last day of the year. It puts me in mind of experiencing what I later determined was serenity in the eye of the whirlwind of crazy passion with my Beloved Tormentor. It was such an unfamiliar feeling that at first I wondered if I was falling out of love.
The road
I suppose I could live in this sort of limbo for another year. I could go to Honduras and volunteer, or to Georgia. I don’t have to do anything, I keep reminding myself, I don’t have to decide anything.

2011 Phsar Dey Hoy, Siem Reap, Cambodia
I got out on my bicycle yesterday and finally saw the mosque I have been meaning to get around to visiting for much longer than it usually takes me to carry out my intentions. It was the opposite of imposing. It was engaging, a chubby, fanciful structure unfortunately situated across the street from the dreadful smelly little canal that runs through so much of that beleaguered part of town.
There was a mosquito in here last night, and, though I got back to sleep after it rudely awakened me, I was chilly with the fan running. Yesterday morning when I rode my bike into town, it was positively cool. This morning also feels cool. Aha. I think that must have been the mosquito hungrily blundering between the computer screen and me.
Five precepts
Ah well, there goes the first of those five Buddhist precepts, the one about harming living beings, which even I will resort to when mosquitoes carrying serious diseases decide to intrude on the sanctity of my abode. I have stopped killing the ants that are determined to make a trail through my apartment. They don’t carry disease, and they are polite for the most part.
A friend told me that a woman her neighbor knows was murdered, “really close,” said my friend, to my apartment, but apparently across the river, which is far enough away to seem not even “remotely close” to me. The murdered woman’s window was open, and apparently it didn’t have bars on it, as my window does. No doubt she didn’t have gates kept locked at night outside her home, as my apartment building does. And she was Khmer, and I am not. I have no illusions that tourists and expats are immune, but I suspect there are severe consequences for violence against visitors here. This was not so in Granada, Nicaragua, where an expat woman was murdered in her home while I was living there. Like me, she lived alone. I remember that a spokesperson for the local police was reported to have said that women living by themselves could expect such things to happen.

2010 Aurangabad, India
Adventure (1)
Pitalkhora is the remote site of Buddhist caves carved out of a horseshoe wall above a river between the 2nd century BCE and the 2nd century CE. Even the air I was breathing there felt sacred. As if this wasn't enough, these caves were reinhabited between the 5th and 6th century CE, demonstrating a shift in Buddhism from no representation of the human figure to magnificent sculpture of the ancient likes of us. Most of the monks’ cells hollowed out of the hillside have views. And one cave is still inhabited these days, by a nest of bees that hangs from one of the highest ceilings. My driver had never been to Pitalkhora, though he felt comfortable leaving his car unattended and investigating with me. At first I thought we were going to be alone there, then the sound of loud and boisterous children’s voices made me think we were going to be swamped and held captive to interaction. But the children were at Pitalkhora only a little while - perhaps they stop by daily on their way to the temple further down – and we were alone again.
Adventure (2)
Ellora, as well-known as Pitalkhora is obscure, was almost too much for me. While my driver had transported many visitors there, he wouldn’t leave his car, and so had never seen the caves for himself. The first caves are Buddhist, and I investigated these thoroughly. Some austere, some ornate, some diminutive, some grand in scale, all comforting in their simplicity of design, as I have found so much Buddhist art in the midst of the dizzying representation of the mythology of Hinduism. I didn’t pay such close attention to the Hindu caves, which stretch for a long ways, though I gave the ones pointed out as special the best I had to give. The 16th cave, Kailash, is a miracle wrought by my very own species. It is described as both the world’s largest monolithic sculpture and the northernmost Dravidian temple. It is all superlatives, and it is in astonishing condition. No doubt Kailash influenced both the Buddhists and the Jains, encouraging the Buddhists to make caves on a grander scale and the Jains to copy at least the technique of Kailash in miniature. Thank goodness for the tuktuk drivers positioned between the Hindu and the Jain caves! Exhausted as I was by that point, I found the Jain temples surprisingly approachable and tranquil, a relief, clustered off by themselves.
Peace and prosperity
I’d had my first delicious taste of coconut uthappam for breakfast on the road, but it was late in the day before I realized that I had forgotten to make my traditional Russian wish upon tasting a new food for the first time. Better late than never, I made that wish as soon as I thought of it, hoping it would be retroactive. All day long, as I made my way from temple to temple, I had remembered to make my traditional Nicaraguan wish upon entering a church for the first time. All of my wishes are always the same: for peace and prosperity wherever I am when I make the wish. Peace and prosperity to you, India.

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