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2012 Brooklyn, Portland, Oregon, United States
Ago today
A year ago I was thrilled to be speaking Khmer, even as I knew I was leaving Cambodia in just a few days.
A year ago I was conversing on line with a decent fellow I met while I was in Cambodia and he was in Colombia. It was fun to pal around when we finally met. But we were both looking for more magic than that, and apparently neither of us found that magic in the other. Better than if one of us had found that magic, and the other hadn’t.
Getting restless
I’ve got to get out of here.

I think I get a little lost sometimes. Deep and lost, a place it’s perfectly fine to be alone, but perhaps not so good to be in company. I want to think about whether I should be around anyone at all these days. I don’t need to be obsessing over anything, and I especially don’t need to be obsessing over anyone.
There is a volunteer job in Sri Lanka I took note of, and it looks as if the volunteer jobs in Georgia I’ve been keeping my eye on continue through the end of this year. If they are still available next year, maybe I could maybe do some visiting in Europe and Asia between terms. And then there’s this summer. How I would like to visit the Sloth Refuge in Costa Rica, pay some respects to Nicaragua.
Taking note of my behavior, I appear to be getting ready to go. That, of course, could change at a moment’s notice, depending on how things are with my father and my uncle, on whose behalf I seem to have spent almost a year in my strange native country.
All things being equal, it feels like time for something new.
Settling in
At the same time, I’ve never been one to forsake the present in favor of the future, and right now the present is all about making stuff. I want to get some house paint and start on the big abstract I’ve got in mind for the wall at the end of my long, narrow library, and I don’t mean hanging the big abstract on the wall, I mean painting it there. I let my tenants paint whatever they want on their walls; it’s about time I paint whatever I want on my own. I’m thinking a lot about printmaking, too, about Diptychs, how they seem to reflect so many of my briefest thoughts. And I’m thinking about these Spirals, of course, these Core Samples of the days from year to year. I’ll have a website for them soon. And what will that be like?
One of the things I try to do most days is pull an element out of my deck of cards of the Periodic Table, and get to know a little more about that element. Yesterday’s was Molybdenum, which made me inexplicably happy, and a little later on explicably, if unexpectedly, delighted when I was sorting through a pile of old papers and came across an article about molybdenum - aka Molly-Be-Damned - that I had remembered saving decades ago but hadn’t seen in all those decades.

2011 Phsar Dey Hoy (Dusty Market), Siem Reap, Cambodia
Getting ready to go
I have just one more morning here like this one before I go. Packing yesterday, I jammed a lot more stuff into the carpet bag my Australian friend gave me, which I realized has one color in its enormous hibiscus motif that matches my carry-on. Tiny ants all over the computer this morning. There’s a lot I’ll miss about Cambodia, but I won’t miss them one bit. I think it rained briefly last night. I didn’t want to get up and go outside to be sure, but it sounded and smelled like rain. I wonder if there’ll be any evidence of it, wonder when I’ll get around to checking.
If conversations in Khmer make for great days, yesterday was the best of all. At the guest house where I bought my ticket to Bangkok, one of the entourage of employees addressed me in Khmer! I could not have asked for more, but another employee, who sold me my ticket, wanted to be able to explain where I live to the driver who would be coming to pick me up, so I had an opportunity to give directions in Khmer.
From there, feeling confident, I headed to the tailor’s, where only Khmer is spoken, to see about getting a hairband made of the skirt fabric from the dress I designed and have had made in two countries and counting. In a new language, even small talk is dazzling, and we had a lovely exchange. Then on the way home past my hairdresser’s shop, I meant to ask her about braids, but I must have said something else, or my pronunciation wasn’t clear, because she giggled as I rode off.
Later, my wonderful Khmer teacher kindly pointed out that an error in my pronunciation had led to me inadvertently saying something shocking, something I would never mean to say. “Don’t tell me what it means,” I told him, blushing and writing “CAREFUL” beside the word for “hot,” which unfortunately - and surprisingly in a language with as many word-pairs as English - has no alternative.
As we were leaving my apartment, a number of my neighbors, all women, were out on the balcony, and they heard me speaking Khmer with my teacher. They commented with surprised delight that I understood, and a conversation ensued between them and my teacher. He apparently explained that I’m leaving, though that part was over my head. They wanted to be sure it wasn’t because they disturbed me, and I assured them that I love living here. While there was an English speaker in their midst, I spoke as much Khmer as I could. It crossed my mind to wish that we could have had this conversation earlier, but then I realized that it is only in the last few days that I have had the breakthrough with this language that makes it possible for me to understand and speak enough to have a fluent, if undeniably very basic, conversation. I am ever so lucky to have been able to participate in any of these conversations.
It has occurred to me on a couple of occasions that I may not get off as easy as I have for so many years now, that leaving Cambodia may hurt.

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