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As we make our way over another border, our fellow passengers bob their heads in tandem to the swaying, bumping bus.  I pretend my head-wobbling is just the same, but really I am quietly and almost, but not quite, dancing in my too-short seat.  My knees dig into the back of the poor person ahead of me.

We roll forward past the onslaught of vehicles, the buildings, numerous electrical wires bundled, en masse, above the houses, the shacks, the people.  I nurse a headache resulting from a late night out – hours of dancing in the rain.

So much is going on outside my window.  As we travel forward, I travel backwards in time through my music.  My on-again-off-again, mostly malfunctioning iPod is a saving grace on a six hour bus ride with delays at the border.  Actually, the ride is pretty smooth and easily contrasts the horror stories we’ve been heard about local land-travel.  We may have lucked out with our particular bus.  Consistency of service ain’t much a priority ‘round here…

Shuffle: my favourite way to go.  I’m on a little musical journey.  Maybe it’s the exhaustion but I’m feeling each song – each one wraps itself up in my soul.  Every song holds my hand and walks with me through a multitude of memories.  Does everyone remember people when they listen to music?… I think they do. Maybe places, events, eras? Anyway, this is how it is for me.  A personal soundtrack, always there in the background…blaring from the sidelines of my life.

He caught me dancing.  It’s a story for another time.  A memory wrapped up in a song and an instant.  It’s whittled itself into my heart and been coaxed out by sleepiness, shuffled songs, too much time to think.

He Caught me dancing.  This was one of those pinnacle moments – never forgotten – that changed everything.  I smile and as I remember.  The moment was encased; dressed up as a laugh and a look, and it’s never been forgotten.  And although we make a thousand choices a day, this was one of those big moments disguised as a small one.  It’s a good memory.

Theme Song of the Day:

Dust Storm – Seagull

If life seems jolly rotten
there’s something you’ve forgotten
and that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing
~Monty Python

I love my family.  We who have family, and friends that are loved as family, we are among the lucky ones.

The Peaceful Children's Home Dining Room

The Peaceful Children's Home Dining Room

Missy and I were greeted by the throng of small, beautiful children.   Our bikes had carried us down the red dusty road just south of Battambang, Cambodia.  We travelled to this small city on a personal invite from a family friend of Missy’s named Len.  Len is from Vancouver Island but is spending six months here in Cambodia, helping with the construction of multipurpose building at The Peaceful Children’s Home, an orphanage that fifty-five children call home.

Looking up at us with wide eyes, each of them waited their turn in approaching us.  With their hands together, they bowed in respect.  Although initially overwhelming, their solemn gestures exuded both grace and welcoming at the same time.  Missy and I weren’t sure what to expect… how were we to talk to them?  Our limited Khmer: “hello” …“thank you”… “no sugar” …although highly useful and enough to get by on a day-to-day basis, these phrases just didn’t seem to cut it here.

New Friends at the Orphanage

New Friends at the Orphanage

Within minutes I felt a small hand slip through mine.  Another one lightly grasped my wrist.  Missy and I were being led around the grounds.  All the kids that could get a piece of us were hanging on.  We were given a tour, meeting the older children as we went.  We saw their sleeping quarters, the small kitchen and dining hall, the gardens and the new multi-purpose building, in its early stages – the foundation just being laid, at the back of the complex.  The afternoon was spent playing and running around.  Duck, duck, goose was an instant favourite.

These kids are amazing.  Their histories are varied but they have all ended up in the orphanage due to dark and heartrending circumstances.  They have all come from hard, seemingly hopeless lives.  The Peaceful Children’s Home gives them a future and a family and they smile though they have very little.

Everything about Cambodia has been amazing.  We had originally planned about five days in the country; the Temples of Angkor and the orphanage in Battambang were our two priorities.  Thinking we would more-or-less bypass the capital Phnom Penh entirely, we actually ended up spending three nights there and having to tear ourselves away from the beautiful and dynamic city.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

Two days of exploring Siem Reap and the surrounding Angkor temples, well that actually turned into four.  We spent much longer in Battambang than we had planned because we couldn’t stand to say goodbye to the kids. We also had the opportunity to spend an afternoon in a small village just west of the city. On one of our nightly outing we were approached by the founder of a free English School and we were asked to come see the school and talk with the children.  I used a pointer and it felt great!  Oh yeah, we figured that we should learn how to cook at least a few of the delicious dishes we’ve been enjoying for almost two weeks.

Fresh fish from the market for Amok

Fresh fish from the market for Amok

We spent a morning learning the intricacies of Khmer Cuisine….fish amok, luk lac, and tom yam.  Yum.

And finally, it was decided: time to fly to Bangkok and start the Thai leg of our journey. …but then again, you know, we haven’t really explored the south and we’ve heard some great things…?  And so it is – we find ourselves in Sihanoukville, on the South coast of the country.  Just a couple of days…or five.  Ok, six…and then we fly to Bangkok.

Theravadian Buddhist Monks in Battambang

Theravadian Buddhist Monks in Battambang

Our tickets are booked and we sadly say goodbye to this beautiful country that has managed to spring back, if not ahead, after such recent torments that spanned the vast and appallingly evil side of humanity.  We have both laughed and cried many times, and we’re in agreement that these distracted wanderings and detours and are some of the best we’ve made.

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December 2009