Rishikesh in Red | Ganga Banks in Black

The extraordinarily talented, phenomenally vivacious, highly inspiring Alexandra Spyratos took me on a playful photo shoot through Rishikesh… http://www.alexandraart.comTreeGanga

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Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
– Leonard Cohen

 

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Meanwhile, back in Asia…

In an effort to bring this blog up to date… On your mark, get set, go!

March 5, 2013: Return to RishikeshSanskrit_signage Rishikesh_street LittleGirls MonkeyKnifeSharpener Hey Cow HealingGems Haridwar_tea Ganga Ganesha_CarvingMan CrashedCar Cow_restaurant Brick Lady Ass AuntiePujaAnnaHome Sweet Home-ish
All was well in India. On my first day back, a man dressed as the monkey god Hannuman put a bright orange tikka on my forehead when I stopped to pet a cow in the center of a narrow bridge so a motorbike could squeeze past. Namaste!!!!!Bridge_cowElephants with a Vendetta
One morning we went out early to try to track down some wild elephants whom allegedly go to the river for water at dawn. We didn’t find the elephants but that’s a good thing – there was an elephant situation and it was serious. Two months prior a pregnant elephant had been killed by a train and the other elephants were angry. They’d killed 4 people. The elephant version of Jaws! We hiked up into the hills for spectacular views – the air was fresh, the birds were singing, the buffalo were out, we stopped to see a Shiva Lingam that had appeared out of thin air, or earth rather, and never stopped growing. Once again, I felt like the lead princess in a Disney movie…Anna_goatsWaterfallStudentsAnna_YogaHike LizAnna_heelextensionAuntie
The next day Dr. Yogi’s aunt burst into my room speaking rapidly. I’ve no idea what she was saying but I ended up giving her a massage. That was the first of many hours she and I spent conversing – Auntie in Hindi, me in English. It worked for us…

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Yoga
Thirty students arrived for our March-April yoga teacher training course… The darling 25 year old, wide eyed, open hearted, ready to soak up magic. The brilliant artist, unconventional mother, wise soul, phenomenal dancer, survivor and to date one of my greatest inspirations. Kittens – a large crew of Japanese pupils, beautiful and sweet. And Liz, my dear friend Juliet’s mother. I am astounded by her courage, her impartiality and unconditional acceptance (and gifts of Godiva!). A blessing and an honor it was to share India with brave Lizzie of the Himalayas. We also shared a Hello to the Queen or two, a dessert that makes my heart sing. Legend has it that a group of stoned Israelis were granted access to the kitchen of a Rishikesh cafe where they created a masterpiece – each restaurant has their own version, which entails crumbled cookies topped with ice-cream, fruit, chocolate sauce, whipped cream and dreams… AnnaLiz ChanMei_meditateJapanese Alexandra_leaf Cooking MickyChanMeiMimo_TreePose LizAuntie_FireCeremonySophieMickey

Holi
Known as the festival of colors, or the festival of love, Holi signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, the end of winter. A special day on which to play and laugh, forgive and forget, repair ruptured relationships and most importantly make all beings equal by symbolically dousing them in color. Holi Eve started off as a normal day – I meditated, taught yoga, ate breakfast… Anna_GangaThen we piled the kittens into taxis and went to the nearby holy city Haridwar. Still normal…Holi_GiantCowStudents_outting We visited the Mansa Devi Temple…Anna_bindi GiantHennaHandAnna_streamers As we strolled out of the pagoda a student screamed and I turned to see an aggressive monkey standing tall, holding onto her belt with both hands, shaking her! My maternal/Chuck Norris instinct flared and I bounded toward them, intending to gracefully launch the monkey off of my kitten. Upon connecting with the monkey’s belly there was a blood curdling shriek – from the baby the mama was holding there. Landing a few meters away, they sat glaring at me in shock as if to say, rightfully, “We cannot believe you drop kicked an adorable-enough-for-calendars infant animal.” As the student thanked me profusely for saving her, dark sunglasses masked my deluge of tears. Dr. Yogi came to see what people were yelling and cheering about, and between sobs I explained that I’d undoubtedly committed violence (as un-Ahimsa-esque as it gets) and he laughed uncontrollably. Other than my broken heart, the day still appeared normal… Monkey_templeThen BOM – in celebration of Holi the local kids launched industrial paint infused water balloons out of nowhere, with superhuman strength. They were like ninjas on steroids. The first one hit me in the bindu chakra (back of the head). The second one came hard and fast – right into my third eye (trying to keep the horror yogish). Broken sunglasses flew in all directions, my eyes and mouth were full of toxic pink liquid, it knocked the wind out of me. I looked like Carrie. My clothes were soaked, most of my body was covered, even my teeth, scleras and hair were pink. If I’d had any idea, I would have packed heat – a super soaker. I could have taken those ten year olds… Holi_kids Holi_decor Holi_TentMenHoli_DancingMan Haridwar_offeringsI was unyogically tempted to return to Haridwar for the second day of Holi, espionage style… But we stayed in Rishikesh for a friendlier celebration at our ashram, with our neighbors, including a rainbow of washable-ish powdered colors and a feast of fried delicacies.

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My sista from a different mista thinks the universe sent her to me so that we could discover what good of friends we didn’t know we were. And I agree. Becca and I met in Thailand, doing yoga on an island, and I coerced/invited her to Rishikesh. She is a sweet inspiration, brilliantly hysterical, and such fun with whom to have slumber parties, practice yoga, down bucketfuls of lemon ginger honey tea as we set the world straight! Whilst Bec was in town, Pesach happened so we went to the Seder at the Rishikesh Chabad. O
utside were fifteen armed Indian military and inside were eighty young Israelis. The joint was packed full of real Jews, from the motherland. It was hardcore – the entire evening was conducted in Hebrew and they’d snuck in eggs. Though I said things like, “Sababa!” and “Hag Samer!” with authority, I wished I was a bit Jewier. Becca AnnaBecca_BridgeFamilyMarch Madness
Spring Equinox… Gurus… Hiking… Zumba… Massages… More friends from Thailand… And longing to share the love with my precious parents, we masterminded a system to outsmart their lack of technological genius. As they couldn’t figure out how to have sound on FaceTime or how to use Skype in general, we silent-FaceTimed whilst I called their landline via Skype.

Baby Bestie
On the other side of the world, Scarlett Grace was born to my great friends Monique and Ryan.Scarlett

Osho Fo Sho
I attended Osho Meditations which involved dancing with closed eyes, as to allow one to draw their consciousness inward and alleviate self-consciousness. I should not have peeked. But I did. Just in time to see the guru rocking a mad air guitar.

Crash
My best Rishikesh friend had a motorcycle accident…
Me: I heard you hit a cow.
Sengar: No, no. It was a water buffalo.

Good Morning Guy
Each dawn he greeted me with a brilliant smile and a bright, “Good morning!” which I happily returned full force and mega-watt. One day, I saw him in the afternoon and he exclaimed, “Good morning!” And then one evening, “Good morning!” Uh huh. It’s his English Phrase. Everybody has one…
Flashback: My favorite English Phrase ever was that of a teacher who worked at the school where I volunteered in Honduras: “I’m gonna miss you!” Day after day I said, “Ok!” or “Gracias!” or “Mi tambien!” But one day I asked, “When?” And he replied, “Everybody!”StreetVendorA Little Help from My Friends
I became increasingly disenchanted with Dr. Yogi – he let his true colors show, or perhaps my eyes had opened wide enough to truly see… But my heart full of Thai bliss carried me. And my friends at my beloved 60s Cafe continued to fill my soul (and my belly!). As did Prem Baba, the Brazilian guru, who was back in town – I went to his discourses everyday.

PremBabaAnother awesome month concluded with joyful tears, a fire ceremony and a question from a friend:
What shape does the magic in your life take today? What is the shape of love?
Today, it looked like the joy on the faces of my students… It sounded like the verses of Jai Ganesha echoing through Sacha Dham Ashram… It felt like the soft kisses of my adopted Indian dog, Chapati, and the sweet breeze of all those who pass by delighting at their own reflection in my eyes…Students_MyTeam Students_GroupCertificates FireCeremony Boys_balloons AnnaMimo_laugh Anna_FireCeremony Anna_bracelet_bindi FinalOfferings_fireChinMudra_heart

Snake… Snake… Horse!

2013: Year of the Snake… India. Thailand. Cambodia. France. Austria. Hungary. Mexico. USA… From diving in the Andaman Sea to trekking in the Himalayas to chanting with Tibetan monks to hiking Mayan ruins… Family. Friendship. Solitude. Skype. Gurus. Students. Babies. Puppies. Monkeys. Elephants. Music. Mantra. Meditation. Dance. Stillness. Laughter. Tears. Poverty. Plenty. Rockstars. Dalai Lama. Oceans. Mountains. Orphanages. Ashrams. Resorts. Home. Yoga. Love. Loss. Light. Celebration. GRATITUDE… 2014: Year of the Horse…

Salud – to a year full of awesome!

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Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground, there are a thousand ways to go home again. – Rumi

The Oldest Trick in the Book

The magic continued as I journeyed out of Thailand. On the mainland, I ran into a friend I’d made over a month prior and with her traveled to Bangkok where we spent a lovely day eating mangoes before sharing a taxi to the airport… I landed in Delhi at 1am and headed to the train station where I fell for the oldest trick in the book…

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This scam is detailed in every guide book… At the New Delhi Railway Station, I was pointed to a door – it was a madhouse. In an attempt to look as Indian as possible, I pulled my scarf over my head as I approached the uniformed ticket checker…

“No no no this train delay, maybe cancel, you must go now to government office for foreign peoples for get new ticket go go go or will not make it back for next train I will help!” I followed him to a taxi which took me to an office that was five minutes away and cost 600 rupees ($12 – very expensive for here). I was told that the next train was overbooked and there were no bus seats available until the day after tomorrow, but I could book a private car for 9500 rupees (over twice the fair price).

The “government” man was clearly fake dialing phone numbers and his computer screen was blank, so I left the bogus bureau, teary-eyed and travel-weary… A younger guy noticed my dismay and gave me tea because in India, tea is the answer to everything. This chai did contain the solution! Whilst sipping from my steaming tin cup, I had an epiphany – this situation had Awesome Potential. If there truly weren’t any seats left today, I’d have a great Delhi adventure. I began to consider the thrilling options…

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But my young friend suggested going back to the train station, “Push through door, ji. Let no person stop you. Check if train truly delay, ji.” It wasn’t yet past my original departure time so I taxied back, walked right in the main gate and there was my train, front and center. Passenger lists are taped to the cars – I easily found my name and hopped aboard to discover I was seated beside a Swedish gal with whom I had inspiring conversations and excellent snacks…

Dr.Yogi and the cook (whose name sounds like Coco ji but isn’t) picked me up in Haridwar. As we proceeded to Rishikesh, they laughed hysterically at the elaborate trick for which I, an alleged seasoned traveler, had fallen – imagine how many people were involved in that scheme… Like Ocean’s Eleven! For $12…

I brought Dr. Yogi a black t-shirt emblazoned with gold elephants. He said I should have gotten white or orange because, “Anna ji, yoga people do not wear black but is ok – this very nice shirt.”

There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars…
Jack Kerouac

Visa Run: Return to the Bay of Love

Wherever you go, go with all your heart.
Confucius

Heavyhearted in a country mourning their beloved King who’d died during my stay, I wholeheartedly abandoned my FOMO – Fear of Missing Out… Taking what I used to believe was the ultimate risk (potentially regretting something not done), rather than traveling onward through Vietnam, Laos and Burma as intended, I chose to return to my beloved island in the Gulf of Thailand. The place where my journey inward had gone beyond…

Forgoing the opportunity to walk across another border to a tuktuk to a van to a bus to a train/boat/jet ski, etc… John Jackman dropped me off at the Phnom Pehn International Airport and I Bond Girl’edly jetted to the nearest island with a landing strip, where a beautiful bandana’d friend picked me up on a shiny motor bike and whisked me away for a luxurious adventure fueled by healthy food, powerful workouts and scrumptious sunshine… We watched dancers twirl flaming batons on ocean platforms, noshed on exotic fruits at night markets, did yoga at dawn and discovered The Peanut Butter Coconut Smoothie (a moment of silence please), as I recounted the many marvels of Cambodia…

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For a split sec, I was the poster girl for Nikki Beach…

After a few days of sun dancing on Koh Samui, I sailed into the wild blue yonder – back to Koh Phangan, only this time to the West side of the island…Boat Boats Ferry_Anna FerryFlag

WestKohPhangan_AnnaHandstandStag WestKohPhangan_ElephantCrocMonkey WestKohPhangan_HandstandSunset WestKohPhangan_HotelCurtains WestKohPhangan_HotelInterior WestKohPhangan_HotelView WestKohPhangan_AnnaSwing WestKohPhangan_Lamp WestKohPhangan_MotorbikeShadow WestKohPhangan_Sunset_MomChild Après island-y decadence, I headed a few kilometers to the much more rustic North to practice Mysore Ashtanga with a teacher I’d been following online, who happened to be there. It. Was. Awesome. Traditional 6am practices followed by cleansing watermelon shakes and herbal steam baths, afternoons spent doing acroyoga in the rain on the sand, evenings with yogis sharing glass noodles and fresh lime soda and glorious sunsets… Oh oh OM!AnnaApril_Acro2WKP_AprilOlivierAnna WKP_Dive WestKohPhangan_HousesWKP_Flower WKP_SkyBarWestKohPhangan_SunsetDog

And then, answering the call of comrades, I motorbiked to a jeep to a water taxi – back to the Bay of Love… Having inadvertently returned on the day of the revered full moon, finding a room wasn’t so simple, but I ended up in a darling bungalow with a precious porch overlooking a singing stream… Dinner with friends led to a lunar celebration and the entirely white-attired entourage lent an even more magical glow to the enchanting candlelit kirtan, after which the shining souls paraded through the jungle, losing a few to skinny-dip in the cool river, as we floated to a beach bonfire accompanied by acoustic guitars, bongos and sweet, sweet voices…

AnnaLeighUsher_moon AnnaUsherLeigh HaadTien_BambooBridge HaadTien_guitar HaadTien_HighOceanView HaadTien_Lost&FoundThe subsequent days are a vibrant strand of glittering memories – leading to love. I came to realize that I am in love. Physically surrounded by love, engulfed in love… Those moments in the Bay were paradisiacal. The timelessness of time was perfectly perspicuous. I became conscious of my own union, my all-access pass, to the supertemporal magic in which we live. Recollecting the pure joy of which I was granted a glimpse causes my heart to swell with such gratitude that it feels as though it may burst. And if it did, I am confident that it would explode into billions of sparkles, like a love pinata.HaadTien_LovePilar HaadTien_MermaidBoat HaadTien_temple HaadTien_SwingKissing the Bay goodbye… My taxi boat slammed into the waves, soaking screaming passengers. I could not contain my jubilant laughter as Love him and herself stood on the beach with arms outstretched in exhalation until I could no longer see bronzed, tattooed muscles, long braids, children playing, tails wagging… Just as Love faded, a yellow butterfly fluttered past – in the middle of the ocean…HaadTien_WoodHeart

At the main beach, the travel agency from where I’d booked my trip to Bangkok only days before was totally closed – under massive construction. In typical Thai style, everyone on the street somehow knew who I was, made phone calls on my behalf, conspired to get me to where I needed to be – in mere minutes a young couple and their infant arrived, with all of my tickets. They took me to the big boat, and as I cruised into the pink setting sun, shimmering against my skin which was already glowing from the inside out, I wondered if the last two months had been a dream…

Sunset

A Visa Run from My Visa Run

Phangan_CambodiaTicketsDisclaimer: Making up for lost time here people, it’s an entire astonishing country in one blog-a-thon of epic proportions…Phangan_TukTukWindowAs my passport dictates, I needed to be out of India for sixty days but my Thai visa (plus extension) was only good for thirty-six so… In a flourish of hugs and a hand off of spirulina-infused chocolate balls, I jumped into a jeep and set out through the jungle (the waves were too slammin’ for the taxi boat, even for the face-tattooed captain). The ten minute boat ride was equivalent to fifty minutes of white knuckling on arduously steep dirt roads as yoga mats ricocheted relentlessly, but I made it to the nearest town, hailed a taxi and sped to the gigantic ferry where I sat beside a lovely old lady who kept her hand on my knee for four hours… A pink cushiony bus was awaiting the ship’s arrival and I climbed in for an overnight trip to Bangkok. In the capitol, people kept pointing in directions that seemed alright and eventually I wound up crammed into a small van that went all the way to the Cambodian border…Cam_1My first pedestrian Asian border crossing was amazing. Luggage-laden travelers wilted in the ferocious heat as hoards of the touts Lonely Planet advises avoiding offered their assistance. There is a wild in-between area, a no man’s land with flashing neon signs promoting casinos and XXX clubs, and then an invisible line is crossed into the Third World. Pavement is replaced by dusty roads full of men riding rusty bicycles piled with farming equipment, women with bundles of babies in their arms balancing baskets on their heads, beautiful barefooted children begging for food…

Cam_SR_01Six hours later I made my grand entrance into Siem Reap… The name Siem Reap means “The Flat Defeat of Siam (today’s Thailand)” and refers to the centuries-old conflict between the Siamese and Khmer peeps… Cambodian history involves a king shooting a prince from an elephant’s back thus capturing 10,000 Thai troops after which another king was poisoned by his concubine who committed adultery with a commoner whom the queen raised to the throne leading to the entire family being assassinated on a barge causing a monk to disrobe and ascend the crown seat – all due to one king refusing to give another the white elephant he’d requested.

Obviously, such feuds amongst the Cambodian lords caused interventions and domination by Vietnam and Siam for hundreds of years – until the late 1800s when, under French decorating support, the village of Siem Reap became a bustling-ish gateway to the temples of Angkor…

Cam_SR_02 Cam_SR_03Despite the relatively recent brutal civil war which culminated in the genocidal rule of the Khmer Rouge, the people appeared genuinely happy. Exuding joy even. Missing limbs are the norm as land mines set by the Khmer Rouge regime are still being excavated. There is Cambodian currency in existence but mainly circulating are US dollars, and the going rate is $1 – $1 foot massages, $1 back massages, $1 fish pedicures, $1 scarves and icecreams and fried crickets and change purses made of recycled billboards and rickshaw rides…
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Angkor Wat. My Cambodian pièce de résistance, the magnificent remains of the Khmer civilization, the largest religious monument in the world… Wat means temple and this architectural masterpiece was built in the early 12th century, by the Khmer King Suryavarman II. As his funerary temple, it’s oriented to the west – symbolically positioned between the setting sun and death. Cam_AW_21Angkor Wat is a stone replica of the universe – an earthly model of the cosmic world. The central tower represents the mythical mountain Meru, and its five points correspond to the peaks. The outer wall denotes the mountains at the edge of the world, and the surrounding moat the oceans beyond. Thousands of feet of wall space are covered with intricate carvings depicting scenes from Hindu mythology. And I had the privilege of seeing the sun majestically rise over it all…

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Angkor Thom. The magnificent inner royal city, which was built by the end of the 12th century, is largely comprised of grandé faces – ala the Bayon style, also characterized by enormous scale and iron-rich reddish stone… Mega-interestingly, these temples were built to celebrate Hinduism but through conflict and chaos were eventually come to be cared for by Buddhist monks. Rather than rebuilding, the latter inhabitants simply modified by piling Buddhism on top of Hindu deities, in the form of stone flair, creating an eclectic kaleidoscope of awesome.Cam_AW_13Cam_AW_07Cam_AW_11Cam_AW_10Cam_AW_09Cam_AW_04Cam_AW_06Cam_AW_14Cam_AW_02Cam_AW_05The Hindu creation story is depicted in a bas-relief panel – Churning of the Sea of Milk. In Hindu mythology, thirteen precious things, including the elixir of immortality, were lost in the churning of the cosmic sea. Finding them again required a joint dredging operation between gods and demons. Assisting in this endeavor was the giant serpent Vasuki, who offered himself as a “churning stick.” The snake was yanked back and forth in a giant tug-of-war that lasted for a thousand years. SeaOfMilk

The bas-relief is teeming with asuras (demons) and devas (gods) – also crashing the party are the 21-headed demon king Ravana, the monkey-god Hanuman and the giant tortoise incarnation of Vishnu. The Sea of Milk, or the Ocean of Immortality, is represented by innumerable fish and aquatic creatures torn to shreds as they swim close to powerful air currents near the churning stick. Whoa… Right?!

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The Mekong. From the Tibetan Plateau, it runs through China’s Yunnan province, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. And it is mighty! En route to Phnom Penh, I ventured down the world’s 12th longest river atop a boat not meant to be sat upon. Of the eight hour cruise – through floating cities, past farms and naked children waving from shore – four hours were in rain. Charlie Don’t Surf…Cam_Mekong_07Cam_Mekong_05Cam_Mekong_06Cam_Mekong_01 Cam_Mekong_02 Cam_Mekong_03 Cam_Mekong_04Cam_Mekong_AnnaFly

Phnom Penh. The 14th century legend of the founding of Phnom Penh tells of a local woman, Old Lady Penh, gathering firewood along the banks of the river. From the water she fished a floating koki tree, inside of which were four Buddha statues and one Vishnu. The discovery was taken as a divine blessing and the Khmer capital was moved from Angkor to Phnom Penh.Cam_PP_1

Upon disembarking my Erebus (Apocalypse Now ref – come on!), I was drawn to a tuktuk driver quietly smiling from the back of the swarm vying to engage me. We locked eyes and it was on – John Jackman (his “name”) would be my tour guide and companion for the next several days. John Jackman and I cruised through the town once known as the “Pearl of Asia” – there are surviving French colonial buildings scattered along the grand boulevards. More industrial than Siem Reap, the developing country vibe is disguised in some areas by bakeries, businesses and a grand palace… I checked into a guest house in the happenin’ hood where a white pleather couch lent a lounge-y appeal to my modest room.Cam_PP_JohnCam_PP_palace Cam_TruckKids Cam_PP_vendors Cam_PP_traffic

John Jackman and I headed off on my ad-Pehn-ture… Just outside of town we passed a body crumbled near a crashed motorbike, the dead man’s brother kneeling beside him screaming as a crowd gathered in the dust. John Jackman insisted that we stop for an activity that would lighten my heart, something “all Americans enjoy.” So we went to his friend’s warehouse of joy and I shot an AK47 – at a target rather than at the live cow offered (for an additional charge) with the purchase of rocket launcher ammunition. Seriously. Admittedly, it was enjoyable – my shoulder felt the joy for days to come…
Cam_PP_AnnaGunAnd then onto the raison d’être – I needed to see The Killing Fields, which topped my list of most sobering life experiences. To see the sun so exquisitely, so serenely, so naturally set over a place of horrors at least equivalent to any Nazi era death camp, as young boys with shining faces playing on the other side of the barbed wire traded peace signs for the few remaining sips in my water bottle, was inversely romantic…

Cam_PP_KF_skulls Cam_PP_KF_lake Cam_PP_KF_brothersFrom 1975-1979, immediately following the civil war, over 20,000 mass graves were filled with at least 1,386,734 victims of execution. The total death count resulting from Khmer Rouge policies, including disease and starvation, is estimated at 1.7 to 2.5 million out of a 1975 population of only 8 million. In 1979, communist Vietnam invaded Democratic Kampuchea (the Khmer Rouge-controlled state) and toppled the Khmer Rouge regime.
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Hitting downtown Phnom Penh after such an emotionally strenuous day seemed so wrong yet so right, as the club I chose was aptly called Heart of Darkness. After shaking it off on the dance floor, I stopped into Chuck Norris Dim Sum, of course, before hitting the white pleather for a beauty rest.
Cam_PP_discoCam_PP_ChuckNorrisBut there was one more surprise, to sufficiently round out this bloodbath of a day… A pig’s head in the hallway just outside my bedroom door stopped me dead in my tracks. “Veddddy nice yes? Is good for all!” beamed a cheery concierge.Cam_PP_PigHeadI awoke to a stunning day, and following a deep meditation and inspired yoga practice, the sporadic wifi blinked on. Messages from mom typically warm my heart. This one broke it… Mia, code name Pink Mink, the fluffball of a puppy who’d wobbled and wagged into my world on my 22nd birthday, she with unrivaled nursing skills, an unparalleled sense of humor, an unprecedented canine sweet tooth and sixth sense for fashion, the fierce huntress, mighty yogini, discriminating design director, confidant and co-conspirator had received her furry angel wings… Mom’s voice resounded in her gentle words, “She was a sweet, sweet girl, thumping that curly tail until the end.”Mia_PartyHat_blog

I felt further away from home than ever before as tears soothed my burning heart en route to the market to purchase 50 pounds of rice, soccer balls, art supplies and treats for the little lights who would fill the void…

The Lighthouse Orphanage. As John Jackman pulled through the front gates of my final destination into the bright compound where I’d spend the next few days, the children surrounded us. The bigger boys carried the giant sack of rice away while the smaller babes shyly waited for me to make a move. I stepped out of the tuktuk, into the sun, and knelt in the grass with open arms. Within seconds the first brave soul came in for a snuggle which rapidly escalated into an impassioned, giggling group hug. And my heart was refilled – a true displacement of love – rather than furry amour hopelessly lost, it appeared to be, at least momentarily, a perfect reorganization.Cam_Orph_02 Cam_Orph_03 Cam_Orph_04 Cam_Orph_05 Cam_Orph_06We played music. We played soccer. We attempted yoga. We pulled each other around in a wheelbarrow. We drew in my journal. We cooked. We sang. We danced. We traded words in a variety of languages. The older girls let me teach them how to make bead bracelets which are currently being sold in a fair trade shop. We continued to hug. To be reached out for by little hands seeking nothing but love, and for your only responsibility in that moment to be reaching back, is astoundingly precious. Perhaps a hint of the pride with which the hearts of proud parents swell daily… Cam_Orph_07 Cam_Orph_08 Cam_Orph_09 Cam_Orph_10 Cam_Orph_11To be welcomed into the Lighthouse family was an immense honor. To say farewell was yet another Cambodian tearjerker. Despite the colorful atmosphere, the loving caregivers and the tight gang the 52 brothers and sisters have formed, the full realization that these beautiful tiny human beings with gigantic hearts do not have parents of their own is heavy. My childhood was full – full of love and support, in unwavering abundance and unquestionable authenticity. I wish I could magically transport each of those darlings to identical homes…  Orphanage_01

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.
– Anais NinCam_WalkingGuy

This Blog! This Blog! This Blog is on fire!

Sooooooo Blog, if that is your real name, we meet again… Due to a lack of wifi sufficient to post photos, my downward facing blog has been radically neglected. Until now, the moment likely only I have been awaiting – unlimited internet, instantaneous running HOT water, intact sidewalks, a vast array of communicatory methods and more – are all MINE. In abundance. I am home sweet home, in the United States of America. And I will begin to update to my heart’s content… Bear with me readers (mom and dad), as I upload the s#%t out of Asian and European photos from the past six months worth of adventures, authenticated via excerpts from my handwritten journal… xoxAnna_USFlagGlasses