Parallel U
pt. I

Number 17–Traveling Shoes

Leaving tomorrow morning. Relieved to be on the move again but also a little sad. On one hand, I'll be simultaneously glad to be back in the states and happy to get a break from working. The most important thing about a job for me is a definite end time, the worst thing is feeling indefinitely trapped. I could also use a respite from the craziness of the undeveloped world. I love it on many levels but I'm nowhere near as tolerant as I ought to be. Petty little annoyances and insufficiencies, which are totally natural to a place like Phnom Penh, weigh me down and make me wacky. Six or seven months at a time is probably the right level of exposure before my orneriness and cantankerousness begins to catch up with reality. Of course, part of that comes with the privilege of getting old – we're allowed to be somewhat crazy.

On the other hand, I'm just beginning to get the hang of this teaching thing, enjoying the students and beginning to reach them and earn my (relatively) fabulous wages. I don't want to know what the Khmer teachers earn for doing the same work because it's certain to be a third to a quarter of my pay. Makes you feel priveleged and a little strange.

Nevertheless, the reason for that discrepancy is obvious; we have something they can’t replicate in their society; worldly experience and the English language. While it helps a lot to be a native speaker, I’ve also come across quite a few other Europeans – German, Dutch, Greek, French; some with thick accents – not to mention Philippino and other Asian people, who are teaching in Phnom Penh.

I went about a week ago to reserve a seat on my open ticket. Was dismayed to hear that the airline was booked solid for three months. I don't ever remember waiting more than about three weeks for a seat on any flight here in Asia. Once you leave the states you are amazed to discover that last minute tickets cost the same as those booked way in advance. That's the way I like to do things. Who knows what might happen to change my mind. You know, maybe I would have been fated to meet my one last true love the day after I leave on a flight I booked six months in advance. Must go with the flow, or try.

Big problem I lightly, jovially whine, I could run out of money, might have to take another airline next time. There was no way for them to contact me and the office was an easy walk so I needed to check in every day and of course they (got tired of me, and/or sympathized with me, and/or felt sorry for me, and) found me a seat. I'm sure they hold some seats for last minute travelers, though the clerk said no. A call to the head office in Taipei was all it took.

So back on June 14. I was ready to kill a month in Burma or China, now I have about three weeks altogether. I had already programmed in a week at the beach in Thailand, five weeks would have been way too much – milky white sand, hot salt water, excessive hammock time and half naked bodies could have gotten real boring (well, not the bodies).

So now I'll find a forest or something akin to fill up that extra week.