the end.1

16 03 2009

Well, this isn’t really the end, it’s more of a new start.  New things starting and old things dying.  I’ll keep you updated on the start of a new blog, so check back here every now and then.

Untiil then,

Kev

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Cambodia.3

8 02 2009

This is a journal from my first two days in Cambodia, raw and unedited. I would like to point out that since then, I found out that the new buildings in the capitol are not ushering Cambodia forward, but instead crippling its poorest citizens, by evicting them to locations far outside the city. These camps lack sanitation, water, and schools.

DAY 1
The flight from Taipei took four hours—three of which was spent sleeping and one of which was spent reading in-flight magazines and listening to Chinese pop on the airplane radio.

Wearing my overly-large flannel shirt, I imagined stepping off the plane and melting into a tropical puddle of Kevin-y goop. Luckily, Cambodians are wearing sweaters to shield their bodies from the cold weather—although that means nothing for me because I still feel hot and sticky. Yay!

Jokes aside, the weather is really nice, its been humid and mild since I’ve landed and there were even sprinkles today. Ah, but I’m skipping ahead of myself.

Aside from the change in climate, the first thing I noticed when I arrived in Phnom Penh was the chaotic driving. Luckily my “cousin” was driving us around so we didn’t have to deal with the madness of navigating through the sea of motos, tut tuts, bikes and cars. The congestion is dense, but somehow through the craziness, I haven’t seen a single accident.

Our first real sojourn into the city was to a “mall” that had small shops, a food court, and even theaters and a restaurant on top. Outside, it is surrounded by small, rundown shops and homes. The contrast between the mall and buildings outside are startling, and although the wealth is owned by a few wealthy elite, new buildings such as these are clearly pushing the capitol to improve living conditions.

We headed up what seemed to be an endless spiral of escalators to the top floor, where the restaurant is located. As we walked in, we were greeted and ushered to a table outside by waiters and waitresses wearing brightly colored, striped uniforms. From the patio you get a stunning view of the city and from this vantage point, you could see large buildings being erected nearby.

The food came—we had delicious hotpot that night and the selection of meats and veggies are way too numerous to list, but let me tell you, if you ever come, you will not be disappointed.

Afterwards, we headed down to our car and started heading back on the dirt road to my uncle’s house. As the food started settling, so did drowsiness and jetlag—once I got back, a quick wash was all I needed before I knocked out.

DAY 2

From the mid to late 1970’s the Khmer Rouge took hold of Cambodia in one of worst atrocities of the 20th century. Within a four year period, nearly half of Cambodia’s population was wiped out.

I visited the Tuol Sleng genocide museum, which was a secondary school-turned prison. Walking the empty hallways and rooms, old, dated photographs of tortured prisoners stared back at me, reminding me that the dark stains on the ground weren’t from dirt, but blood. Even though it was hot outside, all I could feel was a silent chill which ran through every room.

Prisoners were shackled to metal beds and mutilated in numerous ways. Those who weren’t were thrown in dark, wooden cells barely three feet wide and six feet across. Those who weren’t there were water boarded, hung, drowned, whipped, electrocuted, killed. I didn’t know what to think, what to feel, but the skulls and photographs in the rooms all seemed to me to ask the same question—Why?

We left the prison and headed to a mass grave site a few kilometers drive away. A tall, eerie monument greeted visitors with story upon story of human skulls which stretched far into the sky.

All around the monument lay dead bodies—beneath a 6×15 foot plot, lay nearly 300 people—still buried. The people who were led to these mass graves were unaware of what was going on. Scraps of fabric still lie on the ground, nature slowly unearthing what was once someone’s nicest shirt and tie—clothes they thought the king would see, or so they were told.

As you walk around, small dips in the earth are subtle reminders that here and there are another hundred or so buried bodies. I honestly cannot describe the feeling one gets from seeing this—women, children, men—all gone, gone, gone. Mindless. Pointless.

As I was walking out, I told my uncle it was unusual how many butterflies were flying around the graves—I told him they made the whole place seem somewhat more peaceful. He responded by reminding me that the butterflies were once ta-coew¬, a word in Cambodian which means caterpillars as well as worms and maggots.





Cambodia.2

12 01 2009

I have started this first sentence dozens of times, but I can’t seem to find the right words to capture what I truly feel about Cambodia. For now, this less-than-perfect intro will have to serve as the beginning of an entry that I hope will capture at least a glimpse of what I experienced.

Living in America, I didn’t realize how “American” I was. Here, I felt different—an American citizen with a past and history that only few Americans have the un/fortunate responsibility to remember and carry. There are less than fifty Cambodians attending my college, which accounts for a nearly invisible population when compared to the makeup of my campus as a whole. One of fifty. One of fifty! I would spew what little I knew of my culture to others, at times ashamed of how much I didn’t know, at times saddened by how little others knew.

Unintentionally, my trip to Cambodia would open my eyes to how ignorant I was to the reality that is Cambodia.

Knowing mostly genocide stories from my parents—I would often tell people of the pain, the endless toil that those in the genocide suffered. Although the Cambodian genocide is clearly one of the most important and tragic events in its history, Cambodia itself trudged forward, rebuilt itself, and is still in the process of advancing and healing. The only thing I really saw prior to my trip was a genocide which occurred nearly 30 years ago.

Landing in the capitol city of Phnom Penh, I saw exactly what I expected, numerous beggars, overcrowding, interesting and unfamiliar smells. It was all there, no surprises! When will the trip be over? I knew all of this in the states. Mistakenly, what I first saw was only what I expected to see and I can attest now that while there is still begging, overcrowding and interesting smells, all of this has contributed to a fuller perspective—a beautiful and vivid understanding of what being Cambodian truly means.

Continued in next entry.





Taiwan.1

22 12 2008

Hello!

I’m sitting at a internet kiosk in Taipei right now. The flight to cambodia boards in about thirty minutes so I can’t talk much. I couldn’t sleep on the flight, so if I sound incoherrent, that’s why. Anyways, its slightly humid here, which makes me fear what will surely be crazy humidity in Cambodia.

BTW, I took a picture next to a giant gundam because I don’t think I will see another one for a long time. Also I want to buy some Japanese magazines here, but I’m not sure if they take USD.

Anyways, I have to get going, but I have to say, even from just wandering the airport, Taiwan looks like an amazing and beautiful place to visit/live. Time to make more travel plans! Taiwan anyone?

Y (you know, the hand sign) from Taipei,
Kev





Cambodia.1

21 12 2008

And so it begins.

My two week tango with Cambodia will begin in approximately 24 hours. I don’t know how often I will have access to a working internet connection, so bear with me, as updates may be slow.

I’m not sure what to expect, but I have written out a to do list, which will grow as I get bored on my 14-hour flight to Taipei and then the however-many-hour flight to Phnom Penh.

So far, my list is as follows:

  • Do not scratch mosquito bites
  • Eat a spider
  • Eat a grasshopper
  • Talk to one random person
  • Gastronomic video documenting
  • Chat for the first time with aunt, uncle and cousins
  • Ride on a moto
  • Karaoke
  • Take a picture where I am holding some sort of building
  • …Well, that’s all for now. Feel free to suggest other things I should do by commenting below–hopefully I will be able to check this while I’m there. Until then, I hope that all of you have a great holiday and get some solid rest before the next round of school/work starts.

    stay gold,
    kev





    Asian American.1

    26 11 2008

    It’s raining outside and I‘m sitting in a crisp-smelling Borders flipping though a book titled Asian American X. Getting over the badly designed cover, I open it to see if the words inside can better captivate me. Contained in the volume are several short pieces of writing composed by Asian-Americans. Their views are varied and encompass a myriad of different feelings and ideas, but there is one similarity that connects each author–the fact that they themselves feel so unfamiliar with whom they really are.

    I’ve never really questioned why the decimation of three-million Cambodians only receives a simple blurb in high school textbooks, or why when I try to talk about these three-million people, it is almost always new news to others. I never really questioned. I never really questioned why I accept the label ‘Asian’ when the cultures that comprise who I am are so radically and richly different. I guess it’s easy to fall into a sense of complacency and comfort as long as you tell yourself there are more important things to worry about.

    As I continued to read, I could feel a growing unease scratching the pit of my stomach. I was uncomfortably aware that I could relate to these authors.

    My close friend and I hold two differing beliefs when it comes down to Asian-American identity. My friend believes that it is inevitable that Asian-Americans will mix and embrace American culture, so one should just embrace it–embrace everything America stands for–you know, equality, freedom, hope, bootstraps–all that and other words with the same connotations. Don’t get me wrong, I believe this is a valid argument, but as I’ve already stated, I don’t agree with it.

    Of course, with future generations–the third, the fourth, the fifth, things will change, but I believe the question is not when, but how these generations will change. The period we live in marks a crucial point in shaping the Asian-American identity. By 2070, it is estimated that 1/3 of Asian-Americans will be mixed. What I am trying to say is that as first or second generation Asian-Americans, we are the only link that connects future generations of Asian Americans with the past generations who lived in Asia–that is to say, we are the gap that bridges the old and the new—what we make of this responsibility is entirely upon ourselves.

    My grandfather passed away two weeks ago and until then I did not realize that throughout my life, I’ve been learning things at school: math, science, History, English–but what was really missing in my studies was an education of who I am. It never occurred to me to ask my grandfather how to cook his (delicious) egg cake or make noodles (from scratch). It never occurred to me to ask him about his past life in China or interesting stories or why we preformed certain traditions the way we did; my grandpa seemed immortal to me, it never occurred to me that along with his physical passing there also passed with him a rich, cultural legacy.

    My friend is true in claiming that as generations progress, Asian-Americans will further latch themselves onto popular American culture—denying this is denying the inevitable. Where I choose to deviate from my friend is the belief that we should merely sit idle and let wave after wave of Hollywood-manufactured American culture shape who we, as Asian Americans are. Undoubtedly if left unchecked, the future of Asian-America will be comprised of the kung-fu-fighting, Harvard educated, sex kittens Asian Americans have been associated with.

    What I am ultimately trying to say, is that this is a pivotal point in Asian-American history—for many, this period will serve as the time when traditions and legacies are remembered or forgotten. I am not calling for any type of radical change, but simply that we need to take hold of what traditions and culture we can before the oozing ebb of manufactured American Culture steals it away and transforms it into next year’s new Urban Outfitter scarf or some exotic sixth flavor from Asia.

    Note: I understand some gross exaggerations are used in this entry.





    FTW.1

    22 11 2008

    I grab my week’s laundry and walk over to the laundry room, basket in hand.  My clothes are tossed in, the lid is closed, the quarters are deposited, the start button is pushed and…nothing happens.  Apparently whoever it is that controls laundry prices (lets say he or she is called the Laundry God) wanted to raise prices by another quarter.  Now I don’t know why the Laundry God would do this in an apartment mostly rented out by college students–especially with the economy the way it is–but what L.G. (that’s Laundry God, for short) does can not be questioned unless one wishes to face the consequences.

    Dear Laundry God...

    Dear Laundry God...

    I guess I’m going to sudsy Hell.

    -Kev