An extraordinary day two

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Who knew yesterday could be topped. I’m learning that expectations aren’t always a good idea in Cambodia, because it’s always proven to go above and beyond anything I could imagine.

To begin with, the Russian Markets are incredible. The sheer mass of people and product, crammed into one small space, is overwhelming and exhilarating. Bartering is a daunting experience, as the shop owners are often stubborn…up until the moment you start walking away. Their smiles and willingness to stop and talk is like a welcome breath of fresh air…as they seem to truly value the time taken out of your day to show them kindness, something I’m beginning to realize isn’t so practiced back home.
It’s unfortunately easy to spend more than you budgeted for…which in actual fact equates to around US$20.

It’s difficult to believe my day got any better, but the trip to peace handicraft certainly proved that sentiment wrong. Initially, the products for sale were divine, all handmade and exquisite, but up a short flight of stairs lay true magnificence. A small room with around 20 women and men seated at sewing machines was what we encountered. These people are deaf and mute, a combination almost unfathomable as they worked on intricate designs. I sat down next to one lady who showed me how to work the bobbin thread and reverse lever, and we sat in happy silence working as an unlikely team. I was truly inspired and struck to the core.
The women meticulously gestured to us in order to convey names, ages and how big their families were, with one lady having 8 children! In the short space of 20-30 minutes, I’d connected with these women and felt a deep bond with each of them, all through silence. The bond of humanity surely does transcend expectation!

Finally, ragamuffin creative centre was on the agenda. Our leader, Kary, explained an exercise of reflection and transparency, as our group truly opened up to one another and shared feelings that go beyond skin deep. I’ll post what I wrote in reflection time when I have another moment.

All together, I finish today feeling grateful and fulfilled, that no minute was wasted and in fact I have fallen deeper in love with everything about this place. It’s wonderful to think of the bond our group has with each other already, after only three short days…it makes me very excited for what is to come!!

Until soon,
Alice

Cambodia, the true day one

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There really isn’t words available to describe the intricacy, vibrancy and chaos of Phnom Penh. Its an assault on the senses in every possible way, with constant movement, colour and noise along with unfamiliar smells and an ever present heat that weighs down on you like a heavy, wet towel. But beneath all of that is a pulsating energy that drives this city, harnessed by the extraordinary Cambodian people.

Firstly, the road rage is phenomenal. I’ve never been so fearful and amazed at the same time in quite a way as when the motorists maneuver their way around one another, with absolutely no consideration of the white lines or road signs (if any actually exist).
What struck me the most was the ease with which the Cambodians overcome such a daunting experience, seemingly without the blink of an eye or an angry toot of the horn. In fact, the trust that these motorists have in each other is extremely difficult to fathom, but inspiring none-the-less.

Today, especially, was confronting. As many of you may know, the history of Cambodia is tragic, so to ensure our cultural sensitivity and reverence, a visit to S-21 (Tuol Sleng Museum) and the Killing Fields was on our agenda this morning.
The sheer mass of impact the Khmer Rouge had on Cambodia during the short period between 1975-79 is profound, and when faced, very emotional.
Personally, it was confronting the 9000 skulls displayed in a memorial building, along with countless jawbones and clothing fragments of clothing recovered from mass graves at the killing fields that put everything into clear focus. The stories I’d read about and the faces I’d seen in photographs were no comparison to this. I was emotionally and spiritually overwhelmed….to think that the majority of these victims were innocent people manipulated into confessing to things they had no part in, leading to their execution.
Death was not simple in these killing fields, as bullets were precious and difficult to restock, so any number of inhuman methods were used on these thousands of souls.
Whilst it was incredibly uncomfortable, and I recognized that there was no possible way of preparing for it, I can say I am glad for the experience. I can now acknowledge the resilience of the Cambodian people, and their respect for those lost during this horrific time.

Following on from that experience, a tour of the S-21 torture prison, where Cambodians were taken for interrogation and eventually transferred to a killing field for execution. Of the 20,000 people to go into Tuol Sleng, only 7 survived.
That alone was shocking, but the conditions of this hell-hole were enough to make you weak with sadness.

I won’t dwell too much on the difficulties of what I experienced today, because I truly believe that there was more benefit than loss. Since those tours, I have looked at Cambodians and seen resilience, strength and a passion for living a life they deserve. It’s truly inspiring, to see how the people of Phnon Penh have endured, after such an atrocious period of genocide.

To end the day, a peaceful “sunset cruise” which was actually around an hour before sundown….along which monks would wave and laugh at us in return, titanic moments were re-enacted and peaceful reflection on the day was observed. Then, the bustling night market, with an explosion of colour and the stress of bartering to a ridiculously low price. It’s funny how we are so adamant for lowering the price of something already so unbelievably cheap!
A dinner at “Friends” ended our evening. Friends is part of an organization that teaches, houses and inspires disadvantaged youths to learn a skill such as cooking and apply it in a job, so as to lift them out of the poverty cycle. The food, by the way, was divine.

And so, as I sit here at 10:18pm with a fan blowing directly in my face and my feet pounding from exhaustion, I am smiling. Which sounds cliche, but I am truly made happy by Cambodia, in a way I haven’t quite experienced before.

Final note, my group consists of the most welcoming, approachable, witty, hilarious and compassionate people, of which I could not feel more blessed to be traveling with!

Until next time (when I have decent wifi…)

What to do, what to do…

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Ahhhh the emotions are just running out of control.

One minute, I’m fine, next minute, everything comes flooding back.

It’s human. It’s normal. But it’s bloody annoying. This whirlwind of life and love and expectation and failure is almost too much to handle. I honestly thought I’d conquered it, but apparently, ignorance is not bliss because the world catches up with you after a little while.

 

In absolute desperation, I’m trying to throw myself into research so as to distract myself, but like I said before, just ignoring the existence of sadness does not mean it doesn’t exist. All it takes is one photo and BAM I’m back to square one.

Life.

I suppose for a long time I told myself that I couldn’t have these feelings because I spend the majority of my time encouraging people that they’re worth so much more and should look on the bright side, but ironically enough, I often find myself blind when it comes to searching for the light.

It’s not that I don’t want to return to being anxiety free about that incident, I want it more than anything, but my stupid stupid mind continually wanders back to it.

 

I need a holiday. Not just away from my house but away from everything and everyone. And myself.

I need to cry for a long time, because I forced myself not to cry when it happened. I need someone who will listen to how I feel and not offer any advice, not take sides, not expect anything from me.

Something I’ve learnt though is that expectations are rarely met. Rarely. Idealistically, I’d like to say that we remember when our expectations were met more than when they’re not, which is probably right, but at the time, it flipping sucks. So I’m gradually teaching myself to enjoy the company I have and enjoy the person I am. But yeah, it’s tough.

 

*sigh*

I hate writing these posts. Honestly. But I suppose it helps me to come to terms with it, as best I can.

 

Untitled

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They say you’re nobody until somebody loves you.

 

This is the story of how I, through a series of unfortunate events, found that to be true.

Let me tell you now that I am no expert, in fact my experiences are laughably minute, but what I do know is real and jam packed with pulsating humanity. I know love can suck, and it hurts like a splinter under your nail, but I also know Life is extraordinary. Hidden so secretively in many places that it remains hidden until you practically stumble over it.

Yeah, I may be young and naive, but isn’t that what we dream of in our most vulnerable moments? The innocence of naivety, so tender and breakable, is truly the fountain of youth, so to speak.

And so, daringly I must admit, I have collected what little life experience I may have and jumbled it into a moderately cohesive story, and that’s that.

I may have felt like a nobody at some stage, but fortunately, I stumbled across myself.

This is me.

I am Alice.

 

 

to be continued…

Contemplations of “wholeness”

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Change.
I suppose it’s a challenge we all face.
To be quite honest, I never thought I was afraid of it until I truly experienced it. I think we all attempt to insulate ourselves from reality when it comes to these issues. Change requires us to remove or break something that we regarded as fundamentally “me”. Whether it’s big or small, change is daunting.
However, I think what I find more daunting is the notion that I’m good just the way I am.
As humans, perhaps more specifically as young women, we are constantly trying to “better” ourselves.

Certain things have happened to me, personally, over the past two or so months that I never thought I’d be capable of dealing with, but I proved myself wrong.

I wrote something just before, and a snipped was:

Perhaps our wholeness scares us more than our potential brokenness does

It’s deep..yes…and I haven’t the time or the phone battery life to delve into it as much as I’d like to.
But if you are reading this, chew on that quote. Ask yourself if you’re searching for cracks in yourself when in fact you have the strength and ability to tackle your problems just the way you are.

Always,
Alice

A brief summary of the current events surrounding Crimea

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All information is sourced from the links provided, along with my own additional summaries.

Side note: I am purely compiling this information out of interest on a Global Political viewpoint, I’m not inciting any agenda.

REFERENDUM SPLITS CRIMEA FROM UKRAINE

The Russian Parliament could organize a vote on Crimea’s annexation five days after the referendum on the pro-Russian region. The proposal was approved today by the parliamentary Committee for Constitutional Legislation and should be discussed in the Duma, next Tuesday. A decision that risks to inflame further the tension with US and EU that approved yesterday a first set of sanctions against Moscow.

The Russian Foreign Ministry warned today that they intend to respond to EU “nonconstructive” sanctions, “Russia will not accept such language of sanctions and threats, but, in the event of their implementation in practice they will not be left without a response”,

Earlier, Russia has allegedly decided to break off diplomatic relations with Ukraine, according sources quoted by the Ukrainian news agency Unian. The agency reports that the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin announced the decision. “Moscow does not recognize the legitimacy of the current Ukrainian power, that is why we decided to break off diplomatic relations with Ukraine”,

Russia’s upper house of the Parliament supported Crimea’s parliamentary right to hold a referendum on the region’s future status.

Foreign ministers from central Europe, the Baltics and Nordics condemned on Friday Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine and a planned referendum planned by Crimea’s government, calling for the EU to send an observation mission to Kiev. “Nordic and Baltic countries and the Visegrad countries’ foreign ministers condemned today … the attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and also condemned the illegal referendum on the joining of Crimea with Russia,” the ministers said in joint statement from the meeting.

http://www.euronews.com/2014/03/07/live-updates-efforts-to-de-escalate-tension-in-ukraine-meet-with-no-/

A QUESTION OF ANNEXATION OR AUTONOMY

It is uncertain if the referendum by Crimean Government is in the interest of annexing from Ukraine and joining Russia, or if the region is seeking independence and self-governance (autonomy).

RUSSIAN AIR FORCE

(7-3-14) Russian servicemen are preparing to install air defense systems on the Crimean peninsula, Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Yevhen Perebyinis has said.

“According to the Ministry of Defense and law enforcement agencies, during last 24 hours the situation in the Crimea was characterized by further enforcement of the military alignments of Russian Armed Forces on the Crimean territory and by Russian troops preparing to install air defense systems on the peninsula territory, which includes the use of air defense missile battalions of Ukrainian Armed Forces that are being planned to be taken over [by Russians],” Perebyinis said during the briefing on Friday.

http://www.kyivpost.com/content/politics/foreign-ministry-russian-soldiers-preparing-to-install-air-defense-systems-in-crimea-338739.html

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL CALLS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH

With journalists, activists and peaceful protestors facing increasing harassment and intimidation in Crimea, there is an urgent need for a strong international monitoring mission in Ukraine, said Amnesty International.

It is calling for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to urgently establish a strong international monitoring mission in the country.

“Attempting to monitor the human rights situation in Crimea has become a near impossible task. Self-styled Crimean self-defence groups are harassing pro-Ukrainian protestors, journalists and human rights monitors with complete impunity,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Director at Amnesty International.

Members of the OSCE, journalists and other human rights groups are being denied entry into the Crimean area or forced to desert plans because of security risks posed by radical protestors.

“The OSCE must quickly establish a strong monitoring mission and enjoy unimpeded access to all parts of Ukraine – including Crimea, which remains on a knife edge and where tensions are still high. Russia should welcome, not block this initiative,” said John Dalhuisen.

Peaceful protesters who attempt to express their support for the unity of Ukraine and opposition to Russian military presence in the Crimean peninsula face intimidation from pro-Russian activists.

There is a severe lack of protective services in the area to protect the peaceful protestors or journalists, and when there are a small number present, they are either unequipped to combat the pro-Russian groups or unwilling to intervene, causing serious doubts as to their legitimacy or for the safety of civilians still presiding in Crimea.

[M]en attacked a journalist from “News of the Week – Crimea” as he tried to film an event. They pushed him into the road and threatened to beat him. Crimean police officers who were standing about 30 metres away did not react to the incident.

Amnesty International is calling on the de facto Crimean authorities, Russian forces and the new Ukrainian authorities to ensure that everyone with a stake in the future of Ukraine and its regions is able to express their views peacefully.

http://www.amnesty.org/en/for-media/press-releases/crimea-human-rights-monitors-urgently-needed-journalists-and-activists-face

 DUMA CONSIDERS REFERENDUM OF CRIMEA

A bill for the annexation of the autonomous region of crimea could potentially be read in the Duma parliament on March 21.

The Speaker of Crimea’s parliament, Vladimir Konstantinov, pledged to do everything possible for Ukraine to reunite with Russia.

Ukraine “is part of the united Russian world. After we solve Crimea’s problem (I’m sure we will solve it) we must exert maximum effort not just to protect ethnic Russians.”

“In general, all citizens of Ukraine – Russians and Ukrainians should be protected from Nazism and from the West’s pressure that imposes its ideology,” Konstantinov said.

“I believe that Ukraine’s present power will collapse. The power will have serious contradictions within the year. Today instead of making Ukraine a united state it does not hear the interests of Ukraine’s south-east,”

The chamber’s deputy speaker and United Russia faction leader, Vladimir Vasilyev, for his part, said at the meeting that the State Duma resolutely supports the Crimean population in this difficult time

Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who also attended the meeting with the Crimean delegation, said that millions of Russian citizens were pleased to hear news of the Crimean Parliament’s decisions.

“I would like to assure you that everything will happen just the way the people of Crimea want it to happen.You should stand firm. You should have no doubts,” he said.

“People will carry you on their shoulders. Your names will create a new chapter in the history of Crimea,” Zhirinovsky said.

http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2014_03_07/Russias-State-Duma-consider-Crimea-annexation-bill-on-March-21-8188/

GERMANY WARNS RUSSIA ABOUT CRIMEAN ANNEXATION

German foreign minister Frank Walter Steinmeier and his Czech counterpart warned Russia against annexing Crimea, saying the global community of nations would vehemently condemn any such move. (8-3-14)

Any sanctions against Russia will be carefully considered and not automatic, in the case of the annexation taking place, says Steinmeier.

Steinmeier also made a statement explaining that the European Council is in a difficult situation, where escalation (sanctions) purely for escalations sake is not the answer to such an issue and does not reflect European policy, instead, their policy is to seek ways to keep the Ukraine together and not fall into civil war or economic tragedy.

Warnings were made by Seinmeier that if Russia did not relent on the situation in Crimea, especially if the annexation were to take place, tougher measures to punish Russia could follow.
A poll conducted on Germans on the trust levels of Russian leadership reveals that the status of reputation is at an all time low, with only 15% responding that they trust the Russian leaders, and only 8% responded that they believed Vladimir Putin was a democratic politician.

http://www.dw.de/german-foreign-minister-steinmeier-warns-russia-against-annexing-crimea/av-17482329

Calling all modern warriors

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Come one, come all, but most of all,  come ready.

Modern warriors, this is our time to shine.

I’m not calling on the mastery of physical weapons or a fierce right hook, what I challenge today is the uprising of a new kind of warrior. One with tools of expression and knowledge that were inconceivable a mere generation ago. Our outlets of interpretation for information are vast and growing. Our weapons may be  less overt but no less effective.

Chains of ignorance no longer bind us and our hearts have been filled with the passion for justice in an unequal world.

No longer can the truth under our noses be hidden, for we are enhancing our capabilities to combat the harsh segregations created by a world fearful of change.

Nations of less fortunate and severely repressed peoples call to our aid, and it should be our sworn oath to answer them.

No longer should our children grow up in a Western World insulated from the needs and injustices experienced by our Brothers and Sisters neighbouring us.

Our weapons are our voices, our curiosity and our steadfastness.

I challenge you to find your passion, whether for your home soil or nations distant, and to sharpen your weapons of freedom of information as frequently as possible.

It is our time to rise to the world stage with loyalty on our side and common humanity in our hearts. The pain and oppression of our day and age is defenceless against our united stance.

Modern warriors I call on you to say that you are integral in our battle plan. Without YOU there is no Hope. In order for equality and evenhandedness to prevail we must rely upon you to receive this information and introduce it into your worlds.

It will be a long and hard battle, one that has been fought for too long already. But I have no doubts that our victory is in sight.

Fight for your families, whether of your own blood or not. For each of those starved of freedom at this moment also contain within their beings the tools for a better future.

Plunge headfirst into our deep reservoir of resources and seek voraciously the tools in which to sharpen your weapons.

 

Modern Warriors…It’s up to us.