Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Story: I'm in the back seat of my in-law's SUV about a month ago. We're driving in downtown Chicago at night - I think we're on North Avenue. We just came from the theater. And then I see it - the giant Z Gallerie store - one of my favorite design stores ever - and in the storefront window: an enormous piece of artwork displaying famous and historic streets in Chicago... in black & white... I fell in love!
Come to find out later, the piece really IS very large... a little too large for my tiny Japanese apartment walls. It also retails for $400. Bummer. But wait, I'm pretty sure I can replicate this piece of artwork and do so in a smaller format that works better for our place - I mean, it can't be that hard, right? To be honest, I've had some difficulties with painting in the past - I may have gone to an art school, but Matt will tell you that I'm no Van Gogh. I'm more technical than organic. My last piece of art was produced using a protractor. But, I decided to give it a try. I went to a local art store I know of out in town called "Green Note Stationary", which is more of an art supply store than a stationary store, but that's the Japanese for you. I purchased a canvas that I thought would fit perfectly in the spot I had allocated, along with a bunch of paints from the 100yen store. I used the Z Gallerie piece as my inspiration, and went to work making stencils of the street names. I was incredibly surprised at how well it turned out on my first try - and all for about $20!
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
My sister's apartment in MN... she got a little snow.
Not easy to get a good one, but we did it!
Downtown Chicago for the evening @ Lawry's Prime Rib
Monday, January 10, 2011
Baskets of fruits and veggies at the market
The locals use these flowers to make some kind of soup
Dozens of eggs
This woman made us some waffles out of rice - they were actually very good!
TONS of different fish for sale - still alive and flopping around in the baskets!
Baby sitting on a moped at the market - not unusual at all
After our time at the market was up, we drove down to the lake, where we boarded our tour boat that would take us to the stilted village of Kampong Phluk. There were a TON of these large, brightly painted, wooden boats - all trying to get through the same narrow passageway out to the lake - it was a crazy traffic jam, and I thought for sure we were going to collide with someone or something!
One of the floating houses - also, there were no cars or bikes. Everyone uses boats to get around the village - pretty cool.
Some of the stilted houses in the background, and in the foreground - a floating cage filled with pigs!
The villagers must build their houses up on high stilts in order to survive the "wet season" on the Tonle Sap Lake, when the water will raise up about 24 feet. Our tour guide told us that even though they are built up high, some still get the first floor of their homes flooded!
Check out this video clip of us arriving at the village:
It was really incredible!
We stopped the boat and got off for lunch in a dryer area of the village that wasn't under water at the time - you can see the unused boats just laying in the "road". I was concerned about where the kids play when the village floods for most of the year (as there were many kids outside playing while we were there), but our tour guide told me that instead of running around outside, they swim outside! What a different way of life!
We ate lunch in one of the stilted houses that was a Homestay - a family's home that rented out rooms to travelers (or in this case, it was less of a "room" and more of a "bed"). They had a hatch in the floor that led down to the kitchen.
Leaving Kampong Phluk
Instead of getting back on our brightly colored boat, we left the stilted village via canoe.
One of my favorite places I visited in Cambodia - The Flooded Forest. Because it was the "dry season", much of the trees were exposed, however, during the "wet season" when the water level rises, you can only see the very tops of the trees poking out of the water as you paddle by!
It was incredibly peaceful - I can still remember the sunlight coming through the gorgeous trees, and the calm sound of the water being paddled - I could have fallen asleep! And the trees we paddled through were SO dense - I can't believe we even made it through!
Check out this video clip of us floating through the Flooded Forest:
Finally made it out to the main part of the lake - it was so big that it felt like we were out in the ocean.
More fresh coconuts to drink - I can't remember how many of these I ended up having!
Although we didn't have a traditional Thanksgiving meal that night, we did go to a dinner show that featured traditional Cambodian dancers called Apsara Dancers. These dancers would dance for the king throughout history and are a very important part of Cambodian culture - there are carvings of them ALL OVER the temples of Angkor Wat.
Night Market of Siem Reap
Our last night ride in a tuk-tuk:(
Before heading back to Okinawa, we took advantage one last time to get some super cheap massages at one of the nicer spas called Frangipani.
It was a nice surprise to get to sit on the top floor of this cute Picachu Plane on our way home!
On a humorous side note: I have to mention that one of the funniest parts about our trip to Cambodia was everyone who kept making comments about how big of a guy Matt is, and that he apparently looks exactly like some American wrestler named John Cena??!? Apparently John Cena is doing a movie about Cambodia in the near future alongside their favorite actress - Angelina Jolie (otherwise, I'm sure they would have never heard of him before - just like me!). Anyway, we must have gotten a half-dozen comments during our five days in Siem Reap about it - even the airport employee who ushered us out as we were boarding our plane to leave turns to him and says (and no, I'm not making this up): "Smackdown! John Cena!".
In my opinion, this was the perfect trip to take over the Thanksgiving holiday. Although we gave up our traditional Thanksgiving meal, I feel like we gained so much perspective on the world, knowledge of and respect for other cultures, and most importantly - an incredible sense of thankfulness for what we have been blessed with as Americans. Even the poorest person in America is rich to these children we met in Cambodia, and that is something to really think about. This was not just a vacation - it was an amazing life experience for both Matt and I.
Thanks for following along on our adventures:)