May 31, 2010

The Cambodian Adventure Lady goes to Japan

It's over. My Cambodian adventure ended with the epic one-two punch of Angkor Wat and severe stomach problem. I completed the tourist circuit by strolling across the bridge into the massive Angkor Wat complex. Of all the touristy sites in Cambodia, none get the build up of Angkor Wat. Guidebooks, tourism websites, and even my students proclaimed this wonder of the ancient world to be the best thing about Cambodia.

Somehow, the green scaffolding-covered towers of Angkor Wat didn't meet my otherworldly expectations. The complex is indeed daunting in it's size, and considering the google of man hours it must have taken to build this place, it is certainly worth admiring. Following the hundreds of tour groups through the hallways and up the stairs took away some of the mystery I was hoping for. Ducking and dodging out of the frame of other people's pictures, I tried to take some of my own. The best part of Angkor Wat was ascending the steep stairs to the top part of the temple. Leaving behind less fit tourists, Takeshi and I were able to enjoy the awesomeness of the temple from above. We stared over the lush jungles, we peered over the edges to see the ruins beneath us, and we pondered the beauty of this temple in its prime. Reconstruction, we agreed, was going to do a lot of good here. I guess I'm not much for broken ruins...

Speaking of broken ruins, somewhere between the intense heat of Siem Reap, the extra-sketchy vendor food at Angkor Wat, and a huge dinner, my body acquired a sickness that can be best described as “Cambodia is gonna miss you, Jena.” Losing my dinner from both ends on my last night in Cambodia seemed somehow fitting. Guts escaping with exhausting ferocity, I did my best to stay alive—at least long enough to get to Japan.

And I did. Just ignore your guts, I told myself as we spent the last few hours in Cambodia eating some of my favorites (pork and rice, Lucky Burger, ice cream). The occasional stomach rumble could not deter me as we took off from Siem Reap International Airport. The red eye flight from Bangkok to Tokyo was pleasant enough, but I began to feel the effects of my lapse in food judgment as soon as we touched down in Tokyo. By the time we met up with Takeshi's friends, loaded up the Nissan and made the two-hour trek into Tokyo city, I was not okay. My stomach was churning something fierce, and the lack of sleep the past two nights had me in a dense fog. I struggled to maintain consciousness as we greeted his mother, prayed together and set up our small apartment. Everyone could tell that I was feeling pretty miserable, so they told me to take a rest while they went out.

An hour into my comatose rest, the now familiar you-are-about-to-puke feeling sent me stumbling through the Japanese apartment, searching for the toilet. I slid the door closed behind me and prayed that everything that was about to come out would not soil the carpet, walls or other beautiful surfaces of this cute bathroom. I did have to sacrifice one small rug, as no trash can was within arms distance, but I think the washing machine will take care of it. A few rounds of gut-emptying later, my body gave up and decided to just sleep it off. Takeshi and his mom brought me all the essentials: re-hydration fluids, rice porridge, and cold towels.

It's not exactly what I had pictured from my arrival in Japan, but I guess if you start at the bottom, there's only one way to go...