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Doorways, pillars, and corridors of Angkor Wat

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All five towers that make up Angkor Wat, meant to represent mountains.

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A view of one side of the Angkor Wat complex, taken from the spot where the Khmer King addressed his people below.

Angkor Wat (which means City of Temples) is a temple complex located near Siem Reap, Cambodia, built by the king of the Khmer Empire in the 12th century. It is considered a world heritage site and attracts millions of tourists a year. Wikipedia states that it’s the largest religious complex in the world–the temple itself is massive but the entire area has 2.2 miles of wall around it. The complex even has a moat around it! Amazing, the whole thing. It was originally built as a Hindu temple but was then converted to a Buddhist temple. According to a Cambodian tourism website: “Angkor Wat is a miniature replica of the universe in stone and represents an earthly model of the cosmic world. The central tower rises from the center of the monument symbolizing the mythical mountain, Meru, situated at the center of the universe. Its five towers correspond to the peaks of Meru. The outer wall corresponds to the mountains at the edge of the world, and the surrounding moat the oceans beyond.” It has been damaged by war enemies, treasure hunters, and during the civil war in Cambodia in then 1960′s and 1970′s and fighting that lasted into the 1990′s.

This is my second trip here (very lucky!). This time, I was just fascinated with the pillars and corridors. Every pillar in Angkor Wat has an elaborate carving. Beyond that, I can’t exactly quantify what amazed me about it. I think how perfectly they were aligned contrasted with the erosion of the sandstone over time. Then adding in light and shadow, it was just fascinating. My poor friends and brother, they were like, “Sarah, there’s another door for you.”

There are almost 1800 detailed carvings of the dancing girls (Apsara) throughout Angkor Wat.

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It took some patience to get a few of these shots (lots of other tourists), but I got a few that I wanted to share.

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Portaits of Southeast Asia–The Ladyboys of Thailand

 

ladyboyglamSo in case you haven’t seen Hangover 2, one of the unique things about Thailand (besides the beautiful beaches and spectacular jungles and thousands of amazing temples) are the ladyboys. Ladyboys are men who dress as women and often undergo plastic surgery to become more womanly, including breast implants, shrinking Adam’s Apples, and perhaps even vaginal reconstruction (though some of the limited googling I did suggested this was rare). Anyway, they’re apparently like a third gender category in Thailand and make pretty good money. It sounds like it’s something people are more comfortable with in Thailand. I’ve posted a few pictures from our ladyboy cabaret experiences, which was fascinating and a lot of fun. The one we went to was by no means extravagant. Some of them were obviously men, but others it was pretty hard to tell. By the way there was NO nudity at this show.

lbb lbhappyhour lbfeathers  lbgroup lb sheman lb feather portrait

lbstripIn the picture above, one of the ladyboys was transforming back into a man.

 

Writer friends, are you addicted to writing? I think I have a problem….

bruce-almighty-typing-animated1So here I am on an amazing Thailand and Cambodia with two of my best friends, soon to be joined by my brother and what am I doing? Waking up at like five a.m. to write lol. Writing on the plane. Thinking about my novel on bus rides.

Now give me a break, I did have kind of a major plotting/characterization breakthrough the week before we left and it’s just really bothering me not to be able to work on it. I’m having a fabulous adventure to be sure. Making the most of my Southeast Asia adventures…hanging out on beaches, playing with elephants, attending ladyboy shows, eating lots of amazing food, seeing things like this….

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But my novel’s still working through my brain. And then I see things like this in Chiang Mai…. Not going to lie, I wanted to go here…

P1140196The first step is to admit you have a problem, right?

Are you addicted to writing? Do we need to start Writer’s Anonymous?

On being the token Yank: Gun rights (oh, crap, am I really going to put that out there?)

gnz

So gun rights…. American friends, I’m sure you realize it’s a hotly debated topic that starkly divides the nation. Non-American friends, in case you DIDN’T know, it’s a hotly debated topic that starkly divides the nation. So if you ask about it, you are likely opening, let’s say, a can of worms. I’m on a vacation with two of my best friends in Thailand and Cambodia right now, and let’s just say the topic was brought up by a bar tender from south of London and things got more than a bit heated between my friend and me. My poor third friend was just like screw you guys, I’m walking on the beach lol.

Not surprising that it came up really. I get asked about the United States and our guns, and our perceived love of them, all the time. Our mass shootings of generally innocent people routinely make international headlines…again and again. Our country is unique in the freedom people have to buy and own guns when compared to a lot of the rest of the world, particularly European countries. Our British friend today said that police in mainland United Kingdom don’t even carry guns. They do in Northern Ireland due to continued threats by dissident republicans, but that’s a different story. Farmers are allowed to own a gun for hunting, but that’s it. Anyway, I’ve been in several situations with other Americans on the opposite side of the fence where it’s clear that the Brit who started it is enjoying their s**t stirring. Generally though, people really don’t understand why our government doesn’t do more to limit the kind of guns and numbers of guns available or who can buy them. A lot don’t even understand why we have them at all because other places don’t feel they need them for protection and the fact that we have so many legally-owned guns means that there’s just more guns out there to be illegally obtained.

I’ve explained (very poorly I’m sure) the Second Amendment: The Second Amendment (Amendment II) to the United States Constitution protects the right of individuals to keep and bear arms. The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that the right vests in individuals, not merely collective militias, while also ruling that the right is not unlimited and does not prohibit all regulation of either firearms or similar devices State and local governments are limited to the same extent as the federal government from infringing this right per the incorporation of the Bill of Rights. The Second Amendment was adopted on December 15, 1791, as part of the first ten amendments comprising the Bill of Rights.

The Second Amendment was based partially on the right to keep and bear arms in English common-law and was influenced by the English Bill of Rights of 1689. Sir William Blackstone described this right as an auxiliary right, supporting the natural rights of self-defense, resistance to oppression, and the civic duty to act in concert in defense of the state.[8]

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution; yes I was kind of lazy)

I will say there is great variety in gun laws state to state. My state only recently allowed conceal and carry, which allows people to carry guns on their person as long as they’re not seen, except in establishments that specify you can’t with a sign, like schools and churches. Some states don’t allow this at all. Some have longer waiting periods. I hear some you can walk into a gun show and leave with guns.

Here’s a few quick facts:

18 percentage points: Amount the share of households who own guns decreased from 1973 to 2010. Three decades ago, 50 percent of households owned guns, in 2010, just 32 percent do,, according to University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center.

65 percent: The portion of guns in America owned by just 20 percent of gun owners. When we debate gun control, there is the inevitable claim that gun ownership is a cherished tradition held by a vast portion of the country. For an example of this, here’s a National Review editorial making that case Monday. But the portion of Americans who own a whole bunch of guns is actually pretty small.

60 percent to 39 percent: Americans in living in the West who support more gun control versus those in the West who do not. Support for more gun control has a pretty clear regional divide, with the South, as you might expect, being most hostile to new gun laws. Southerners opposed gun control by 50 percent to 46 percent. Midwesterners are split, with 49 percent wanting more gun control and 48 percent opposed to it. And in the Northeast, 67 percent want more gun control, while 31 percent don’t. The South is by far the most violent part of the country, Kieran Healy points out at right.

52 percent: Americans who support a national ban on semi-automatic weapons.

62: Number of mass murders in America since 1982.

Three-quarters: Portion of guns involved in mass murders that were obtained legally, Mother Jones reports. Semi-automatic handguns were by far the weapon of choice, followed by assault rifles.

(Retrieved from http://www.thewire.com/politics/2012/12/guns-in-america-statistics/60071/)

For the record….my family has never owned a gun and the first and only gun I’ve ever fired was in Viet Nam haha. Go figure. Some of my friends own guns for hunting or protection, some don’t.

Then people will ask about our love of our Constitution and why we can’t just change that part. I don’t even want to imagine what would happen, but then there’s this….

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Haha let’s hope for this instead:

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I’m not here to give my opinion on guns rights and what the United States should do about the mass shootings, it’s just one of my observations as the token Yank.

Do you find you get asked repeatedly about something by people from other countries? If so, what?

Caught this little boy floating.

Portaits of Southeast Asia: More Cambodia

More photos from my first adventures in photographing people.

Caught this little boy floating.

Caught this little boy floating.

Riding past a village set up near a tourist destination.

Riding past a village set up near a tourist destination.

Kids selling wooden flutes to tourists.

Kids selling wooden flutes to tourists.

Also, just for fun, a portrait of a temple dog!

Temple dog outside Ta Prohm.

Temple dog outside Ta Prohm.

 

I’m going on an adventure!!! And hoping to refill my creativity well….

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I’m off to Krabi and Chiang Mai, Thailand with two of my best friends. We don’t care about no military coup! Then we’re off to Angkor Wat, Cambodia. Beaches, elephants, and temples! I’ll try to keep regularly posting and I’m hoping to squeeze in a little bit of writing time, but we’ll see. If nothing else, I’m looking forward to returning to Singapore re-charged and ready to put the finishing touches on my novel, Hooligans in Shining Armour.

I’ve found that I have a finite source of creativity and I am currently tapped dry. Drained. I think this break from writing will do me good.

Have you ever drained your creativity well? What do you do to refill?

On being the token Yank: You sound more American…

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Hi everyone, so it’s been awhile since my last “On being the token Yank” post. Guess I haven’t been feeling all that token-y of late, but recently I had an amusing one.

So two of my best friends from Wisconsin are here visiting and I’ve been working hard to show them a good time in Singapore. I invited my British friends to get satay (meat on a stick basically) with us. So I was talking to my British friends and my Wisconsin friends and one of my British friends said, “Sarah you sound more American!”

Hahahaaaaaaaa not exactly sure why. Perhaps my accent was more pronounced? Maybe I was talking louder? But then again, I’m always loud. I blame it on coming from a huge family where it was Hunger Games for attention :P t’s not like I made the mistake of calling trousers pants or anything like that…. :P I also didn’t call a water fountain a bubbler.  Anyway, who knows, but it was pretty funny lol. Perhaps it was just more surprising for her to hear me because I was promoted to “practically British” several months ago.

Anyway, accents are fascinating….  Here’s a breakdown of US general accents for anyone who’s interested.

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(retrieved from http://www.pdviz.com/us-regional-accents-where-do-you-fit-in)

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(Also fascinating–Bubbler…Part of Wisconsin and Connecticut??? Sorry, you have to click on it to really see it)

By the way, totally Upper Midwest. A hint of the movie/show Fargo but nowhere near that pronounced lol.

Aaaanyway, I didn’t get a chance to ask how I sounded more American. My guess, I was saying my vowels more Midwestern-y than usual.

Please share any funny accent stories!

….and as a fun afterthought:

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