A great and easy first day, with less than 40 km’s, mostly on dirt tracks in the jungle, and visiting temples!
I met the rest of the group over breakfast : six people from Australia, three from Canada, and one from Germany – who also did a very long flight coming here. People slightly older than me, except for two sons (teenagers). I was getting a bit nervous when some started discussing their marathons times! But at the end of the day, we don’t seem to have a huge gap in capacities. Tomorrow will be much longer, I’ll see if I keep up – especially as they know now I crossed the US, and probably think I’m an Olympian biker!
Today was dedicated to visiting a few temples around the city – there are actually dozens in the jungle north of the city, among which Angkor Wat is the biggest and the most preserved. We started quite early at 8, and left the city to quickly enter the jungle surrounding it. Biking in small dirt paths is great when you have the proper bike. And I got the same exhilarating feeling of biking in another country, as I did in San Francisco the first day last year. Except that, when you miss so much the one you love, half of yourself is kinda like switched off, looking out the window.
We were slaloming from one road to another, taking shortcuts in smaller paths, with quite a lot of mud, as it’s been raining for some time (as would be expected during monsoon season). But there were no major difficulty, and we were moving fast enough.
Our guide, Bun, takes all the time to explain when and how the temples were built, left to decay, and for some, restored, then going even into comparative theology, as the country switched from Hinduism to Buddhism around the 15th century. This was right after the 600 years of the Angkor period, where Cambodia was autonomous and powerful, and everyone was building temples around. Then we visit one, two, three not-so-small temples. Among one of them, trees have reclaimed their place, and are now part of the structure and the tour – some of the most famous pictures of Cambodian temples include them. Most of the walls are carved with events of the time, in a similar way to Egyptian carvings, or the Bayeux tapestry, with lots of soldiers, and sequences of events.
Moving around with a support vehicle is really fantastic, as I discovered in Kansas. You don’t have to carry much, you have snack breaks every now and then… And someone to look over your stuff when you visit.
We visited Angkor Wat mid afternoon. This temple was never left to decay on its own, as there was always some people looking over it, which is why it’s in a great state. Lots of restorations were done though, including by French colonists early in the 20th century. The proportions are impressive, especially as each level rises 10 or 20 meters, with steep stairs, over the previous one. What was the most surprising to me, is that each new level is a block put on the previous one : there are no rooms in the current level, it just rises to a new plateau. That’s a lot of stones. Lots of tourists there of course. The roads around the temple are filled with small shops and kids trying to sell you postcards.
Rain started to pour right as we headed back for the hotel. After a couple minutes, I was soaking wet, my shoes were soaking wet, so there wasn’t much else to do than enjoy it to the fullest! So I started aiming at any rain puddle on the way, parting water like Moses, laughing like madman, and having the most fun I had in over a month! That was a whole new meaning to “biking bad”, as I was spraying water all over my partners when passing them 🙂 And I jumped in the swimming pool as soon as we arrived, a perfect way to relax after riding.
So, even with a short ride, I had some time to think about my first theme, learning about love. But this is a question that’s been in my mind for long. What I mean here is how you are given a visual, social example of what love is. Basically, what school would teach you about it, if they would.
I think that, as with most lessons, you learn by watching, and then doing. Monkey see, monkey do. And the first place to learn is in your family. If not, among other families, or among friends. But the parents are, probably, the first example of what love can be experienced in a couple, and in another form, the love they have for their children. This is certainly how you learn about caring, tenderness, helping, being present, protecting, respecting, etc.
The challenge comes when you haven’t got two parents, or no sensible parental love. Then you have no example set to you in the beginning. As I understood a long time later, this is a critical missing piece in early education. I certainly wasn’t an abused orphan or anything, but the fact that you are not the worst off doesn’t diminish your issues. It takes a lot more time to discover that you missed something, simply because you can’t know you should have had it in the first place. You have to play with the cards that you are dealt, whatever their value in the game. But if you are able to play well with bad cards, you become that much stronger.
So when you do find that you are lacking something, there isn’t much to do but learning by yourself, and trying not to overcompensate. For instance, I always had a tremendous lack of tenderness, and expressing it now is very important to me, even more so than receiving it. When it is not accepted and I don’t know why, it is a great source of frustration. This is where you must understand that you are probably not the cause, but a collateral damage of what is happening in the other one’s life. Not so easy at the start of a relationship, when you are still missing a good understanding of how everyone works. Later on, you would know to back off for some time, help in some other way, and not stress out for a bad reason.