Ash and Fire. Cambodia.

26 March 2017

                                                                                                                          “We are nurtured with ashes, from the great battles.” (K. Kinchev)

 

Thombs Raider temple

… The crumbling and disappearing civilizations, didn’t really disappear. Yes, the temples and palaces crumbled, the libraries got burned, along with the knowledge, stories and truth that slept in there so peacefully. This magic was carefully woven together with blood and tears of the souls, who still live within those stones, carvings and soil.

But you see… we are those civilizations that “disappeared”. Perhaps they got meshed, bruised, twisted and even “rewritten” inside our genes to a point of non recognition. But it is there… it is there… in you. 

I’d give a thousand Rupiah and more, so I could look into my great great grandfathers eyes!

You will never be able to hide from the truth… You will walk into a place or a building and get overtaken by this sweet longing… in that moment, you realize, that you have already been here . You have danced here, loved here, laughed here and your soul, once again, is able to hold the invisible string that ties you to the core of who you truly are.

No amount of fire and destruction will be able to erase the power in you, the magic in you and the love that holds everything together.

Glance at yourself in a mirror - Here he (she) is … slightly different.. different, but the same… Where are my thousand Rupiah?!…

Maybe the decorations have changed a bit, veils fallen or the masks, behind which we were taught to hide is facing the world now… But… the eyes have traveled through eternity. The eyes…

Let me introduce you to…

Angkor Wat

… a girl who’s name is Lena… at least that’s her name now… I did hear rumors though.. some called her Helen of Troy, some Walker of Dreams, some called her Muse… but to me, she is simply Lena…

She must have fearlessly galloped naked, without a saddle on wild horses, while their wild hearts beat as one. She crashed and burned (enemies as well as hearts), she reigned, inspired, lied for her own gain, she lived in a saddle or in a carriage, she was an excellent gunman and had in her possession a lot of treasures…

 (Every time I ask her about the treasure and where she has hidden it.. she just laughs, while galloping away and leaving all the unanswered questions and reason in a cloud of dust. She will tell me someday… someday.)

Well, ladies and gentlemen of the jury… she’s pretty much occupied with the same things to this day. Thank you to the ancestors… of course.

Bayon Temple

Breathtaking Cambodia, along with her magical temples and kind people, became yet another entangled crossroad for our meeting.

The life of those temples, the ashes from the great battles that were won and lost, once again came alive, when a stranger clothed in scarlet, wrapped in secrets that galloped through centuries, appeared on the crumbling stairs, which are now clothed in moss.

A couple of times, we were told that we are not allowed to take photographs, simply because her bright and striking “plumage”, was way “not normal” and not what people (tourists) usually wear. It was too different…

Security couldn’t really explain to us, why we couldn’t be different.. they tried, but couldn’t give us the reason as to why “different” is so threatening to the eye. We kindly tried to explain and convince them that we are not shooting a film here or taking photos for the cover of magazines… and continued to film and take photographs, being “spies” in our own homeland.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

There’s a wonderful Russian saying —“Who doesn’t risk, doesn’t drink champagne.”… Our souls both know how to risk everything for the freedom to be ourselves, in a world that sometimes is scared of those who are “different”.

You have to let yourself be still, breathe, get wrapped in the song of the rain, touch the walls with the palm of your hand, let your “life-path” on your palm feel the life of so many others before you, close your eyes, smell the air, feel the healing energy rushing back into you from all those things… It’s all here for you, always… just be brave and reach out to them… hold them, dance with them, heal yourself and forget who you are or who you were told you are.

Only the monks, who are like “part of the ship, part of the crew”, were part of those shabby walls of monastery and just like the monastery itself, seemed like they were happy to see us.

Years of enlightenment and meditation and then you see tits… and all goes out of the window…

(I had to add some humor… hope you laughed, because life without humor or laughter is like a hanging-rope without a soap….)

Buddah

the monchs and the girl

Such is nature… It will always proudly reign over us… it will fearlessly parade in front of our pride and prejudice the truth… Want to play hide and seek with the truth or nature?… go on… try… The road, no matter which one you decide to take, will eventually bring you right back to those things…

Once you stand at crossroads of uncertainty, drowning in the desert that is your soul, who is thirsty for water will see a mirage… keep walking… be brave… one step after the other. If your tired of the journey and all unforgiving elements of it’s puzzle, trust the road even more… trust the journey… The road, no matter which one you decide to walk on or which turn you will take, will eventually bring you back to you… to the truth…home.

the ceremony

the wrist band

… Soooo Lena decided to become a monk and leave all her sinful ways behind (yeah, can you imagine this? Me neither.. just look at her!) … So she came to confess… but there was nothing to confess about… Life is Life — We fall, we fly, we say goodbye. (Seriously, I didn’t mean it to rhyme, but it did.. try to ask a poet not to rhyme.. this stuff just happens.. you know, like Life… Life happened to her… it happens to all of us.)

The Monk sang her a song, sprinkled on her some blessed water and tied colorful, perfumed couple of strings on her wrist.

“Ok, that’s enough!” -  Lena thought to herself and just like that… poof … she was ready to leave her monk-hood ways. The sun, didn’t object one bit and continued to kiss her neck with a gentle touch of it’s last sun rays of this day… Tomorrow is another day… another chance… a new page…

Monks tried to pretend not to sneak a photo of this stranger in red, while taking a “selfie”. One of them was trying to hide and tried his best to not look in her direction. He knew too well, that only one glance at her, or the intoxicating scent of a woman, could snatch him from his serene monk-hood and drag him all the way to the savage cave-man ways, before he had the chance to even start chanting a prayer. He was right.

munch selfie

Lena

She didn’t mind the looks at all… she walked regally, quietly and slowly between centuries-old walls, gently caressing them and in return, they whispered to her, all those extraordinary tales from the past. She talked to the rock, dissolved within tropical air, that was being permeated by the heavenly songs of the birds. She melted with the soil her feet stood on. She was home. Beautiful patterns and images, that were so masterfully cut out from the stone walls, today were her ancient scriptures. She read them fluently even with her eyes closed.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Angkor Wat, Lena, Cambodia

…It’s enough to just light the fire…

Within those ancient walls, her fiery soul, clothed in a fiery cloth, was playfully losing herself in the past. The color made the place come to life.. it gave it a breath and the light warmed everything around it. Sometime ago the walls of monasteries, brought people together so they could touch the Devine… We are all in need in one way or the other something similar in order to say “Thank You!” to the sun… the life that was given to us, with all its colours. But you don’t really need the walls for that… But look how stunningly beautiful they are!

Thomb Raider temple, Cambodia

They must be the true masters of their craft -to be able so carve such beauty out of a stone!

Siem Reap - one of the main places in Cambodia, where you have the ability to dive into the extraordinary and astonishing world of the past and to emerge all of your senses in the unknown. You can feel as if you’re at home, when you recognize that little path from the river, which leads you to a hidden temple, that hides from everyone… Only those find that temple, who are willing to crawl out of their shell and who are willing to shed the skin of what no longer fits. Those who never get lost, those who never lose their way, those who never make mistakes and grow from them, those who lead a safe life in a safe harbor, those who’s “ship’s anchors” permanently reside on the land, will never find treasures…

Everyone in Siem Reap has their own adventures and stories… especially after “Happy Pizza” from the local cafe around the corner… (Yes, You should definitely try it… it’s like going to Amsterdam… only “happier”. Make sure to ask for “extra happy” like I did… and just like Lena, usually orders “Extra Dirrrrrty Gin Martini” like a true Bond gal.. extra dirty… extra happy - a great combo, I tell ya!… Try it sometime!

That pizza had some really fine weed.. oh yeah… One evening when it finally hit us, we started creating art- that’s all two stoned artists could manage… then we rolled on the floor with laughter from breaking into work amidst the high from the pizza, with such eagerness and seriousness… You see, artists even when get high, want to create.. probably even more so than usual. Then we couldn’t even walk and were so slow and lazy, then we were crazy thirsty… then finally we sat out on the balcony, overlooking the sleeping city and experiencing otherworldly feelings… -noticing how our blood runs through our veins…

“Can you imagine if we felt this all the time? We would go mad!” - A boy Dima tells Lena, while being swept away by this feeling that’s taken over his body.

Lena nods and tries to remember one of her favorite quotes by Aristotle, but fails….  So she mumbles something along the lines of; “Hey we are all mad here anyway… the cat told me so…” Then after 30 minutes she screams in excitement; “I remember it now!!!…” -The joy in her voice brings him back to reality…

 “No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness.” ~ Aristotle

Yes… we do have loads of stories.. loads of memories… a life that is lived fully and passionately.

Oh yes, almost forgot! Do try crocodile at one of the cafes on famous Pub Street. Delicious!

Angkor Wat temple

Don’t be afraid to lose your mind.. ever… Give yourself fully to this life and ban “carefulness” for good … “Carefulness” does not stand on the same pedestal as greatness. It is similar with love or art or your passions… in these things you either dive deep, deep into it and risk losing everything, or don’t step in the water at all. Yes, you take a chance of messing up the dance steps, but those who do not fall, never truly fly… or dance for that matter…

Forget about all the differences, walk into the fairy-tale as the main character, swim in the infinity and make it your home.

… And go ahead… rule the universe as you see fit… just make sure one of those nurses straight out of the “Cuckoo's Nest” crazy houses, are not following you… : )

The mirrors of space and time is yet another “food for thought”… or for the soul. They are what you feed them with…

the mirror

Siem Reap, Cambodia

the Light

There are tons of temples, monasteries and other holy sites in Siem Reap. We lived (yes, lived.. because we left part of us there) in Angkor Wat, Bayon Temple, Ta Prohm Ruins (Tomb Raider Temple), Banteay Srey (Lady Temple) и Ta Nei Temple (Grandfathers Monastery).

It was a singular experience in all those wonderful and such different places. Lightness of being and simplicity, left no room for rushing things. Waking up at 4 am (yes, you know, to catch the best light for photography and before all tourists buses arrive) will surely have you in bed by 8-9 pm. Bars on Pub Street, were a delicious ending to almost every single day.

Bayon Temple faces

bayon temple, Siem Reap

Elena Levon

Thomb Raider Temple, Siem Reap

She felt as though she was part of something… Magnificent and regal roots of the trees slowly destroying walls, sand storms envelope whole cities with its unforgiving might, but as long as life continues, there’s no need to worry about the past or the future. All of it is wrapped in a present… inside of us.

Ta Prohm Temple

Shiva

…The thing that’s needed is time…

A time so you can live in it… or better yet live through it. So you can just like that  -slow down, touch, close the eyes, stop and feel…

…There’s no need to rush. That bus, which will take you to Sihanoukville is not departing in an hour and not even tomorrow and we don’t have to make it to some other three “must see” places today. Sit down (or lie down), relax, rest, order yourself smoky Grog in honor of Emperor’s Birthday and look around… All that is needed now is all around you and if you lose the need to interfere with every little detail and fleeting moment, this life will repay you in kind…with a gift — things, situations, people will come to you, because you no longer chasing after a mirage of your own making.

Cambodian kids coming over to you with smiles from ear to ear, with so much kindness in their eyes, that your heart melts and you buy scarfs from them for your daughters back home. Then a professional con man, who is famous around Phnom Penh, will put on a real show for you… in that moment you realize, that you probably, just witnessed an act of one of the best “actors” in the world… When he realizes, that his con didn’t work, he will leave empty handed and with a smile on his face, because at least he got to perform in front of a couple interesting audience, who seamed really different from the rest of the crowd.

Then life will throw you one more gift… for the road (yes, just like in that Sinatra song “one for my baby and one more for the road”) — The rain…. From the direction of Mekong river, will come rushing down with the new, intriguing scent, that smells like tomorrow, which will bring new stories and people.

Phnom-Penh

Kids. Phnom-Penh.

Black and White - The true Queens of color. (In my humble opinion) The tears and laughter are often reflections of the same thing and coming from the same place...

The girl walked towards an elephant, hugged his trunk and placed a gentle kiss. She caressed him like a mother with her child… she talked to him and continued to kiss his trunk, looking into his eyes and speaking to him… “Hi sweetheart… I understand, I am sorry, I will not hurt you or ride you, you are safe with me…” And the thick-skinned elephant started to cry, because he had a really big heart, so big in fact, that the girl herself, could climb inside of it and heal her own pain.

They gave permission to one another.. they both unlocked something inside of themselves and held one another… it was safe to cry and to love… Animals feel love very strongly.

elephant, cambodia

Cambodia. Elephant.

Bayon

To dance on coals barefoot and to celebrate life…

Lena-Jesus

And here’s a little humor for you — Lena in the role of Jesus… What can I say.. You can take the actress out of the Theatre… but you can never take Theatre out of the actress…

Lena-Jesus, Cambodia

smile

We flew between the crowd that seamed that were being lead into some kind of mausoleum, on our way to the Banteay Srei (Lady Temple). But I did get the chance to capture a few stories from there.

Lady temple

cobra

Lady Temple, Siem Reap

Garuda

In the Grandfathers temple was much calmer and peaceful, just like at your own grandfather’s house.

…The Witch… She appeared out of nowhere at the perfect time. She was as beautiful as the swans shadows on the silver path from the moon, dancing in the night on the lake. Her bright feathers made her look more like a princess, rather than a bandit from a wide, endless and dusty road. A simple glance and the particular way she placed her hands, gave away her true nature. The potion has already cooled down and it was only an hour until the royal dinner. By sunset the treasures had to be in her possession. The ship was already waiting at the pier, tackle was being prepared for the arrival of high winds and the captain knew, that closer to the evening, he can expect something resembling an eruption of the volcano… it wasn’t the first time when cutting of the ropes was necessary…

the Witch

… The thing that was left to do was to try fried cockroaches, scorpions and squeeze on them the insides of water beetles… (yes, I know.. I’m sure you can’t wait to try such delicacy… Actually I don’t know why anyone would try this more than once…)

Fngkor Wat, Siem Reap,

the cowd

 … Far away from all the beaten paths. In a different way. Just by ourselves. Without fear. In counter-phase. In our own direction.

Listening to the wind and warming the sky with fire. To live, to love and battle. Those were the words of the Great Mozi.

Oh damn…. Again, I’m going in the wrong direction with this… let’s come back…

To hell with Mozi!

To leave everything behind, to cut the ropes, to buy a ticket, to remember your most important wish from childhood…

To dissolve your soul in the ocean, to get darker under the tropical sun, to understand the local tribe and to shine… to shine…

Like the Sun, to whom I say “Thank you!”, right here and now, without monasteries and differences…

And…

…To love…

                                                                                                                                               by Elena Levon & Dimi Kash