Friday, November 23, 2012


The fish was THIS big!
I was THIS close to getting that 14-point buck!
It took me FOREVER to get home because of that traffic!
I almost DIED after that workout!
Children are ALWAYS so ill-mannered these days!

Do you know someone who always over-exaggerates everything?

I will admit that I exaggerate as much as the next person. I did NOT actually feel like my legs were going to fall off after a 12-mile run a few weeks ago, albeit they were tired. The traffic I got stuck in the other day was NOT the most annoying thing ever, but it was an inconvenience. I realize that the amount of sweat I produce on any given day here is NOT equal to my body weight as I often claim, but I do spend a lot of time drippy, or at the very least clammy.

For the most part, I think those hyperbolic statements are fairly harmless. While they may be gross exaggerations, they do not inflict pain or perpetuate oppression or covertly deceive others. But, when do exaggerations move from hyperbole, which is not meant to be taken seriously, to deception or bold-faced lying?

I recently read this article that discusses how the advertised "fruit" in many processed foods is not actually fruit at all. Does this cross the line? Or, what about when a nation's claimed literacy rate is based on a person's ability to sign their name and not an ability to read, write, and understand language? Is it deceptive for someone to speak as though they are an expert on a topic after reading a book or attending a lecture? I have watched some documentary-type videos in the past few weeks in which were made some bold claims with little evidence to support them. Was this just hyperbole (because surely no one would take that broad of a statement seriously), or was this deception (because important, relevant evidence was omitted and the producers knew that few people would actually pursue that evidence on their own)?

I do not have the answers to these questions, but I have realized that I want to be more careful about the claims I make, the images I present, and the "truth" I believe.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

the land of the free and the home of the brave?

I have been thinking about this post a lot, and I was a bit hesitant to make it. I lack confidence that I will actually be able to articulate my point clearly. But, I think this is important and needs to be said (not that others have not already made these observations). So, here it goes.

I am thankful for my nation of origin. I am incredibly thankful to have a United States passport. I do not take it for granted. I am well aware that it affords me a lot of opportunities and spares me a lot of grief and cutting through red tape. I am thankful that I grew up in a country that values freedom of expression and press and the right to assemble. I am thankful that America allows people to have different opinions, and not only are people allowed to have them but they are also able to express them. I am thankful that I can say I am displeased with a social institution and not fear that I will be imprisoned or tortured for expressing my displeasure. These are wonderful things.

I hail from the land of the free and the home of the brave.

But, I must say that being on the outside looking in during this last election cycle made me feel pretty gross. I will admit that it was pretty nice being able to escape mud-slinging political ads and relentless phone calls from the Gallup polls. In case you are curious, I did watch all 3 presidential debates in their entirety, and I did vote. I also watched the election returns roll in on a friend's iPhone while I was attending a meeting--a meeting where there were more nationalities than I have fingers present. I cared deeply about this election because I care deeply for both my nation and my world.

And, I think that is where the feeling of grossness comes in because in being an outside observer I realized how little my nation--not the government, the nation--cares about the world. Okay, I admit that this is a bold statement. You can stop reading now if you want. I understand.

For those of you still with me, I shall continue. I was surprised and amazed how very much my international community cared about the results of this election, how very much they were informed about the candidates, how very much they watched and/or read commentary about the debates, how very much they supported a candidate for whom they could not vote...and how very little their countries were even acknowledged throughout the election process...

Admittedly, I watched the foreign policy debate and was incredibly disheartened by the utter lack of foreign policy discussed. Here is an interesting article if you want a different perspective. And, I actually sat with some of my friends whose countries America considers allies but were not mentioned once in the foreign policy debate. I explained to them that the candidate debated on issues that are important to the American majority. It deeply saddens me that this means issues such as global trade, human rights violations, climate change, aid and development policies, and others were largely ignored. The reality is that the United States does play a key role in world. We have power and influence...and responsibility.

I question whether we are appropriately stewarding that responsibility when entire continents were omitted from a foreign policy debate, when party lines result in stalemates rather than opportunities for collaboration and shared understanding, when my facebook feed is littered with comments about the "anti-christ" and moving to Canada (where in case you did not know, they have socialized healthcare), when people are perfectly content to place blame rather than promote change. That's my rant. I shall stop now. Well, I shall stop after one last comment...

The truth is that the world is much, much bigger than you, America.

Monday, November 12, 2012


On October 15, the former king of Cambodia passed away. King Norodom Sihanouk was 89 years old and had been suffering from poor health for a number of years. He had been living in China for many years as well. King Norodom Sihanouk abdicated the throne in 2004 at which point his son King Norodom Sihamoni took on the role. The former king's history is a bit controversial. But, I am not going to discuss that. If you are interested, I encourage you to do some of your own research.

What has been fascinating is to see the way the nation has mourned his death. On the day his body was transported back to Cambodia from China and taken to the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, thousands upon thousands upon thousands of Cambodians took to the streets to welcome his body. The streets were clogged for hours. People walked miles--people who typically balk at walking 500 feet. The nation declared a formal week of mourning during which all "happy" television programming was suspended, people were encouraged to wear white shirts with black ribbons pinned to their breasts, and thousands of monks in orange robes gathered in front of the Royal Palace to perform mourning chants each day at sunset. The nation will continue to be in mourning for at least 2 more months while the former king's body rests at the Royal Palace and people from all over the nation can come to pay their respects.

One one evening some friends and I headed down to the Royal Palace to see the events. Below are some of the images we captured...before the torrential downpour that soaked us to the bone and flooded the streets with knee-deep water and sludge.
A giant photo of the former king at the front of the Royal Palace

Rows and rows of motorbikes parked about half a mile from the Royal Palace

Cotton candy and popcorn for sale...right next to the incense sticks, candles, and lotus flowers

Incense and candles lit to honor the former king

People of all ages were paying their respects

The number of people in such a small area was astounding!

Sunday, November 11, 2012


 Several weeks ago, there was a holiday over a long weekend, and I opted to head north and explore the second-largest "city" in Cambodia--Battambang. I say "city" because that is a generous term. It is far from the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh. Battambang is much more like a sleepy Cambodian town, marked by colonial French architecture and stilted, wooden houses surrounded by flower gardens. I loved it!
Most of these photos are courtesy of my friend Danielle, since my camera battery died on our first morning of adventuring...
Bus stop fried rice = not so tasy, served with a side of fervent prayer against disease (prayers were successful!)
Preparing to take a ride on the infamous Bamboo Train!

Making our way down the tracks!
Visiting Cambodia's only need to do this again...
Carefully balanced on the edge of the cliff for a stellar group shot! (Yes, to my right is a steep drop of several hundred feet, but I assure it was completely safe...)

Bike ride to some temple ruins on some of the WORST bikes ever, but beautiful scenery along the way!
Exploring the temple! (Climb all you want, friends. There are no roped off areas or "do not touch" signs here!)

And, we visited a dilapidated Pepsi factory with many of the old bottles still inside.
A street shot of beautiful Battambang!

 Cambodia has so many wonderful treasures, and I am so thankful to live in such a wondrous kingdom!