Cambodia 

  It’s “funny” because most everyone in this world thinks that they knows what is going on, but really and truly we don’t; we are in the dark about the truths of life.

I came to Cambodia with an open mind and an open heart, ready to learn and see all about a land rich in history that is as dark as it comes. What I knew of Cambodia before I came was that: Angelina Jolie made it famous in Tomb Raider; it was going to be hot; and they had a period known as the killing fields that was ruled by the Khmer Rouge(not really all I knew, but almost).  Sad that when I look back at these facts, that I never took the time to learn more about Cambodia. 

The most important thing I have learned since I arrived is that Cambodia is still a land stricken with so much corruption and poverty.  The people are repressed by their own government and many souls have been broken into submission by the years and years of torture and sufferiing.  

This is the country that will break your heart and fulfill your heart with all the things you never thought possible

My heart if forever changed by my experiences and the people that I have met here.  This land is so very young. It young in its humanity and is trying so desperately yo get back on its feet after years and years of war and murder.

Our tour guide is a man named Vuttha. Described to me before I arrived as “Buddha reincarnated” and that is the optitomy of Vuttha. A 5’7man, stalky, and solid. With the kindest eyes and a radiating soul of kindness that surrounds his giant smile and bright eyes with a radiant glow. One would never think that he lived thorough the Khmer Rouge years and has endured so much poverty and life struggles. But he has, and he takes it in stride, as the kindest man I have ever grown to know. He takes such good care of us. He carries our bags, opens our waters and seems to genuinely care about our well being as he spends the next 3 weeks always from his newborn baby girl, two dogs and wife. He is amazing, and the best thing about Cambodia. 

 

Vuttha teaching us to make traditional Khmer food

 Vuttha was born in the late 1970’s near the end of the Khmer Rouge’s reign.  He grew up when the country was trying to rebuild itself from the millions of murders, and all the genocide that occurred over those years of torture.  He was raised in a village,outide of Siam Reap, small and like many of the others that still survive today.  There is no running water, no waste system, no electricity, unless you can afford the MacGyvered car battery rig that supplies some light for a few hours at night.  Cows plow the fields, and the people live off the land as best they can.  They harvest what crops they can and grow rice for consumption; there is never enough for exportation or sale and survival. Vuttha grew up poor, in extreme poverty.  He lived with his two brothers and one sister in a hut made by their own hands.  It took him two weeks before he opened up a bit, and told me a little about his life.  He remembers being so poor that he only got one small cup of rice a day to eat.  One special occasion, like th big religious holidays his father would slaughter one chicken to be shared with his entire family to eat or for offering.  Vuttha remembers that one year his father took him and his siblings to the market and his father sold some of their few chickens to the butcher in exchange for money that was then used to buy each child one new shirt for the school year.  Vuttha shared with me much about the history of  Camboia, including the time of the Khmer Rouge and beyond.  Vuttha is an amazing wealth of knowledge!  As a man who came from such oppressive beginnings, he is extremely intelligent and is trying to pay forward what he can to his people.

Vuttha works full time for a touring company called Buffalo Tours.  It is a good company who pays fair wages, but it is actually better than most employers in Cambodia.  He is one of two full time workers, but that does not mean what you think it means.  As a full time employee, Vutta works when their are booked tours.  He does not work when there is no tours.  If he does not work,he does not get paid.  

He supports his one sister, parents, his 3 nieces, 2 nephews and 4dogs in his home(less than 1% take “good” care of their animals, the rest are just tolerated.  Not fed, given places to sleep to cared for).  His two brothers are amiss.  His mother is trying to recover from liver cirrhosis that has grown at an alarming rate. She was hospitalized from the sores, pain, not eating and her inhability to walk in May 2015.  She traveled hours by bus to Thailand where was given some treatment that has bought her some time before the eminent end that results from this illness. There is no cure for cirrhosis.

 Vuttha is not asking for anything.  I am.  I am asking for for anyone who reads this to donate something , anything will help, even a dollar.  He is truly the most amazing human being I have ever come to know.  His good will, his genuine heart and his plight to do more for his country and his people make him so much more than ordinary.  He is amazing.  Despite his own struggles and his own battles, he is willing to do so much for others, and is trying to help his people resist the extinction so many know will come if nothing is done to help the country.  Cambodia needs more people like him.  Hell, the world needs more people like him.  

Please donate what you can or contact me for physical donations of clothing, etc.  I will be back to Cambodia in December 2016. 

 Donations: Vuttha #fundsforvuttha

Email: Ieatsleepfood@me.com 

Lost in Spice

When it comes to spices, a lot of us are just as lost as the next. I mean what is a spice? How is it different from an herb? And how do I use this powdery substance, it smells different from how it tastes and I’m confused… In the May 2010 issue of Women’s Health Magazine, Matthew Kadey, a registered dietician dives into some of the more commonly seen and used spices out there. Take a look at his article, that not only breaks down what each spice is, but its flavor profile, health powers and how to best use the spice in cooking.

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The Art of Racing in the Rain; Garth Stein

IMG_1460If you are lucky, there will be a few times in your life when you discover something so purely amazing it will change your life.  For me, finding the The Art of Racing in the Rain is one of these rare discoveries.  It has only been a few years since I took up reading and really started to enjoy it.  In fact, when I’m in school and reading the mundane topics of international warfare, and politics, I actively think to myself, how much I can’t wait to read for leisure again.  I can’t remember when I bought this book, or how I came to find it, but I do know that it sat on my book shelf for months, without a consideration from me to actually read it. I love books, and often buy them with the intention to read them, but I get swept away in life, and forget about them.

When I finally picked up this book, I had no idea how amazing it would be.  I thought it was “cute” at first, the life of a dog, through his own eyes.  Who’d of thought to write this, and why hadn’t anyone written it sooner?  It’s genius!

The story opens with Enzo, the dog & main character, living his life, and giving us the back story of how he came to be with his dad.  I fell in love with him, instantly.  Perhaps because I am a dog lover, or perhaps because Stein is that good, either way, Enzo changed my heart.  I felt myself getting angry at the “new woman” in his dad’s life, empathizing with his pain of being left alone in the house, and sharing his joy and protective nature when it came to the new baby.  But most of all, I felt changed by Enzo & Stein’s words, compassion and hearts.  I know this sounds a little crazy to feel like a character in a book has changed you, but you don’t know Enzo or Stein.  This is an amazing story of love, loyalty, friendship, compassion, forgiveness and devotion on a level that few get to experience in a lifetime.  It has a few heart pounding moments of racing in the rain that sweeps you up and into a fury for show, but at its core this is a book about an amazing man, Enzo.  Who taught me, at a time in my life when I needed to learn an amazing value and virtue, he taught me that I need “to live as if it had been stolen from death, [and] that is how I would like to live.  To feel the joy of life… To separate oneself from the burden, the angst, the anguish that we all encounter everyday.  Today I am alive, I am wonderful, I am.  I am.  That is something to aspire to…That is how I will live my life.”

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Makiki Farmers’ Market: Honolulu, Hi

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Now a days there are so many farmers’ markets to choose from, and Hawai’i is no different for those of us looking for great produce, craft items and cheap ready to eat foods. On Thursday evenings from 5pm on, the Parish Church of St. Clement, on the corner of Makiki and Wilder, hosts the Makiki Farmers’ Market to a few great vendors and the residents of the Makiki neighborhood. The atmosphere is always so laid back with the residents and vendors’ greeting each other like this is just another neighborhood block party. Lots of long tables are always set up in the center of the market for people to sit and eat, drink (it is BYOB!!), let your puppies play, or catch up with your friends. The Makiki Farmers’ Market is rather small compared to others in Honolulu, like the Blaisdel or KCC Farmers’ Markets but it still has some great key vendors and amazing food stalls. Ono Pops has joined the group, along with a Popcorn tent and others stopping in for a one time show. There is also the standard fresh produce vendors who have some beautiful produce like: bell peppers, various squash and mirepoix basics but the food stalls are what make this farmers’ market great!

My personal favorites at the market is Olay Thai, with a great Pad Thai, and Curry that will spice up yourDSC_0053 night. Sweet Revenge offers an amazing assortment of mini pies in very unique but delicious flavor combinations. The pies are $8 each, a little steep, but definitely worth the price if you can get the lemon crunch pie. It’s a pie so delicious it is comparable to the famous Aiea Bowl Crunch cake. There are also food vendors selling delicious tacos, local fare, and some amazing Ribs & Korean BBQ for cheap prices that are better than some restaurants.

DSC_0033Parking seems to be the only pit fall, being that you must use street parking, which in Makiki can be quite challenging. I recommend parking up the street next to Punahou (2 blocks away), or near Makiki District so that you don’t have to circle for parking. If you’re coming from campus, take Wilder straight down towards Punahou High School, and you’ll run into the market on the left side of the street.   All in all, the Makiki Farmers’ Market seems to be a real gem with great food, cheap vendors, and am amazing community that supports and brings to life this farmers’ market every Thursday from 5pm into the night.

Marathon Dreams

IMG_1317I think I’ve procrastinated on this post because it means the end of my journey to run my first marathon.

Three years ago, we made a commitment(the longest commitment of our lives being the commitment-phobes we are).  We committed to the 52.4 challenge with the San Francisco Marathon.  It meant that we had to run the first half marathon, the second half marathon and then the full marathon in three consecutive years, within the designated times.  Three years ago, this was a lot, it was a huge undertaking considering we had just come up with this idea over a lazy day of internet surfing, no running practice or training, and no real idea of what it took to run a marathon.  We jumped right in tho, we are “that type” of people, who jump in whole heartedly, with little to no fear (due to the bliss of ignorance) of what kind of selfishness and handwork that this three-year commitment would take.

Our first half marathon was run in 2012, and we were a mess afterwards.  We thought dumb things like “ehh how hard could this 13. whatever mile thing be?” “I’m young, IMG_1385I’ll run a few times.  I go this.” By the end of the half marathon, we were a mess!!!! Swollen, sore, stiff, cramped, cold, in pain and hungry.  We could barely move for days after, and for a week after everything continued to hurt.  At the end of our second half marathon in 2013, we were rock stars!  PR times, the run was WAY less of a struggle, and we were ready to conquer the world after.  Nothing was sore, in fact, I wasn’t even tired.  Just hungry and thirsty for a beer.  It was in this race, I really started to “get it.”  I really got what it was to be part of this running community and this was also when I really reached that “high” that everyone talks about.  During this half marathon, I cruised, I cheered people on while I was running, I got an ambulance for another runner who had collapsed, I shared my Gu, and other running stuff.  I danced, sang along to my iPod, closed my eyes for a few miles, and genuinely felt pure bliss and joy as I was running. The difference was that I really appreciated my run, I respected the course, and trained.  That’s why when I fell and gave myself permanent spinal cord damage in November of 2013, I got scared.  I had been running, I applied for and became an Ambassador to the San Francisco Marathon for 2014, I was on a roll, I was increasing my speed, my confidence, my distance, my everything!  And then I was told I could not and should not run this marathon, but as with most stubborn people when I was told “no,” I immediately said “oh yeah, watch this.”  Thus began the real part of this journey…

IMG_1459Becoming an ambassador for the 2014 San Francisco Marathon changed my life.  It somehow gave me 85 people who I had never met, their support, their inspiration, IMG_1418their courage to run this, and I did.  I struggled for months on whether or not this was really a good idea, and wether or not I could realistically do this 26.2 mile run.  With the confidence of my boyfriend, my fellow ambassadors and my “will” I decided to run a half in Kentucky in March.  I figured that if I could do this, I could do 26.2.  Not only did I run the Run the Bluegrass half, I did it  in 2:30.  And for the first time ever, I followed it up with the Hollywood Half the next weekend, and cut 7 minutes off my time!  It was then that I was convinced I could run the SF Marathon!  The doctors still said not to, some of my friends even frowned on it, but we were convinced and determined to do this.  I barely trained these last months with a new job taking over my life, rehab, physical therapy, dog training, homework for school, a few dental surgeries and fatigue setting in.  But I still ran as much as I could.  I ran sometimes only one mile or a few blocks, and got myself up to 3 miles before the marathon.  I think I was able to get about 5 runs in, in the last two months.  My back and time just didn’t permit me to have more “good days,” where I could move.

We left for San Francisco, and I knew my goal was to run this race in 6 hours, so I could get my 52.4 sweater.  My secret goal (more on this later) was to run this in 5:30 or less.  I wanted to run as much as I could, and walk as little as possible.  I just wanted to finish because in my state, finishing was going to be a huge accomplishment all its own.  As a side note, I always have at least two goals.  One that I will outwardly tell people, and a second one that I never say out loud.  I just push to achieve it!

The Friday before the race, I was headed to the Expo with Chloe to work the booths as an ambassador.  I was nervous, because well, I’m always nervous. I must say, I had a blast!!! I loved meeting the faces I’d met via instagram and Facebook.  I loved being part of the team that put this race together, bringing 26,000 people from around the world together, to share in this SOLD OUT experience.

1620670_10153025431852598_5353551589188586251_nOn race morning I was scared.  I hadn’t slept because of my nerves and anxiety.  I was starting to reconsider running at all, until I met Joe via Instagram.  He was a random Florida man, running the marathon for the first time (in SF), staying in the same hotel, and unable to sleep too!  It was 3am, and I laid out my clothes, drank my coffee, and braided my race hair.  4:30am came around, and we all met in the lobby to walk over to the starting line.  6am rolled around, and we were off!  I was running it, and it was “game time.”  My boyfriend and I had committed to meeting on the bridge for our traditional picture on the bridge.  He took off, and was doing great!  I was pacing myself.  I had a plan, and wasn’t going to sacrifice the goal for anything.  By mile 2 I had a leg cramp.  By mile 5 I was tired, but convinced myself that I had to run over the bridge and back.  No exceptions and just because I did it before.  On the bridge I wanted to stop, desperately.  My back was hurting, my spine was pinching, my cramp was still there, my shin was piercing, my foot was swollen, but I pushed on.  Coming off the bridge, I knew I was about to hit mile 9 and a killer hill, so I pushed through and am so happy I did! At mile 10 I was considering ending the run at the half mark with the rest of the people running 13.1.  BUT by mile 11 I was in cruise mode.  Everything hurt, but didn’t at the same time!  My brain was off, my feet kept moving, and I hit the zone.  I sang, I danced, I hugged the guy on the side, shared my gu, and cheered people on.  Before I knew it, I was at miles 20.  And shortly before that 20 mile marker, I remember thinking IMG_1392to myself “I get it… I’m hooked!  I know why people do this.  I love running.. marathons!”

 

I finished this race in 5:10!!! 2015… I ran almost the entire race (and I mean I ran about 26 miles straight!) I”ll be back to run this course for time!  Thank you to everyone who gave me the confidence, and the help to cross the finish line.

What I’ve been given during this three-year journey is more than I can ever repay the people I’ve met along the way.  I’ve been able to fundraise for The Ronald McDonald House, Wounded Warrior Project, Stand Up to Cancer, The Tibetan Relief Fund, The Shooting Star Chase and the ASPCA; to help fight against the things that mean the most to me in life.  I’ve learned and gained an understanding through running that I can make a difference in one person’s life, and that difference in that one person is all it takes sometimes to make change.  I’ve learned that human beings are amazing, and that we all have a dark place we’re fighting against to let the “good” win out, over the evils.  But most of all, through running.. I have selfishly been given a heart whose sole purpose in life is “to leave it a little better than how I found it.”

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