Trail of Crumbs

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After visiting the Petersen house, and indulging in an absurdly expensive lunch, I headed to the National Mall. It was not, as the name more commonly would suggest, an indoor building filled with retail stores dedicated to all things Americana. Nor did it possess that cornerstone of the suburban retail mall: a group of disaffected teenagers hanging around the food court, sipping on Orange Juliuses.

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Ford’s Theater, where Lincoln was shot.

 

I should be perfectly honest here: I didn’t intend to go to visit the home where Lincoln died. I had heard that there was a good hole-in-the-wall breakfast place nearby, and that is where I directed my cab driver to take me.

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I’ve heard that when Anthony Bourdain first saw Angkor Wat, he stopped taking vacation photos. He realized that he couldn’t capture this place on film, and reasoned that there was no point. So he put his camera away and just enjoyed it.

That’s lovely and rather poetic, but let’s be fair: Bourdain has a film crew following him around, so it’s very easy for him not to take photos. If I had a film crew following me everywhere, I wouldn’t take many pictures, either. I’d probably stop picking my nose, too.

Just like fancy-pants Bourdain over there.

Here I am, attempting to look reverent and also NOT PICKING MY NOSE. #winning

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At the entrance to the temple.

We rounded a corner in our tuk tuk, the road here better kept than most of the others we’d been on. It was paved, not, dirt, to accommodate for the heavier flow of traffic – cars and tour buses and tuk tuks and scooters. The air smelled of diesel, the sky overcast, the air humid, sticky, and still. There was no breeze. There was never a breeze.

The road curved, following the edge of a massive lake the color of olives. And there, across the water, it came into view.

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I think it was Nicci who found out about the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center, and suggested that we go there. I would like to take credit, though. I think that it’s on par with discovering fire, or inventing the wheel, or figuring out that Junior Mints should be stored in the fridge. These are important developments in humanity’s history. I really want to be the one who made the whole petting-an-elephant thing possible for me and Nicci.

But getting credit is not the important part (she said to herself, unconvincingly). Nor was it petting the elephant (she said this even less convincingly. Seriously, who the fuck was she kidding?) No. The important part was that we got to support an international organization that is trying to make Southeast Asia a safer place for both animals and humans. (Yes.)

But also? I got to pet an elephant. (YES.)

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I’m afraid of many things. I blame my mother.

Lucky girl.

 

She was utterly convinced, from the time I was born, that the entire world was out to get me (it didn’t help that I was named after a relative who had died tragically young). She concluded that the best way to keep me alive would be to instill in me an irrational fear of EVERYTHING. I consequently grew up sheltered and loved and utterly terrified.

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On our second day in Phnom Penh, down one necklace, and sufficiently emotionally drained after the one-two punch of the Killing Fields and Choeung Ek, we went to the Royal Palace.

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The Central Market in Phnom Penh, after a storm.

 

Rand always tells me he envies my palate, which cracks me up because it’s such an unlikely compliment. But it comes up time and again, whenever I identify a spice in a dish that he’s unable to, or I catch a whiff of a bakery blocks before he does. Others who’ve noticed it have commented as well, and I usually smile and tap the side of my ever-so-prominent nose and say, “It’s not just for show.”

Goodness, it really isn’t. Sometimes it feels like a superpower. I am the amazing girl WHO CAN SMELL EVERYTHING (note: superpower has very limited application. The X-Men aren’t calling, unless they need help determining whether or not the milk has gone bad).

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