Apparently we can both get pretty bent out of shape when we don’t get what we want, especially when it’s been promised. Well we already knew this. And it applies to me more than Don. He gets more bent out of shape about primitive living conditions than I do, though I’m not as good at taking that in my stride as I was when I was young. I don’t want to give entirely the wrong impression: generally we’re both good at taking things in our stride. We shrug and say, “This is what is” and come back to presence, where all is well. But back to getting bent out of shape, because it does happen, for both of us, and we were both tested over the days we spent travelling from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City.
We took a three-day “boat” tour from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City. I put boat in inverted commas because there wasn’t that much of it. Boating I mean. We were supposed to go by boat from a little out of Phnom Penh all the way to the Cambodia-Vietnam border. Instead we went by bumpy van. Finally we got on a boat at the border and travelled down some tributaries, and onto to the Mekong to Chau Doc. We mentioned on the van ride that we felt things had been misrepresented to us. In Chau Doc our itinerary said we’d be transferred to a home stay at Sam Mountain. Instead we were put into a scuzzy downtown hotel. And so it continued. Day two we were also promised activities, and visits to places, that never materialized. Finally in the morning of day three I got mad. Fierce Alison emerged. I’d had enough. As a result some changes were made and we got to have a far longer, quieter, and more intimate experience of the Cai Rang floating market than we otherwise would have. But that’s not the point of this post. I’ll eventually do a post about the three days from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City. There was much about it that was really wonderful.
This is about how we dealt with it. The afternoon of day two we were taken to a rural homestay. Our room was a thatch cabin. Praise the lord for mosquito nets and bug dope, but I’m already feeling sulky and unhappy and ready to complain about anything. Doesn’t matter how much I try to let it go, the mind continues to complain, and be miserable. Nothing’s any fun any more. Poor me. Don’s not feeling good about the primitive living conditions. Neither am I. And no one has told us about the itinerary for the next day. Actually three different guides have told us three different things about the next day. We’re feeling abandoned, confused, pissed off, tired and generally not happy. We get on Skype to the tour company in Phnom Penh who booked the tour for us. She can’t really help. We skype to the Vietnamese company who’s brought us this far. They’re not much help either. All of this is fraught with tension and frustration and anger and discontent. That night I don’t sleep well, and have a little weep at five in the morning. Poor me. Don sleeps like a log.
So after breakfast fierce Alison emerges and we begin to get what we want, what we’ve been promised, what we’ve paid for. And all along there’s this inner voice saying “relax, let it go, there’s nothing wrong, trust the Mystery, let it unfold, come back to presence, all is well here” and I’m completely unable to do that.
As I write this I begin to understand two things – the human me is OK. It’s OK for me to have all those feelings of discontent. Oh the humanity! The worst side effect was a lack of sleep. The best was that it led to fierce Alison speaking out, and that led to a much better experience than we would otherwise have had.
And so once again I’m completely blown away by the mysterious unfolding of life. If I hadn’t been so discontented I’d never have gotten mad. And we’d have missed out on a wonderful experience. Here’s me trying to be some kind of enlightened superhuman who just witnesses life and never gets upset about anything. Ha. As if. And as if that’s the best thing! Sometimes, just sometimes, being discontented and getting fierce about it rules!
Photo of the day: Cai Rang floating market, Mekong Delta, Vietnam
All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted.
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2015.