GUEST BLOG – Gary Schoepfel from the Mekong

When I travel I sometimes forget my ears. I venture out with camera in hand and eyes wide open.  I search for the perfect photo op: that traffic stopping almond-eyed girl, the perfect sunset or moon rise, the Buddhist monk wrapped in mysterious yellow-orange, the twilight mountain silhouette, or that scene that no one back home will believe and/or understand without the snapshot. (Does anyone use that word anymore?)

Caught up in the sights I forget the sounds. I have to remind myself that one can hear a place as well as see it. That listening to a land, a people, a culture can be as wonder-filled and satisfying as anything I capture on a memory card.

I have been traveling in Vietnam and Cambodia for nearly two weeks. I have been listening to Cambodia and Vietnam for nearly a fortnight. I have heard:

The early morning call to prayer from a distant minaret

The tuk, tuk, tuk of slender fishing boats fighting the strong and muddy Mekong current

The squeals of delight from beautiful bronze school children who giggle at those funny looking visitors who wander through their village

The buzz of a swarm of reckless motortbikes

The knock, knock, knock of hardwood bells hung ’round the neck of the ox

The creaking wooden wheels of the rickety cart that the snorting beast pulls through the mud

The sometimes sad stories of two war-plagued lands

The often-times joyous stories of people who love their food, their New Year celebrations, their land, a good joke, and their gods

The splash of the anchor and the clank of the chain as our riverboat settles in for a night’s rest

The blessings of the monk, the prayers of the mother, the chant of a hopeful people

The high pitched “ellow” from  the waving little ones

The 33 consonants and 23 vowels that trip off the tongues of a smiling people

I have taken time to listen. My photographs, my memories, and my heart are better for it.

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