Saturday, March 24, 2012

Give Us A BREAK... And I'm Not Talking About Kit-Kat Bars

I can handle ignorance.

I can do it.

I grew up most of my life ignorant of the world around me... and now I am making up for lost time.  Before traveling, before experiencing, before REALIZING, that yes people.. other countries seriously survive without their freaking police force carrying around  loaded weapons 24 hours a day... what the heck.. I think back now about all of the things I didn't know.  About how I grew up thinking 'I live in the USA.. home of freedom.. I am lucky because WE have freedom.. much more than other countries do.'  BULL... I know I know, I need to be thankful for what I have, for my country.. and I AM.. I AM.. however, we are NOT the only country that has freedoms.

Talking to my new Vietnamese buddy Cu, about how grateful he was for being able to have 'freedom' in America as compared to what he would have had to of endured in Vietnam.. I realize that we were both lucky to have lived/grown up in America.  I do, and I'm very thankful.  I'm also thankful for free speech.

I'm not saying I 'know' everything nowadays, please don't think I'm being pretentious... but I know a heck of a lot more than I used to... and I live far away from America now, this is my way of taking part in social issues that I think are just-plain-wrong!

But it is just hard.. HARD.. for me to realize and understand that the government officials in my country want to take rights away from me because I'm a woman.  That they think, that they can tell me what is right and what is wrong for my body.  That just because I'm a woman, and I make less than the average man, I need more time off because of the babies that I will produce for/because of men, that because my insurance will cost more than a man older than me who is a chain smoker, allll because I'm a woman... IS NOT OKAY.  You cannot take away my rights.  You cannot tell me what is good or bad for my body, when a physician has ok'd these practices for the past 30+ years... when I should be able to make the decision for myself to be a responsible adult and prevent myself from having 2 week long periods, from becoming pregnant, from being taken advantage of and then expected to carry a baby for 9 months.  NO THANK YOU.  I want to be a responsible adult and you want to call me a whore.  I'm sorry, but MANY people who are married cannot afford to have children and therefore rely on the government and the taxpayers' money to take care of their family.... allll because some conservatives think that 'WOMEN' who use birth controls are whores and need to be controlled.  Maybe that couple was not ready to have children, does this mean they should not have sex?! The Bible says 'Voila... You are married in holy matrimony... go forth and multiply'.. does that make it relevant to today's world?! NO... I'm sorry, but if everyone who was married continuously had babies.. where would we put them all?!  How could we feed them all?!  You believe in other types of medicine to control your body, why doesn't this count...?

I'm done.  I'm tired of women not standing up for themselves.  I'm tired of the bullies who say that women shouldn't be in control of their bodies, 'the government and FDA know what is best for you'.  I'm sick of women being put on the back burner so that men can continue rising up the corporate and social ladder. .. I mean, please.. by all means boys, let me step aside and have YOUR child so that you can keep rising up to the top.. don't worry about me,  I'll take maternity leave and cross my fingers that I won't lose my job the second time I get knocked up accidentally.  I'm sure you'd rather us watch you from a few rungs down, add on a few dollars here and a few dollars there because we have more parts that need to be taken care of, because we tend to take care of ourselves more and go to regular check-ups at the doctor, we like to see a doctor regularly to be sure that everything is in working order and our bodies are ready and prepared to give the perfect home to our off-spring whom we nurture and take care of for 9 months inside of our bodies.

I'm not saying that I don't want to become pregnant. I DO.  I can't wait to become a mother.. however I CAN wait, because I want to be ready emotionally and physically.  But I don't think it's fair that 9 times out of 10 when a teenage GIRL gets knocked-up (of course the guy never gets knocked up.. he does his deed, then unless he is publicly pointed out, no one ever suspects HIM of being a whore) she is ridiculed, she is looked upon as someone who should have known better, she is now responsible for a precious life whom she will give her everything for and if she is lucky the boy will stick around and support her post-pregnancy.  It's not fair that women are the ones constantly carrying the burden, or worried about carrying a burden.  It's true.. women worry a lot.. there's a reason people!!

Women DO work while they are 9 months pregnant.  I have seen women work PAST their due dates at a busy restaurant in order to be sure they can feed their child when he/she arrives and to give them a suitable home when they arrive onto the earth.  I think that after a woman has gone through 9 months of pregnancy and decides that they would like to go on birth control because they need to ensure they can make a living and properly take care of their family.. she should have the right to it, and the insurance coverage she is paying for monthly should support her on that.  I mean come on now, that has to be WAY cheaper than caring for 3 times the children in the coming years.  After all "men have needs and natural urges", right?!  I'm sure women have heard that a time or TEN... from their husbands, from their boyfriends, from the person they don't know who is forcing themselves onto them.. women have THE RIGHT to protect themselves AND their lives without being called whores and sluts.

Stand up for us.  You love your mother.. your mom would do ANYTHING for you.. you lived inside her.  She has PERSONALLY taken care of you within her womb, give her the credit and the decency to make her own decisions about her own body.  We aren't stupid.  We want to be able to make responsible decisions.

And speaking of decisions.  I am SICK of local governments making decisions for 'their people'.  A man shoots a boy and you aren't even going to confiscate his weapon while the investigation is underway?!  You DON'T have enough evidence after a 911 call was recorded with an operator specifically saying, 'DO NOT FOLLOW HIM SIR!" and he does it anyways, gets into a confrontation, and shoots the kid?! ... come on Florida... you're gonna get caught doing dirty deeds.

If we would QUIT focusing on votes and pleasing the majority.. and focus on PEOPLE.. maaaaybe we could get somewhere.  We are individuals.  We have needs.  WE are united together as one.  We do not have a mandatory language, we do not have a mandatory religion, STOP controlling and START believing in us.  Believe it or not, I think we could survive without you.  We are strong people, we are learning from our past and present actions.  We have feelings.  We are not puppets, and we don't want to be treated that way.

I DON'T want to be treated that way.  I don't want to live in fear that someone will shoot me because everyone and their cousin can buy a firearm.  I don't want to live in fear that the medical attention I need will put me in debt for the rest of my life.  I know what is out there, I know that not every country is perfect.  But I BELIEVE in America.  I BELIEVE that our government can do a better job.  That OUR government who was in place to take care of us has over the generations taken advantage of every possible thing it was able to, until we have spun out of control.  We can regain control, all we need is faith.

We need to be able to believe again.  We need to be trusted.  We need to stand, unite and l-o-v-e!
I fully support the occupy movement, and hope it regains strength.. let's get rid of the 'big business' mentality and corrupt government offices!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Angkor What? Monkey Business

....continued from Angkor What? Day 2....

By the time we had gotten to our next to last temple and Kesal said that we probably wouldn't be seeing monkeys today because it was almost sunset and they've probably gone into the jungle already.  Me being my blonde self (and trying not to get too worked up at the fact that I may possibly see monkeys in the wild.. which I won't even start with, because I went to the Amazon and saw plenty of different types of monkeys, and plenty of monkeys, but they were always pretty far away.. you're in a boat, they're in some trees.. not what my monkey dreams were made of if you know what I mean?!  Oh well, those tears have been shed already, no need to open an old wound!), I still thought he was completely joking, and just still hoping for that tip!!  So we threw one of the 2 bananas we had saved for the monkeys out the tuk-tuk.. Tino decided to keep one as a precautionary banana.  THANK GOD. Because the next thing you know, I'm looking to the right.. and at first I think it's a trick.. a mirage.. a figment of my imagination.. a dream.. BUT NO, IT'S A MONKEY! "KESAL, A MONKEY A MONKEY!  That's a monkey RIGHT?!"  :::errrrrt::: Our tuk-tuk comes to a hault.  And there... this moment happened...

Then.. after we had finally gotten back in the tuk-tuk, I had stopped crying, and the boys got tired of looking at 100 monkeys.. we saw a Korean guy squat down close to a monkey to say "Kimchi" and have his photo taken.. when all of a sudden, the monkey steals his hat and runs away.. the Korean guys following in a ruckus.
I realize right then, that.. I am not finished here, I PAULA FERGUSON need a picture as well.. it's not fair that the Korean got one and I didn't.. I have no picture beside of a monkey at Angkor Wat.. I NEED a picture beside of a monkey at Angkor Wat.

Then, the following happened:  I squat down, I start to scoot a little closer, the monkey starts to come towards me, I run away, Kesal tells me it's okay just stay there for a second, so I go back, I squat down, the monkey comes at me, Kesal says it just wants to play, so I stay, the monkey jumps on me, inspects my bag, crawls up to my head, plays with my earring, then I have to shoo it off because it was trying to steal things from my purse!

Miracles do happen people.  Hopefully the miracle is that I don't have rabies.

Angkor What? Day 2

After taking a one day hiatus from the temples (super easy to get templed out here.. even though they're AMAZING)..  My friend Chelsea had told me how much she looooved visiting the River of a Thousand Lingas, however it is a bit far off,... and so I convinced the guys I met the night before (an Irish Man and a Ger Man) that this was seriously the thing to do... "we can see Banteay Srei (which is the temple with the most intricate of details) and the river has a thousand lingas (phallic symbol of the Hindu god Shiva), PLUS there's a waterfall boys... you know you want to goooo (batting eyes).  Oh! And since everything is so far away, and so amazing.. the tuk-tuk is $30 split 3 ways, about double the price of a normal loop, but we get to see so much and it's supposed to be amazing.  Everyone's doing it... :-) "

So off we went at 9AM, it was super relaxed this time.. roll out of bed, shower (yes, I did), get in the tuk-tuk... AWAKE this time!  We grabbed some bread at a bakery to ease our headaches from the excess of Angkor Beer from the night before... and off we went with our tuk-tuk driver, Kesal.  He was awesome, constantly joking with us and talking with us (slightly too much at times, because we were still a bit cranky once we finally got to scarf down our lunch), he told me my name in Khmer means 'fruit of the gods', he also told me "I want you to come back to Cambodia, teach me English.  I want to learn from you.  Like your accent.  You use my tuk-tuk ::grin::".  He definitely helped us see SO much, loved him!!

He also kept mentioning monkeys.. and I just didn't understand, I didn't get how we would see monkeys.  He suggested that Tino (the Ger Man) save a couple of bananas for the monkeys.  I still didn't fully grasp the situation.. 

Our first stop was Banteay Srei, famous for it's intricate stone designs.  It is now considered one of the best temples because of this.  The stone also has a pink hue, which is different than all of the other temples.

Then, after driving for about 30 minutes in the tuk-tuk, we made it to the River of a Thousand Lingas.  BUT we didn't REALLY make it to the River of a Thousand Lingas.. we needed to 'hike' about 1700m to get to it, which wouldn't have been so bad had it not been 90+degrees outside!  We were pouring sweat, and all we wanted to do was swim and play in the waterfall.. which at first we didn't find and we were quite disappointed about... but soon we found it, and although it wasn't swimming deep.. it was definitely get wet and cool off deep.. and nothing has ever felt so good!  I still don't quite understand the fascination that Europeans have with Speedos.. I find it unfair that it would be a-ok for them to wear those at a holy site, but god forbid a girl wanted to cool off!!  I would recommend the river if you have plenty of time in Angkor... there weren't near as many lingas as I thought there would be.. and the river was quite small compared to how far you have to walk to get up there and how long the drive was... but it was still nice to get out in the woods and be surrounded my nature rather than children selling postcards!

Speaking of Speedos.. don't get me started! Wait, I'm already started!  So at a few of the temples, they are considered still holy.. or perhaps they were actually built for religious purposes rather than for the ego of a king.. but irregardless women had to cover up.  WOMEN.  It didn't matter if a European (stereotype, I know, I'm assuming) man has shorts that are shorter than the woman's beside of him (even though it isn't 1982).. SHE is not allowed in until she puts a sarong on or changes.  HOW is this okay?!  Also, how is it okay for a man to wear a singlet (tank top) and show all of his disgusting man hairs, but a girl cannot.  I'M OFFENDED!

And about those postcards.. children constantly run up to you and say "Postcards lady? 10 for 1 dolla'! ::flipping through each one:: Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, Banteay Srei, Bayon......" they list every card, and keep walking with you, and you say no thanks, and they keep listing and keep walking, and then give you the sad puppy dog face because you don't want to buy any after they've listed each one they have.  Commence screaming and crazy arm motions.  Drives you crazy after awhile!
Tim the Irish trying to annoy this epic flute salesboy!  We tried many different tactics... one time we even had girl 4 go from selling 10 bracelets for $1 (which Tino totally fell for.. and while Tim and I kept walking, we eventually got this deal ...)  to getting 60 bracelets for $1.. and we didn't say a word... only when we laughed at Tino for getting t-totally ripped off!

Later, we visited all of the ruins on the red loop (Pre Rup, East MEbon, Ta Som, Krol Ko, Neak Pean, Banteay Prey, Prasat Prei and Preah Khan)... and these ruins were GREAT!!! I thoroughly enjoyed them.. there were no where NEAR as many tour groups and people as the Angkor Wat loop.. thank God.. I would have gone mad!  We were even able to enjoy a few temples totally to ourselves, with no one else milling about! Loved it!  A lot of the time, I just sat in a window sill and wrote in my travel journal while I waited for the boys to finish wandering around.. it just felt SO nice to have peace and quiet and taking in the surroundings while relaxing, feet up!

 Being sucked up by the elephant trunk:

To find out if we saw monkeys or ate monkeys, see the next blog post: Angkor What? Monkey Business

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Angkor Watalicious Day 1

I went to sleep sweating my booty off, and opened my crusty eyes at 4AM, rolled out of my -now freezing cold outdoors- dorm bed to meet Peter Paul and a French chick at a tuk-tuk.  Where were we headed?! We were going to see Angkor Wat at sunrise!!!  I was so excited I didn't even feel tired, partially because I about froze in the tuktuk on the way there.. but luckily it warmed up to about 90degrees later in the day!!

When we arrived, there were heaps of people!  People everywhere, wandering and tripping their way into Angkor Wat.. there were no lights anywhere, and if you had a flashlight then you were in luck.  It was amazing.. you could see a few stars, you walked over a really long bridge then into the walled area of the temple.. there's a pond directly in front of the main temple so we sat around that.. unfortunately the Asian tourists beat us to the punch and arrived super early.. they got seats directly in front of Angkor.. ours were off to the side of the pond, so some of my pictures are at a funky angle.. STILL amazing to go from pitch dark, and then gradually being able to make out the outline of the temple, until finally there is a pink sky behind it! WICKED!!!

 I wasn't the only one there:

If you don't know much about Angkor Wat, Wikipedia it.. it is super interesting!  A lot of the temples began construction in the 12th century.  There is a huge influence from India in Cambodia.. many of the temples depict both Buddha and Hindu gods.. however most are Hindu I believe!  Such an interesting concept, and not one you expect in SE Asia!

After meandering around Angkor, we visited all of the temples on the green loop (Phnom Bakkheng, Bayon, Thameanon, Chao Say Theveda, Banteay Kdei, Ta Prom and Prasat Kravan).

Bayon was by far one of my favorites!! It was built in the late 12th century by the Mayhayana Buddhist King Jayavarman VII... when the king died, it was modified and reconstructed by the following kings, giving it a more Hindu and Theravada look!  Each king putting their own religious touch to it!  There are many faces (which resemble the King's) built into the stone formations all around the Bayon... it was such a relaxing place even though there were loads of eyes watching you everywhere you stepped!!

Ta Prohm is obviously a favorite of everyone's because there were LOADS of Korean and Chinese tour groups there... SO... MANY!  They all had their over-sized cameras, and were snapping pictures left and right... there were constantly lines of tour groups, as they would each pose with something and have their picture taken with it.. when all everyone else wants is to have a picture of something without people standing in front of it, not smiling, with the peace sign held up!  OK.. I need to stop, I'm venting!

Have you seen Tomb Raider? Then Ta Prohm will look familiar to you!!  This temple was left primarily like it was found, unlike many of the other temples, and there are massive jungle trees literally still growing on top of it!!  It gives it a super eerie, mystical feature.. super exciting, minus the hoards of people.  As I was walking around, I was trying to imagine myself being the sole person there.. gave me the heeby-jeebys!

We finished our afternoon with watching a bunch of children having the time of their lives in a nearby lake.  It was so cool.. on the edge of the lake was part of an Angkor ruin.. and the kids were jumping off it and into the lake, swimming, laughing.. somehow found a bird that was dying/couldn't fly, and they were all huddling around it and examining it, then one boy takes off and as he's running he's just throwing the poor bird in the air, it would try to fly, then flutter right back down into his hands.. so sad.. but happy that these children were so happy!

We were all exhausted by the time we arrived back at the Guest House.. we started at 4AM and ended at about 3PM.  We rested up a bit, went out for a delicious dinner.. then went to see the Apsara dancing (see previous blog for video)... one tequila shot, some banana spring rolls and one benadryl later.. I had the best nights sleep I've had in the past month!  Glory!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Oh Siem Reap!  How I love you!  Going from the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh to the tranquility and relaxation (sometimes) of Siem Reap was such a lovely change!!  I sadly only had 3.5 days to enjoy Siem Reap (2 of those spent in Angkor Wat).. but you know what that means?! I will be stomping on Khmer soil again in this lifetime.. I'm very excited to really delve into the Khmer culture and spend more time there, one day!

The people in Siem Reap were amazing!!  I can't even count how many times I would be sitting in a tuk-tuk, and I would make eye contact with someone.. I smile.. they smile.. then we simultaneously laugh together.  Or sometimes we would make funny faces at each other.. or they would make funny faces or gestures as my friends and I took their pictures for giggles.  The Khmer people were very personable!  

And given, they could drive you a bit nutty at times, and I was quite elated to step over onto Vietnamese soil after 1 week.. especially because everyone and their 3-year old child are selling you something or asking for something and can drive you mad.  Especially at Angkor Wat you are hustled like c-r-a-z-y!  But you realize.. these people are living in udder poverty, you gotta do what you gotta do.  So you keep a smile on, and you try to politely turn things down or decline.. but you really just feel like a horrible person, because you've paid how much?! to come to their country just to take pictures, experience the culture and eat their food.. yet these people who live here are homeless, not in school, remember being tortured by the government who should have been there to protect them.. it's rough, and really makes you think twice when you go to bargain for that souvenir.

Examples of what you hear every 30 seconds while walking around:
-"Lady (pronounced slowly.. more like "Lay-day") tuk-tuk?"
-"Tuk-tuk lady?"
-"Hello lady tuk-tuk?"
-"Come see my things lady!"
-"You want pants?"  "You want scarf?"  "You want t-shirt?"
-"Where you from?"..."America"... "Capital is Washington DC!" 
-"Moto lady?"
-"Hey lady, moto?"
-"Magnets madam?"
-"Cheap Price!"
-"You want cold drink?" ..."No thanks"... "Okay, you come see me, get cold drink.. ok? Only come back to see me!"

For some reason, I think it is difficult for them to ask a question and leave it at that... I think they believe adding the word lady or sir forms it into a question... because you rarely hear a question without the worst word in the world being added to it.. lady! I still sort of cringe if I hear someone say 'lady'!! haha

I stayed at Garden Village Guest House while in Siem Reap, it's on a dirt road about 5 minutes from the main Pub Street area.  And it was AWESOME! $1 a night!! No seriously.  I was shown to my 'dorm' which was a queen bed with a bug net.. outdoors! I didn't quite expect that.. I expect it in the jungle.. but it wasn't quite what I was expecting for Siem Reap.. but it was awesome!!  No locker.. just kept my stuff under my bug net all day long and no one harmed it!  Dirt under my feet when I got out of bed in the morning.. but I did have a roof over my head!! It was just semi hilarious and very redneck!  This place had hundreds of beds.. mainly private rooms/bungalows.. and they just put dorm beds wherever they could manage.. on a porch.. in this nuck and this cranny.. under this awning.

View from the Sunset Bar... loads of friends made here!

The kitchen was 3 floors below the bar/restaurant.. so this is how they got the food upstairs! Genius!!

I had one day where all I did was wander around Siem Reap.. sigh, amazingness!  I got out of the touristy area and into the dirt road locals areas, and I have such good memories from it.  Walking along the riverside was very peaceful, even with the motos whizzing by.. perhaps it was so peaceful because I didn't hear the 'L' word every 5 seconds?  I got to a certain village where I was hearing some chanting.. and it was so beautiful.. I couldn't help but stand still and take in my surroundings.. and think, "Dude... you're seriously in Cambodia right now!".. I followed the voice, and I ended up across the river at a restaurant.. I THINK it was part of the multiple day mourning for a loved one who died.. but I'm not 100% sure.  I DO know, that it was SUPER loud once I found the speaker.. crazy loud!  I don't know how the neighbors didn't go bezurk!

Video of the chanting from the other side of the river:

And of course life isn't all fun and games everywhere.  I know the pictures I've posted/will be posting are quite beautiful and happy.. but there were loads of things you see around Cambodia that do break your heart.  This for example was a kid playing in some merky water.. trash abounds in both Cambodia and Vietnam, where they put everything in plastic bags.. one time a lady tried to give me a total of 3 plastic bags for 2 pastries (one bag for each piece of bread so they wouldn't touch.. then a bag to put those two bags in.. I freaked out a bit of course, and was like NOOOOO, and put them in one bag giving her back the others).. but I met a few European tourists that felt like they could do what the locals do.. throwing the plastic wrapping from the cigarette pack into the Mekong Delta, throwing cigarette butts into the river, on the streets... it's quite repulsive behavior, and we're not going to make this world a better place for our grandchildren unless our actions influence others in a positive way!

Ate Me a Tarantula

Beautiful English title, I know.. I try my hardest.

On the bus ride from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, we had a break at about the halfway point. The ride itself was about 4 hours long, on a bus with mostly Cambodians and about 5 foreigners. I didn't know how long we had at this bus stop, so I didn't order any lunch from the restaurant there.. even though it's normally super fast, I just wasn't very hungry. So, I wandered about their little market they had going on... only to stumble upon some tarantulas.

I.. was... SO.. happy!! I had watched Anthony Bourdain's episode on Cambodia.. and saw how the Cambodians go out to the jungle, dig up tarantulas, pinch their poisonous fangs off, then deep fry them and eat them. I knew right then.. I HAD to get my hands on some.. however, they're primarily only eaten in certain villages. I was bummed, because whichever village he had mentioned.. I was definitely not going to have time to go there, so I had sort of forgotten the idea.

However people, miracles DO happen!

At this rest stop, I found an old lady selling eggs and heaps of fried tarantulas. Then I sort of had the "Ooooh man" moment of, now I gotta do this.. what am I getting myself into?! So she told me I could have one for 0.75 (they use USD frequently as well as Cambodian riels) or two for $1. I thought for a second and said "2 please!"

I luckily ended up sitting next to a guy from the Netherlands.. we had chatted a bit on the bus ride here, but had split up at the rest stop.. I knew EXACTLY who I was going to find to eat the second one with me!!! So I found him, Peter Paul (<-yes.. that is for real his name), and told him "We will totally be best friends if you... EAT THIS TARANTULA WITH ME?!" He paused for a second and said yes. My first reaction was sort of like.. dude, really?!

Partners in crime.

So we cheers-ed our 8 legged monsters.. and ate those 8 legs first.. then Peter Paul put the whole tarantula body in his mouth. Sadly, I wasn't as brave as that, so I opted for the abdomen first.. may the gagging commence! Since we were about to get on the bus.. and I could hardly keep that part down, I sadly discarded my tarantula head and hopped back on board.

All in all, the taste wasn't HORRIBLE.. it was definitely crunchy, and the abdomen was quite hollow.. they put some sort of spice on the tarantula I believe and it sort of had an awkward flavor.. but perhaps that was just the tarantula I was tasting?! Super stoked I did it... my dad informed me later that people pay loads of money for baby tarantulas in the states... nom nom nom!


Monday, March 5, 2012

Cambodian Apsara Dancing at Temple Balcony Restaurant

My friend Chelsea had HIGHLY recommended this restaurant to me.. she told me that they put on a free Apsara show every night so I was stoked to go.

Peter Paul and I had already eaten dinner (a delicious amok <-fish and veggie in an amok sauce baked in a banana leaf).. so we went to Temple for some tequila and dessert banana spring rolls. The show.. was.. AMAZING! Absolutely beautiful and mind blowing. The girls and guys did SUCH a wonderful job, and the live music and singing made it THAT much better!!! Such a good show and place, highly recommend.. the main floor turns into a club at night (starting at 9PM, RIGHT when the dancing stops), but unfortunately with all of my early wake-ups I never got a chance to go!!

Enjoy the videos!

p.s. pay attention to the girls' fingers and how far back they bend in the videos.. in the book First They Killed My Father the main character talks about her life during the Khmer Rouge.. and during this time she worked in a child labor camp and was picked to be part of a dance troupe to entertain the high ranking Khmer soldiers (when they would travel past the camp, they could have some entertainment)... she said they would bend her fingers back and tie them with a rope for an hour a day to train them to bend so far back.