A.D.M. Was Here: Cambodia

Aside from me, there were four men in the bus from Bangkok to the Thai-Cambodian border. I think we were all in mid or late twenties. As prudent humans tend to do, we spread out to give each other space. I wound up resting my eyes most of the ride, and didn’t talk to the other guys until we disembarked.

We made some introductions and small talk while the folks at the border took our passports, presumably to make copies. Three of the men on the bus were English. Two had set out from Norfolk together: J was tall and outgoing, and F was not so tall and soft spoken. Both of them were friendly. The third Englishman coincidentally came from the same town as the others, but had only just met them in the bus station in Bangkok.

The third Englishman, D, wasn’t as friendly as the others, but he was civil enough. D came from a bit of money. According to J and F, D’s father owned a nightclub or some such back in England (maybe several nightclubs).

Despite D’s caustic demeanor, he shared a long story about how he wound up in Bangkok with the rest of us. D was afraid of flying, but managed to make the journey from England to Australia via commercial jet. His original plan was to take a cruise ship from Australia up East Asia, then take trains all the way back to Europe. However, there was a bit of an incident on the cruise.

The ship, apparently, had a casino on board. He was playing one game or another when he noticed an Australian man looking at him in a way D didn’t particularly care for. D asked the Aussie if there was a reason for the stink-eye. They exchanged some unfriendly words.

Annoyed but not wanting to escalate, D picked up his chips and moved to another table. The Australian followed him. Rather than flinch or waste any more words, D took a preemptive swing and knocked the Aussie on his ass.

The cruise ship sided with the Australian and kicked D off at the next port in Malaysia. Still afraid of flying, D decided to try to make it on time for his train rides by getting through Southeast Asia by land. So, he took a number of buses until he met the rest of us in the station in Bangkok.

That was D. Aside from sharing this story with the group, he didn’t speak all that much. He generally sat there with a beer and a scowl, and sometimes burst out with a hearty laugh.

The other English guys, J and F, were different. They smiled more often and were fond of conversation. This was particularly true in the case of J. For the short time I spent with him, I thought of J as the type of guy who jumped in first and thought about it later. He had a t-shirt wrapped around his foot that told a similar story:

Earlier in his travels, J had the opportunity to try his luck with a flaming jump rope. A jump rope was lit on fire, and drunk tourists took turns skipping. J not only tripped on the rope, but the thing caught on him and swung around the entirety of his ankle and left a significant burn. Nothing a t-shirt couldn’t fix, apparently.  Despite the constant pain he must have been in, J smiled almost all the damn time.

J’s buddy F was quieter but still friendly, and he and I had a shared interest: the Uncharted video game series by Naughty Dog (an exclusive to Playstation consoles).

So, those were the three Englishmen: Friendly J, quiet F, and afraid-of-flying D. The fourth guy was an American expat who’d been living in Phnom Penh for quite a while. The American served as a sort of guide as we made our way from the border to the capitol, starting by figuring out which bus to take. In retrospect, we may have been better off doing our own research.

J and the American Expat

J and the American Expat

The bus we got on was, quite possibly, the worst form of transportation I’ve ever experienced. Apparently, we’d gotten to Cambodia in the middle of some sort of holiday—a holiday in which the entire country migrated back to their hometowns. The bus was packed, so the aisle was filled with stools for additional seating.

You could say I was lucky to be in a regular seat. However, the air conditioning was blasting the entire time and the vent over my head was broken. There was no way to shut it off or redirect it. I stuffed it partially with some paper, but it didn’t do much. My attempts at sleep over the next several hours were fruitless. The cold air rushing over me made sure of it.

Still, I didn’t have the worst seat out of the five of us. D was sitting across the aisle from me and, after a while, he noticed a slow stream of fluid creeping toward his shoes from in front of him. He pointed it out to us but left the most important detail unsaid until we got off the bus at the rest stop: it smelled like piss.

The rest stop was essentially a hybrid of a restaurant and would-be convenience store. Since it was the middle of the night, I think the kitchen was closed. So, our only options were bags of chips, canned drinks, and the like. While the rest of us were stretching our legs and buying some junk food, D got to work.

He approached the driver of a shuttle van—a much nicer vehicle. D asked if there was space and, as if it were written by a lazy author who didn’t care about events being too convenient, there were exactly five open seats.

So we grabbed our junk from the bus and jumped ship to the shuttle van. Leaning back in a comfortable reclining chair, with the vehicle’s A/C set to an appropriate temperature, I finally got some sleep. The contrast was tremendous.

We arrived in Phnom Penh in the day and the first thing we did was eat. The American expat brought us to a restaurant where he knew the manager—the manager also being the tuk-tuk driver that brought us there. I ordered the Shaking Beef and we all had our morning beer.

After the meal, we parted ways with the American expat. The English guys and I went to the Vietnamese embassy so we could get our visas for Vietnam. D was in a hurry to get there, and the rest of us went with him since we weren’t sure how long it might take to process. It took about twenty minutes.

Still trying to get back on his original itinerary, D said goodbye and left us as there. Since I had no solid plans, I went with J and F to Siem Reap. We took yet another bus, leaving the capitol to see Cambodia’s iconic temples.

We arrived in Siem Reap in the middle of the night and in heavy rain. Having not done any research about where to stay, we asked a tuk-tuk driver to take us to a hotel. When I woke the next morning, the power was out. That didn’t stop me from showering in the dark before going downstairs for breakfast. With no power, I was a little worried the kitchen might be out of commission, but I was treated to a nice breakfast (though I don’t recall any of its contents—I think, maybe, it was eggs with something).

J and F hadn’t come down by the time I finished eating, so I had a tuk-tuk driver take me to buy a cheap rain poncho, in case the weather turned bad again (it didn’t). After that I had to wait a few minutes for the Englishmen to be ready. We had another tuk-tuk take us to see the temples.

We saw a few different wats, but I didn’t take note as to which was which. Angkor Wat is easily distinguishable, of course. Then there was also Ta Prohm, the temple overgrown with trees where they filmed parts of Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life starring Angelina Jolie. However, there were definitely other temples. In between our wat-hopping, we had lunch in an outdoor food court: a bunch of tarps, tables and chairs serviced by a number of different “restaurants.” I had some fried rice which, like most of the food I had in Cambodia, was good.

The front of Angkor Wat’s main complex was having some work done, so there was scaffolding and a faux facade. The same thing had happened when I visited Neuschwanstein in Bavaria, so I wasn’t too disappointed. To make up for the construction, the universe treated me to a show: A fruit stealing monkey. The monkey watched a woman with a plastic bag full of fruits for a moment, then ran by and snatched it from her. Rather than going off to some secluded place to assess his spoils, he started eating the fruits right in the middle of the walkway.

Angkor Wat Undergoing Maintenance

Angkor Wat Undergoing Maintenance

Monkey Thief of Angkor Wat Planning

The Monkey Thief putting together his plans.

The Monkey Thief Enjoying Fruits

The Monkey Thief enjoying his spoils.

Ta Prohm 01

Ta Prohm after some rain.

Ta Prohm 02

Another shot in Ta Prohm.

After a long day of tourism, we had dinner at some grill restaurant which essentially sold exotic meats to foreigners. We ordered a set which included kangaroo, crocodile, ostrich, and snake. I don’t recall any of it tasting amazing, but we grilled our own meat and it’s more than likely that I overcooked everything.

Kangaroo Crocodile Ostrich Snake

Kangaroo, Ostrich, Crocodile, Snake. I’m really not sure which is which anymore.

With our appetites satiated to some extent, we gave the Siem Reap nightlife a try. I think we went to two or three different places before I eventually stumbled back into my room. Soon after that, I left J and F in Siem Reap and returned to Phnom Penh on my own. I was planning to go straight to Vietnam from there, but I missed the last bus. So I checked into a hostel and spent a night wasting more money on alcohol before returning to Saigon.

Angkor Wat at Sunset

What Am I Doing?

Not that you asked, but I’ve been taking courses with the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and am currently teaching English in Seoul. No, I haven’t abandoned my license to practice law—as usual, the legal career is in the backseat while writing drives (life-experiences called shotgun). Before leaving California to go to Korea, I made a few visits to Disneyland.

Disneyland - California Adventure

Okay, this is technically California Adventure, but I didn’t take any photos on the other side.

UCLA Extension

I’ve been taking the Novel Writing series of courses with UCLA Extension. I started with the on-campus class (going back to the old campus is always nice), but switched over to the online version when I decided to go to Korea. Overall, I think it’s been rather helpful.

In terms of craft, the lecture and workshops haven’t taught me anything “new.” I’d already learned much of it via the internet, the Southern California Writers’ Conference, and writing groups. However, the lecture material and workshops have helped me to hone my craft, solidify certain theories (so I can actually apply them more consistently), and develop my ability to read with a writer’s eye.

The instructors at UCLA Extension seem to echo the sentiment I’d read when researching MFA programs: you can’t really teach art, you can only facilitate the growth of artists. So, that’s how the classes have been going. The instructor and other students offer valuable insights and feedback but, for the most part, each writer needs to put in the work to further their own craft.

Teaching English in Korea

The process to get the job in Seoul was a long one. Securing documentation and flinging paperwork back and forth was a bit of a hassle. After months of that, I finally flew to Seoul and was subjected to a highly stressful week of training. The bottome line: if you fail the training, you’re sent back home. Honestly, I did not expect the training to be so taxing.

I’m glad to say, however, it’s been a considerable while since training and I’m feeling fairly comfortable here now. I’m more at ease in front of the classroom, have been referred to as Handsome Teacher a number of times (the girlfriend says this has been inflating my ego), and am slowly swapping out American fast food out of my diet in favor of kimchi jjigae. So, yeah, I’m getting settled and finally feel like I have the time to start posting here again. Hopefully, I’ll also get to write a lot more and have something to report on that end.

Take it easy, folks.

Namsan Seoul Tower

Namsan Tower (AKA Seoul Tower)

Happy Dyngus Day

happy dyngus day 2Like my crazy uncle used to say, there’s no better time than Dyngus Day to start posting again.

Dyngus Day is a Polish holiday celebrated on the Monday after Easter. I had no idea this holiday existed until a few days ago. If I recall my Wikipedia-research correctly, Dyngus Day is celebrated by boys throwing water at girls they like and proceeding to spank said girls with a pussy willow branch (girls do the same to the boys on Tuesday).  This sounds a lot like assault and battery to me, though, so you might want to consult a lawyer before you decide to become a Dyngus-participant.

Anyway, I’ve been pretty busy recently. Doing more attorney work, researching potential career paths, and spending time with the significant other and family—my schedule hasn’t been so packed since 2013. It’s been tough setting aside time for writing, and depending on where my career(s) take me, I might have to learn to better finagle my schedule to get some writing in (and more time to read other people’s blogs).

Despite being busy and whatnot, I’ve been slowly rewriting the horror/supernatural novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2015. I want to rewrite this entire supernatural project before I start another rewrite of my YA Sci-Fi (which may no longer be a YA by the time I’m done with it).

Wish me luck, and Happy Dyngus Day.

Don’t Worry (or Rejoice) Just Yet, I’m Still Here

letireddog

I’ve been distracted for a while, and I’ve been busy with non-writing work for the last two weeks. Though I haven’t been writing and posting as much as I’d like, I’m definitely not throwing in the towel yet.

Novel #1: Still working on polishing the first novel. After the last revision (which, as I may have stated elsewhere, was the final major revision until I get an agent or professional editor), I sent the manuscript out to beta readers: two re-readers and five new folks; all writers. Waiting to get feedback from at least half of them before I apply some changes and make a final Hail Mary pass for traditional publishing; if no one has the hands to catch the damn ball (perfect spiral and all), I’ll finally invest in going indie by hiring an editor.

Short Stories and Breadth of Style: Starting in June, I’ve been trying my hand at short stories and have churned out a bunch of crap and several pieces which I think are pretty darn decent. For some of these, I deviated from the PG-13-esque style of writing I use in Novel #1 in favor of something darker. This came about from a mix of influences, including but not limited to: On the Road which I’m rereading for the first time since college, bits of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, and the unfiltered language of the television show Californication (Hank Moody’s writing seems a bit on the purple side, so I’m trying not to pick up too much of that).

Other Novels: I should update the “My Novels” page. The so-called Urban Fantasy novel I was outlining has changed drastically, and the original intended title no longer makes sense. I’m about 6,000 words into the first draft (i.e., “zero draft” or “junk draft”) and I’m hoping this novel will be more of an obvious high concept work than Novel #1. The superhero project is on the back burner; and I’ve gotten several thousand words into a contemporary (non-genre) novel. Notably, none of these projects are YA (whereas Novel #1 is).

1st Anniversary Post: Top Posts and the State of the Novel

1stanniversaryimage

I set up camp on Wordpress a year ago to connect with other readers and writers, and establish some internet presence while I tried to get my novel published. As far as publishing goes, I totally failed, but I’ll get to that later. First, some fun blogging anniversary stuff—

The Best of A.D. Martin Posts:

Sex definitely sells—well, according to my post statistics, anyway.

Without looking too closely at all the facts, the posts which garnered the most clicks over the life of my blog—by quite a large margin—has been:

1. Two Seasons of Arrow, Seven Women for Oliver Queen; and

2. Cool-ish Actors, Annoying Characters

Pointlessly Shirtless Men of Arrow: Slade Wilson, Oliver Queen, John Diggle, and Roy Harper

Yeah, people click on these guys.

For the post about Arrow, the post seemed to have built considerable SEO which helped it to show up in Google results somewhat prominently (as I write this, if you search for “Oliver Queen” and “Women,” the post will be in the first page or two). I also noticed that not long after I made the post, someone awesome linked to it on the IMDb discussion board for the show. Thanks, anonymous person!

Aimee Teegarden

I should probably watch Teegarden’s newer stuff.

The SEO of the Arrow post aside, there is one thing these two posts have in common: attractive people. By coincidence (not by design; I wish I were that clever), the images displayed on my “Top Post & Pages” are of shirtless vigilantes and Aimee Teegarden, for the Arrow and “Cool-ish Actors” posts, respectively. I think it’s fairly safe to say that most people find Oliver Queen, Mr. Diggle and Ms. Teegarden pleasant to look upon and this seems to have played a part in giving these posts a higher view-count than my other posts.

Continue reading

One Lovely Blog Award: Chain Letter, Part 2

One Lovely Blog Award Tree and Heart Logos

Friends, Romans, country folk—I have received my second blogging award from Lydia and Anastasia who share the Cupcakes and Popcorn blog (thanks, ladies). Though I still think the chain letter-like setup is a bit odd, I figure I could use the extra traffic and followers that might result from playing along (follow me!).

The rules of the One Lovely Blog Award: 

  • You must thank the person who nominated you and include a link to their blog (this totally ruins my plan of not linking to their blog and, instead, just saying bad things about them behind their backs).
  • You must list the rules and display the award (there are two apparent logos/images for the award, which I found unnecessarily confusing, so I put them together as one .jpeg file).
  • You must add 7 facts about yourself (I will consider being truthful).
  • You must nominate 15 other bloggers and comment on one of their posts to let them know they’ve been nominated (yes, more victims—15 seems like a bit much, though).
  • You must display the award logo and follow the blogger who nominated you (how long do I have to follow them for?).

Seven supposed facts about A.D. Martin:

1. I am awesome.
2. If you take away my veil of awesomeness, you will only find more awesomeness underneath.
3. The bit above was inspired by Barney Stinson of How I Met Your Mother, but also inspired by my innate awesomeness.
4. I am about to start watching Once Upon a Time because another blogger (Ursula) suggested that I give it a try.
5. I think the Guardians of the Galaxy film is great and that it does very well bouncing back and forth between pathos and humor.
Six. I just spelled the number six phonetically to be annoying and to have an excuse not to provide any real information about myself.
7. I may or may not continue to participate in these types of awards in the future. Eh, I probably will. Continue reading