Modest is Hottest!

How about a picture monologue of the time I got rejected by the ancient temples at Angkor Wat?

Back story: I had heard that in Thailand, people are not allowed to enter the temples wearing shorts or tank tops, but in Cambodia temples are comparably pretty lax. We went to the Angkor Wat temple complex today as part of our mid-trip retreat, and I wore a skirt and tank but brought a scarf to cover my shoulders just in case. As we approached the entrance, one-by-one the girls in our group were turned away because of our attire. We were wearing the following items: a floor-length sleeveless dress with a scarf, a fully sleeved knee-length dress, a t-shirt and shorts, and me in the skirt and tank, but my upper body was totally covered in a giant sarong scarf.

#hussies ‎#modestishottest ‎#cambodia2013
#hussies #modestishottest                                                                                                  Photo by Tara

There was a sign at the entrance of the temple that X’d out a drawing of almost every article of female clothing, and even had an X over scarves. What?! The internet lied to me about what would be acceptable at the temple, but I had this magical scarf in my bag which had saved my life on several occasions in the past. I had previously converted the scarf into a shirt, dress, skirt, head covering, and full-body cover-up from my neck to ankles. So after my first rejection, I thought I’d give it another more creative try (or two) (or three).

I wrapped the scarf over my shoulders, tied the ends at my wrists, tucked all the fabric into my high-wasted skirt for good measure, and set off for the entrance.

That’s it guys. Don’t try to stop me. I’M GOING IN.
Hm. But what if they recognize me? Maybe I should cover the whole tank. Yes. I’ll pull it together in front and cinch it in the middle.
(Earnestly walking toward the Entrance of Shame)
Bites fingernails in anticipation. Other women wait from behind the rope with hopes of a better future for the shoulders of their children.
…and denied. Fine. Fine, you entrance blockers. But you haven’t seen the last of me.
*Pulls scarf around 110-degree body to guard against the chill of rejection*
Hey guys. Bad news. They didn’t let me in. But check out that shirtless dude behind me.
Wait. I know! Let’s get mummified.
Intern Anna focuses intently on covering any piece of exposed flesh
Go. Go with the strength of a thousand shoulders before you, and carry with you the hopes of a thousand shoulders left behind…
Hold on. Are you guys sure about this? What if I trip on the temple steps and can’t catch myself?! You’re right. We NEED this. Wish me luck. Third time’s a charm…
…and denied.   *Hangs head*
Like I really wanted to see some dumb ancient ruins anyway. Spoiler alert: THEY’RE RUINED!
…and then they made me get out of line, so we wrapped me in a cocoon but I was afraid I was going to fall, and THEN the guy said Lady, you don’t understand! No scarf for shirt! but I went through anyway, and then

This photo sequence was brought to you by the rejected women of World Next Door.


Are you going back to the room, babe?

I know! Let’s go to the quarter.
We don’t live in New Orleans.

Want to go to the lake?
But we don’t have a boat.

We could call our friends- maybe they have a boat?
But we don’t have any friends.
Yeah we do. We have those one friends.
They’re in Ohio.

Let’s go to Taste of Madison!
We don’t live in Wisconsin.

How about a hike.
Where? It’s 96 degrees.

Let’s take the kids to the pool.
We don’t have any kids.

We could ride our bikes to B. Ripp for lunch and–?

Having already covered this in other cities, I immediately knew what we had to do:

Get iced coffees and sneak into the Sheraton Rooftop Pool downtown, duh.

In which we pretend to be staying here: Are you going back to the room, babe?

Cuba (unofficially)

So. We went to Cuba Belize Mexico Belize Cuba Belize. Cuba. (If you’re an immigration officer, I would like to state for the record I oppose the embargo.) That’s how the conversation went in our heads all week, up to and including the nail-biting immigration line at  ATL.  J and I were looking at each other like, You talk? I talk? You? Me? You?

Turns out, nobody cares. They flipped through our passports and stamped without incident. On the other side of customs, J was wired and elated. All I could think about was how much Cuban Rum we could have brought back. And to think we worried about the rolled up stuffed-in-a-corner purple “Industriales” t-shirt we bought from some guy’s plastic bag at the 1pm baseball game. It’s Havana’s team, and current champs- equivalent to the NY Yankees, says J. He knows these things.

But what a rich country! Well, not literally rich. But socially. Sort of. And healthy! Infant mortality is lower than US, and HIV rate is less than .1%.  Architecturally rich. Beautiful. Colorful. Friendly. Inviting. Warm. Historically rich and totally preserved. Also pork-fat rich, which resulted in a day by the pool (read: bathrooms), and special “injections” by some lady named Julia. I think Jeff and Ricardo pretended to be sick the next day just to get a special injection from this Julia. No matter. Rachel and I made several trips to the crepe line, as the crepe maker was, how you say, crepetastic!

Catching a taxi feels like you’re at an antique car auction. Night club dancing with the locals feels like you’re in a black-lit, salsa-and-marengue-with-the-stars episode, where you can make up your own version as long as it involves some hips and twirls and drama. That experience was a fave.

And the mojitos. Don’t even get me started.

There is also a group of men in the square who sit all day and argue about baseball. J heard about this group, and loving baseball and old Cuban men, went to find it. It exists! He listened, talked to a couple people and stood-bye as we witnessed a few near-fights. While we were there, we made a friend who explained that 2 or 3 years ago, nobody could bother tourists. Now they are able to apply for a private license to be an unofficial tour guide in exchange for, like, a mojito. However, there is an officer every 10 feet, and if you say no, and the friend follows you, the officer blows his whistle and shakes his finger. Then the friend has to walk away. Poor friend. Our friend told us how to get out of the city and to the baseball game. He also offered us his aunt’s house for dinner.

The hotel we stayed at was a National Monument, with bullet holes in the front from mob shootouts, and our room faced the Hotel Libre, where Fidel ruled the country from the top floor during such-and-such time frame. Now it’s a disco.

Architecture is a colorful and stoic mix of Eastern Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America. The culture is the same. I kept saying as we walked around Habana Viejo: this looks like the French Quarter! And Prague! And as we walked around Habana Central, with colorful laundry hanging and bright vibrant paint: now this is the Caribbean. And then with the all Spanish and dancing, Latin America. We visited Cuban China-town, took the cigar tour (I neither confirm nor deny that we purchased or smoked a Cuban cigar), went to a Cuban baseball game, ate lunch and dinners on several rooftop bars and in Cuban homes. We discovered this interesting new allowance the government is giving to individuals who apply for private licenses. People who apply can gut the inside of their home, fix it up, and serve meals- but limited to 6 or 12 people only.  Here is a lunch place we stumbled on, plus the house on either side showing the disparity in opportunity:

Within a week of being home, we had purchased and watched Motorcycle Diaries, both Che documentaries, and a 3 hour music documentary on the creation of the Buena Vista Social Club. Also, we also almost got bitch-slapped by my grandma who assumed our enthusiasm toward Cuba (and our realization that many revolutionaries were idealists gone bad, that any government in its ideal state has strengths) was a plug for communism (what?). How she tied Obama into the conversation, I’m not really sure…

We are not socialists. But the trip was fascinating, and we are already planning a return- thanks to good friends who coordinated and visa’d us to be there, and who also had birthdays to celebrate!  (No thanks to Julia for the injections.)

My pics are here.  Jeff’s pics are here.  Here are a couple of tider-overs:

Rooftop pools.

Honesty, I was just trying to get to the mall.

But then I saw a Starbucks in the Sheraton on Canal St. and ducked in for my little icy nonfat mocha. You know me, the Starbucks led to the spectacular lobby, which led to the elevators, which led to the balcony, which led to the courtyard, which led to the pool deck, which required a hotel key, which I did not have. But it got me thinking. Hotels are the key to success if you live in a hospital-ish dorm with no immediate pool access, and they create the best avenue to fake yourself into the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Hotels could be my new car dealerships.

So today I went through every major hotel on Canal street to scope out the pool situation.

Harrah’s was a fabulous maze of casino and food courts and shopping areas which left me feeling very nostalgic for my annual Brookie-Dad-Sprinky-Mylissa weekend in Vegas. It would have been happening next weekend had it not been preempted by all these blasted school acceptances and weddings and unemployments. Next year.

I got a tiny bit braver and asked the front desk for a hotel map. Then I asked where the fitness room was, and then where the pool was. The concierge gave me a tour. She also told me that Harrah’s has an arrangement with Lowe’s next door to use their rooftop pool for $10. I just had to notify the bellman.

Harrah’s eventually wound around to Fulton Street, which was a pedestrian walkway with cute little outdoor cafés and restaurants, and Fulton Street wound around to the Hilton. Counting on the same success with Hilton as with Harrah’s, I asked the concierge for a general layout of the hotel. We matched the streets with the map and located the main pool deck on the third floor. I thanked her and made for the escalator, befriending a Spanish-speaking caterer on the way who escorted me to the pool deck, thrilled that I could speak in Spanish, as he could only understand about 7 words of English.

I examined every square inch of the Hilton, which was connected to the mall, and discovered that while the small pool on the riverside deck requires a room key, the main pool is open and available to all who can find it! Success!

I spent the rest of the afternoon at the pool, and then hopped a streetcar to the Canal St. shoppes, where I had planned to see a movie for $5.50. But then Macbook crashed. Daggers!

I started to walk home to figure out how to un-crash it, but a pop-up rainstorm landed me back in the Sheraton lobby in a plush leather chair on the phone with the Mac help desk listening to soft jazz and piano music from the bar. We reinstalled the installation disc over the phone and all was resorted, thank GOD. Me with no macbook? I would sooner die.

*It crashed again. Gotta go. You might not hear from me for a while- tomorrow I have to give little Macbook to the Mac surgeons.