Sucking It Up To Ask A Question

I used to be really good at this.

When I was 18 and backpacking through Europe, we asked questions all the time. I remember an entire day spent looking for contact solution in some Italian city; desperately pointing to my contacts and using hand gestures for cleaning said contacts. Finally we hit the contact bonus and found some. A scary moment for an 18-year-old who might have to resort to wearing glasses which in the old days, were pretty sad affairs. Think 2 big thick coke bottle lenses in some kind of unattractive accompanying frame. So yes, I was motivated to ask the questions.

Gradually this changed. Somehow I became “cooler” or “wiser” or “more experienced” and I thought less of asking questions and more of finding it on my own. Do people actually get more stubborn and determined as they get older? Well… a glance at my mom and that might suggest some truth in that statement. 🙂 Anyway, I remember when this came back to bite me in the butt for the first time.

Chris and I were taking some alone time for a romantic holiday to San Francisco. My dad had sworn by San Francisco and said we MUST go there. So here we are on our first day out and I have the guidebook in hand and we are off to explore. Note to couples: before dating, ensure one of you is good at reading maps; NOT both of you think you are good at reading maps but maybe neither is. The latter doesn’t paint quite as pretty of picture. So we head towards China Town and this is where it begins.

“Ah, Chris, do you know where we are going?”


“Oh, okay. Should we just double-check on the map of our guidebook just to be sure?”

“Well, fine.”

I “read” map, set the direction, off we go, to NOT find China Town anytime soon.

“Do you want to take a look at the map? Just to know if we are definitely going the right way.”


Looks at it and off we go; still lost and wandering in maybe San Francisco circles; looking for a way out to find China Town.

This continued for some time. You know that deathly silence that occurs between couples when things aren’t quite working out? Yup. We had that going on pretty well.

Somehow by a miracle, we ended up in China Town but by that time, we were no longer “happily exploring” as much as “frustratingly enduring”. I remember entering the fortune cookie factory (our sole goal), looking around quickly and thinking, that wasn’t worth the fight.

So I have learned that sucking it up to ask the question a tad earlier can save you some grief later on.

Despite experience backpacking, you still end up in places where the guidebook is useless, or its maps are useless, or you are useless and you have to move beyond that pride. I once would have known how to manage and get on these Cambodian boats; knowing exactly which one, how much to pay, where to sit but upon returning to Cambodia, I would now have zero clue. Yes, Cheryl, despite having lived there, you will now have to ask some questions.

What I Had Wished I Had Known Before Going to Cambodia

It can be really really scary when you move to the other side of the world (Cambodia specifically) and have just about ZERO idea what to expect.

The UN was pretty specific. Read the following to feel reassured.

” You may live in the jungle. Be prepared. You could live in a tent, and we are not sure for how long. Oh also, we don’t quite know yet what you will be doing.”

Okee dokee – Who signs up for this? Well I do. I was a desperately unemployed lawyer who was balking at the idea of ever practicing law in any traditional sense… hence anything non-traditional was right up my alley. Or so I thought.

What I Had Wished I Had Known Before Going to Cambodia or Otherwise Known as Notes To Self

No, Cheryl, you do not need to take a hockey bag full of clothes that make you look like a nun. You will be surrounded by cool Italian UN personnel hence, nun like clothes are not going to cut it.

No, Cheryl, you do not need to eat a gazillion chocolate bars before heading off to Cambodia as they too will have chocolate (well at least imported but it counts).

No, Cheryl you do not need to read each and every book on the Killing Fields before you go. It is not a good idea to get PTSD BEFORE you go.

No, Cheryl you do not need to follow all the rules of your job. In fact, it is best that you make your own since you know what is going on and the head dudes (the ones who earn the big bucks) do not.

No, Cheryl you do not need to be the polite Canadian. It is okay, really, to throw packages of cigarettes at the soldiers and “cops” at the check points and keep on driving.

No, Cheryl you do not need to worry because you are about to have one of the best years of your life. Relax and enjoy 🙂