Monday, 27 February 2012

Life in Kampong Cham

Hello All,

on our way to Kampong Cham

Thought I would take a break from studying the Khmer language to post some pictures and tell you about my "never a dull moment" life in Kampong Cham.

all dressed up at the bus depot

Getting fresh mangos at the bus stop on way to Kampong Cham

Getting our luggage from bus depot to hotel

 Learning Khmer certainly has its challenges for me as I struggle with the k'nong, chang, p'tai. m'day, and kar y a lai type words, but truly I think my head is going to explode with all the new words going into my brain.  Unfortunately to make room for my already stuffed brain, I am losing other functions.  I have become accident prone. I made an impression with the fellow volunteers at 5:30 in the morning when I slipped on the wet-from-the-leaky-shower floor, landed backwards on the toilet, hit the toilet bowl which hit the wall then exploded spewing water all over.  It sure woke ME up!

This is after we turned the water off!
I have managed to get out for morning runs while the weather is...well cool isn't the right word...perhaps less hot!  Running along the Mekong is quite pleasant, past women in pyjamas doing "jazz-aerobics" complete with music blasting into the streets.  Otherwise it is a quiet time of the day.

Sunrise on the Mekong River
Fishing boat heading out early

Other than that, the food continues to be great, especially the fruit and veggies.  Tamarind had become my new favourite snack food and fresh coconut juice my new favourite drink. 

m-m-m-m steamed dumplings

cooking fish with a big pot of rice

more fish

I know it doesn't look appetizing but this is nummy sweet-sour  tamarind

Yesterday, our only day off school, a group of us cycled across a bamboo bridge to an island in the Mekong River.  Cycling around the island was along dirt roads lined with trees filled with all sorts of fruit, kids running up to the road to say ``hello`` and very friendly people.

Our Dutch contingent in her glory on a bike
Pony and cart crossing the bamboo bridge

Your truly and Ellen

Happy people saying hello

Jack fruit (interesting taste)

plai chake ( bananas) 

On our way home form cycling we stopped for some sugar cane juice.  Ellen is squeezing the sugar canes which is not as easy as it looks!

Sugar cane juice

Seem to be managing the heat and humidity however I am dreading April which is supposed to be hellish hot.  I really cannot imagine it getting hotter.  I think I`m in trouble. But probably nothing that a little coconut juice wouldn't help.

Hope you are all well!  See you next time.

Lots of hugs,

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Having fun in Phnom Penh

Hello All,

Just a few photos to keep you interested.  I keep forgetting to take pictures when we're doing something that is really interesting, like when we went to this amazingly hot and steamy, busy, delicious noodle restaurant which looked like it could be somewhat less than sanitary but so worth the risk. It seems the traffic continues to be a marvel considering the potential for disaster, yet the chaos does function.

This is me with fellow volunteer in a tuktuk to VSO office in the morning.

This is the view out the back of the tuktuk.

Look closely at the direction each of the vehicles is going...on coming motorcycles whilst one is turning, people sitting on the back side-saddle, not to mention there are cyclists and cars to look out for.  SUV's always have right-of-way as they tend to just drive over anything that gets in front of them.

Saw this at the market this morning.  Looks familiar!
I will have to send you a picture of all the fantastic fruits and vegetables that are in the market daily.  Some I can't say as I recognize.

A little peace and tranquillity in the midst of it all.

Saturday morning in Phnom Penh.

The VSO training sessions have been very good and interesting.  The session on "child protection" touched on some interesting topics.  One was volunteer tourism which is not very effective at finding solutions.  Another was the short-term volunteers in orphanages which is traumatic for children already suffering from abandonment.  Apparently tourists also go to orphanages, which in itself is disturbing, but the money they bring in rarely reaches the children. Besides our sessions, we got a chance to learn some bits about our placement goals and I was very excited after my meeting with the Education Program Manager who outlined my work in Sisophon.

Tomorrow we head off by bus, the local non-tourist variety, for Kampong Cham to start our Khmer language training.  Kampong Cham is a smaller city on the Mekong which is supposed to be lovely.  We each get our own bikes and I get training on riding a motorcycle.  Yikes, riding in all this mess on a motorcycle...they come at each other head on!  Luckily I will be riding mostly in Sisophon and hopefully without all the traffic of Phnom Penh. (I hear they drive faster in the provinces though!)

I'll try to remember to take some pictures of the really good stuff at some point.  Street food is great, rice and banana wrapped in banana leaf and cooked on a fire, m-m-m-m good.  Speaking of food, must away to test out more delights.

Oh yes, yesterday we had a torrential down pour.  It would be the day I decided to walk to the VSO office.  The sky opened up.  However, it isn't bad in the warmth of Cambodian
Hope you are all well.  Catch you next time.

Lots of love and thoughts,

Monday, 13 February 2012

Arriving by Dragon...

Hello Everyone,

Life just is so exciting.  Finally after the fiasco before I left with my flight from Kelowna being cancelled due to fog,then an all night ride to Vancouver with a total stranger, I finally got off the ground 2 days later than scheduled.  Sitting in the middle seat for my 13 hour flight was very, very, uncomfortable but I was fortunate to have the company of two lovely gentlemen, a Sikh from Malaysia who was so kind., and a Vietnamese Canadian who was a refugee 30 years ago.  It really was fascinating learning about their stories and heart-warming to see how excited these 2 men in their 50's were about going home to see their mothers. The last 2 1/2 hours was on Dragon Air which had a beautiful dragon painted on the aircraft. Fitting for the Year of the Dragon don't you think.

Arriving in Phnom Penh was without a hitch and the immigration seemed quite unconcerned about the fact that my visa had a different passport number on it.  The rest was smooth sailing as I was greeted by a VSO staff member who was expert at negotiating the chaotic traffic complete with motos coming from every direction. After sleeping most of Sunday, I feel more or less in sync with the time zone.  The bonus is the wonderful hot sunny weather.  It is such a treat to walk around in sandals and short sleeves all the time.  I have to say that I love it so far.

We had our first training session today but I started yesterday with a new cell phone.  Who would ever have imagined that I would put my radiation phobia behind me, at least temporarily!  So, I am now learning all the ins and outs of the world of cell phoning.  It was pretty cheap, $20 for phone and $5 worth of credit costing 3 cents a text, 10 cents overseas.  Watch out all you folks with cell phones...once I get your numbers...

Well, I will try to get some picture up and more information by the weekend.  I must get some sleep.  Food is great, people delightful, and I'm loving the idea that I will be here for 2 years.  Just remind me of that when the monsoons hit okay?  See you in my next blog.

Lots of love and thoughts,