Saturday, 24 August 2013

Rains and rants and I really hate ants!

Hello hello hello!

Can you believe it is the end of August!  Where most of you are harvesting, getting relief from summer heat, and thinking about getting ready for fall, I am looking forward to the constant clear blue sky that comes at the end of the rainy season.  Usually packing for travel is easy but this time of year, you really don't want to forget your poncho! And where oh where are my beloved yellow gum boots?  When the rains come, you are drenched within seconds not to mention the unbelievable roads into and out of Kep.  So, some monsoon meanderings...

All my banking is in Kampot, usually a 30 minute motorcycle ride from Kep.  The rain makes for a most interesting albeit a bit of an adrenalin rush trip at times.  Pictures tell a story.

This was on the way home from Kampot

No such thing as a tow-truck here! 

There always seems to be a cat or excavator handy when you need one. 

Yup, just drive right on through and see what happens.  

This is an improvement to our trip to Kampot...we had to pay 1500 Riel to ride the moto across 2 different sets of planks.

I'm not the only one who has difficulty. 

Phnom Penh bound, with detours, washed out roads, and more muck.

Dat's my bus! 

And dat's the line-up ahead of us.  Luckily there was an excavator to move the truck that was wheel-deep in mud!  

View from the bus window

On the road again...

I doubt I will ever complain about the roads in Canada again.  The North Fork Road, ungraded with potholes and washboards, would be considered a good road here!

Just a normal day at a Phnom Penh bus station. 

The entertainment waiting for the bus.

This is looking so normal to me these days. 

The constant rain raises the already high humidity.  Things never ever dry!  What you see growing on my wall, is also growing on my clothes, my pillow smells of mildew (it was a really bad idea to go to sleep with wet hair!) and my sheets are damp when I get into them every night.

The mildew or mold or some other fungus growing on my wall...maybe it's smut! 

Banteay Meanchey, my former province has already experienced flooding killing several people.  It is about 2 months earlier than normal.

Come on November Sunshine!!!!

And, I missed the best pictures of all when I was in Phnom Penh without my camera.  Streets were flooded mid-way up the tires of the motos.  There were actually wakes behind them.  Children were playing in the streets laughing as they were getting splashed by the passing tuktuks.  While watching in amusement, I had three children come up to me holding two 500 Riel notes thinking I had dropped them.  That amounts to $0.25 which is a lot of money for children but it didn't seem to cross their mind to keep it for themselves.  It wasn't mine so they looked around to see who else the money might belong to.

But the rain does have it's beauty.

 Being in Cambodia during the national election has been such an educational experience for me.  Witnessing the struggles of a people trying so very hard to have a voice, against a strong-man who refuses to relinquish his power.  The moment the opposition leader returned from self-imposed exile, after being pardoned by the King, the energy of the election change.  There was hope!  And, the people went to vote in the millions.  But, there were allegedly also over a million who were left off the voters list.  There are rumours of election "irregularities" aplenty.  Intimidation tactics  such as armed" guards" at some polling stations, threats of civil war if the incumbent lost.  One can only imagine the fear it instilled into these people who have suffered so very much.

Post election has been increasingly tense.  Both parties have claimed victory although the unofficial count is 68/55 for the current ruling party.  The government has moved armoured tanks into Phnom Penh "to keep the peace".  An activist was shot dead in his home although it wasn't "politically motivated" and there have been arrests, all people from the opposition.  Monday, there will be a peaceful demonstration in Phnom Penh which will keep us all on the edge of our seats.  There is an army boat patrolling the river in Kampot, and shiploads of armoured personnel carriers arrived in Sihanoukville.  In spite of all of this, life continues on the surface as if there is nothing afoot.  Naively perhaps, I'm not really concerned about my safety but I am intensely interested in what is going on, reading whatever election news I can uncover.  It is so very fascinating for this Canadian to witness.  It has made me want to shake up Canadians to bring some life back into our political complacency. And perhaps be more appreciative of what a privilege it is to have the life we do.  Perhaps my lack of fear is I know, that at some point, I can leave the turmoil.  I have a choice.

On a lighter note, ants!  I REALLY hate them!

I know you can't really see them that well but believe me when I say there are hundreds, no maybe thousands of them!!!!
 And, there is no escaping them.  Just have a drip fall from the lychee berry while you are eating it and there is a stampede of ants, running over your feet, trying to get to it.  The armies are relentless.  It is a puzzle to figure out where they even come from.  One minute everything is peaceful, then just one mistake, and the ants come marching in!!!!  It is really a motivator to clean up after every meal.  Fortunately, they aren't all that enamoured by coconuts.

The story of our coconuts in photos.

One sunny day...

There were some coconuts

A lovely bunch of coconuts really!

So with a borrowed weapon...

Savann could put his Khmer expertise to good use...

And managed to get us some of that thirst quenching...

Yummy coconut water.  It doesn't get any fresher than this. m-m-m-m-m good!

Now, I have to admit, I have been horribly homesick more often lately.  Eighteen months in, and some days I just feel that I have had it.  With the rains, washing clothes, which is to say  in my basin by hand, means days and days before they dry.  I am so tired of the same food which is seeming more and more bland...I have actually started going for a hamburger once a week, but the frequency may increase in the very near future.  I spend so much time alone.  Will my friends tolerate me when I get home and just can't get enough of them?  My middle is growing! Could it be the lack of exercise?  Or perhaps it is the constant feeling of needing  oral gratification to console my deprivation. The conversation goes something like this:

"Andrea you are so lonely, why don't you go to Veranda and buy yourself a slice of that decadent chocolate cake.  You know how much better you feel".

"Ya! Okay"

Then off I go on my moto,  over hill and dale on muddy dirt roads, chased by monkeys, passing snakes, avoiding the potholes and puddles. It is so very worth it.  

Needless to say, I miss you all more and more. May you be happy, healthy and living your life with purpose.

Love, thoughts, and lots of love,
p.s.  Louise, you are a dear! I loved the snail mail!  I smiled while reading it and loved the photos.  I made short work of the delicious chocolate bar.  Love that we stay in touch.

p.s.s.  Anna! the DVD's were awesome.  Finally an answer to my mystery letter...a Christmas letter from my dear friend Laurence  filled with a year of family photos.

p.p.s.s. Gordon, love the photos!!!

p.p.s.s.s. Ha! ha! not sure what comes next...but Kymberley.  Thank you for being so good to include me into your busy life and ever so thoughtful.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Kep and beyond

It feels like a while since my last attempt at updating everyone.  Suppose it is a combination of things not the least of which is the thought of waning interest as everyone's lives are filled with summer, grand-children, graduations, cycling trips, and life marching on.  Seventeen months of ups and downs, travel, adventure, and transitions.  As the countdown begins regarding thoughts of heading home, I am filled with uncertainty.  I've changed, my life has changed, and now I am contemplating what could be more stimulating than what I am experiencing.  Bah! I still have 9 months to think of something.  In the meantime...

What is a blog without something gross, eh?

So, I was motoring to work one morning and I caught a glimpse of this. "Whoa! that looks like an interesting snake", I say to myself, only to look up in time to miss hitting a monkey running across the road ahead of me. It is moments like this when it hits me that I really am in a foreign place.  Monkeys always make me laugh when I see them, and, seeing the snake on the road below the park where I hike, sent a shiver through me.  This Malaysian pit viper is responsible for their victims requiring amputations. It isn't that I wasn't aware of snakes while I hike.  I always check the trees before I use them for handholds, and when hauling myself up the steep rocky bits, I always shake the knotted ropes as a precaution.  Funny thing though, these snakes hide in the leaf litter on the ground.  Hmmm... need to get up the courage to get back onto those trails.  Perhaps, Anna, I will need those hiking boots after all.

And then there were some firsts.  Not for me, but for Savann and Mr. Noy, Savann's buddy visiting from Sisophon.  Savann turned 32...we we had a birthday party.  His first ever!

Savann doesn't think I know how to make rice! 

Savann and Mr. Noy didn't know what a can-opener was.  

So you ask, how do they open cans then?  To be honest, they don't.  They don't buy things in cans.  Most of their food is bought fresh from the market. They thought this was pretty cool!  What would they do with an electric can-opener?  I can only imagine knowing how they drive motorbikes.

Mr. Noy had never eaten cheese before...I think he likes it! 

A sketch pad and sketch pencils...the man has talent! 

Yes, we/I sang happy birthday as I brought in the candles though:-(

One of the wonderful things about being in Kep is I get to see different sights in Cambodia.  So on the last long weekend, we packed up the motorcycles and rode 3 hours to Sihanoukville.  Sore bum!  Honda Dreams just aren't meant for long distances.  Nice scenery, glad I went, won't go back.  There is no doubt the endless beaches are lovely.  I was doubly grateful to be staying 5 k out of town in a quiet beach area. Janet, my colleague in Kampot and her husband are great company (yes, you too Savann!) so it was fun playing games, walking the beach, and swimming.  As for the town of Sihanouk, well, it was the sex-trade thing... I know it exists in Cambodia... I just don't like having to witness it everywhere I turn.  That said, the quiet beach hut out of town at a different beach was more to my liking.

What a sweetie.  Cheena, making me a bracelet.

Cheena, teaching Savann how to make case he wants to supplement  his income.
Oh I wish I had a picture of the braids that Janet made for me.  I have never had such beautiful braids in my hair before.  Thank you Janet!!!!

Adding interest to one of my weekly trips to Kampot, I just clicked away on our way back to Kep.  There aren't many amenities in Kep, so to shop, get to a bank machine, and have meetings with Janet, off to Kampot we go, we go...

Just before heading home, I thought I would put in yet another plug in for Oil of Oregano.
Not looking too good Dave!  Let me give you some oil of oregano!  (No surprise to you eh Ellen!) 

Thought I would help you get a wee sense of the trip...
Leaving Kampot

Mattresses piled high, being pulled by a motorcycle.

Salt flats...

Yes, face-masks and face guards...for the blinding dust that coats everything. 

One of several Cham (Muslim) communities around Kep. 

Just supervising the road construction. 

Doesn't do justice to all the dust. 

Getting close! 

Oh, at the White Horse round-about...we know we are very close. 

Ah!  We have arrived in Kep with the spectacular Flame trees.  
At the risk of this being too lengthy, I will add a few more shots from around town.  It is lovely here.  Have I said that before.  
Selling fresh crabs from the boat.

On my walk to the pagoda this morning

Sitting on the steps of the pagoda, pondering life...aka meditating

walking through the jungle home from the pagoda

Try to zoom in on this little girls shoes!  High heels about 10 sizes too big!  What else would you wear to take the cows out?
So, life is good here.  Finally starting to figure things out, sort of, at work.  Looking forward to trips in August, November, and the end of March next year.  You will just have to stay tuned.  Love any and all connections so do drop me a line.  I check my email a gazillion times a day...just saying! 

I do hope everyone is in good health, enjoying life, and, having a blast.  Think of you often, miss the connections, and send big hugs across the seas to you.

Until next time...