Friday, 29 March 2013

Kepping it in Cambodia

Apparently the best crab in the world. Fresh at the Crab Market daily. 

Hello everyone!

Well, I've made the move and although there are some things I miss about Sisophon, I believe I have transitioned into my new placement and environment quite quickly.  The scenery, with mountains on one side and sea on the other, make for a pretty easy adjustment.  The glitch is the lack of connection to the Khmer culture on an everyday my neighbours in Sisophon,.  However, it is very peaceful here with the deafening noise of cicadas every evening, the birds chirping, and the cows mooing,  replacing the noise of rocks being loaded on trucks, weddings or funerals blaring, and the PA announcements at the school behind my former house.  I have to say that I have been sleeping a lot which makes me think I may have been a tad sleep wonder!

Life has been hectic since January with this being the first weekend since then where I have no commitments.  Yahoo!!!!  In the fall I developed "floaters" in my eyes and in January started to see flashing.  After emailing the Cuso doctor in Ontario, the wheels were set in motion for an emergency flight to Bangkok.  The fear was  a possible detached retina which can leave a person blind within 24 hours.  A somewhat scary thought.  The care I received in Bangkok was the best anywhere as Bangkok has a "medical tourism" business that makes Bangkok one of the best places in the world for medical care.  I truly felt in good hands with a very thorough exam.  The short version is that my eyes are ageing (drats!) and because of my severe myopia (short-sightedness) my eyes are slightly larger, the vitreous humour (gel) hardens.  As it hardens, pieces break off (floaters) but it also pulls on the retina causing flashes.  I had to return a month later to see if there were changes and again in 6 months.  So far so good.

There is more excitement too.  With my new placement, I was invited to attend a national congress on education in Phnom Penh at which Prime Minister Hun Sen gave the closing address.  I have never been to an event where there has been a head of state before.  Not only that, but we were seated within the first five rows so we even made national TV.  The more interesting thing though was the security.  They had sniffer dogs checking out the venue the morning before he arrived, there were security guards, police, and army around, and airport-like X-ray machines that you walk through and put your belongings on a conveyor belt.  Now that was the funny part.  People were walking through with bells and whistles going off but no one was stopped.  I'm not even sure anyone knew what to look for on the TV as things were going past on the conveyor belt.  There were metal objects, bottles of water, electronic equipment...still, no one was stopped or apprehended.  Even funnier, if you went around the ends to the toilets, you could avoid the security all together.

So, I am now in Kep City, in Kep Province, on Cambodia's only coastline.  I have a lovely 2 room apartment in a colonial-looking building with a view of the mountains and the sea.  I have a huge balcony where I spend most of my time either eating at my table or swinging in my hammock.  Life is good!

I have just had my first week at work so it is hard to tell exactly how I can support education here but as I attend meetings and observe how things work here, I am getting a lot of ideas especially about organising  for starters.  I am quite anxious to get out to the districts and schools but things seem more formal here needing an ID card and an introduction.  I am to work with management helping them with planning, communication, and implementing policy, working at facilitating training and mentoring.  OOO, I like the sound of that:-)  Time will tell.  However, I can't complain about my drive to and from work.  Not only do I have a pollution-free drive, empty streets, but without a doubt it is one of the most picturesque drive to work I have ever had...except when I lived in the Rockies.

my moto with helmet and Savann on the sidewalk

That's me folks

Yup, yours truly.

Savann leaving me in his dust!

All in a days drive to work

A view of Rabbit Island 

a troop of monkeys...same spot everyday

Kep beach

This modest culture puts clothes on the statue of a nude woman (remnant of the French ). 
I love swimming here because I get to swim in my yoga pants and shirt along with the Khmer people who swim in clothes.  I do find it...hmmm...interesting... how disrespectful of the culture people are when they come to a country where modesty is important, exposing their bodies.  The part that amazes me is the tolerance the Khmer have.  A lesson for me I suppose. As Savann says: "nothing is secret any more".

a sunset swim
And of course, one of the perks is the after-work swims I get to have in this bathtub-warm water of the Gulf of Thailand.  (Sorry Claire, Gordon, Ellen, Anna, Janet, and David!)

It is Easter weekend so I will close with memories of Easter egg hunts, chocolate, and all my lovely friends whom I miss so very much.  I wish you all a happy Easter and hope you are all well.  Enjoy some delicious chocolate eggs for me.  Lots and lots of love and hugs.


Sunset from my balcony