Saturday, 4 January 2014

Holidays, China, and I'M COMING HOME SOON!!!!

Yikes, it has been awhile!

In the meantime...I'll go back to October and the first of the Khmer fall holidays.

October is Pchum Ben, the significant Buddhist holiday honouring ancestors. It is a statement to the remarkable quality of wishing those who did wrong, redemption, as well as revering those who came before us.  People bring food to the pagoda so the ancestors have something to sustain them, for some, while they are making the transition from the "underworld" to a better place.  We all know that there have been some truly nasty deed committed here.  A visit to the pagoda on Pchum Ben demonstrated how much Buddhism is really a peoples religion.  It is comfortable, relaxed, respectful, and very social.  The prayers with the monk are quiet and with only a few, taking all of about 3 minutes, then everyone visits with the monk for a while before taking the blessed food to lay it out for the ancestors before feeding everyone else.  

Socialising with the monk.

Blessing the food.

Feeding the ancestors. 

Food for everyone. 

Heading home from the pagoda.  

In November I went to China.  China was such a pleasant surprise!  It was cold AND I LOVED IT!  I was afraid that it would be uncomfortable but feeling the cold on my face all day then having that warm flush when you get back inside, reminded me of home.  The people, few of whom could speak English, were much friendlier than I had expected.  Almost everyone where we were drove electric motos and just about every house had solar panels on its roof!  The real treat was oh so fresh mandarins...that's right...just in time for the Christmas season.

Guilin, a lovely city in the south of China

Phana really does live up to the Khmer reputation of eating anything.  One day it was lungs!!! Most of the time I didn't want to ask.  

Hmm!  This is the first at seeing this variety of toilet!  Adds new meaning to "pit stop". 

Oh so very delicious mandarins!

Gotta love translations!  As we head up to the rice terraces. 

Getting warm in the c-c-c-ool of the mountains. 

Goodbye rice terraces...

...hello karsts!!!

Just ducky!

Speaking of just ducky....

It's a good life rafting over weirs with an expert at the helm.

Okay! Okay!  The last picture of Karsts!  

What is a trip to China without hand-painted fans...

...and dragons!

There were just so many beautiful spots, it was hard to decide which photos to include.  It was an awesome trip of hiking, biking, and laughter with 3 very beautiful people, Anna, Phana, and Vy.  

So, now I am at a difficult part, continue with the update or save it for another blog...however, the adage of leave them asking for more eludes me at the moment...only because I don't know if I can manage another blog before I leave.  My apologies if you have HAD enough! 

I have had such a fantastic time with people from home.  First, Nina and Phil McGirr were in Kep for a few days.  They were the first of a few visitors from home.  I must say, it felt incredible to see their familiar faces. 
Then, there was Maya Kohn, who added a Cambodia extension to her adventures. At the same time, Pierre Lemire and Wendy, met up with us in Siem Reap then followed me to Phnom Penh. And, most recently, Toby Carson and his family.  I can't say how delighted I was to see everyone.  Maya had me eating crickets, and, with Wendy and Savann, we had our feet tickled in a "fish" spa.  Now that was an experience.  Wish I had the photos!  If your feet are at all sensitive, it is the most bizarre sensation, I must say.  Unfortunately, no pictures of Phil, Nina, Pierre,Wendy, or Toby.  Guess we were too busy catching up. 
Taking Maya to one of my schools in the old neighbourhood of my first placement in Banteay Meanchey.

It was unbelievable seeing everyone again.

Apparently, the children were so excited that we were coming...

...the couldn't sit still until we arrived. 

Our escort to and from the school as the road was washed out.

A final farewell as the students followed us down the road.

Angkor Wat

Banteay Srey

And, finally, some shots of my New Year's Eve celebration at the Provincial Office of Education.  The Khmer love to sing, dance, and toast to everyone's health and happiness.  

Lots of food...

POE director and deputy director singing (lots of experience in Karaoke I think) 

Lots of cheering...

My colleagues having fun...

...and dancing for 5 hours straight!!!

It's all in the hands...see me? 

That's it're all caught up with what I have been up to.  Now, I am all consumed by the thoughts of returning home.  When I start thinking about it, I have this almost overwhelming feeling of happiness at seeing everyone again.  Oh, the imaginings of all the luxuries, food I have missed, and the beautiful outdoors.  To be in my own house, in my own bed, with clean sheets, after a long bath, ooooo I can't tell you how awesome that will be.  Most of all, I can almost feel the hugs as I reconnect with you guys, the best friends in the world!!!!!  See you soon after April 08th.  Counting down.... Until then, have a blast!!!!

Wishing you all A MOST AMAZING 2014!!!!

Hugs, thoughts, and, love
Andrea   a.k.a. Andy