Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Another busy weekend 23 - 24 October

Our weekends always start on Friday evening when the 4 ladies not working happily wave goodbye to Judy and myself who are working hard in the classroom.  We then have to track them down at 9pm when we knock off, the good thing about that is that as we live right in the middle of the night markets, we do not have to go far to find them as the first bar is about 20 paces from our front gate and the second one is about 25 paces from the gate.  Drinks are really cheap here, a cocktail costs about $1.50 and a beer can be bought for $1.  I have my normal problem that I have everywhere, they do not stock tomato juice, only that here they will happily mash up tomatoes to make juice (not the best taste but the intent is great).  You can buy a bottle of gin for $8 and Bourbon for $10.  You could wake up with a good handover for about $20, not that I would do that!!

Last Friday saw the ladies quite happy when I caught up with them but I had the last laugh when I woke them up at 7am the next morning to go out to see some of the temples.  We purchased a 1 month pass when we got here and that entitled us to 7 day visits during the month and once we passed the check point we could see as many temples as we were able to manage in a day.  We found that it was much to hot to stay walking around after about 11am.

Saturday saw us going to three of the smaller temples but there were a lot older than some we had see earlier.  The first buildings was Prasat Kravan which was built for Hindu worship in 921. The largest, central tower has images of Vishnu, showing him as an eight armed deity.

Like most of the other ruins around Siem Reap, there has been attempts to rebuild but I think most have run out of funds, it is interesting to note that the restoration is being done by other countries, Cambodia I think really doesn't care all that much although it certainly like the tourist $.

Central tower

North of Prasat Kravan is Banteay Kdei which is a massive Buddist monastery from the latter part of the 12th century.  It is a much quieter place to go as it is not frequented by the tourists therefore we were not met by the horde of young people trying to sell us everything from Lonely Planet books for $, Khmer silk scarves and much more.  Ryllis and I have got it down to a fine art now, we say no thank you in Khmer and just walk through.  Sandra always stops and looks or if she manages not to stop, she invariably gets into conversation with them and next thing you know she is buying yet another T shirt or something she really doesn't need.  It is a good thing that she has a number of grandchildren, I think they will be right for gifts for a number of years yet to come.  It is hard to imagine how big these building would have been as you wander from room to room and notice that the rooms continue on much further than  you can walk as they are not safe.  The workmanship just if incredible, they managed to haul up huge stones and work them into a circular roofline.  The carvings are still visible although they have been exposed to the elements for over 1900 years.  Almost every inch of the acres of buildings has a carving on it.  Throughout all of the ruins, no matter where we have been, a statue of the Buddha can be seen and you are able to buy incense and receive a blessing.  I think between us we have purchased 50 or more years of wonderful life.

 After we had finished walking around Banteay Kdei and speaking to a number of the locals, we wandered across the road to look at Sra Srang (Pool of Ablutions)measuring 800m x 400m.  It was reserved for the king and his wives, it is not much to look at now but it would have been a sight watching everyone bathing in this huge pool.

Pool of Ablutions

We all piled back into the Tuk Tuk and went just a bit further on to Bat Chum which was really just a pile of stones and a front entrance.  This must have really been off the beaten track as there was only one family selling goods, the baby would have been about 2 years at the most and he was trying to sell a cane mobile but was able to say 'one dollar'.  They all sound like Yanks with their dollaaar.  Unfortunately, my camera decided that it had had enough for the day and the battery went flat.  I will have to ask Sandra for some pictures.
We had to be back at the school by noon at the latest as we were going to go to the Village school that Liz teaches in.  The village is quite a big one and Mel has had a room built on the back of a one room cottage for a classroom and had work done for a bedroom/kitchen/bathroom at the back.  I think Liz is amazing as I am sure that I could and would not do what she is doing.  She is teaching for 4 straight hours, starting at 4pm and going through until 8pm.  The area is open and she spends most of the evening picking out bugs from her hair and trying to teach at the same time.  She tells us that she doesn't need tea as she has eaten a pile of bugs over the time.  The area she is teaching 20 students at a time is very small and she is unable to walk between the students.

Liz has no running water and her bath consists of standing on a cement floor and pouring water over herself from a small container, using rainwater from a tank.  She eats her meals with the family and most of the time has no idea what she is eating but she tells us that she likes living there.  Mel is going to find another person to live in with Liz and run an earlier class.  I can assure you that the other person would not be me.  Only a fan for cooling and absolutely no privacy as everyone just wanders in to say 'hello'.

We walk down from the school to the silk weaving factory, where a large number of women and one man were weaving the beautiful silks that are so available here.  They all seemed quite happy and one lady had a young child sleeping quite soundly, swung between two looms.
After wandering around for awhile, we all piled back into Mel's landrover and went a bit further down the road to Mate's (one of the Khmer students) village and met his parents, walked around the village and then we took turns in having a bullock ride through the water canals.  It was great although, I was right up the front and managed to get covered in bullock manure and stinky water.  I loved it!!
Saturday evening saw us all at our favourite local 'Molly Malones' which is an Irish pub run by an French, South American born owner who always insists on buying us 'one for the road' just as we are about to leave.  The meals are great and a nice change from the food supplied by the school.  I must admit that I do not eat much of the school food as there almost no meat and always heaps of vegetables.  Everyone knows how much I love vegetables.

Sunday morning has now been allocated to lesson planning, we say every Sunday that we will spend only one hour but 3 hours later we are all still there.  As you can imagine, I find this very difficult as I like to have things done and dusted and sitting around for the fun of it is not my thing.  Oh well!!

Our month Temple visit pass ran out on Sunday so we decided that we would go and watch the sunset over Ankor Wat but just as we were leaving the young Tuk Tuk driver who is one of Sandra's students said that we should watch the sun set the summit of the Phnom Bakheng.  Sandra, Ryllis and I said that it was a fantastic idea and we would certainly love to do it.  The summit was about a 30 minute walk up a steep hill which was designed to make your heat rate increase as you went further up the hill and of course we were constantly have to make room the the fit young buggers who were running past us on their way to the top.  When we thought that we had reached the top, we were then confronted with a tower that we had to climb up to get the 'best' view.  The steps to most of these buildings are only wide enough to put you foot in sideways and the steps are really far apart and of course there are no hand rails.  I have this strange picture of the earlier Cambodians, they must have had size 2 shoes and legs longer than Elle McPherson.  I must admit once we were perched on top of the temple and my heartbeat returned to normal the trip to the top was worth it.  Minea our young student had walked up with us and he then told us about the area and pointed out some of the local attractions.  It was a very pleasant time and all too soon it was time to go back down those stairs.  I must admit the I slid down on my bottom for some of them.  It may not look the best but at least I came down in one piece.  Rhyllis did a great job especially as she is not a great one with stairs or heights.  The trip back to the bottom of the hill was certainly interesting as it became quite dark almost immediately, so the last 10 minutes was done in the pitch black.  Not sure what happened to the Scouts being prepared motto then, guess we were not expecting to end up at the top of a hill.  Never mind it was a great couple of hours and the ride home was very enjoyable.  We stopped off and had a pizza for tea on the way back.  Gosh life is hard.

The normal welcome party.

The last of the sun

Sandra and Minea

Great photo opportunities

Monday, October 25, 2010

Weekend 16 - 17 October

The week pass quickly by with daily walks around Siem Reap, looking at market stalls, visiting new restaunts an the last couple of days trying to find out the hidden secrets of getting mail from the Post Office staff.  We went to visit the Post Office to find out how to post cards to Australia and to find mail coming into Cambodia.  Well.............., it appears that there is 3 different books that you need to look in when trying to find a parcel.  They detail the name of the recipient and the country the parcel came from.  After spending 5 minutes look at these, we were informed that only registered parcels were entered there and  that letters where in a pile in the corner of the post office.  We went and started sorting through them and noted that some of the letters were very old, we were then told be the same lady that they were the old letters and then she opened yet another cupboard and in there were the more recent letters.  Of course none of the mail we were looking for.   We have now been informed that it takes about one month for mail to get here!!

Saturday morning was spent at one of the absolute nicest temples.  It is great now as we are beginning to know our students and we have a number of Tuk Tuk drivers, so we are using them to take us around.  We were taken on a 20 minute ride through the country to Angkor Thom which was build between 1181 - 1219.  At its height, it may have supported a population of one million people in the surrounding area.  Inside the walled enclosure are the city's most important monuments, including Bayon, Baphuon, the Royal Enclosure and the Terrace of Elephants.  We spent ages there and we have all decided that without a doubt this is the best of all the temples.   The elephant in the picture below takes visitors on a lovely slow walk around the outside of the ruins.  The wonderful face (not mine) is just a small sample of the carved heads and the final one is just one of the beautiful ruins.

Saturday night saw five of us sitting in the theatre of the Hospital Jayavarman VII listening to Dr Beatocello play his cello and tell the audience about the wonderful work his has done over the last 40 years, building children's hospital in Phnom Pehn and Siem Reap so that he can help with the treatment of TB and Dengue fever.  The Dr has done a fantastic job and he needs to raise $5million every year to keep his hospitals operating.  There is no cost at all to the patients and just one of his hospitals manages to see over 2,000 outpatients every day.  His cello playing leaves a lot to be desired but what he has done in Cambodia is amazing.  Not sure why he has not got the Peace prize.

We have just had a week of solid rain and the whole area from here to the Thai border is flooded, some of our students have not been able to come into school as the water around their huts is chest high and of course all their belongings etc are soaked. On Friday night, I had no students for one of my lessons, which was great as we were all rained in and we turned one of the classrooms into a bar and settled in for the night.
Cambodian Border

Flooded Paddy field

One of the many Casinos in no mans land

It was funny yesterday, people were fishing in their yards around Siem Reap,  with bamboo poles and in the water ways with nets.  It seems that the whole water area are home to little fish about 5 cm in length and the locals catch them and eat them whole.  As we drove to the border and back Sunday, there were groups of children swimming and parents fishing and others just cooking the fish on the side of the road.  It reminded me of when I was young and the families went crabbing and we cooked the crabs in big pots on the beach and ate them warm.

You must be asking why we went to the Thai border, even if you weren't I will tell you.  Two of the ladies need to renew their visas, so the easiest thing is to travel 333K round trip to the border, cross over into the land between Thailand and Cambodia,  then come back, this takes about 6 hours.  We of course did not do that, we went into Thailand through their immigration centre (1 hour), travelled into the nearest town and visited their upmarket shopping complex(2 hours),  we then came back through the Thai border into no-mans land and spent about 1 hour one of the Casinos and then returned to Cambodia and met up with our driver who had been waiting and came home.  It was a ten hour trip.  The top speed allowed on the roads here is 60 Km although it would be seldom that we got to that speed.  The road to the Border is a lovely new highway which was paid for by the Thai Government, it makes a great difference from the normal pot holed roads everywhere else.
Casinos are legal in Thailand, so they have set up about 8 hugh Casinos in between the two countries, we went in there, the exchange rate was way over the top as you could only use Baht in the pokies and believe me it about 20 minutes to go through $20US.  The pokies are very old and many of them are the same as at home, there are a lot of gambling tables and the one we went into was 3 stories high and there are also nice eating places, expensive duty free shops and hotels rooms, there is a Grand Casino similar to Melbourne without the fire shooting into the sky.
We got home late Sunday evening and of course had to sit down and plan our lessons for the next day.

We are beginning to notice an increase in the number of tourist visiting Siem Reap over the last few weeks.  I hope that a huge number come as the Tuk Tuk drivers are finding it very hard at the moment as there are not the number of people wanting to ride and the hotels are empty.

At least the locals are starting to recognise us and leave us alone as we wander around the streets.  It is funny now as we walk around our students are calling out 'hello teacher' and when the 6 of us walk around it seems that it is a constant call.  I guess considering that during the day we have 240 students passing through.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Trip to Phnom Pehn 6 - 9th October

Five blearied eyed Westerners were waiting downstairs at 5.50 am on the Morning of the 5th, bags backed, lunches in our bags, nibbles, water and cameras within easy reach, ready to be picked up by the bus which we thought was going to take us to the wharf ready for our boat trip down the Tonie Sap lake to Phnom Pehn.   Well in true Asian style, we didn't go to the wharf, we went to the other side of town and picked up some other tourists, then went back to where he picked us up and were taken to a Cafe where we were told that we had to buy food because there were none on the boat and oh by the way while you are here how about buying breakfast.  We stayed at the Cafe for almost 1 hour and then set off again passed by the street where we live and proceeded to go to the boat.  Where of course we were met by another group of people who were trying to sell us food for the boat trip.

The boat trip was over 6 hours and was really lovely, we passed through floating villages, kilometers of open sea and finally travelled up through the final part of the lake, to Phnom Pehn itself.  The lake actually flows eventually into the Mekong river.  We all stayed up on the deck and got burnt to a crisp.  Yes, I know, we should have known better!!

The normal thing happened when we got off the boat, we were surrounded by taxi and tuk tuk drivers all taking us to our hotel at the best prices.  Sure, we negotiated $1 each, piled into the taxi and off we went, about 2 streets and there we were right at our hotel on a trip which should have cost about $2 max.  Never mind, it seems that is the normal welcome to any new city.

We stayed at the Colonial Mansion which is a very old building and we had a two bedroom apartment booked for $75 per night.  It was in the process of being done up but our rooms  were nice and the swimming pool and rooftop spar was even nicer.

My first impression of Phnom Pehn is that it is much busier then Seim Reap, a lot of the buildings have not been repaired from the reign of terror, it is not all that dirty or smelly but I would say nothing like Saigon or Hanoi.  The traffic is as chaotic but certainly not as busy.  You are able to cross a road without having to say a prayer and shutting your eyes and hope that you make it.

Our first night was spent swimming, eating pizza, drinking and watching television.    We have not seen a TV set since arriving in Cambodia so we watched  everything,  TV in Chinese, TV in Singaporean, TV in Khmer and TV in English.  

We  planned to leave early the next morning to go sight seeing but I think we had a large number of differing opinions of 'early'.  We eventually left the apartments about 9am to go to the King's Palace. 

We decided that we would walk to where we had to go as it looked quite close on the map, but of course we had not gone but a few paces before we started debating the correctness of the directions.  We hailed a Tuk Tuk and about 10 minutes later arrived at our destination.  Glad we changed our mind about walking.

Silver Pagoda

The palace is the actual residence of the present King although of course we did not go to the areas where he lived.  The kings have alternated between Siem Reap and Phnom Pehn over the centuries and they currently reside there now.  During the reign of Pol Pot, the King was in residence in the palace.  We hired a lovely young man to be our guide for $10US and Annette had to buy a T-shirt as she was not appropriately dressed.  The Palace was very old and we were only allowed to stand near the bottom steps and then we were ushered on to the Silver Pagoda.  This was a fantastic temple with wonderful gardens around it.  We were not allowed to take photos as it was an actual operating temple.  The floor tiles were made of solid silver and there were 5,281 of them or so we were told.  There were 1652 Budda statues of varying sizes and materials.  They were emerald, marble, gold, silver, bronze and wood, it was a fantastic display.  Well worth the trip and it was made even better by having the guide.  We were able to ask a number of questions we had be wanting to know.  Why did Vietnam invade Cambodia and oust Pol Pot, because they wanted access to the mineral resources etc.

Entrance to King's Palace

We went to the to the Russian Markets straight from the King's Palace, it took us some time to travel there.  Yes, when we got there they were just like any other markets we had been to since arriving in Cambodia, the only difference is that these were under cover and packed so closed that you had to move sideways to move around.  There were a few things that we had not seen before and the intrepid shoppers managed to stay in the markers for about 3/4 hour, me I think I lasted about 10 minutes before I went outside to see if I could find somewhere to sit down and have lunch.  We all thought that the Russian Markets were because the would have looked like a Russian building but the truth was that it is so called because of its popularity among Russian expatriates during the 1980s. 

A lot of the cafe's, small food stalls were closed because of the holiday but we of course managed to find somewhere to eat but it took us over 1 hour to get our meals as all the cooks had gone home to there home Provinces and only 1 cook was left.

It had started raining during our meal but not all that heavy, Annette, Liz and Ryllis had decided that they would go to S21 Prison.   This prison, now a museum, is a horrifying reminder of the inhumanity and genocide that Cambodia suffered under Pol Pot's khmer Rouge regime in the 1970's

S-21 stands for Security Office 21, and was the premier security institution of the Cambodian Communist Party or Angkar, specifically designed for interrogating, torturing and killing anyone the Khmer Rouge considered to be anti-Angkar.

Sandra and I decided that we did not want to go there but would go to Wat Phnom where there were wild monkeys and elephants while the others went to the Prison.  We grabbed a Tuk Tuk but the rain just bucketed down and we then decided to go straight back to the apartments.  We were soaked and the poor driver was dripping wet.

Sandra and I spent the afternoon, making sure that we would not catch malaria by drinking Gin and Tonics.

The others came back and although horrified by the things they had seen were glad that they went.

That night we went down to the Quay where all the tourist hang out and had a very happy 'happy' hour drinking $2.50 cocktails and then followed lovely meal.  I had a fondue and a couple of the girls had steaks.  It was still raining but we walked to the large night markets and wandered around in the rain for awhile before going back to the apartments.

Friday saw Annette, Liz and Ryllis heading off to see the 'killing fields' with Rit the Tuk Tuk driver.  Sandra and I, once again decided that we did not want to go, so we went to look at the central markets which we found out were closed except the people selling flowers for Pchum Ben festivities.
We continued walking down to the Quay to go to the Museum but wandered down a back road through a very local market, Sandra was horrified to see pig's heads, meats and fishes that were being chopped up, all sorts of offal etc.  We continued to  followed the flow of people into one of the large Wat's (Temples) and it was just like a carnival inside the grounds and there were heaps of people offering  blessings to the souls of ancestors, relatives, and friends who have passed away.

It was very interesting, people carried in containers of rice which they put into bowls that were placed alternately with bowls in which money was placed. I think conservatively there were about 50 bowls which is a heap of rice and quite a bit of money even if only 100 Real were placed in each bowl.  There were a large number of monks standing around watching the proceedings.

After the temple, Sandra and I decided that breakfast was in order, so we found a nice place to eat and just as we were ordering the other 3 rang to tell us they had returned from their trip and were on their way to meet us.  The killing fields were about 45 minute trip one way and they had spent some time walking around.  Annette was quite upset, there is a tree there where the smashed the babies heads against to kill them.  God, I am glad I didn't go. 

Sandra and I spent time at the museum and then found a quilt shop and spent time looking at all the people enjoying their one day holiday.  It was lovely to see families out on picnics etc.

Later that afternoon we were back at the Quay booking places on a sunset cruise up the river to where the Mekong runs into the Tonle Sap.  It turns out that we were the only 5 people on this huge river cruiser, we went up on the top deck and spent an hour cruising up and back along the quay.  It was lovely to see the sun set, although the weather was still a bit cloudy and we couldn't see the sun but we all know what it would have looked liked if it was out.  Annette had bought barbecued corn on the cob from a street vendor, so we sat up there eating corn and wishing that we had remembered to bring along something other than water to drink.  Great time was had.

Eating was next on the agenda, we had the difficult task once again of choosing which of the great restaurants to choose.  Night markets were once again on the agenda, dancing at the casino was also suggested  but the oldies over ruled the youngsters and we went back to the apartments. 

Saturday morning was the time put aside for everything we wanted to do but had not yet done so.  We  first went to the Wat Phnom where the monkeys are and spent some time wandering around there, it was very early but there were still people in uniform standing around making the westerners pay $1us to walk around the grounds and the temple.  Sandra decided to climb the hill where there were no police and managed to wander around undetected for some time but she was eventually caught and had to pay up.


Our final trip was to the Central Markets which were now open and once again the ladies managed to purchase shoes, bags, radios and small gifts.  We then went back to the apartments, grabbed our bags and grabbed a Tuk Tuk to the bus depot where we climbed on board the Mekong Express back to Siem Reap.  The bus was classed as a limousine but not quite up to the expected standard, we paid $11US as the bus had a toilet, was  airconditioned and supplied food.  Not quite true, we were given a small pastry and a bottle of water but it was interesting as the bus had a hostess who give us instructions both in English and Khmer and she also had an assistant.  If you used your imagination, you could almost imagine that you were on a plane.  The trip took just over 6 hours and I think our highest speed was 60ks.  The road was really busy with people going back to Phnom Pehn after the holidays.  The bus had a great time dodging buses, bicycles, motor-cycles, push bikes, cattle, dogs and the occasional trucks.  We passed a number of people having picnics and a village having boat races.  The countryside is very like any where else in Asia, with the rice paddies, small huts in the middle of paddies, some houses very new and freshly painted and the other end of the scale of a few bits of wood and a thatched room.  The rain had caused a lot of water to be lying around.  We got into Siem Reap about 6.15pm, grabbed a Tuk Tuk and happily settled back into our rooms.

Sunday was spent washing cloths, doing lesson plans and of course the obligatory massage.

Back to the routine of school, lesson plans, wandering around finding new places to see, and hanging out for the next weekend.  The rain seems to have returned with a vengeance now and students are finding it difficult to come to lessons due to the rain and the flooded areas they have to travel to come here. 

Sandra and Annette in the Spa


Chris, Liz and Annette in the Tuk Tuk

Sandra, Liz and Annette on the bus home

Monday, October 11, 2010

Monday 5th

I am feeling much better but I think it took till about Wednesday before I actually went down to the kitchen looking for food.  It has been a bit cooler lately as it has been raining at least twice a day which of course lowers the temperature but it gets as sticky after as at home.  It is funny watching the Cambodians with the rain, they hate being out it in and they are terrified of the lightning and thunder.  Guess because when it hits their huts it zaps them too.  We had a great storm last Friday evening and we had the Aussies standing on our balcony relishing the cool rain and the Cambodian staff right at the back of the classroom as far as they can get.
We made the most of our second weekend here, although we didn't do a great deal, everyone slept in except me, I got up and cooked myself egg & tomato and really enjoyed it, we wandered into one of the posh hotels and paid $5 to spend the afternoon in their swimming pool and spa, swimming up to the bar for a drink!!  Hard life.  We all went for a massage on Sunday before our lesson planning meeting, $10 for a full body massage with oil.  On Sunday evening, Annette and I had to go into the markets to have our feet massaged by fish, yes you put your feet into a tank of fish who start nibbling on your feet and supposedly take off all the loose skin.  Not sure if that really happens but is is really funny to watch people with very ticklish feet.

Sandra bought a plastic swimming pool during the first week we were here and although she had bribed, begged and tried to motivate everyone around her to help her either blow it up or take it down on the pushbike to the local service station to get it inflated it had sat around the house for over a week.  On Sunday I decided that to get some peace we had to blow the jolly thing up.  So, Sandra started puffing and I then helped her (plenty of hot air) we managed to fully inflate the thing, take it outside to the upstairs balcony and fill it with water.  The pool ended up being 1200 cm x 45 cm x 80 cm wide, we all  helped to cart the water to fill it 3/4 way up and then Sandra climbed in, quickly followed by myself.  We, neither Sandra or I are exactly trim, taught and terrific, so the end result was water splashing out of the pool, over the edge of the balcony and onto the ground below.  The lady standing on the road outside of our building selling cooked bananas thought the Westerners were killing each other, I then could not get out of the swimming pool as Sandra and I were stuck in it, so I had to be dragged out with the help of the other ladies.  Lot of fun and heaps of water everywhere.  We did try to tell Sandra that it was not a big pool when she bought it.  It is used quite often but not as a swimming pool but as a foot cooler down in between lessons.

It is not quite as bad in the classrooms,  I think we have adapted our clothing as well, I teach in a t-shirt. long light skirt and no shoes.  Most of the other ladies also now wear light clothing.
It has had to be a complete mind set change for me with the lesson planning and instruction.  For the past 30 years, I have been trying to introduce and maintain a variety in programming and challenging activities, never to do the same thing twice.  I am now faced with the same 20 faces arriving 5 days a week for one hour and in the cases of Beginner 1 & 2 their knowledge of English structure and grammatical words are way above anything we are taught in or primary schools.  Our primary concern is to correct their pronunciation, so we spend most of the hour with them practicing the vowels and speaking basic sentences.
With the teaching, I have introduced them to hangman, noughts & Crosses, using words to make sentences and if they are right giving them a cross etc, bingo, Kim's games and today for the beginner 0 we are introducing THRASS, as like everyone in the world the Cambodians are competitive by nature.
We have at last settled into a routine, we all got together yesterday afternoon (Sunday) and did our lesson plans as a team which made it much easier for the ones that are struggling. 
The school closes down Thursday and Friday for Pchum Ben which is the most culturally and religiously significant event of the year. This festival of souls concentrates on blessing the souls of ancestors, relatives, and friends who have passed away. All Buddhist temples, especially Wat Phnom, are the focal points for this festival and most Cambodians visit the temples to make traditional offerings and pray.
Five of us are going to Phnom Pen for the 4 days, we are hoping to catch a boat there and a bus back.  The only problem is that it is the same as in Vietnam for New Year, everyone goes away and things are closed, we will go anyway as it is on the sea and we can walk around, will be easier with less people.

Posting parcels, they do no have postal delivery to houses and according to Mel nothing arrives here from Australia.  I went to the Post Office the other day and spoke to the people at the front counter it seems that parcels can be sent C/o Seim Reap Post Office and there is a book there with your name in it when it comes and then I assume that you show your passport to collect it.  I have heard that the post office sells it back to you but not sure.  Although we can get most things here (some things are quite expensive) I would love some Nescafe coffee vanilla latte satchels and Annette is hanging out for some skinny Cappuccino's.  I have asked John to make me up an aid package. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

Life around the School

As mentioned before the house is quite old and it is a six bedroom house with and upstairs and downstairs living area which are the classrooms, the kitchen has been converted to an office and the kitchen is outside under the side balcony.  The kitchen area is really the only area that the teachers can meet although because of the long hours we don't have much time to get together.  Really other than weekends and the nightly meeting at 9.30 we are never in the same place.

Rata is the office administrator and like all administrators the world over he is very protective of his territory, no one is to touch the photocopier or his computer.  He lives in the house and is on duty 24 hours a day and the poor thing tries to escape to his bedroom to get away from the bossy women in his world.

Dara is Mel's security guard while Mel's husband Doug is away overseas at work but Doug is at home now until November so Dara is helping translate in the classroom.  He very nice and his wife, Chuneang works as our cook and cleans the school, her English is not very good and we have interesting conversations at meal preparation time trying to work out what we are eating.  They have a lovely little three year old daughter.

Mel has 3 children which I just met a few minutes ago for the first time.  They are very confident young people and are fluent in both languages, the two girls go to a special school and love it.  Lauchlin is only three but is not well at the moment so I am sure that we have not met the real boy yet.

Doug, I have only seen very briefly but he and Mel certainly share the same dreams for the school and Cambodia.

The food is certainly very different, Chuneang tries very hard to combine both Western and Cambodian cooking.  Last night we were to have home made tomato soup with crusty bread but ended up with very thick tomato sauce with pasta!!  I am having trouble with the evening meal as I don't finish until 9.30pm and then try to sit down to eat.  Have to work something out.

I am very familiar with the local fruit of course and we eat a lot of dragon fruit,bananas and mangoes.  It is the same as home the apples, oranges etc are very dear.   I am not missing meat yet but I really hate getting pumpkin in every meal.  Urk.