Sunday, June 28, 2009

Journal: Sunday 28 June 2009

Slept late today and didn’t have breakfast. We decided to go to Da’s house for lunch and to spend the afternoon. We left at about 10:00am.

His mom was at a wedding to prepare the food, so the brother-in-law was making lunch for everyone. It was some sort of a soup. Da’s mom sent some bags of food from the wedding, so we had more than just the soup. One was fried beef with some onions, the other was fried pork with mushrooms.

It was hot as usual and we went back to the house to rest. Later it started to get cool and then started to rain ever so lightly. This was an unusual rain because it continued for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening, and it wasn’t terribly heavy.

We took advantage of a slight break in the rain to head back to town to attend the Christian Fellowship at

4:00pm. The rain started halfway there, so we arrived a little wet. It was a good service.

Afterwards we decided to go to the Old Market to pick up some things I needed for the house: hangers, laundry soap and rugs. I also stopped at my student’s mother’s stand to pick up some more fruit, too. Tonight it was chicken egg bananas, mangosteens and custard apples. I love tropical fruit. Even the names are exotic.

In this photo (top l to r): lichee (small red bumpy), custard apple (medium green bumpy, longan (small yellowish), mangosteen (purplish/brown with white interior), rambutan (spiky), and tamarind (smooth brown snaky-looking)

Custard Apple, sweet and delicate

Mangosteen, white and slightly sweet.

Chicken Egg Banana, small and oh so sweet

We went back to the house to relax a little and put away the things. I actually washed a few things, then we headed back out to enjoy Indian food at our favorite restaurant called India Gate. The owner was really excited to see us, especially since it had been so long since I had been there. We both got Thali sets, but I got the vegetable and he got the non-vegetable. It was such a cool evening that dinner was really pleasant.

Before heading back to the house we stopped in at Zanzybar where Da’s friend Sochea is working. We had a drink and his friend Nara came, then another that I can’t remember his name.

Time for bed!

Journal: Saturday 27 June 2009

Yay! Finally, today is moving day. We moved to the new room. It required only 2 tuk-tuk trips to take my bags and all of Da’s other stuff like the fridge, fan, table, chair and a huge box of unknown contents.

I’m happy to be in the new room. It’s bigger, brighter and quieter. Plus, it’s much closer to downtown on a much less bumpy road, so it won’t be such a hassle driving back and forth. The bathroom is not so big and the toilet doesn’t automatically flush, which means you have to pour water down it to flush it. But, there is a kitchen counter with a sink and a back door to allow a breeze to blow through. Also, I now have a wardrobe to hang my things.

Some things I still need to get to completely make it home:
  • Hangers
  • Rattan shelf
  • Two rattan lounge chairs (to chill out on the veranda)
  • Clothes bar to hang towels to dry
Finally after sweeping, moving the wardrobe and bed into better locations, putting some things away and making the bed we were both hot and sweaty and ready for lunch. Off to Common Grounds for lunch and a cool place to use the computer.

Today I had a grilled cheese sandwich that came with a really nice garden salad. Spent the rest of the afternoon chilling in the café. Dinner was a quick stop for fried rice, the back home to eat it. A fairly uneventful day.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Journal: Friday 26 June 2009

The morning started out with a final visit to the hotel for a send-off of our clients. We enjoyed breakfast at Soup Dragon and then followed that with some time at Common Grounds for internet time.

I finally called my mom to let her know I arrived safely. I know, bad daughter. But, she comes to expect this from me. I take a long time to call home. Really I just didn’t have internet access at a decent time for her.

When we arrived at the café, I was stunned at the news on CNN saying that Michael Jackson had died. What a loss! But I never really was all that fond of his music. I can remember when Thriller was out, I was in sixth grade and intentionally chose Lionel Ritchie as my favorite singer just to be opposite of everyone else. I still prefer Lionel over Michael.

Lunch was Beef Lok Lak. I prefer to cook it myself, but this was tasty enough. Making it is very simple. All you need is some beef that you slice into bite-sized pieces, steamed rice, freshly sliced cucumber, tomato and onion with some lettuce leaves, and finally a sauce made of freshly ground pepper, salt and lime juice squeezed over at the last minute.

If you want to know how to prepare Lok Lak, go to Kitchen Surprises.

We stayed at the café until mid-afternoon. We left to go get my massage that Da had promised me. He gets a really good price ($2/hour). I must say, however, that every massage that I have had in Cambodia is different. No two are alike.

The massage began with a foot wash. Then I traded my sandals for some plastic flip-flops and head upstairs to a room with three mats on the floor. I was instructed to change, which meant to take off my clothes and put on the T-shirt and pants provided. However, the pajama pants were a size Asian too small so there was no way I was getting into those. The T-shirt might have fitted, but I just took off my clothes and laid under the blanket.

When the girl returned (without knocking I might add), and she saw me lying there, she indicated that putting my shirt back on was ok, then she quickly decided, “No change.” This meant I had to put all my clothes back on. So silly.

On to the massage. . . I have never been so manhandled in my life. I swear she had Superman thumbs. I think that she felt she had to squeeze and kneed extra hard because I was so much bigger than what she is used to. It was not relaxing in the least. I could have sworn I was going to wake up the next day with bruises all over my arms and legs.

She massaged some of the strangest places. I think she rather enjoyed kneeding my backside and inner thighs, with all the extra squishiness. She was a pincher, too. My arms were squeezed and pinched. Everything always ended with a pummeling by her hands. Bang, bang, bang. Bonk, bonk, bonk.

If you like it a little rough (all you S & M types), I highly recommend a Cambodian massage.

Nothing else happened that evening. Da left early to go back home and I stayed in the hot room reading my book (Fall on Your Knees). Another day ended.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Journal: Thursday 25 June 2009

Today we decided to breakfast at another location, Common Grounds Café, where we usually spend the afternoon utilizing their free WiFi. Unfortunately, today the WiFi wasn’t working so we headed over to the Singing Tree Center to try out their wireless, but that was also not working either. As it neared noon, the heat was rising and we wanted to go somewhere to use the internet, so back again to Common Grounds.

We just wiled away the afternoon on the internet. There’s really nothing much else to do as I haven’t gotten any further updates from Heritage Watch. Until then it’s chill out time. I guess I should be thinking more about my research.

Eventually the evening came and we decided to do a little souvenir shopping to find a suitable thank-you gift for our clients who will be leaving tomorrow. Off to the Angkor Night Market we went, braving the heat and humidity.

I was thinking some spices and a krama would be a nice gift. Da was thinking a wall hanging or stone rubbing would be better. Of course after wandering around and working up a sweat, we settled on a variety of Cambodian teas and coffee packaged in lovely, colorful palm leaf baskets. We found a nice little bag with Angkor Wat embroidered on it to place the teas in.

Back to the room to drop of the computers and head back out to the restaurant to pay the bill and give the clients their gift. We had a dinner of fried rice and headed back to the room.

Upon arrival there was no electricity. No electricity means no fan! That would not work, so Da suggested we go back out. Grudgingly I agreed because I’d rather have the air rushing past me on the motorbike than sitting in stagnant heat, tired as I was.

We headed through town and out to the Pyung Yi exposition grounds which has turned into a night-time picnic spot for Cambodians. There are even some carnival rides and games set up out there now.

An hour was all we needed because when we got back the electricity had come back on. Relief! A shower and bedtime for me. Tomorrow’s moving day.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Journal: Wednesday 24 June 2009

Same old breakfast at Soup Dragon. After we went to check on the room and to pay the deposit, but were surprised at the funeral set-up in the yard. Apparently the son of the old woman had died. His sister told us that he had some mental problems and had run off on Monday. They found him the day before in the Siem Reap River. Such a sad thing, but she didn’t seem sad, more relieved. Move in day will be Friday, to allow them time to hold the funeral.

We had some errands to run to take care of arrangements for our clients on a tour, then it was lunch at the friend's restaurant for Samlor Majou Groen and fried ginger with pork.

We rested a bit at the room, then I got a message from a Couchsurfer about meeting for coffee that afternoon. At a little before 3pm we arrived at Common Grounds to wait for the visitor. She was a German living and working on Penang in Malaysia, though she had just finished her job and was traveling around SE Asia before returning to Germany.

We had a great time chatting and sharing travel stories. Eventually it was getting close to dinner time so I recommended Khmer Kitchen for some good food, plus it can be cooked vegetarian for her. We walked over as Da drove. On the way I spotted a roasted banana vendor and bought some for her to try. Those are my favorite snacks and could eat them every day!

We had a great meal at Khmer Kitchen. I ordered my favorite: fried pumpkin with tofu. She got a veggie amok and really enjoyed it. Then it was time for her to go and we headed to the restaurant where the clients would be eating that night to take care of the bill.

Back to the room for a shower and time for bed. I've been an early bird lately cause it's been so hot and stuffy even with a fan. Last night was probably the worst so far. Plus, my right shoulder has been really bothering me and it makes it hard to sleep comfortably. I'm hoping the new room will have a more comfortable bed.

Journal: Tuesday 23 June 2009

Same old breakfast at Soup Dragon. After we drove to look for a new room to rent. We were given a heads up that there were some possible rooms available in the Artisans Angkor area, so off we went. Drove past a place, then came back. At first the old women said that she didn’t have a key, but then she decided that there were more rooms at the back of the property and were led there by one of the current tenants.

The room is much larger than the current one with a back door to allow for a cross breeze. There’s a sick and a counter where we can cook and wash clothes. The bed is a double and the room includes a wardrobe. There are very high ceilings. I like that this is a quiet area. You could say that there’s a large garden just past the large veranda (perfect for sitting on during the evenings), but it’s really just an empty lot filled with overgrown weeds that look lush during the rainy season.

Da decided he wanted it, so he told the woman he’d be back that evening to pay the deposit.

Next was a visit to ACE to check in with the director and see what was in store for me. The familiar faces were very warm and welcoming. Savoen was still there running the office, though he now has an assistant. Steve was there to welcome me back and introduce me to Shirley, the new director. We went into her office for a quick chat. She just wanted to check on the number of hours I could work and my willingness to be flexible. She made some comment about hearing stories about me. I’m not sure if that was meant to be a threat or what. It was just a strange thing to say. I suppose she could have heard both good and bad.

Steve then took me on a tour of the new rooms in the back. There’s 3 levels of classrooms with a computer lab and learning center on the top. Now there are over 1,000 students. He shared a bit about some of the new ways of doing things that have since been instituted by Shirley, mentioning that things are more professional now. I think it will be good to be back. I hope to be a breath of fresh air to uphold whatever good things have been said about me and to put down any of the negative comments. That’s the benefit of coming in for such a short time, too.

Lunch was out at the family’s house. He had to pick up water for the clients. It was a tasty lunch of fried morning glory with pork, roasted dried & salted fish and some fried sausage (all with rice of course). A visit to the house wouldn’t be complete without saying hello to the little baby, too.

We didn’t stay too long since we had things to do in town to prepare for the clients arriving that afternoon. We headed back to the room to pick up our computers and head to Common Grounds for some internet time. At about 4pm we head to the Borei Angkor Hotel for a tour and to meet the clients. Such a beautiful hotel. The clients are friends of my friend Allen. It was a family of 5 touring SE Asia.

It didn’t rain all day, but rained at night instead.

Journal: Monday 22 June 2009

The day started with breakfast at Soup Dragon. Our regular of chicken noodle soup and an iced coffee for me. We had some errands to run with a first stop at the post office to pay a very delinquent post office box fee. It’s $15 / year and Da hadn’t paid for 2 years.

Following the post office was a visit to the bank to deposit my money and make sure my account was ok. I first tried using my ATM card but it was taken by the machine since it had expired in November 2008. So, I went into the main area to get it all sorted out. Of course it was not without a lecture by the bank worker about an expired card and why didn’t I pick up my new card. She started to tell me that I would have to pay $5 for a new card since I hadn’t picked up my re-issued card within 2 months. I politely told her that that was preposterous since I never received a phone call, nor was I here to pick it up. I should not have to pay for a new card simply because they didn’t contact me. It all worked out just fine, except that there was another admonishment about not leaving my account untouched for more than a year or they would be charging fees, etc.

After all that, I managed to deposit some of my money into my account with the promise that I wouldn’t let it lapse again. We’ll see if my new card is ready on the following Monday when she promised. I have little hopes since last year I waited 2 months for a new pin which never arrived.

Our final stop before lunch was the Old Market to do a little shopping. I had to pick up some soap, shampoo, toilet paper and postcards. The woman who I used purchase those things from in the past still remembered me. Next was to buy postcards. The aim was to get them for 50 cents. The women we went to originally started at 3,000 Riel, but because I was going to buy 10 packages, she agreed to our offer. 100 postcards for $5: such a deal.

We continued on to buy some fruit and eggs. The woman who I used to buy my vegetables from (a former student’s mother) was now only selling fruit, so buying from her was natural. The eggs were just opposite her, too.

We took our prizes home for a home cooked lunch of steamed rice, hard-boiled eggs and beef jerky. Yum! Not really something I would choose to eat every day, but if necessary I think I could do it. Maybe.

We spent our afternoon at Common Grounds Cafe to use the internet in an air-conditioned location out of the heat and humidity. Dinner was out one of my favorite places to go, Da's friend's restaurant, where we get really great Cambodian food for decent prices. Though now they've raised their prices to 7,000 Riel ($1.75) per dish, but that's still 2 dishes for the price of one cheap dish in a tourist place plus we get rice and iced tea included.

My favorite is the Samlor Majou Groen, a sour sour made with morning glory plants and beef. We also like to order fried ginger with pork, a fish paste & pork omelette or pork spare ribs.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Arrival in Cambodia

Left San Francisco at 1:30ish a.m. on Thursday June 18th. Arrived in Taipei at 5:30ish a.m. twelve hours later on Friday June 19th. Just a 3 1/2 hour flight to Phnom Penh and at 9:30ish a.m. I arrived.

Da was there to greet me. I almost thought I wouldn't get out of the terminal because I had to check in my carry-on suitcase and didn't realize that it would actually be put in with the checked bags and not returned to me after disembarking the plane on arrival.

Once realizing my mistake I had to convince the airport staff to take me through customs and to the baggage carousel to wait for my carry-on. "Why would you leave your valuables in that suitcase?" She questioned. "Because I wasn't told that they wouldn't return it to me immediately after the flight." (Duh!)

So, after a little delay, I got my suitcase and headed back to get my visa, go through the checkpoint, pick up my other suitcases and go through customs. Easy peasy.

It was so good to see Da after more than 1 year. We took a minivan to a hotel in the city where I could shower and freshen up. I was actually surprised that I wasn't more sore from the long flight. I was worse after one night on the crummy hotel bed.

We walked down to Soriya Market for lunch and to do a little shopping, then back to the hotel for a rest. I met the staff from Heritage Watch at 3:00 p.m. Then it was back to the hotel again where we met up with Da's brother, Houy, and a cousin for a short time.

The plan was to have dinner at the new KFC (I know, eating fast food in Cambodia is not exactly a thrill.). Unfortunately (or fortunately), I fell asleep and was out for the rest of the night. No KFC on that day. But, there's one coming to Siem Reap soon!

On Saturday we took the Capitol bus at 10:15 a.m. (more like 10:45) to Siem Reap. After 2 stops we arrived at about 4:30 p.m. at the Old Market where his older brother was waiting to pick us up and drive us to the office/room where I'll be staying.

It's nothing special and quite far off the beaten track. The hope is to find something else really soon.

After dropping off the luggage we headed up up to Prie Khmeang to see the family. Everyone was so excited to see me. My Khmer did not kick into overdrive, though, and I felt like I had gone back several paces in my ability to communicate. We had dinner there of some kind of soup and fried pork dish. They were good. I like eating his mom's cooking.

Sunday would be a big day as it was the ceremony to bless his sister's baby and to release her from sleeping over the heated bed. We had to be there before 9:00 a.m. for the ceremony attended by the older people, including his grandfather who led the ceremony.

The baby is very quiet and calm. I haven't heard a peep out of him. And wouldn't you know it, but Da gave him the name of James without even knowing that it was my dad's name.

We stayed the afternoon. It was hot and uncomfortable. It took Da nearly an hour, after several tries, to hang a hammock for me to lay in. I was glad to have it eventually cause my backside does not enjoy sitting on all of the hard surfaces around here.

We got back into town just in time to refresh ourselves and go to the Christian Fellowship of Siem Reap. It was great to see some familiar faces and reconnect. I look forward to more time to spend with these folks.