adventures in cambodia

almost adjusting

Since my last post I have been going through an adjustment period. Certainly the last thing I want is for this to seem like I’m complaining, but there are some things I’d like to get off my chest and maybe endear some sympathy 😉

At home, we now have a fully functioning kitchen, tonight I will attempt to cook! This has taken a week and a half. The cooker was the first challenge; having been told that the gas bottle was full, I was struggling to work out why I couldn’t get it lit to make coffee in the morning, to then try it in the evening when it would work! Madness. Anyway, turns out there was no gas. Full, empty = same.

I purchased most of our stuff from an Australian girl who is leaving SR after 2 years. Cushions for the shiny lounge chairs and everything we should need for the kitchen, including a blender! Then came the challenge of getting that to work. After an extremely hot day yesterday I was keen for a banana smoothy, I had everything I needed but couldn’t get it to work. After much frustration of not getting it to work for two days and trying almost every powerpoint in the kitchen, I learned that only one powerpoint in the kitchen works!

On Sunday night my friend the tuk tuk driver took me out to the ‘space market’ just out of town. I had no idea what to expect and on our way it started hammering down with rain. I suggested we turn back but that wasn’t to be, on we went with the aid of a lovely blue plastic poncho. The markets were only semi operational and most stall holders were closing up. It was mostly clothing and handbags from what I could see. We went to eat instead at a lovely tarp set up restaurant. Wooden slats were laid down on the ground, and very necessary because everything had turned to mud. My friend ordered and I went along with it, everything was excellent until I discovered that I’d put a piece of liver in my mouth, too late, I tried my absolute best to chew and swallow it but I just couldn’t do it. The good news is that the attitude there was if you don’t like it just take it out of your mouth and throw it on the ground!

After I stopped in at my hub friend’s new place for a second dinner! It was nice hanging out with a couple of expats; one French Canadian and one Aussie. They Aussie brought an excellent bottle of Shiraz from McLaren Vale – so you know… very challenging, but I do what I can to fit in and drank some.

On Tuesday I signed up to a kick boxing gym, on the way my newly acquired, eco friendly drink bottle decided to empty it’s entire contents inside my backpack – yay. The class was excellent and I’m still hurting 3 days later and can’t wait to go back next week.

Angkor Fight Club, Siem ReapHint: you can see more pictures on my Instagram.

My nurse friend came along too and we went for dinner afterwards deciding to try out one of the local places in my neighbourhood. There are a lot of Vietnamese places and I was intent on having pho. We then got distracted by the BBQ place, we’ve been quite a few times to one in town, so we embarked on inadvertent offal adventure number two. I returned home to a lively poker game my housemate was hosting with 4 of her French expat friends. I joined in, despite not speaking French or knowing much about poker. It was a strange but nice night.

Hopefully this post comes across as amusing, it’s intended to make light of my crazy week.

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adventures in cambodia

i live here now

Another week has gone by and I now officially live here, in a house, up the road. Some other things happened too.

Last week I met my soon-to-be housemate, we met for lunch and conspired to go house-hunting together. I visited ABCs and Rice school to say hello and give them some supplies from Australia that they needed this week, I also spent some time seeing how much the Full Belly Farm has progressed since my last visit!! It’s thriving! Two ponds full of fish, a lot more chickens than last year (when Olive the pig was snacking on the chicks) and a great crop rotation of eggplants, kale and other healthy veggies.

2014-10-10 15.40.45

A chance invite and my friend the tuk tuk driver invited me to attend the English class he teaches. He initially asked if I’d teach the class! Errr. no. I did say yes to chatting in English with the students. It was really great. A little awkward to begin but by the end of the class pretty much each of the 12 students practised a little English with me. At the end of the class one of the students presented this pretty star, deftly made out of 100 riel notes, I was very pleased.2014-10-11 08.05.16-1

Saturday I spent looking at houses, by late afternoon, we had decided on a great place close to town. A quick beer to celebrate and then into town to meet one of the ABCs volunteers for dinner and some more drinks. The three of us had a really fun night, including my housemate finding a little shop named for her hometown in France!

Sunday was more low key. Later in the afternoon I went to a board games event one of the expats here organised. It ended up being a really great afternoon and I met some lovely new people. One of whom took (at my suggestion) me on a market adventure this morning! More on that in a moment. She also introduced me to someone in the tourism industry who I’m hoping to talk with tomorrow!

In the evening I met up with my new friend and organiser of the hub space I’m now working at three days per week. There were a few other people and a few cocktails; a very nice evening.

After ‘working’ on Monday, it was time to go and sign for the rental on the house… the contract is 1 year. So… looks like I’m almost a local. Ha ha ha!

Tuesday was so crazy! I started the day with a meeting with ConCERT, we had a really good chat though I sense that the forward plan is somewhat organic. Then I rushed off to meet the organiser of Together for Cambodia. A house that a friend of mine in Sydney spent some time volunteering for, I said I’d bring some donations over for her. It was excellent to hear another wonderful success story. Off again to meet with the volunteer coordinator for ABCs and Rice, I want to focus on their web stuff but wanted to be sure that they have enough hands on deck at the school for now, which they do. Later I’d like to help them with their breakfast club. The busyness and heat of the day started to take their toll, plus a lack of sleep this week due to the ramp up for a wedding at my guesthouse, so I went to my room and recuperated, packed, chatted to my friend in Australia.

Yesterday (Wednesday) was a public holiday for the King Crowning (Coronation?). Most places still operated and for me I opted to ‘take the day off’ from the hub and use the time to move and get settled into the new house! Instead I had another meeting with ConCERT to assist in finalising a video message (my role was to say ‘yes, that looks good’) and help with the social media (create the post copy). Then run around trying to work out my local shops to get the basics for the house, then get ready to attend the wedding party. By the time my friend arrived in a tuk tuk to collect me I was more than ready for a drink! The wedding was great, it was an English guy and Khmer lady. It was outside the guesthouse I’d been staying at and it was a nice set up; a Khmer band, lots of tulle and lots of food!

Getting back to my house, although relatively sober, was interesting, I had to squeeze my hand through a ‘hidden’ panel in the gate and open a padlock with only one hand without being able to see a thing! Luckily I managed to finally get inside. The next padlock on the front door is a little bit easier to wrangle. I spent the first night in the new place on my own, the housemate decided to stay an extra night at her dormitory. It has been a while since I’ve stayed in a new house on my own… I’m sure it will feel homely soon.

This morning I was invited (as mentioned, I nominated my new friend to take me) to go to the markets. So I figured that it was worth going to work late to experience a local market. It was really great and super close to my house, it’s called Pshar Gne and it was great to have some insights for my first visit. I quickly learned that there wasn’t much I could buy until I own a knife and a pan, sigh. I bought fruit. I’d hired a bike for the day, so we took a ride to check out my friend’s house. Whoa! It was really nice and fully decked out like an Aussie place, with an oven and couch! Believe me, this is pretty rare. So I proclaimed more friendship on this couple – ha ha. Then we discussed me helping them with digital stuff in return for roasted vegetables, I love it! I rode back home without incident or getting lost but was promptly scolded by the son of my landlady for leaving my bike out the front on the driveway for about 3 minutes.

Now I’m at the hub ‘working’, I hope you enjoy the result.

adventures in cambodia

a week of firsts

I’ve now been in Siem Reap for a week, before I go into that I will summarise my TEDxChiangMai and Elephant Nature Park experiences.

TEDx was incredibly inspiring! I met some great people and most of all the presentations were relative and full of hope. From bio plastics, affordable music, responsible tourism, being water and a practical application for technology and nature to coexist, nearly every speaker had a message I can relate to. I will provide some links once the videos become available.

Elephant Nature Park was wonderful. I knew about this place as a responsible tourism organisation through friends, though I had to try a few different booking agents before I could get this one. It was interesting, informative and I cannot quite describe how it feels to talk to an elephant! Keep an eye out because I will write a dedicated post for Asian elephants soon.

I enjoyed my time in Chiang Mai immensely and left with a wealth of new friends and renewed connection to an old friend. When I flew into Siem Reap I was surprised to see my favourite airport under construction. An even better surprise was being met by my friend when I walked outside!! Even thinking about it now makes me extremely happy and it is wonderful to have such a dear friend in my new home.

Today is my eighth day here and so much has happened this would be an extremely long update if I described it all in detail. Whether it’s because I’m not committed to a 40 hour work week or the magic of Southeast Asia, lots happens in a very short period. I’ve reconnected with nearly all of the friends I met last time I was here and I’ve met more new people in this week than I did the entire year in Sydney. I’ve eaten it feels like non-stop (so much for the health kick I promised myself), drunk a lot, about to go to my second pub quiz tonight, done some yoga, been to the markets, attended a child protection workshop, found a co-working office space, applied for a job, had discussions with relevant parties regarding volunteering, advanced my Khmer language skills, joined a soccer team and been out house hunting. I’ve probably missed a few things too! Plus I’ve had time to read and relax and sleep and enjoy not having to be anywhere in a hurry.

I’ve also set myself a 30 day challenge, I purposely set the bar low knowing that my first 30 days will be busy, but I hope that you will find my photo a day challenge an interesting insight to Siem Reap. Have a look and let me know what you think.