adventures in cambodia, travel

Anzac Day 2015

Around 4:45 on Saturday 25 April I entered the Australian embassy in Phnom Penh to attend the 100 years anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli.

As guests to the embassy we were welcomed in warmly and directed to programs and candles… And coffee, Anzac biscuits and rum!

As the courtyard filled up it was wonderful to see so many families; the next generation of Australians will also know the significance of this day.

The significance of us gathering together at dawn, the time that the first of the Australian troops to join World War 1 left their ships to row and land on a treacherous beach to fight against the Turks. My great grandfather, Lance Rhodes, was one of them; he lost one good mate before they even made it ashore and his closest friend during that first day. After 6 months of training in Egypt and a stint on Lemnos Island until they were called into action, the Australians (and New Zealanders) were raring to go, what they got was much more than they anticipated. They took it stoically, bravely and fiercely. This was the beginning of 4 years of fighting, the beginning of what is now known as the Anzac Spirit, and this year was the 99th commemoration of this event.

The chatter and warbling of Miner birds and roosters crowing were an interesting change to the squawks of cockatoos and familiar warble of magpies.

The service was well presented, the New Zealand and Australian national anthems were sung and then it concluded. People milled around for a time, photos were taken of servicemen representing Australia, New Zealand and Cambodia.

After a short chat with a visitor from Sydney I walked over to the Cambodiana Hotel. I was reading a book from a photo journalist, Roland Nuveu, who was in Phnom Penh when it fell in 1975, one of his photos was of the Cambodiana. Here I met a girl from Sydney doing an internship at the war tribunal (where my friend Marion interned a year or two ago). She had recently the great pleasure of meeting the author of that book!

The gunfire breakfast was done well. Full buffet and a special feature – Vegemite! It all wrapped up pretty quickly and this formal part of my day was over by 7:30. Not realising this would be the case and my guesthouse being conveniently located across the road I went back for a rest. I received some photos from my mum of my brother and grandpa at Semaphore’s service. Had a quick call with my friend in the army who was in Canberra. He assured me that Anzac biscuits and rum were standard… Ah, maybe only if you’re an officer!

After a rest I rejoined the world, seeking an Aussie hangout. What I found was an excellent Aussie pub, aptly named Aussie XL, just a little way down 51st street. The footy was on the TV and there was a great atmosphere. After meeting Wally, Loretta and John I let them focus on the footy while I focused on a schnitzel – so great! Such a lovely bunch; Wally paid for my lunch, Loretta and I will meet for coffee and John and I swapped business cards.

To conclude the day, I went to the palace to meet a friend. Whilst waiting for her I was the centre of attention; do I want to buy this or that snack, give a young kid a dollar, share my phone screen with a couple of inquisitive tikes? No.

Sarun arrived and saved the day by sweeping me off to roof top drinks. It was an excellent evening and an Anzac Day to remember.

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adventures in cambodia

thngai nis geu thngai brohor

Today is Thursday.

My day began around 5am, as it usually does. The slightest start to the days’ activities sets ‘our’ dog, Lucky, off. I say ‘our’ because the family who me and my housemate rent from live in the house immediately behind ours, so I’ll claim Lucky as our dog. Wish he was more obedient. So after 2 hours of listening to barking, I dragged myself out of bed. As I walk into the hallway I’m greeted by a wall of heat – it’s going to be hot again today! I drink about half a litre of water to rehydrate, shower, dress and make some coffee. Not sure where the time went, I pack my bag, finish my coffee, tidy up a few things and head for the door. I padlock the front door behind me, put my shoes on and unchain my bicycle. As I open the front gate I see two or three tuk tuks parked across the driveway, I pull the gate closed and latch it. Time to ‘be water’.

The traffic isn’t bad today, in fact things are noticeably quieter in the lead up to Khmer New Year next week. Many Cambodians will be going to their homelands for the celebrations, which officially last 3 days but almost everyone takes a week or more off.

Because today is Thursday, I go to school for my Khmer lesson. The road that the school is on is under construction, so it’s dirt, pretty bumpy and they water down the dirt to keep the dust under control which means lots of mud puddles to avoid (especially on learning that it may or may not be waste water they use). It’s been a couple of months since I began lessons and I’m improving much more this way than through immersion! Though I realise when I arrive that I didn’t do my homework! Oops. I manage to improvise my way through the homework component of the class. Next week there will be no class because of new year.

After this I stop by my office at ConCERT where I’d left my laptop charger yesterday. Then carry on to the computer shop to get a new mouse. Gifting back the mouse I got there a few months ago that has already broken – I don’t think it was really a Dell – maybe a Dill. My usual co-working place is closed for relocation so I ride to a well known cafe that are well set up for working in, Common Grounds. The internet is a little slow today. Then I see my friend, she’s on her lunch break from the NGO she works at, we chat briefly about her pending trip to Borneo over the new year break. Back to work.

Three hours speed by, then I get a message from my friend and owner of the coworking space – lunch? Sure. We talk about a fundraising project we’re both working on and then part ways. I ride home, cannot afford more cafes nor do I want to consume anything except water. In the living area, fan whirling…. it’s hot. I’m locked out of the website for the fundraising project – this is a good interlude. I work on other projects and try to contact my little brother again – it’s his birthday today!

Then it’s time to go and meet a friend for dinner and one of her friends I haven’t met before. We start our evening with a lovely pre dinner drink near the river and some (slightly too loud) jazz. Then find our way to a nice place for dinner. It’s a restaurant where one of our friends is the sales manager and I also have a discount card. We enjoy a lovely dinner and I discover that Socheata’s boyfriend works for AusTraining (now Scope Global) how funny! We think we might meet up in Phnom Penh in a few weeks time when we are all there for various reasons (I’ll be going for Anzac Day). Before I know it, it’s time to go, Thursday is usually soccer but we have this week off for new year. It happens to be ABCs and Rice night for the quiz at Ivy Guesthouse. So off I go.

I arrive just as it’s starting; though I spend the first 10 minutes chatting with Tammy – then she has to go and relieve the babysitter. It’s $1 to play the quiz, tonight I pay $5 – I think of it as a birthday present for my bro. On my right is a lovely lady who works at a local pizza place and her colleague is sitting opposite me. We chat. Not much quizzing going on! Yarin and I realise we’ve met before at our mutual friend’s house! Small world. We concentrate on the quiz for a little while, then finish up and go home. I put my helmet on and my bike lights, then cycle home. It’s quiet now, around 10-10.30pm and there isn’t much traffic. It’s quite peaceful and makes an enjoyable ride home.

Once inside the gate, I lock the gate padlock (job for the last person in each night), lock my bicycle (I’ve learned my lesson), tell Lucky ‘it’s just me’ in hopes he’ll stop barking a little more promptly, unlock the padlock to get inside and then loop it back through. My housemate is away tonight so I’m on my own. Though I thought the family were away too but they were all home a little earlier which I find reassuring.