Cambodian Day Out

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On Sunday we had a day out with our church to the waterfalls in
Kirirom up in the mountains. This was the first time that everything was organized entirely by the Cambodian leadership team and I can say they did such an amazing job from beginning to end.
We had to be there at 7am and were aiming to leave by 7.30 which we did, which those of you who live in Cambodia will say very rarely happens! It was a long journey as it took a while for the bus to get up the mountain, especially in the last part which was a dirt road.IMG_0279IMG_0282 IMG_0389When we got there we had so much fun hanging out by the lake in these little bamboo and wooden huts with hammocks for the lucky few. On the way there were people selling flower wreaths for 3,000 riel and I asked one Of my Khmer friends what they were for, was it to put on the temple or lay at a shrine. No, she told me they were to wear in your hair to make you look beautiful at the waterfall.IMG_0336IMG_0229IMG_0245IMG_0235First we had a time of worship and then baptized Lyhong and prayed for her. After this was lunch which everyone had been patiently been waiting for which was chicken and rice and a few sneaky bacon butties in the Saunders camp.IMG_0332After this we had free time. Now the day before I had asked my children do you wan to take a change of clothes to go swimming and they all said o we will not want to go swimming. Ha! Famous last words, within 30 mins of Phally declaring free time all the Saunders children were completely soak and having a lot of fun.IMG_0337IMG_0381 IMG_0382 IMG_0383
Usually when we go somewhere like this there are people hawking food and souvenirs and our kids get mobbed for photos. I am not sure if it was because we were with Khmer people but we were treated as if we were the same and this made it so relaxing and a really positive experience.
There is something about running water in a the middle of beautiful trees that makes you just want to get at least your feet wet!
We arrived back home about 9 very tired but happy.
My favourite parts of the day were seeing some people in our group who would never have a chance to do this having so much fun, hanging out with all my friends at Liberty, seeing my kids enjoy themselves, seeing Gods beautiful creation all around and getting out of the city for one day. One of my friends when I asked them if they were enjoying it said, “It is so nice to get out of the city to see trees and breathe nice air”
So well done to Sawat, Phally, Narith and Sdom for organising such a great day out.

Adapted

We know we have been in Cambodia a long time when…

Some of us wear jeans in the hot season

Some of our children choose pork and rice for breakfast over croissants and donuts

28 degrees is a nice cool day for the hot season

We eat more rice than pasta and potatoes

Forget how to drive a car and prefer a motorbike

Can’t sleep properly if there is no fan sound

Will equally choose sweet iced coffee or iced tea over the hot variety (I also like bubbles/tapioca pearls added)

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I think it creeps up on you. When you first arrive in Cambodia, everything is new and interesting or difficult to adjust to.Your senses are assaulted with noise, smells, sights and people everywhere. It is difficult to say when you feel you have settled in as it is different for everyone. 5f8ef0c2032493f6ba1a268ffa65a5d4

I think that having a positive attitude and giving things a try balanced with remembering traditions and special things from your home country helps to live well in Cambodia. Learning from Cambodians and asking for help when you need it and using local knowledge for things we have no clue about. When I first came to Cambodia God gave me a picture about walking like Cambodians. The Cambodians say foreigners are known for walking loudly and quickly where as Cambodians will take a much slower and quieter pace, pausing to look around as they go.

In a new culture I think it is a good approach to take a slower pace, to pause and look around before making judgements about how things are done and appreciate the great things about the culture and people. I know there are loads of things I have learnt in my time so far in Cambodia from my Cambodian friends and more I will still have to learn. So if you are new to a country or have been around awhile then take time to pause and look around at the good and amazing things, but also be prepare to work alongside indigenous people to make good changes which will have long lasting benefits.

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Looking ahead (part 1)

In just four weeks time we will leave Cambodia for a 6 month ‘furlough’ (sabbatical) back in England. Having been here for (almost) four years it does, in some ways, feel strange to be going back to England for half a year.

It’s hard to explain what this feels like. A word that is used a lot these days to help describe it all is ‘transition’. We’re going to transition from one culture here in Phnom Penh back to a different culture in England.

To help to understand what we’re thinking about it all here are the answers to some simple questions we asked ourselves:

#1 What will you miss from Cambodia?

Lucia: Ginger (the dog next door), the little boy from next door (he’s VERY cute), Milo guy in the market, the markets, the heavy rain, and 1 & 1 (our favourite shop).

Ewan: Ginger, Milo, friends in school, 1 & 1, lots of rain, tuk tuks, and my teachers.

Jamie: Ginger, the little boy next door, 1 & 1, friends at school, tuk tuks, and motos.

Phoebe: School (friends), market, and coffee shops.

Rachel: Warm barmy evenings, my moto, coffee shops, sour mangoes, and people.

Colin: Friends, driving my moto around Phnom Penh, my job (yes, I really enjoy it), Sambadt (our househelper) and Sron (our tuk tuk driver), fresh mangoes and cheap cinema tickets.

Next week: What we won’t miss while we’re in England.

Christmas Day 2011

Church in OngSit
Normajong (she has known me since I was 6! and Aiheen

I loved our Christmas Day this year because of its simplicity. Each day this week we have had presents, stockings or something special so today we had no presents left to open but rather than it being an anti- climax it was a time to remember what Christmas is really about. In the morning we met with all the Christians here in Ong Sit where my mum and dad live.

After that all the children (ours and my friend Wendy’s children who also live in the same village) got together and acted out the nativity in my parents yard. This was such fun and absolutely hilarious!!

Mary and Joseph (unfortunately baby Jesus was a little blue!)
Do you think my halo looks good?
Shepherds cum kings cum inn keepers

We then had the second Christmas dinner of the week…yum!

The kids chilled out in the afternoon making a model village in the yard and then in the evening we went to a local market which comes occasionally. The treat for the day was having some money to spend at the market. The kids had so much fun choosing what to buy. 

Choosing the topping for a pancake at the market….chocolate and dolly mixture!

yum!

 So wishing you all a Happy Christmas…..I will post the present pictures soon!

Pictures of Christmas 2011

 Some pictures of our Christmas week. We started on Sunday with decorating the tree and each day opened a few presents. It was nice to see the children enjoying the gifts they had been given and appreciating them.

Jamie and Ewan having a “hooter” fight
Granny’s home made mince pies!
Lucia and Grandad

Lets Take a Walk

This morning we walked down to the local market and bought freshly cooked doughnuts, iced milo and delicious ripe mangoes. Andrew, Becci and Simon joined myself  and the “early birds” Lucia and Jamie for a 5min stroll down the road to PC Market. I thought you might like to take the stroll with us…….

 Take a right out of our front gate and walk down the bumpy road past all the rubbish (bin men have not been for ages). All the pot holes are filled in with broken bricks and tiles which make walking a little tricky but it is not far on this road until we get to a paved road.

 At the end of this road turn sharp left and then the road turns sharp right and we are on a paved road seen below. At the end of this road we will need to turn left.

We walk down to the end of this road with the Wat on our right (you can see the decorative wall)

This picture is taken from the market entrance

We get to the entrance of PC Market shown by this big archway inside is a little bustling local market. I have yet to see a foreigner there (they do go but not often) I have also found prices significantly cheaper than my previous market.

Our aim was to get freshly cooked doughnuts which have been cooked over a fire like the one above. They are simple ring doughnuts with sugar but so delicious!!! We then go to a lady who sell ice coffee and milo for a large sugar rush!
We went back home and had doughnuts, mangoes and coffee some from the market and others opted for freshly ground Cambodian coffee by Three Corner Coffee. We have all decided it is a good once a month Saturday morning tradition!

It was good to be back …

On 13th June we arrived back in England for the first time in nearly two years. We spent a wonderful 7 weeks seeing family, friends and doing lots of other fun stuff. Before our great holiday became too much of a distant memory, we remembered what where our fave things about our trip back ‘home’ …

Lucia

  • Day out on the Severn Valley Railway
  • Playing on scooters (lent by a very kind friend)
  • Trip to the Yorvik Musem (in York)
  • The airplane place with Olden Day cars (Brooklands)

Ewan

  • Seeing my cousins (all six of them)
  • Severn Valley Railway & Museam
  • Beckonscot Model Village with Mike & Jo
  • Brooklands
  • Everything

Jamie

  • Day Trip to the Isle of Wight
  • Visit to the National Railway Musuem with Grandad
  • Camping
  • Brooklands Museum – Heritage Day
  • Everything

Phoebe

  • Visit to Farnborough Hill with Essie
  • Going to Camberley on the bus with just Essie
  • Day Trip to the Isle of Wight
  • Picnics & going to parks
  • The cows of Castle Bottom

Rachel

  • ¬†Going for a walk with Lizzie to find the cows
  • [I’m sure Rachel will add more here … or maybe not]

Colin

  • Spending lots of time with family & friends
  • Camping – beautiful English countryside, fresh air and cooked breakfasts
  • Being able to do lots of things … some silly, some ‘English’ … that we can’t do in Cambodia

I’m sure its obvious we really did have a great time. We’d like to say a huge thankyou to everyone who made our trip back home so wonderful ūüôā

[Colin]

Suwon

I left Phnom Penh last night, and it was warm almsot hot to go to Korea for an education conference with three other teachers from HOPE. The plane was delayed so we didnt leave until 12:30 midnight. Fortunately I was able to catch a little bit of sleep only to be woken up at about 4am for breakfast. (it was very nice) We arrived at about 7:30 am and got out of the plane and could see my breath…so lovely and cold.
                               
We then had a but journey of about 1 1/2 hours to Suwon the town we are staying in. The youth hostel we were satying in was not on the bus route so we had to get a taxi but before we got the taxi we spotted a Dunkin Dounut and we had to stop for breakfast! There were so many yummy dounuts and as we are so starved of anything like this in Cambodia it took a little while for us to decide. It is funny how when you go to a new country you unconsciously look fo the familiar and when you find it, everything starts to slide into place.
When we took the taxi we found that the youth hostel in in the old walled city of Suwon overlooked by a hill covered in maple tree in a wonderful range of yellow, orange and red leaves. There are even leaves on the ground to swish through! (Jane one of the other teachers got very excited about this. The youth hostel is very nice and in such a great location. The rest of the city reminds me of a tired town in England…lots of tall grey buildings, but the part we are in has all the history.
All we wanted to do was check in and put our heads down but the rooms were not ready. Fortunately one teacher came a day early so we went and put all the luggage in that room and sat down for a bit (sorry Brent!)
After we had rested we went for a wander through the city centre to find out bearings (and suitable coffee shops or places to eat) There seems to be so few people about until we discovered a side street. I love the way you just see a street and have to walk down it and then discover a whole area with lots happening. By this time our stomachs were reminding us we needed feeding. So we set abotut trying to find a place to eat. There were plenty of clothes shops, household shops, the odd pizza place (which face it we could go to in Phnom Penh) and street food. Most of this seemed to be dried octopus or fried bugs which at this point of sleep depravation none of us felt up to trying. We then saw some steam and there was a display outside a shop of different steamed cakes and patties of meat. The lady at the stall was gesturing to us and we noticed inside some low tables and other people eating so we went in.
Everything was in Korean except some prices but there were pictures, so we pointed to two soups. One was a pork and vegetable dumpling soup with the most delicious dumplings. The other one was a beef soup which was also lovley. It was served with rice, and pickled vegetables..eaten with chopsticks and us seated on the floor. At $4 each it was also a good price we think!
After a wander back we found a waffle shop…waffles with syrup and chocolate sauce…mmmmmm!
And after all that I get back to find that my room is still not ready…..so have to wait ..not good until I spot a free computer and free wi-fi! So now I will see if I can have that needed head down time!
(Photos all taken from google ..my photos will come later)

Take a Deep Breath!

This is the part of the journey I have been blocking out of my mind because there are so many things which could go wrong. My motto is to plan well but have a back up plan if things go badly wrong!

Our plan was to travel by train from Bangkok to Arunyapatta, cross the border to Poipet and then take a bus to Siem Reap. What is the problem you say? Well the train leaves at 5:55 am and take 6 hours and if we miss it there is not another until 1pm which means we would miss the border opening times and have to stay in Arunyapatta. or we would have to battle across Bangkok to get a bus which also takes about 5-6 hours. Then once across the border it is another 2 hours to Siem Reap. Altogrther a lot of connections I have no control over.

Our morning started at 4:30am trying to drag ourselves and the children out of bed so we could get a taxi to the Station. We whizzed through the streets of Bangkok in the dark. The traffic was light and we arrived at the station with time to spare. After buying our tickets (¬£3 for all of us!) we made our way down the train looking for seats together……..we walked the entire length of the train before we found any seats where we could sit together. Every set of seats had one person sitting or lying down asleep! I have no ideas when they arrive but we were the first to buy our tickets and they were all there in place.
I am so glad we got there ealry because as the train pulled out every seat was taken. This train is third class (hence price) with no air-con just open windows and ceiling fans.
As we pulled out of the station the sun was just coming up over the high rise buildings of Bangkok. We passed through rows of blocks of flats with washing hanging out on the balconies and out of the windows. Sometimes the buildings were so close you could reach out and touch them. The slum houses croweded up towards the trains with their mismatch tin roofs, patched walls and occasionally the bright red flash of a satallite dish. We could look right down onto the early morning lives as people we getting up and starting the day. Flashes of peoples lifes went by as the train gathered speed….a man washing pineapple in red liqiud (red food colouring to make it more vibrant to sell), mangey dogs picking over rubbish piles, smoke from charcoal fires, clothes fluttering in the rush of passing train, sellers with baskets of food balanced on their heads, families eating breakfast of rice soup on split bamboo platforms under the tin roof with just packed mud floor underneath, children in their uniforms walking to school, the saffron robes of the monks as they walk around recieving offerings of food and money. This is a snapshot of the “other” Bangkok far removed from the glittering, pristine shopping malls, and designer living which was where we were yesterday. One thing I found interesting was the number of “parking”lots at the edge of the slum where nice cars were parked. In Thailand what you look like and have is important and often you will see very smartly dressed people who come walking out of a slum area get in their nice car and drive to work!

The train stopped at every station and each time more people got on. We had thought about getting on the train a few stops from the main station so we didint have to get up so early….so glad we didnt because by the time it got to that station it looked like this……

Every time the train stopped there would be a big shuffle round the door where people scrabbled to get off and on and as soon as there was a small crack of space on a seat it was pounced on by someone who had been eyeing it up for the last hour. The amazing thing was people were very unfazed by it and just accepted this was how it was so as the journey went on we had to adopt this attitude and squish up and rearrange out seating. At one point there were five people sitting on the one seat opposite me!

One tired boy!
The city gradually gave way to countryside of vibrant green rice fields. The flat endless plains were a change from the mountains of Kanchanaburi. Everytime we stopped at a main station there would be a scrum of passengers and food sellers on the platform while in contrast the country stations were quiet with only a few passengers getting on and off.
¬†Lucia as always made friends with someone on the train. This couple helped us off with our bags and took us to get a tuktuk. I was a bit worried because sometime people will be friend you and then offer to help you, only to take your bags or lead you to some scam. I was trying to keep sight of Lucia¬† and Ewan who had run ahead in the crowd of people , keep my eyes on the two people who had the bags and try to locate Colin who had not got off the train! When we got out to the “carpark” more like a patch of dusty ground lined with tuk tuks we had to beat our way through the¬† drivers all trying to get you onto their tuktuk. Finally we all squished onto the tuk tuk¬† (thai ones are smaller than Cambodian ones) and off we went. after awhile we pulled off the main road onto a side road….mmmmmm a bit suspicious….and pulled up to a parking lot. This is the Cambodian Consulate (pointing at a big house) you get your visa here! No! we have visa already take us to border now!!!! Off we go finally make it to the border entrance past a group who were touting for buisness and a helpful person comes and tells us the real visa (which we alrady have) can be got at the border crossing!
As we are walking a man approachesand says he is here to meet us from our hotel….as you can imagine by this time we were getting a bit fed up of bogus people but it turned out he was genuine as we had ordered a taxi to pick us up from the Cambodian side of the border. (thank goodness) He was really helpful and showed us where to go and what to do.
The border crossing was slow as we kept getting stuck behind a big tour party…the smaller kids had lost it by then and were running up and down, hanging from rails and generally annoying each other. I know all the other passengers probably thought our kids were badly behaved but I was so tired I thought I can either get cross or I can ignore most of it and intervene if it got to out of hand…that worked. Finally after 1 and half hours of queuing and filling out 6 lots of forms each time…we made….then ran the guantlet of taxi drivers to a taxi waiting just for us! It was funny the fare for us on the bus was ¬£8 each and a taxi was ¬£30…do the maths,so we decided a taxi would be better and ran the hotel we were going to stayin to see if he could arrange it and he could. It saved us so much hassle the Cambodian siad as we would have had to walk a little way then haggle, explain where we wanted to go…or get a tuk tuk to the bus station. I had thought we would be tired by then and I was right.
The taxi was only a normal size car but we all squashed in (five in the back including me) and sped off the two hours to Siem Reap.
Our driver was very friendly but a bit of a¬† hairy driver. He is a typical Cambodian driver who drives very fast up to someone and then has to overtake even if there is something coming the other way or it is a blind overtake. On time he overtook someone else overtaking and something was coming the other way. Another time he was transfering a phone number from one mobile phone to the other talking to the person on the phone….and neither was hands free. I was praying a lot!
Finally after nearly 12 hours we made it to Siem Reap and our hotel. We went straight in the pool and Colin collapsed on the bed and went to sleep!

Time to go….

Our last night in Ong Sit village started with dinner at the Rees family. I grew up with Wendy and we have known each other since we were about 5 or 6. It is nice to spend time with someone who you don’t have to start at the beginning with. Everytime we meet we pick up the threads of our friendship and weave a little more into the pattern. She now has a husband Richard and four gorgeous children, who love playing with our children.

When we had finished dinner the rest of the Ong Sit team came round including my parents and another family called the Betts (who have 6 children…3 are back in America) We had some gorgeous homemade ice-cream…strawberry and chocolate and peanut butter chunk flavours.

While the adults talked the children played hide and seek in the dark downstairs under the house. We had to drag them away at about 9pm, not because the kids were tired but granny (my mum) was flagging! It was a really nice end to the two weeks we have spent in the village.

We were up and out in good time Saturday morning as we had to get to Bangkok by mid afternoon. I took the opportunity for a picture with my parents as I don’t know the last time I had one.
While we were on the ferry, my mum was talking to a lady selling “snacks” ….pickled fish, fish balls on sticks, sausages (hotdog style) boiled eggs and various dried seafood….none of which I really could face that early in the morning if at all. We could smell something funny but could not work out what it was. As we were walking back to where everyone else was sitting we saw the origin of the smell. Someone was sray painting the engine of the ferry! They like it to look nice and shiney!

We arrived in time to get a bus to Bangkok, unfortunatley it was not the nice one with a toilet but it was ok. We had bought the tickets as soon as we arrived in town and then gone and got something to eat. When we arrived we duelywent to the toilet before we got on only to find that although we had tickets with seat numbers that was not the “rules”…it was a free for all and everyone spreads out and does not like shifting. We were split up over the whole bus. the kids were really good about it and we soon discovered how it works….when someone gets off you quickly move seats to one closer together. By the end we had two groups of seats together. It was a fun little game! We got to Bangkok in good time and decided to go back to the Paragon Shopping Center to see if we could go and watch a movie.

 View of Bangkok from the lift in Paragon
 Center piece of mirroed waterfalls in front entrance of Paragon
Unfortunately when we got tho the cinema there was nothing on which was suitable to watch for our age children. So we gave the children the money we would have spent on the cinema and we went shopping.
Back to Pizza Company for dinner
Famous Bangkok traffic….at about 9 pm it was still busy.. for us it was on the Sky train and underground and back to bed as we had a very early start the next day!