Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Cambodia Calling 5 - It's a Halloween Special.

So as the title suggests this be a Halloween special (please read in the voice of Jack Sparrow - I'll explain later. (Just the end bit, not the beginning otherwise it'll make no sense and I can't explain that.))

I'm not one for Halloween, it's not a holiday that I celebrate or one that really gets me going but I tried my best this year and decided that even though I have absolutely no idea how to transform the clothes I have into a typical "costume" I'd give it a good bash and you know me I need no excuse to down a few drinks - I mean respectfully respect alcoholic beverages in a respectfully respecting way, of course *ahem*. Anyway I decided to be a superhero who was in her normal day clothes and not being a superhero at the present moment (which basically meant I could wear normal "going out" clothes and just bosh on some make up) but then luckily I was handed a bandanna and *poof* gangsta pirate emerged. Here take a look:

Take a really close look and you can see exactly where gangsta and pirate merge. I'm not kidding.

So the night started with an unexpected pub crawl and ended up at Angkor Wat? Unfortunately along the way several things happened. Few of those things need not be mentioned as they were mere frivolity and nothing life threatening or you know weird. One of those "things" happened to look like this:

Remember mini pirates, never drink, smoke and drive. Only do 2 of the three but not all three together because then havoc ensues. On the back of the scooter is pirate number 2! Or 3...I can't quite remember.

Disclaimer: If you're being really serious and looking at this picture like "What the **** does she think she's doing?" Then you should know that I can't drive a scooter and the picture is just for fun. Also, don't be so ridiculous. End of disclaimer.

So the night continued on in a similar fashion, most of the time I kept asking people if they had seen my sword (in the voice of Jack Sparrow) and shouting loudly that a pirate needs her rum (also in the voice of Jack Sparrow, see I said I'd explain...sort of) I even occasionally threw in a limp for good measure. The whole night was a lot of fun but then it ended abruptly at 11pm with a stomach ache (I blame all the beer...). But all in all a good night. Huzzah.

Now moving onto more important topics, I went to the tailor on Sunday and she is going to make a plethora of beautiful, pretty things that I can bring home and feel like a proper princess. It also means no one but me will be able to wear said pretty things because they have already been measured to my body. You know who I'm talking about. Don't pretend like you haven't been using my room as a walk in wardrobe *scowl*. So I am very much looking forward to cycling Oliver down to her shop at the end of the week and seeing what treasures lie in store.

Yesterday I got a proper fright. I was sitting on my bed writing my journal (yes I am keeping a journal, so? ) and out of the corner of my eye I saw something move. I turned and saw nothing, so naturally I went back to writing in said journal. Then again, another flash and this time I got a good look. It was a mouse. Not the mouse but A mouse. In my house! How dare it! I was so startled! It was cheeky enough to enter the place I call a sanctuary the little bastard. Thankfully once morning arose I was told that a mouse had been caught! Yippee! This feeling didn't last long. I know that another mouse will take it's place and I will once again be facing the dilemma of having a mouse in my house. This looks like it will be an ongoing issue. *sigh* prepare yourselves for a constant stream of updates and for my constant use of the the phrase "mouse in my house". What can I say? I'm a sucker for alliteration.

So it's now the 7th week. Shit me when did that happen? I will be home in 12 short weeks, a little browner, hair a little longer and maybe, just maybe a little more grown up. At the present moment I am being distracted by Charlotte showing Roni and I pictures of cows. She has a whole separate folder for cows.  Charlotte if you're reading this, you have a problem. Enough with the pictures of cows!

Lastly I gave the Man an unintentional ultimatum and surprise surprise I have heard nothing. If you're reading this (which I know you aren't) message received, loud and clear darling. I deserve someone who actually cares about me. This folks is another one of my epiphanies and I have to say it is a bloody good one. I have finally learnt to stand up for myself and ask for what I want and if it is not matched then it is not good enough. Today you are seeing (well not literally, come now.) a new, stronger me and to be honest, it's been a bloody long time coming and I'm so glad she's here! I'm going to embrace the changes with arms wide fucking open my lovelies, you have been warned!

Other then that I'm fine (I've actually lost some weight - woop!(Healthy weight loss may I add)) and I promise not to drink, smoke and drive!

Big Ocean crossing love ya'll.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

...Cambodia Calling 4 - Back to reality.

So I've just realised I've been here for 6 weeks. Like I'm in my 6th week. How crazy is that? It means I only have 7 more weeks to work and then I can start my adventure! Woooooo! Like I know I'm "in" my adventure anyway but I really want to go travelling. I want to see more of South East Asia. I've got the bug and I'm not letting it go!

I also have 7 weeks and 2 and a half days of my boss left. I know that sounds mean but I really can't wait to leave. I love the kids I think they are fantastic and beautiful little people. Just take a look at the picture. She was crying for her mum and I attempted to cheer her up with a plastic horse - it didn't work...

But this same little girl is a changed one. She is so sweet and happy. No more tears! She gets on so well with everyone else. Before none of the kids wanted to come near me or play with me (I was that child) but now they do! I have earned their trust - yippee! So it will be sad saying goodbye to them but on the other hand I will be meeting so many more people and seeing so many different things.

I have already met so many fantastic people here, I am hoping I will keep in touch with as many of them as humanly possible (mostly because it means I have free holiday destinations. (I'm just joking. (I'm not really joking.))) It also means that they can come and stay with me! Not all of them at once though, that will be a pretty tight squeeze but it's crazy how fast you get to know someone when you're living together and having so many different shared experiences from your friends at home so when they leave it's really, really sad. Two of them are leaving in a matter of weeks and I'm trying to devise ways to keep them here, purely for selfish reasons.

I have decided to go to Vietnam for a few days, I just need to work out the logistics (and the money - eek) of attempting such a long journey. But I think it will be pretty cool to see Ho Chi Min and Hanoi and I have so much time before I have to go home that I might as well use it to my advantage. 

Yesterday I was mistaken for a Cambodian. The guy that was looking after our bikes (sort of like an unofficial car park. Basically you give me some money and I'll "make sure" no one steals your bike. He was a nice chap though.) started talking to me in Khmer and I turned to Phavy who told me he was asking if I was Cambodian. I said no but I felt super flattered. It looks like I'm blending in better then I thought I was! 

We also have a mouse in our house, well technically more then one seeing as Pally killed one last week and yesterday (with his bare hands may I add...) and now sitting in the trap in Ronny's room is mouse numero tress. She looks pretty shifty, I think she's new to the game. Obviously only moved in when her competition were taking care of and now she's in for the same fate. It's what you get if you mess with Westerners. Sorry mouse but don't enter my house.

So I have 5 days off work (including the weekend) because of a few public holidays. I'm looking forward to resting but I also need something to do! Any suggestions are more then welcome but please folks keep them clean! God knows whose reading this! We don't want to offend anyone now do we? Oh I've gone delirious, I blame the heat. Anyway I'll say ta-ra, I have to work in an hour and I would like a nap (nothing different really; different country, same Rachel. Same same but different).

Big Ocean crossing love ya'll. 

Sunday, 21 October 2012

...Cambodia Calling - From Siem Reap to Sihanoukville.

Howdy cyber folks. So it's been like a week since the last blog and I have spent that glorious week lying on a beach and being shunted from bus to hostel and back again. So where to begin? 

I guess the best place to start is with the mini bus drivers. They are maniacs. Wait, no, the mini bus drivers from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh are maniacs. The mini bus drivers from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville are pussy cats in comparison. Firstly the driver decided that his horn was the best offensive weapon he had against the war on other motor vehicles/people/animals and the general environmental atmosphere. Then he decided that his side of the road wasn't good enough and he clearly preferred to drive on the left. Ronny said he was trying to make me feel at home. I didn't feel at home, in fact I felt terrified. He then decided that all this wasn't fun enough and so played a twisted game of chicken with the upcoming traffic. Even when there was torrential rain he didn't stop. I think he liked the thrill of it all, I think my nerves still haven't recovered. it wasn't any different on the way home, only the driver had changed. The Cambodians have a saying: "same, same but different" I think it applies to situations like these. So after a hellish journey there I finally stumble out of the mini bus, shaken but not deterred from my journey and find the way to our hostel which is clean, tidy and has no window...Strangest thing in the world, it felt like we were sleeping in a prison cell and don't worry I have a picture of our lovely room:

 Mmmm Lovely. 

So after a night there we moved onto another mini bus and another driver, who, as I explained above was a lot calmer. We arrived at Sihanoukville a little grumpy but safe and found our guest house, which turned out to be a lovely, quiet, clean and very accommodating place to stay. If you are ever in Sihanoukville I recommend you stay at Panda Guest house, it's only like 5 mins to the beach, the owner is lovely and really helpful. Ronny and I switched rooms from a fan room to one with a/c because it was so hot in the room and I know I wouldn't be able to sleep. So we paid a little bit extra and had the lovely luxury of a/c! 

Right so the beach was beautiful, it is such a lovely place to stay and it was so relaxing, minus a few hiccups with certain people who shall not be named...But overall I had such a good time. One day Ronny and I got talking to a few of the locals and they then invited us back to the bar they worked for in the evening for a few drinks, so naturally I was up for it and I'm glad we went it was such a lovely experience to hang with some locals and chat away and he even tried to teach us a few more Khmer words which I have totally forgotten! We also met a lovely couple from England that are now living in Chang Mai who said we can come stay once we get to Thailand (I know I keep saying "we" and don't worry I haven't gone mad or anything, I am merely referring to myself and Ronny, cos we're like travelling around together - you get me?) To top the night off there were fire dancers - at least that's what I think you call them and they were so talented! Here, take a look: 

They were doing really well until one of them dropped it. Shit happens though, they picked it up and continued!

So we then (Ronny and I) went the next day to see the waterfall which was absolutely breathtaking. It was only a small one but I've never seen a waterfall before and I was really impressed. All the volunteers will be going to see a bigger one at the end of the month so I will take lots of pictures of that and post them here.

So to some up an already long blog (and if you are still reading dear friends, I have the feeling it will get a little longer...) if you ever go to Sihanoukville here are a few places you should visit:

Panda Guesthouse - for good, cheap accomadation.

Navann Restaurant - for really good, cheap food and a really lovely, welcoming family. We ate there everyday and one morning the owner gave us free hats from a business he tried to start but that failed and so had loads of hats left over which he gave us! He and his family are so lovely. One night he told Ronny and I about what happened to his family during the Khmer Rouge (without us prompting him) and it was so moving. I really didn't know what to say to him or how to react. It's such a hard thing to live through and to hear it first hand from someone who had been there was really moving. I have been wondering ever since I read "First they killed my father" how many Cambodians I come across have been directly affected by what happened and I'm guessing it's over 90% of them. Maybe higher and how do you deal with something like that? They are such a strong, encouraging nation, always smiling, always friendly and willing to help, you wouldn't notice the scars that linger underneath it all. 

Anyway I've gone off topic, you should also visit these beaches:
- Serendipity - it's not as dirty as people say it is and yeah you get hassled a lot by the locals trying to make you look pretty through manicures/pedicures/threading/massages/bracelets....the list could go on. But if you're friendly and say no thank you most of them don't bother you.

- Otres beach - it is beautiful, less crowded and the sea is gorgeous.

- Sokha beach - it's privately owned and if you don't pay 5-10 dollars you don't have anywhere to sit, so we just skimped past that one with our tuk tuk driver who was an amazing guide for the day. I told him he should do his own tours!

- Bamboo island - it is perfect. Quiet, beautiful and you can stay in one of the bungalows on the beach for the night, which, if I had the money I would totally do.

So I had a good holiday. It gave me an even bigger travelling bug though and now I can't wait to start my travelling. I also had a lot of time to reflect and I came to the decision to not linger on the past and look forward. I've made a lot of mistakes in the past but you know, making mistakes is how we're supposed to learn right? So I should stop beating myself up about what happened and focus on using those experiences to make me a better, stronger, wiser person. I think that's a good outcome from a week on the beach! I should go there more often, I may have even more epiphanies! 

But for now I will bid you goodbye. It's time for me to leave the cafe I have been sitting in for the past 3 hours and go home. Until next time.

Big Ocean crossing love ya'll.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

...Cambodia Calling 3

As of this Monday it will be 3 weeks since I boarded the plane in London Gatwick and landed, exhausted, jet lagged and a little homesick in Cambodia. The time has flown! I didn't even realise it had been so long. Next week the first of the new volunteers arrives (Hi Jasmine) and then from there on they slowly filter into our compound and I am no longer a newbie. It's so weird but at the same time extremely exciting. It will be fun to show them around and let them know what's best for mossie bites (it's tiger balm) and to always, always haggle in the market. I just hope the next 2 and a bit months hold as much fun, excitement and new opportunities as the past few weeks have. 

Right now however I am watching a Cambodian film about, well, I have no idea what it's about but the acting is so over exaggerated it's really helping me follow the plot. It also helps that the film is quite funny too! 

Anyway I shall tell you most of what has happened to me over the past week-ish, starting with today. Mainly because I haven't laughed this much in a very long time and I just wish me or Ronny (Veronika) had bought our cameras because it was a sight to behold. Picture this, Ronny and I are making our way through the old market (the old market is packed with clothes, jewellery, souvenirs, food (the meat I wouldn't touch with a barge pole, I'll put a picture up so you know what I mean) and more clothes!) we finally come to the stinky bit, which is the fish and meat stalls and I literally have to hold my breath because even when you breathe through your mouth you can taste it. It is humid and the air is pungent. It is by far one of the worst things I have ever smelt, including Tooting Market's fish stalls on a hot day. Anyway, we finally come to the unofficial "Cambodain side" of the market, which basically consists of lots of jeans and t-shirts, pretty dresses, make up stands, hairdressers and food. So I begin rummaging through the stacks of shorts looking for a pair of long shorts I can buy cheaply, I can't find what I'm looking for so the woman who owns the stall comes over and asks me what I want, I tell her, then she says no she doesn't have any and what is my size. So I say roughly a 29-30 and she laughs, touching my waist and shaking her head she says "No! You need the big size!" I was horrified but I began to laugh and said to her "I'm not that big! I've got hips!" She then shoves me to the stall at the end, shouting at the woman in Khmer what it is I'm looking for and presumably also tells her what size she thinks I am, for when we reach the woman she's already laughing. I hold up a pair of shorts and she says "No! You need the big size!" At this point I am determined to get into a pair of 29 inch shorts that she holds before me, shaking her head and laughing she tells me I can try it on so I look around and wonder where the hell am I supposed to try anything on in the middle of a market? I'm standing on the "pathway" and to my right is the fresh fruit and veg stalls and to my left is a hysterical Ronny and the rest of the giggling ladies and their stalls. So this lady rummages around her stall and produces a skirt which she tells me to put on. I gather that I am supposed to put this skirt on over my trousers to take my trousers off and then put on the shorts. As I pull the skirt on I'm laughing so hard I feel like I might wet myself but I am determined to get the shorts on and for them to fit. The shorts didn't fit, I did get them halfway up my thighs though and the whole experience was hilarious and I now know that yes I am too fat for Cambodia! The women here are so tiny that a 29 there size is like a size 6 Western size. I did end up buying a pair of "Abercrombie and Fitch" men's shorts which are uber comfy and a steal at 6 dollars. God knows if they are real or not but I don't care. One woman tried to sell me a pair of "Burrberi" shorts, I don't know who "Burrberi" is but he might want to take his name off their products. She wanted 18 dollars for them and I refused to pay anymore then 6, she finally came down to 7 but her attitude sucked and she kept grabbing at my arm and pulling me back every time I tried to walk away which I did not like so I didn't buy them. She muttered something in Khmer behind my back but oh well, who gives a fuck? I don't! Other then that today has been a load of fun, I've laughed, gotten undressed in the middle of a market and also got soaked by the rain but it is the rainy season so I will let that one pass. 

This is from the New Market but all the meat is left out like this in all the markets!

So I went to the pool yesterday and Ronny and Lucia tried to help me re-learn how to swim. It turns out it is a lot harder to do sans goggles so I may have to buy a pair. I have however perfected my own technique of swimming on my back, it's quite relaxing and I moved so that's all that counts. The chlorine in the water is also very good for the old mossie bites. 

Work is going well my boss lives in her own world but I think that is something I will have to get used to or ignore completely. The children are lovely and fascinated by everything around them. It is a lot of hard work though, I ramble at them in English and they ramble back in Khmer and neither of us understands each other so I end up nodding and smiling and they frown at me and walk away. It's a good system most of the time. I have learnt the word for toilet in Khmer because it comes in handy! So at least I know when they need to go. The six year olds I teach in the afternoon are great. Some of them are super bright and have a very good grasp of the English language and some of them do not. It's a mixed bag of nuts I guess like any class. 

Most of this week I have been working hard and coming home exhausted and ready for bed. On Wednesday we went and did a pub quiz and if you loose you have to do a garlic shot. I was convinced we had lost seeing as most of us didn't know the answers to half of the questions but surprisingly someone did far worse then we did and we didn't loose! Yippee! Then last night it was karaoke night which was really fun and I got up and sang 3 songs. I was dead nervous doing the first one but then I thought fuck it, no-one here really knows me so I don't care what they think, I'm singing for myself and for the lovely group of girls I have cheering me on and you know what? That made it a hell of a lot more fun then taking it seriously and caring what other people thought. It is only karaoke for fucks sake! 

So next Saturday me and the girls (and a girl from work) head off on our holiday to Sihanoukville. I am very excited and the only reason we are going is because it is the Ancestor festival anyway so the kids won't turn up and I might as well enjoy the beach. I'll let you know how it goes but for now my cyber friends (and family) I will be saying adieu. The mossies are trying to eat me so I need to sit under my net. 

Big Ocean crossing love ya'll!

P.S so far it is Mossies 30, Rachel 6. I will kill them all. Just give me time.