Monday, August 30, 2010

Pleasant weather and bikes

  Hello,  I always feel like ‘why should I post?’  when Jess’s postings tell it all and are so rich.  She’s such a good writer.  And please I’m not soliciting for compliments on my writing.  ‘It is what it is’ as is said these days.  In any case here goes. 
  First of  I find it very amusing that after telling everyone how hot it will be here that it’s been somewhat pleasant most days.  The amusing part is that it’s been hotter in Burlington, Vt.  There have been very refreshing breezes and a bit cloudy.  Sure it’s hot but not scorching and not really that humid.  And Jaz tells us it will be getting cooler.  I like the heat but I’ll take a little respite as I know how hot and humid it can and will get. 
  We’ve seemed to have accomplished 2 basic goals pretty quickly, found a place and bought bikes.  Jess got an interesting bike, it has a rubber belt for it’s chain.  Anyone ever hear of that?  Well it won’t rust at least, just looks odd.  I so look forward to getting around on a bike and love not having a car, I may have mentioned that already.  Sorry it just so exciting not to have a car and all that goes with it. 
  It’s been great hanging out with Jaz and she invited us to have dinner with her 2 best buddies at a little place owned by some other friends.  It was wonderful talking to her friends who are very nice and are hard working students and have jobs also.  She’s made a lot of friends here so it was cool watching her have fun with them.  She’s so very social, and I’m glad she seems to have a real social network here similar to her Vt. circle of friends.  
  We’ve only been here a few days as mentioned so I haven’t really tried any unusual foods.  I expect to eventually  and to cook some new and different foods.  Well  Jess and I did split a cheeseburger, out of curiosity, at Lucky Burger (a McD. Clone) at the Lucky Mall.  L M is the one and only Western style mall.  Not a lot of stores but a supermarket, electronics store and some clothes stores.  It has a gelato stand that’s good!  The supermarket has some interesting items, I liked the prepackaged ingredients for a stir fry meal.  Easily for 2 for @ 2-3 bucks.  And I was able to find peanut butter, the good kind w/ just peanuts, no sugar or ‘bad’ oils.  This is a 3rd world country but there does seem to be a growing ‘middle class’, so many items are there that you would see at home.  It’s all very interesting as there is crushing poverty a short bike ride from the mall. 
  Today I think I will get a haircut for the 1st time in almost 2 decades from someone other than Jess.  It will be about 2-3 bucks and I believe will include a shave.  I don’t think anyone ever shaved my face or for the record any other part of my body.  It’s good to support the local economy.  And perhaps we’ll see about some volunteer work today also.  We do have to stock the house we’re about to rent, it’s partially furnished and I certainly need cookware.  So that’s a mission also. 
  I did write about the house we’re about to rent but in deference to Jess keeping that under our hats I will wait to post about that.  Bye for now, Steve 

Friday, August 27, 2010

Living in the moment and luggage

  Being in Portland seemed to take our mind off our eventual landing in Cambodia.  It was unbelievably wonderful to spend a few days with Marissa and Skyler, unfortunately just one day with Jenny (Sky's GF).  They were terrific hosts and it truly felt we were living in the moment.  Except for us talking about food all the time, which included what we were eating at the moment, what we ate previously and where we would eat our next meal.  This we all enjoyed doing, ok maybe Jess was not thrilled with this food obsession.  She did say more than once "please no more talk of food".  What's her problem?  One of the best if not the best trip to Portland!

  We had a bit of difficulty with our luggage situation.  Yes we had a lot of luggage, after all we're moving to Cambodia!  And granted we were pushing the outer limits of carry-ons, perhaps beyond the limits.  But we were lulled into a "what's the problem?" attitude by the wonderful airline Jet Blue who had no problem with beyond the limits luggage.  Suffice to say we had to dole out some bucks and spent some significant time rearranging our 4 BIG bags with one at 70lbs and the rest @ 50, not over of course.  And then we had to check a 5th bag later as we couldn't consolidate our carry-ons to pass muster.  We felt like they were being luggage nazis though at final boarding a woman let us fit our tube of pictures and posters into a bag, it went into the bag about 2 inches.  Alright you light travelers, we were/are normally also light travelers, so don’t scowl at this as this is a somewhat big move.  We did finally make it to Cambodia and the 5 checked bags arrived also with no problems.  The only problem was that a fellow Costco shopper ended up with our 70# bag and we ended up with his filled with diapers and granola bars.  We wondered why his felt so light.  Fortunately thanks to luggage tags and email we were able to exchange bags the next morning.  Very nice folks with the cutest 2 yr. old.

  The plane trips were fine I liked the relatively short 10+ hrs., ha ha, ride to Seoul.  And then the really short, 5.5 hrs., jaunt to Phnom Penh.  Definitely recommend Asiana Air.  Halfway decent food and lots of it, whoops there we are with the food thing.  Well anyone reading this better get used to that.  Our daughter Jaz once wrote a paper for school on our family’s obsession with food. 

  So we’re in Cambodia!  Oh I should mention we met up with Jess’s cousin, who she hadn’t seen since she was a little kid, at the Seattle airport.  A very nice and personable young man (ha ha early 40’s).  I thought he looked like a Whitney.  A special treat to talk with him, short a visit as it was.  We were greeted at the airport in Phnom Penh by Rithy and Mr. Hang with a big van.  They work for the family who have the Seven Candles Guest House and the PLF .   We know them well so it was a pleasure to see familiar faces.  We got to our hotel around midnight and collapsed as we would be off to Siem Reap in the morning. 

  Part of the family was in Phnom Penh visiting relatives, so the next morning we had the pleasure of seeing them and going to the Cambodian National Museum with them.  We were lucky because Dara, the brother, is very knowledgeable of Khmer history and would tell us some of the history behind the artifacts.  I still am amazed that the Western world is generally unaware of the incredible Khmer Empire and it’s achievements.  We had great fun on the ride, @ 5 hours, to Siem Reap.   We got to see the countryside and passed through various villages/towns/farms.  We played games with Ya Ya, She’s Dara and Arina’s 5yr. old daughter.  And I got to talk to Dara about the Pol Pot era.  I am reluctant to bring that up ever but so very interested.  Fortunately he mentioned it and that opened the door for me.  Amazing that I can talk to someone who lived through it.  He was 11 when Pol Pot came to power.  Incredible perspective and stories.  Talk about resilience. 

  I was also able to talk to Srei the older sister, who is deaf.  We communicate by writing.  Always fascinating talks with her.  She’s quite intelligent and knows a few languages.  We will talk again as she remembers that era quite well she says.  Can’t wait.  We stopped along the way and were approached by several young girls selling fruit.  We paid way too much for a bag of fresh pineapples and mango, 1 dollar, as Rithy told us should have been a quarter.  Ha ha foolish Americans.  They were also selling fried spiders, no I didn’t buy any though I hope to get my nerve up to try them someday.
  We were greeted at the Guest House by the rest of the family Ponheary, Marina, the kids, Lori AND Jasmine!  So great to see her and the family as well.  After a quick beer Jaz and I went to get take out.  I’ve been avoiding Asian food the last several weeks knowing I would be here so I got a chicken/veg curry dish and Jaz got a tuna melt and fries from a place around the corner that serves Asian and Western food.  Jaz said it was expensive and I over tipped, total $7.  It was good and then I hit a wall and could not keep my eyes open.  I slept fairly well and long with weird dreams.  One was me back at the office with one day to go before leaving for Cambodia and trying to find, for my former boss Toki, notes on HIPPA. Hmmmm.    

   I woke @ 6am there was a nice breeze and then it rained and now it’s very pleasant not at all hot.  I am so very happy to be here and begin our Cambodian life.  House hunting soon!   Till next time.  -Steve

Monday, August 23, 2010

1st Leg

  Hello all,  Alright 1st real attempt at blogging so bear with me.  We are in Portland, Ore. and it's my firstborn's (Marissa) birthday!   So 32 years ago I became a dad, and that has been a tremendous journey.  For whatever reason I've been blessed with incredible luck in my life.  So now I am embarking on another journey, making my way in Cambodia and hoping luck continues to be by my side.

  There are those particular points in one's life when a decision is made and it influences greatly what comes after.  This surely feels like one of those points. The past 3 weeks have been great fun tinged with sadness as final preparations were completed.  We have such wonderful friends and family we said goodbye to.  And everyone has been so kind and generous with their goodbye wishes.  A deep heartfelt thanks to all.

  Portland is a great city, so walkable and each neighborhood has a different flavor to it.  All kinds of folks here, including a healthy dose of hipsters.  Lots of happenings around town also.  And no lack of good food and drink.  Portland is well known for their street food (carts).  Ate the most delicious dumplings and a gyro that hit the spot.  And there are so many different restaurants to choose from.  The local micro brews are many and tasty as well as the Oregon wines.  We haven't checked out any music yet but I know the venues are many.  It would be great to live here some day but for now my mind is on other matters.

  I am so much looking forward to the coming experience in Cambodia.  I have my expectations yet I know that for the most part they will most likely not match the reality to come.  And I hope to be writing about those experiences.   Bye for now, Steve