Sunday, March 27, 2011

Beaches, mountains and scamorza

   We finally visited a couple of other regions/provinces in Cambodia.  We took a wonderful trip with 2 couples from Hungary for a week.  One couple is our good friends Andras and Eszter who we've known just about since we arrived here.  The other couple we met on the trip, their friends, who were great folks also.  Oh actually the woman is from Latvia, living in Hungary.

  So we 1st spent a night in Phnom Penh which I haven't seen much of.  And now have no great desire to revisit. It just seemed too big and so different from SR.  Though I did want to visit the Kingdom Brewpub, a recently opened 1st ever micro-brew pub in Cambodia.  I do miss the microbrews of the US especially Vt. pale ales.  We searched out a Mex place, I know weird but it's what we did with the couple in SR, and found a good one.  Though before we went there we entered another place that served mex food but found it also apparently served up women.  As we walked in we realized it was filled with Western men and flashy Khmer women.  It was obvious that the women were 'professionals'.   We kinda got odd looks and decided perhaps we were in the wrong place and quickly left.  Then we noticed on that street the bars were named Pussy Cat Club, 69 Club and the like.  Not too discreetly named as the place we entered.  An odd experience.
Phnom Penh
  Mondulkiri is one of the provinces with mountains we visited and had a great time.  It was cooler and seemed to not have mosquitos.  They are really not that bad in SR but they are present. The highlights of our days there were riding elephants and washing elephants.  And going to see these impressive waterfalls.  It's a town and region that will most likely see a lot of growth, tourism, soon.  A road there was just built last year and it makes it so much quicker to get to and accessible in rainy season when everything turns green, like Vermont. We also had great times talking to some local folks there.

  From Mondulkiri we headed to the beach!  We went to an island Koh Rung Soloem off of Sihanoukville. Specifically Lazy Beach  What a wonderful time we had there being lazy.  The beaches were white sand and the water was crystal clear, and virtually no one on the beach that stretched out a long ways.  The bungalows were sparten but clean and with showers and hammocks on the porch.  Only 14 of them spread far apart and all overlooking the water.  What added to the enjoyment of that was that the food served at the restaurant, the only food available, was excellent.
Spicy Shrimp
 We spent our few days there not doing a lot, well it is Lazy Beach after all.  We did take a hike through the forest, 25 min walk actually, to another deserted beach.  And we did have a few games of  Uno.  We ate, drank, talked and I got maybe the 4th sunburn in my life.  Not bad at all but I did peel. So it was great to see other parts of Cambodia and now has us itching to see more.
Lazy Beach
That's Lazy Beach down there
Our Bungalow
  So we left there and headed back to Phnom Penh to say our final sad goodbyes to our Eastern European friends.  We did promise them that we would visit them in Budapest.  I've always wanted to visit Easter Europe and now we have friends to show us what I believe is a beautiful city.  We will go at some point.
Jess, Andras, Eszter, Olga and Gabor , me

  Back to routine of SR.  And there is a routine now firmly established here.  I like both the gigs I'm involved with as I've stated previously.  And it seems like we still need to visit some eating establishments here that we've heard are good.  We did go to a fairly new Italian place.  Though a bit pricey, for here, the food was fantastic.  We especially liked a dish that we loved to eat at the Trattoria Delia in Burlington, Vt., scamorza alla griglia, (smoked mozzarella with grilled veggies).   We stared at each other elated as we took our 1st bite  as it tasted just like the Trat's dish.   The wine was good and Jess loved her gnoochi with porcini and cheeses and my spag Bolognese was delicious.  Then the true test, panna cotta!  Wow it was fantastic!  Don't know how much we'll make our way there but it's great just knowing it's there.
Teacher Srey Mien, Makarai, me, Eli from Portland , Ore., kids

  We met one of the owners, an Italian who has restaurants in Italy but said it's nearly impossible to open places there.  So they decided to open a place in SR. Lucky us.  And I understand one of the owners plays tennis with a Belgian guy I play.  Another potential partner on the courts!

   Weather has been surprisingly pleasant and also surprisingly it rained a few days in a row.  Not typical for this time of year.  Normally it's hotter and no rain, so we're enjoying the oddity.  Folks keep telling us just wait, and we have been here in April so we do know it will get hot and humid soon.

  Just a thought about foods and eating here.  I am eating more fish and fruit here than I did at home.  I think significantly more.  And more pork and less chicken, but maybe more meat in general, beef also.  Veggies about the same perhaps though maybe more greens.  More beer and water and less wine.  I have lost a bit of weight.  Maybe because of riding my bike so much, have I mentioned I love riding my bike, or maybe I'm just getting old.  On the other hand I'm still holding my own on the tennis courts beating 'youngsters' in their 20's-40's.  Ha ha.

  We'll be heading to Vt. in May and very much looking forward to that.  I'm very curious as to how it will feel to be back in the states, back to an American/Western culture scene.  And then to return 'home' after almost a month 'home'.  We'll see.

a great dad and kid pic

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Winter warmth

  It seems to be getting warmer and more humid as the days go by.  Though at times it may be 90 but low humidity and that feels fine.  I've been busy.  Busy in the mornings at the NGO and busy in the afternoon at the children's hospital.  I've also been busy playing tennis, on average 3 times a week, which is great considering there was some doubt about me being able to play at all here.

 The past week and a half has been lots of fun as we have guests from Vt.  It's wonderful to have folks here who have 'fresh eyes' and enjoy us showing them around Siem Reap.  Our friend Alison is here with her 2 kids Willa and Julian.  A girl, 13, and boy, 10, respectively.  They are lovely kids as is mom and it's been a pleasure having company.  I get a kick out of the boy as he very much reminds me of Skyler when he was his age.  For example he's obsessed with soccer/futbol, though Sky played soccer I think baseball was more his obsession.  In fact might still be.

  I am still at the NGO that treated Jess so poorly.  Why?  The kids of course.  I have tried to justify my position on this, weak as that was, I just can't bring myself to leave.  I don't deal with the bullshit there, I just concentrate on the kids.  I have lots of materials, many thanks to all back home who were involved in sending the much needed supplies.  Everything is being put to use.  I also have somewhat of a budget to mostly buy consumables, clay, flour for playdough,water colors etc...  We have a good daily routine and one of the Khmer teachers is especially good.  As I've stated in the previous post the class is split for the 1st part of the morning.  Higher level kids in the 'hut' doing more formal learning, though still with play and fun involved.  And the 2nd group of kids outside involved in preschool type activities.  Though recently we've been introducing more learning or at least giving exposure to numbers, letters, colors etc.. to many of those kids.

 Most often I am in the 'hut' but not always and I do often float between the 2 spaces.  Which reminds me of my work at the FR.  The 2nd part of the morning we are all together which is good because I get to interact with all the kids still.  Well here's one reason I am sticking with this gig: a few of the kids who have moved up to the next 'grade level' have come to me showing me what new words they are learning.  Yes I do see progress, the kids are learning and not just learning but there is a confidence I see in them and enthusiasm for learning.  I'd like to think I had a part in that.  I am still very much enjoying my time with these kids and there are new kids all the time which means new challenges.  This I like and need actually.  

  The hospital work is very different, which is good.  I see different kids and parents every day and interact with many parents.  There are some repeat folks as kids I imagine have to come in for treatments and/or follow-up care.  Let me see if I can articulate what I do there.  I sit on a kid's preschool chair at a low table with kids also sitting around it as well as parents.  Wait a minute that sounds like the FR scene!  Ok it's a bit different as few speak English, hmmm that was the case often at the FR also with so many refugees/'new' Americans.  Well in any case there is the occasional kid or parent that does speak English.  And of course I am the one who doesn't speak the language of the country I'm living in so the onus is on me to understand.

  Ok so what I'm doing is trying to relieve the boredom of them having to wait to be seen.  So mostly the kids are drawing and coloring and often the parents too.  But I have also brought in books and small manipulatives.    I had an especially good day there today.  The kids and sometime parents try to teach me words, mostly animals and fruits.  Three girls, about 9yrs. old were there today and they got a kick out of me trying to say different words they were trying to teach me.  The best part of my time there was when a mom brought over her baby @ 9 months old, maybe a bit older.  I gave her a flower drawing and she started coloring it.  Of course the baby wanted attention so at that point I wasn't tied up so I offered to take her.  And she gave her to me!!!  I got to hold a baby, it's been a while.  Before she started coloring I was amusing the baby and she had no problem with me holding her.  It was great.

  I interact and 'talk' with parents almost as much as I do with the kids.  And the parents, moms and dads, like to draw and color also.  One particular dad, and I've seen him twice, traces pictures of vegetables/fruits and writes the names in Khmer and then tells me and I write it in English and tell him.  Some parents ask where I'm from and ask how long I'm here for.  One rather interesting interactions I've had is 20 something moms asking me if I could help them find a Western boyfriend, mostly so they could move out of Cambodia.  One mom said she was married but would leave him if she found a European husband.

   It's been over a week since I started this blog so I'm going to finally post it and start a new one.