The Other Side of Siem Reap
Trip Start Jan 13, 2009
70Trip End May 17, 2009
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Where I stayed
The Tsunami cough and rib shaker has subsided. With the help of some seriously effective cough suppressant.... I am passing along the name, in case I need it myself down the road, and for Jackie, Arlene and Dad and Marion who sometimes are prone to suffering with lingering coughs. First cough suppressant I ever had that was not in a tonic form. Tablets called TUSSIPAX - manufactured in Paris!!!!! I am a spokesmodel for this product as it took me from chronic cranky hacker to not even being able to cough, in a day. When a cough would boil up, a pathetic seal bark would come out. Even my incredible abs - they are under there somewhere, have relaxed. The roosters are safe and all is well in the hood. I can continue to ride on the back of motorbikes (called motodupes or something). I hurt so bad that I had to resort to tuk tuks, which with one person, kind of looks like a queen shell. I think my back-of-the-bike technique has kind of freaked out most of my drivers as I do not ride the preferred, common woman way - side saddle cause I always think I am going to fall off with each bump
On the first night coming into town, we went by all the very fancy world class hotels, the opera centre, the Nick Falco Golf Course and Spa, the numerous new super malls before coming to a huge crowd lined up on the street in front of a big building. Thought it must be a festival or something. Next day - went by and the crowd, now assembled in the blazing sun, was 10 times as huge and consisted of moms and kids and umbrellas and mini shelters. Hundreds of folks standing in line in the hot sun. Thought it must be for a Circus. I then realized they were waiting in front of the Pediatric Hospital. Masses of desperate humanity, contrasted by the elegant buildings and the simple roads and motorbikes. Such contrast everywhere.
Last night I went to the Hospital to see a film about the founder of the Hospital. Dr Beat something - from Switzerland. There was the permanent crowd, lined up, to wait out the night. What an amazing story. This Dr. Beat, a renowned cello player and doctor worked here in Cambodia for the international Red Cross in 1975 just after the 'American' War - that is what they call, what we call, the Vietnam War
It is really really poor here. Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world - average income is $430.00. That made me feel like a shit for bargaining everything down......probably the bad karma made me cough!!!
$430 bucks! Yikes. And most of the country has one wage earner, lives rural and has more than a few kids. It is definitely much poorer than anywhere else I have been. Except this weird town. The contrasts, the contrasts. Still it very charming and I love it.
The whole world is here though. Every nation has an NGO and it seems even the NGO's have NGO's. Like the Great Wall - the part I was on having been restored by a German Company, Angkor Wat is being saved by the Koreans, the Germans, the Norwegians and one of the most famous guys is a U of C prof - Hendrickson, who has a team here who has discovered a whole lot of new buildings everywhere they think were guest houses for travelers long ago
Today, continuing on the theme for the search for poverty ville, I signed up for a rural school tour with a little NGO. Four of us - two charming girls - youngsters, one from the US and the other from Australia are working to provide aid to the poorest - what a competition! schools. A Greek guy came out with us as he just started on Monday working for another NGO that will oversee this and other school type NGO's. That is a lot of typing "NGO".
We went about 30 km out of town to a small school - picture the Save the Children, Adopt a Kid a Month half hour show and you get the picture. Except no Jann Arden or Alec Trebek. We visited with the teachers and the kids - teachers make about $20-$40 month, when they get paid and the kids were really filthy. Our tuk tuk driver translated and it was allot of fun. You could see good work in action. Small steps. This NGO built a little kitchen - hut with two stone kilns - they now can cook rice for the kids in the morning after they have walked miles or come by bike. Most parents cannot afford books or pencils and if the parents cannot - the kid can't come back. Two shifts and obviously you want the morning shift......Will that be rice with that?........The UN provides rice - only if the price stays reasonable. A different NGO built toilets. Small steps. Developing Nation. We take so much for granted - OK that is so overused but.......come on. The teachers told me that their biggest issue is the cleanliest and health of the kids - no clean water. Loads of Dengue fever killing tons of kids and Dr Beat has the meds but the pharmaceuticals won't cut any deals.....and the Beat goes on.
Oddly, as everyone scratches out a living, they seem to really enjoy each other
Most of you know how much I hate massage....OK, not most, cause who the hell is reading this anyway??? Like 800 visits...are none of you working anymore????? OK - I might have visited a site or two on my work hours....ah so long ago...have I mentioned I am a pensioner....is there a discount???? Any how....last night, I was in the Night Market and came across a new Massage place. For those of you who have been here (Asia) you know you can get massaged any which way you can dream or wince about - for any price - at any time - I had just passed the Blind group of massage.....hey - you aren't blind - those are cloudy contacts.......hey you are blind and no that is not a thigh.....nice try - didn't stop there.
I found Mr. Fish Massage. Yup, and I partook. Joined a group of others - had our dirty feet wiped clean, then sat on the edge of a tiled pool and submerged our feet into a large pool filled with zillions of mini piranhas....they eat the dead skin off your feet. Win - win. Me with the loveliest feet - voted by the Lesbians for Habitat for Humanity Women's Build I lovingly partook in years ago. As one of two non lesbian girls with tools - I was the hit of every party, teasing the chicks with my "I didn't realize they were so perfect" feet. OK the bar was not high that summer but a crown is a crown.
At first I didn't think I would be able to stand the fish but after a while I got used to it and they really did a nice job. I miss my bathtub and my 2 hour baths. Fish are my friends. I will never eat those kind of fish
Tomorrow - off very early - leaving at 6:30 am for a 12 hour slooooow boat ride across what is Cambodia's largest Lake and drinking water source...Tonle Lake, and then on to the Mekong (I think) to Battambang. A city with French Colonial architecture and few tourists cause.....it is in the middle of nowhere and it seems that not that many people have as much time on my hands as I do.....For this, I give thanks everyday. For so much, I give thanks. I am privileged beyond belief.
Thanks for all the notes - some to this blog, some private. It is great to keep in touch.