Happy new year!
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Past week has been good, but a bit slow. Today is the first day of the Khmer New Year (which also coincides with the Thai and Lao new years), and while Cambodia seems to have a holiday every month, New Year is by far the biggest and most celebrated. The locals usually take between 5 and 10 days off, pack up their motorbikes and head out to the countryside. The new year is always celebrated with family, so most people return to their home towns during this time. That said, our contracter on the resevoir project decided to inform HT that his staff would be taking off from the 13th until the 20th...not good when they are already 2 weeks behind due to equipment breaking, but also not much that can be done about it from this end.
With everything slowing down to a grinding halt, it's been a week of late nights with the boys. Chai, who is one of the Khmer employees of HT, had his bday the other night, so OF COURSE it was time for celebrating. Unlike bday tradition at home, Chai actually spent most of the afternoon/evening doing all of the prep work for his party (weird!) He decided margaritas would be the theme for the evening, but since tequila is too expensive to buy over here, he was making "Cambodian Margaritas" which consisted of a lot of lime, rice whiskey, salt, sugar, 7-Up and MSG. Yes, I said MSG. There is actually an entire bag of it kept in the office. Anyhow - the margaritas really weren't half bad, especially when followed up by some Asahi beer (we don't discriminate alcohol based on country of origin) and we decided to take Chai out on the town to somewhere very un-western (which is not that easy to find in Siem Reap) and we hit up the local, very fancy Khmer dance club.
It was a really fun night and the club rivals anything I've seen in LA, complete with enormous dance floors, strobe and laser lighting, fog machines and some very interesting mixtures of Khmer and Western music. Will and Tobias were deep in conversation most of the night (yawn), so when Chai asked me to dance with him, we hit up the dance floor and boogied down...which was an experience in itself. It wasn't until about halfway through the first song that I realized I was the only western woman in the club and probably quite a curiosity to all the bar girls around me. I also realized that they don't dance here the way we do at home, so I had to limit my dancing to box-like steps, which is a lot more difficult when it sounds when you've got Shakira playing full volume (don't shake those hips!) The night ended up at one of the local, western bars downtown and I think we all made it to our respective homes (mine still being Smiley's guesthouse, next door to the office) around 3:30am.
So - now we're at the Khmer new year and it is slow, slow, slow! Chai invited everyone up to his family's house by the Thai border and they all took off yesterday, with the exception of Tobias, who hung out here for another day. We found out that there was a "French party" (lots of French living in Siem Reap and they are famous for their weekly parties) at an expat bar (Laundy), so we headed down there for a while, which turned out to be a brilliant move. I got to meet a number of local expats...mostly NGO workers and really made some fascinating connections. Among them, there is Stuart (who I actually met last week) - a British architect working on the newly revamped landmine museum (the one I went to last year and was so impressed with). Then there is Gwen (can't remember where she's from) who is an artist and owns a gallery here in Siem Reap. There's the Canadian, Mitch (I think that was his name?) who is here also working on the landmine museum...the rest of the year he is a war photographer who freelances for CNN, BBC and several other news media outlets and then there's a very, ummmm...interesting older Irishman who is here opening a Reiki center and told us all about his 'guide' (his spiritual light guide) who has been telling him to do everything from cut off all contact with his 20 year old daughters to buy diamond rings for babies of people he barely knows...and he's doing all of it. Not so sure about that one.
Anyhow - it was a good night and we got invitations to the grand opening of the new Landmine Museum next Saturday, which is suppposed to be quite an event, complete with lots of government officials and local NGO's and business owners.
So - today Tobias decided to head up and meet the boys at Chai's family home...I was initially planning on going as well - I think it would be a lot of fun, but seeing as we have about 6 days with no work, I've instead opted to head south tomorrow morning down to Kampot and then over to the beaches. It's been soooooo hot here and I'm needing to get in the water a bit.
So - that's the news! Probably won't be back online until I return to Siem Reap on Thursday/Friday.
Hope everyone's doing great - miss you!
Where I stayed