Gardens and frogs

Trip Start Oct 14, 2005
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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Typical. Today is Women's Day in Cambodia. We all have a day off work, even the hard working NGOers who work through everything, not like us shoddy government workers. To celebrate it I am recovering from last nights little sojourn into the world of stomach upsets so cannot go to PP to play, or to a party I was invited to. Instead, I am confined to my bed in my 34deg bedroom with only a washing up bowl and toilet roll for company (Bram in PP on Cambodian Cookery course like a good Khmer housewife!).

So, instead of being miffed because my waistline has not got smaller despite the vacuum that has surely been created in my body, I decided to be productive and write a blog entry. What an absolute trouper I am!

This one is all about ...gardens. I know to some of you that may not sound too interesting as there is no decking, water features or novelty recycled aggregates (actually not true we do have a pond) but nevertheless I will pursue my garden blog; I am ill so I need to be indulged, even if Diarmuid Gavin isn't involved as much as I would like him to be.

Let us begin. Gardens here are much more practical than at home. No squares of grass with a slide on or stepping stones to a rosebed but instead, food is involved. This was the real reason for a garden blog. Well, actually food and the animals you get in the garden that are just so much bigger than I am sure they are supposed to be - apart from the snake. The snake was small and not technically in my garden.

Anyway the garden we have is at the moment brimming with unripe mangoes. We have three mango trees and they are two different sorts. After a lot of confusing Khmer conversations I still don't know which is best but one is Thai and one is Khmer I think. Not also sure when you are supposed to pick them but I do think you are supposed to keep them for a few days after picking (could I say 'harvest'? Sounds so much more rural...). My main worry is that my landlord will come and take them all when we are no looking. This happened to a friend who was not happy after having potential mango based food taken right from under his nose - we are going to buy a blender to make mango smoothies. So I have attached a picture of a mango tree for those of you not conversant with tropical arboriculture.

We also have banana trees too! They are great but I can't help but think about the occasional tarantula people get in bananas at home. Its not like I could even sue Sainsburys if I got a spider in my bananas here! But I digress. Back to bananas. Our washing lady (Lilly, irons clothes with such sharp edges you can file your nails with them) told us to break off the big purple banana flower to make the bananas grow bigger. So I duly did that but now one of the trees has flopped over and is not looking happy. Also I did not know what to do with the banana flowers afterwards as they can be eaten by I have absolutely no idea what to do with it. If only I had a back issue collection of Woman & Home, I am sure there would be a recipe for Banana Flower Bread, sandwiched in between an article on the 'Menopause; it's not just you' and 'Living with Glue Ear'.

So as well as fruit we also have rather super lemon grass. I just thought it was grass, no lemon, but our neighbour insisted we had lemon grass in our garden so I went round sniffing everything, looking like the strange white girl I am in this town, until I found it. Picture may be attached but to be honest, it just looks like bushy grass so I may not bother. Use your imaginations and I am sure you'll get the gist; its grass that smells a little tangy.

Next in the garden, or I could go so far as too call it a fruit salad you can sit and drink gin in, is Papaya (or paw paw). We have a few papaya trees and have not eaten one of them yet. The problem is that the fruits are high up by the time they drop off they are too ripe and rotten. Also there is also the issue that papaya tastes pants. That is really the deciding factor. In the garden in a long stick thing (about 3m) with a sort of stubby brush affair on the end. I once saw the landlord jabbing at the papaya tree with it to get some fruit. I tried it but again looked like the ineffectual foreign white girl I am and was laughed at by the bemused neighbours. I am sure I made a faux pas - they are probably amazed that I actually tried to get papaya at lunch time when surely everyone knows you only get it in the morning! Derrrrrrr.

Next on the agenda is coconut. Technically, if we are talking ownership, we haven't got a coconut tree IN our garden as such but we have got one overhanging and surely that counts? The cool kids here can shin up a coconut tree with a knife the size of a leg and slash away happily until they drop coconuts in a controlled manner. Very clever but really too dangerous for a risk averse crash helmet wearing European. I think I will skip this leisure pursuit and instead focus on drinking coconut water with run and pineapple. Yes, my taste in beverages is stuck in the 80s, bring on the Pink Lady and Black Tower.

We also have loads of frog action in the garden. Bless them, they just jump at you with no thought for their own personal safety. You can be innocently standing by a tree and it will start to move as a frog jumps onto it from a great height, or a lizard, joins in, deliberately trying to convince you it's a snake. Cheeky things. We have one frog that sits on the lights in the outdoor seating-cum-dining-cum-exterior-living space. Very cute but it sort of dries up and goes crinkly in the day. I want to rub it with aqueous cream but that's just me. Anyway pictures of general house frogs are attached.

So about the snake. I do feel very bad but it had to die. I was just about to have a wee in Alison's house (sorry, that was terribly graphic wasn't it?) when I heard her scream. I ran out (decently of course) and found her scared by a snake sitting on the electricity extension cable (snake on cable not Alison). Neither Alison nor the snake looked happy.

We waited a bit for our Khmer teacher to come round - he is a) male b) khmer so we thought that he could be the responsible adult in the scenario and deal with it. Sadly he didn't turn up (never to be seen again) so I had to deal with it. It got smashed on the head with a broom till it went flat and Alison ran around with a can of mosquito repellent. Then it stopped moving. God I feel SO guilty but we had no idea if it was poisonous! Someone here said I should have shooed it out of the house, but how the hell do you shoo a snake???? I pointed to the door but it was having none of it! Maybe it didn't speak English. That is a constant problem. I told a guy at work who kindly said it was bad luck not to kill a snake in your house. Bet the snakes disagree.
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