Monday, May 5, 2008

Lots of things but .....SHOES!

This week has not resulted in many events to write about. It began with a visit on Monday to the SOS clinic. Sounds serious but it was just cough I could not shift. Reassuringly expensive and falling inside my insurance excess so hitting my bank balance I was wanting a miracle... sadly no miracle the diagnosis was that the Dr was unsure, gave me 2 types of medicine and I was told to come back if they didn’t work. Well they worked a bit but it’s hard to say 7 days later if that is the medicine or the fact that I had not been out in the pollution for nearly 5 days out of 7.... the cough remains and I now have an attractive face mask to wear on the motorbike taxis –doctor’s orders. (I am yet to go back as he requested – I fear the nest stage is blood tests, needles and many more dollars).

(nice look - when I wear my crash helmet it looks even better)

So, the week involved nothing but endless episodes of Sex and the City back to back (...I am now at the end of series 2 – Carrie and Big have just split for the second time...). I also tried to complete my coursework for my TEFL course – it remains only half done.

On Friday I went to a second orphanage – the Lighthouse orphanage. These children have been rescued from the streets or have been sent to the orphanage because their grandparents (after their parents have died) cannot look after them anymore. It is odd that the Lighthouse and the CHH (where I have been working so far) are completely different in atmosphere... clearly not all orphanages are like Annie but still odd to feel the difference. The man in charge there wants me to teach English to the children like “at the language institute”. The children must go to lessons – at CCH the children like games and learn English for fun to supplement the lessons at school. The children at the Lighthouse also will follow a set curriculum (which I prefer) and I have been instructed to start again from the beginning. I will probably start there the week after next if things work out.... Here is a picture of one of the children with one of the 20 or so paper planes I made.

At the weekend, the fountains are ON in Phnom Penh and are lit! I laughed before at the Khmer people who would watch the fountains for a long time but this weekend I became one of them. Sadly they were not playing music as previously – still with the lack of usual cultural pursuits fountain watching is amusing enough after a few beers.

Also took a trip again to the Royal Palace which is the most expensive attraction in the whole of Cambodia (I guess) being a whole £3.50 ($7) to get in. The backpackers in front in the queue actually turned away in disgust at the price. However, this did not surprise me given the conversation they had had for the last 20 minutes (the queue was long) revolved around the price of receiving and making international calls. – Given that you can get 7 pints of beer for $7 here I guess it would be like paying something silly like a whole £25 to go into a palace in the UK... oh do – Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle (the comparison can instead be made with Alton Towers for the less cultural amongst you) Anyway, the palace is OK and probably worth the $7 given that most people would have spent a fair bit more on getting to Cambodia in the first place!

Oudong is the former Cambodian capital and was the destination for a half day excursion on Sunday. Travelling north of Phnom Penh out to the countryside in a tuk tuk experiencing the noise and the dust and the fear of passing (and on coming) traffic for 37km. Through villages many mosques lined the road for the Cham- Muslim minority who are present in the area. On the right-hand side of the road the Tonle Sap River ran alongside the road. Many Wats also lined the way but being “all watted out” I didn’t request a stop.

Upon arrival in Oudong (or Udong) the tuk tuk was stopped at a road block and I expected to have to part with some cash – surprisingly not! Onward to the picnic spot area and the tourist junk. About 3 small boys decided to tag along up the 516 steps (or so they told me) pointing out the obvious like “pond” and “temple”. I was nice for a while but then irritation and the heat got to me. When one explained it cost $10 per day to go to school my suspicions they were out for cash not practice English was confirmed and I tried to subtly say nicely “No money for you. Go - Good bye - Good bye, GOOD BYE. Chum reup lear (that’s good bye in Khmer)” but still they followed until 10 minutes later I did a lot of finger pointing and looking/sounding cross. I modelled myself at this point on a peed off American not reserved a British woman - This worked. I am ashamed to say I have pretty much no idea what I saw at Oudong a temple and a few Chedi (Buddhist graves containing ashes) of important royalty etc etc. If only the children had been more informative! It was boiling hot I know that much
Anyway here are a few pictures of it................. very pretty and good views...!

No class to teach on Monday and so I spent the morning doing nothing (well prepared a few future lessons) and then decided to go out to places previously undiscovered. First Monivong Boulevard. I had seen what may be classed as a shopping centre when whizzing past so went to investigate that. On my way, what a delight to find a massive stationery shop! How nice. The Khmer people must think that I am truly a crazy Barang (foreigner) given the amount of time I spent looking at pens. Anyway, a made some essential stationery purchases and then moved on to find the shopping centre. I was crossing the road to get from stationery heaven and had to rub my eyes in joy – Burger KING!!! The moment was done in an instant. With all the colours, fonts and signage of Burger King ... but no - this is Cambodia, Kingdom of no intellectual property rights, and in fact the burger place was called Great Burger. I did not sample the cuisine but went straight to the shopping centre. Again sadly, it was just another not so great supermarket. Imagine only being able to shop at Lidl or Kwiksave for the rest of your life and you can imagine supermarkets here. I was disappointed - only some fly/ant killer appealed to me.

Next, I was on a mission. There was a shoe shop in the vicinity and I was determined to locate it. Sadly, I had no hope from the start. I had my starting point on the map wrong from the outset and was very disappointed when I realised how far away from the shoe shop I was. However, I located myself on the map and commanded a moto to take me to street 143 (moi roy si sup bye – In Khmer in case you were wondering). I was exceptionally proud of myself to not only communicate this in Khmer to the driver but also to navigate my way across town in previously unknown waters to locate this shop. Yes, I had read great things about this place and I required retail therapy beyond that which pens and Raid are able to cure. My source said the shop was at no.148 (moi roy si sup bram bye (and try saying that after a few drinks)). Khmer streets are not logical. 523 will be next door to number 4 so I paid the driver the huge sum of 25p and began to look for “beautiful shoes” on foot. I saw numbers 140, 142, 144 ... I was getting close.... but then the numbers changed to 252.... and all of a sudden I was at the end of the street. Seeing a large toy shop which was very modern I developed a passing interest in toys. I needed air conditioning it was boiling.
After a refreshing break back down the street I went... There were many shoe makers on the street and I say people being fitted for shoes including monks. It was really nice to be the only western person about. I gave up looking for the specific shop and went to look at some shoes in another shoe maker. Then all of a sudden – there it was! I walked past it at the very beginning – it was number 138 not 148. How very Cambodian. Anyway, I purchased red leather shoes for $17 and have ordered a pair to be made to fit me in my design for another $17. I fear there may be trouble now I have found I can get shoes made to my order at this price. I think boots will be next....

So typically of Cambodia at the moment it is now 5.20 and we are having a large thunder storm and torrential rain. Its quite dramatic.

And finally, for amusement ....

errr ...the bin is to the left
...and "picking flower is sinful". Thanks for the reminder.

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