Sunday, April 12, 2009

My Cambodia Top 10!

Getting involved with the Centre for Children's Happiness and all the fun and fundraising

Meeting and having a private audience with the King of Cambodia to discuss my photography workshops with my students

The whole SMILE photography experience - working with the older children and then opening up their exhibition...

A Jungle trek in Bokor mountain with my Mum followed by a swim at an amazing waterfall

Driving myself around on a moto in Ratanakiri (North Cambodia) and Kep (South Cambodia)

Swimming across the Mekong

Visiting the village of a number of CCH children with them on several occasions

Finding out and getting far too many "Beautiful Shoes"

Dolphin Spotting in Kratie

Nearly getting killed - but surviving!, when our group's small fishing boat was ravished by the ocean in a huge storm near to Rabbit Island in Kep

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


As I prepare to leave Cambodia in the next 3 hours (agh!) I thought I would reflect upon what I will and will not miss about Cambodia after over a year of living in its Capital Phnom Penh! .... BUT (!) I will see you in September/October for a holiday Cambodia!

Things I will miss

Most of all....the children of CCH who have made it so difficult to leave

The call of “Hellowhatisyourname” and waving to children everywhere

Being stared at with no shame by children and adults alike

Being able to go to a tropical, palm fringed beach in under 4 hours

Frozen Margherita from Friends or Java cafe (the best in town!) Yum!

Spaghetti Carbonara from Gasolina and friends who are there – also the best Carbonara in town!

Fresh Coconut juice

Anchor beer with ice – Beer and ice? You can develop the taste...

Tailor made clothes from threads and handmade shoes from Beautiful shoes – my favourite places to shop here.

Iced coffee made with sweet condensed milk called “my boy”

“Hello Stung Mean......Chey” – This is the Cat call of the tuk tuks who hope that I am going to make the journey to the children’s shelter by tuk tuk rather than motorbike. ..And the fact they like to call it for fun because it’s now become a nickname.

The people calling to sell things on my street – feather dusters, coconuts, ice cream, bread ....

Hot, hot weather

Massive thunderstorms and torrential rain

Cheap transport by motorbike taxi everywhere – Walk?? Why!?

The greeting of “Good Luck to you”

Ecstatic pizza – delicious pizza followed by the owner wishing you “Sweet Dreams”

The friendly faces

Fantastically beautiful sunsets

And of course, .... the washing drying in under half an hour

I will not miss....

The so-called expat “scene” – full of the same people and often like a small village

Sweating every minute of every day

The monks chanting via loudspeaker at 5am or a 5am start wedding with Khmer music in the street

The construction workers who live in the “penthouse” about us who chop herbs very finely on their kitchen floor and the general banging due to constant development works

The heckle of “Moto sir?” [Note to Moto drivers: I am not a sir]

Cambodian Karaoke

Rubbish everywhere

Not being able to walk in the city as the pavements are so blocked

Lexus either running me over or stationary and parked everywhere including on every spare bit of pavement

Lawlessness and corruption

The common explanation of a mere “sorry – cannot”

Itchy mosquito and ant bites

.....Being stared at with no shame


On Sunday after the River Swim it was time for the farewell party at CDCC for the children of both CCH and its sister centre CDCC. As well as a "goodbye curry party" from me we were also celebrating Khmer new year which starts this weekend.
Although I was there an hour early the children from CCH had already arrived. The powerpoint was set up and things kicked off by showing a few films that had been made about CCH.
We then moved on the the dancing/speech part of the entertainment. The older children spoke about their experiences on studying at international schools and we were treated to some traditional Cambodian dances: including the coconut dance (one of my favourites).

The thanks followed and then we couldn't resist the urge to use the microphone and talk about my experiences with the students at this fantastic place. Then food and dancing.... Khmer New Year traditionally brings with it the HOT season and to say it was hot would be an understatement - it was boiling!

Only one more visit left to CCH and CDCC before home time in only 5 days time. It is very sad to be leaving Cambodia mainly because of these children who are so inspiring.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Mekong Swim

Me emerging happy but ready for a bacon sandwich

I did the Mekong River Swim... More pictures and story to follow when I have recovered!!

Ok, I have now recovered from my swim across the Mekong and have resumed the energy to type!
The event was great fun albeit that the start was early as I had to drag myself out of bed at 6am. Not something that happens very often, especially for exercise. I travelled with the team from School in the minibus and arrived promptly at the swim site at 7:30am. The organisers greeted us with horrified exclamations about how early we were. No, we were just on time, shocking and unexpected in Cambodia. The "non-competitive" race was due to start at 9am and (in true Cambodian fashion) did not actually start until 10am. I was not feeling my best as I have been a bit sick for 3 weeks now (looking forward to some NHS when I get home in a week!) but was unwilling to give up!

The school swim team

Near to 10am the boat, carrying more swimmers, arrived from PP. And then the organisers gave us our information "DO NOT BE A HERO! If you have trouble GET OUT. SOMEONE NEARLY DROWNED and DIED last year. Have you eaten breakfast? [no], have you had a good night's sleep? [errr no, I was being sick], did you drink lots last night [at least I was OK on this one]... YOU WILL DIE"!!! Honestly, it was like being in the army, and having failed 2 out of 3 criteria for a successful swim I was bound to die!

The spectators went off in their boat and the swimmers got ready. Slipping down the muddy bank until all 160 of us were in the murky water. Then after a 10 minute wait we are off ...the water didn't taste too bad just a bit muddy and I didn't see any rubbish or sewage floating past. The kids from school zoomed off and a few of us unprepared teachers gently followed. The swim was longer than we had prepared for and about 3/4 of the way across the current got so fast you could not swim at a slow pace for fear that you would end up in Vietnam or somewhere... After what seemed to be a long time I made it across and up the slippery slope triumphant!!

Getting ready to go and then down the slope

The kids from school were doing the race to buy bikes and helmets for CCH and I swam to help children who are in Prison with their mothers so there were lots of great causes which made the swim very worthwhile.

Some children from CCH who came for a paddle and support their fundraisers

The Phnom Penh Post ran an article on Monday and I was pictured wearing my team swim hat (not a good look) but at least I am smiling!

Me - mid river, taking advantage of a chat with the press boat and the picture that appeared in the paper!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

House move

We move out on Monday so have been packing like mad and trying to weigh my huge bag.

Furniture wise - Have you ever managed to move all the funiture you own in a house plus some extras on a motorbike taxi???!!
I have!

Getting ready to leave

Early mornings just won't be the same without the crazy mix of sounds in Cambodia. Here is a picture collage of some of the people who pass.

Breakfast stand

Rubbish collction day
One of the many recyclers
Feather duster man

Ice man
Banana man

Snack man
Coconut man

Bread man

Charcoal van

Moto men wait for a fare