It all comes to an end.

Wow. What a year!!

So many words to say but I don’t even know where to start. I’ve decided to break this down into sections to make it easier…

The People

What makes a place sure is the people. I have been fortunate to have had some amazing people enter my life this year – Cambodian and beyond. Friendships that I know will last. Everyone that lives in Cambodia has a story to tell and I was continually amazed and inspired by other peoples adventures, dreams and passions.

The people in my town were what made my year so successful. If the people in Sre Ambel had not been so kind, friendly, fun and supportive I really would have struggled. I remember my very first day so well. As soon as I got in the car with two of my colleagues I knew I was going to be just fine. They also became my very good friends and taught me so, so much.

The Town

Sre Ambel. You. I think in a couple of months it will really sink in for me the fact that, this one time in my life, I lived in a remote village in Cambodia. But for the last year that has just seemed so normal.

What a beautiful place. The rainy season was my favourite – when it was luscious green with rice fields everywhere. I loved living in my house on the river. I will never forget waking up, walking out my door and seeing a beautiful sunrise in my backyard over looking the river (that was what got me through the challenging nights…knowing i had that to wake up to the next day).

The City

Phnom Penh. Wow. I came to Cambodia thinking I would do lots of yoga and relaxation and find my inner peace or something like that….little did I know that my long weekends of partying would continue here… I sure have rocked a few dance floors in the Penh!

I think what has also made my experience so well has been the fact that I could get to Phnom Penh every weekend. My colleagues all had houses there so I always had a ride each weekend. This really helped keep my sanity with living remotely. I really got the best of both worlds.

and so…I will miss living the high life at amazing delicious eateries, my fortnightly manicures and pedicures, regular massages, tasty cocktails and swimming in hotel pools. Working from cafes was also a delight. Ah the life of an expat!

The Country

Cambodia. What an amazing place. So many things to explore. Not a day goes by where you don’t have a crazy story to tell. The simple things of daily life is what I will miss most. The country sure has its complexities and is surely still on the mend but you see positive changes occurring…just very slowly. So complex.

The Challenges

Rats. Spiders. Frogs. Cockroaches. Ants. Plagues of insects. Sweatyness. Food poisoning. Cold showers. Drop toilets. Rain.  Motos. Culture.

Riding my bike on dirt roads with pot holes in the rainy season. Covered in dirt all the time. Only wearing clothes for one day because they were that dirty. Leaving my whole wardrobe behind cos it was that dirty.

Dogs barking all night.  Smelling dirty pigs while I sleep. Loneliness.

Fisherman walking past my room at night, sounding like they are in my house.

Children playing in my front yard when I come home from work – and then peering in my room to stare at the foreigner.

The Me

I have learnt so much about myself this year and I’ve seen some strengths in myself that I didn’t know I had. Patience has been the main one. Everyone living in Cambodia will tell you that. But its true. Patience, patience, patience. Things take time and things are always done differently, especially in the workplace. You need to be patient.

Adapting to change and new environments is something I’ve always been able to do but this took it to a new level and I think I handled it very well. My attitude is I look at a situation and just deal with it. I accept that this is the way that things are going to be, try not to worry and just deal with whatever it may be. I’ve learnt a lot of new skills during my assignment as well of course.

And so I sit here at Singapore Airport about to board my flight back to Adelaide. I’m really ready to get home. I have been for the last few months but needed to make sure I finished off everything before I left. I’m so excited to see my family and friends again and have so many great events coming up over the next few weeks. And then…find a job!

It really has been a life-changing experience. I have learnt so much about the world and myself. And I think that if I can handle ‘going rural’ for a year than I am doing pretty well at life.

I’m really glad I kept this blog. I would have liked to have updated it more regularly though. Anyway, thanks for reading! 

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And then disaster struck

A moto accident. *I feel the need to document my accident and so get ready for the details*

The Fall

It happened on a dirt road on the back streets of my village. My friend was driving and I was on the back. We were probably going a little too fast for the road but we hit some loose stones and started to sway. I could feel it coming. And down we went…

First thought – helmets still on. Thank gosh! First words- ‘Okay, this bike needs to come off me now!” Luckily I was wearing jeans at the time, which lessened the damage (only ended up with what looked like a diagram of the pacific islands across my right thigh). I quickly looked at the wound but that was the last time I could until after my first operation – some damage had sure been done. And then I felt the need to faint. Quickly grabbed some water.

Then we had to ride 10 minutes back to my house. OUCH…the pain of wind in the wounds. Luckily that area wasn’t too dusty and luckily we were both running on adrenalin. Two of our friends drove us home and the other two stayed with the damaged bike (that ended up costing $120 to fix).

The ‘Doctor’? 

We visited a doctor in my town. He was Khmer but didn’t speak English, however did speak French. I knew I learnt French for a reason! His first thing he wanted to do was put Betadine on the wound. “Really mate? We are bleeding all over your floor and betadine is the first thing you want to do??” I told him we needed to clean the wounds before we did anything…obviously. But he didn’t want a bar of it and decided to walk off. That’s right, he walked off while he had two bleeding patients in his ‘clinic’. We decided to buy some medical items and do the cleaning ourselves. The nurse then grabbed the items with her hands…without any gloves. wow.

A Disaster Zone

So off we went to my house to make good use of our medical kits. Luckily we had two to work with. We grabbed a big washing tub and filled it with a large jar of salt. The other invalid cleaned his wounds himself (and did a fantastic job of it…using alcohol on each of his wounds – which luckily for him resulted in no infections. He had two large deep holes in his elbow and one on his ankle, with grazes across his whole right side. He unfortunately had been wearing shorts during the accident.). I had a large wound on my hand and grazes down my arm. I got another friend to play doctor cos I couldn’t bear looking at anything. OUCH, OUCH, OUCH!!!! Alcohol to the wounds. I cannot describe the amount of pain that was. I screamed like a little baby – I probably caused ear damage to everyone in Sre Ambel. I would not let my friend go near putting alcohol in my open wound. No. Way. (this may have ensured no infection…but in hindsight….there was no way alcohol to that wound was ever an option).

A Very Long Taxi Ride

The accident happened in my town. 3 hours away from a ‘real’ doctor! All bandaged up and on the road we went. It all felt quite surreal at this point. However, we had some good chats and kept our spirits up.

The Cambodian Hospital Experience.

After cleaning my wounds up, I went straight into the operating theatre and had two local anaesthetics in each wound location. I ended up staying 3 nights in hospital here before they sent me home for 24 hours. The Cambodian hospital was quite lovely…a huge private room…flat screen tv and food delivered from The Shop…one of my favourite eateries in the Penh – I sure made the most of that!

And so I was sent home on the Wednesday and told to return the next day for a check up. It was nice to be out and about. I went back for my checkup and we realised that I could not move my fourth finger. It was clearly very infected and they were concerned that I had ruptured a tendon (which we later found was not true). My insurance company was determined to get me to Bangkok that night however my passport was at the Myanmar Embassy. And so I had to wait for the next day…

The Medivac

I was given a seat on the plane for myself, my arm and my friend. Three seats! Our flight was delayed an hour and a half, which was a bit of a pain. We arrived into Bangkok at midnight – rushed through the quick lane at customs and had an ambulance waiting for us outside. And scored flashing lights to the hospital… where the surgeon was waiting for me to go straight into surgery. X-rays and then general anaesthetic at 2 am.

The Bangkok Hospital Experience.

I spent 7 nights at the hospital in Bangkok and wow…what a hospital! I kept accidentally calling it ‘Hotel’ it was that good. Flat screen TV, air-conditioning, an amazing view of the Bangkok skyline, kitchen, big bathroom and two lovely nurses visiting me every hour. I was left with an open wound for 3 days before going in for another surgery under general to stitch it up again. In my first surgery they found sand particles. That’s right, sand particles that had been there from a week before. Great. I was constantly having antibiotics pumped into my arm and they kept moving so I had 13 injections by the end of my ordeal. I watched a never-ending amount of tv shows and was fortunate to have a number of friends living in Bangkok to visit me every day.

Making the Most of Thailand

Once my wounds had reasonably cleared up I was able to leave the hospital to go to a Hotel around the corner (i’d rate the hospital better though!). And then I hit the shops!! Good times. I had outpatient visits to the hospital every day before being declared ‘fit to fly’, however I decided to stay in Thailand and visit my Thai friend in her city 3 hours away from Bangkok. It was so great to visit somewhere in Thailand away from the overload of tourists and get to experience with someone from Thailand. The following weekend 3 of my dear friends from Cambodia came over to Bangkok to play. Muchos fun!

In Reflection

The whole incident came to a grand total of US$20,000…thank gosh for insurance! And I have been left with some not so good looking scars…that will pass over time. For now though…they will serve as a good story to tell! Myself and the driver are very lucky though to end up with only a couple of scars. It could have been much, much worse. I was given the best of care and am very grateful for having such good insurance.

Lessons Learned

Always have travel insurance. Don’t visit doctors in remote villages. Wear shoes and probably jeans when riding a moto. Don’t drive motos. Don’t ride motos. If you do, wear a helmet. Always. Your head is kind of a big deal. Bangkok shopping is the best. Good, supportive friends are priceless.

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Some awakenings

My live below the line experience for 2013 is nearly over. 1.5 days to go. It’s actually gone surprisingly fast. I did not think this would happen this year, being in a remote village in Cambodia, but I’ve put that down to 3 reasons:

1. No food distractions – if I was to do this in Australia, or another developed country, I might be tempted by all the food that is advertised around us (i guess this says something about how advertising works and I guess the rates of obesity in developed countries – we are constantly surrounded by food and it actually plays a huge role in our lives – often not for the better.)

2. I’ve had a very busy week – as I’m approaching the end of my time here I have hundreds of tasks to finish and have a lot of things on my mind and so i don’t have time to think about the hunger. However, for many people that are hungry they are hungry because they don’t have a job and so have the time to think about it.

3. Yoga – I have been doing yoga every morning and night, which has really helped with focussing my energy. I’m feeling much more calmed and relaxed because of it and am actually feeling quite rejuvenated from the experience.

A number of awakenings have risen over the last day or two:

1. I’m living off US $0.61 and have one meal a day consisting of a vegetable, an egg and rice and I feel that this is enough to keep me going, which makes me think, when I look around at the people of Cambodia, that many people must live on much, much less than the poverty line. I can feel my appetite shrinking and I think your body would begin to adjust to less meals and so I think living off the poverty line in Cambodia would’t be as bad as you would think. *believe it or not* Obviously, there are health risks associated with it and you wouldn’t be getting enough nutrients to grow. The tiredness begins to set in in the afternoon, which really makes you think about how children would struggle in school without food and how their parents would struggle at work. However, in terms of getting by – it actually seems doable.

2. I have been surprised by how amazed my colleagues have been with what I am doing. They have been comparing living below the line for 5 days to monks and nuns of Cambodia. The monks and nuns eat only two meals a day all before 12pm, which is making their commitment to Buddhism. I guess they see it as such a big thing for ‘westerners’ to think about the poor and actually choose to eat like the poor. I have found their reactions quite interesting.

3. It has made me think about what I eat and what I do not need to eat. I have been spending a lot of time with week investigating vegetarianism and am thinking of cutting back on my meat consumption. It seems there really is no need to eat all the meat that we do in the developed world – some interesting thoughts that have popped into my mind.

And so 1.5 days left and then back to reality. I think I will have learnt quite a bit from this experience and may make some significant changes to my own life because of it.

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Rats are testing my sanity

Rats, rats, rats. The worst rodents going around. Just the thought of their big teeth and whiskers makes me cringe.

Last night I woke at 5am to the sound of at least 2 rats inside my room. I could hear them nibbling away. I tried to ignore by taking out my earplugs and putting in my headphones to listen to music. Ignorance is the key. However, nothing could drown out the sound of them feasting. Then I remembered that I hadn’t hung my rubbish on the wall as I usually would. Big mistake.

I haven’t had to deal with rats for at least 7 months, however this week I think they’ve realised that Im leaving soon and so have decided to test me. And test me they are.

At 5:10am I turned the light on to ‘scare’ them away. However this was to no avail. I was sitting up in bed awake with the lights on and could hear them underneath my cupboard. One hour later they were still going but I just had to sleep so turned up the volume on my iPod and rested.

THEN…when I got home from work I was busy working on my computer sitting on the ground when I heard 2 rats fighting and then one ran out right in front of me!!! Hearing them is bad enough…but actually seeing their bodies. Scary and gross!!

And so before I jumped into bed tonight I have taken my rubbish downstairs, swept and mopped my floor and have tucked my mosquito net tight into my bed – only to discover rat bites in my mosquito net…right next to where my head rests!!!

No sleep for Carly tonight.

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Living below the line

This week I will be living below the line. I will live off US$0.61 each day (the national poverty line in Cambodia) to experience the hunger that so many of my neighbours in Cambodia face every single week of their lives. Living in a remote village I see the hunger that surrounds me, however I am fortunate to be able to afford 3 meals a day. Many people around the world cannot. I spend way too much money on the amazing food (and cheap cocktails!) that Cambodia has to offer, but thought I would take the time before i leave to think about how a large majority of the population lives here. It’s going to be a tough week (no coffee – ahh!) but it will be a learning experience. I hope you can also take a moment to think about those less fortunate than ourselves.

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2 months to go!

Only 2 months exactly till I get on a plane and fly out of here. 

Time sure has flown. 

I went home for Christmas and New Years, which was pretty amazing to see all the family and friends again. Too quick though. However, the best thing that came out of that (despite the tears at the airport) is that I now know that I am ready to go home. 

Being home made me really appreciate what we have in Australia and how lucky we are. I’m not sure if its being around the Cambodian culture with such an emphasis on family and community, being away from home in a challenging situation or if I’m getting older; but I when I was in Australia I was hit hard with realising how much I value my family back home. And so now, I know I’m ready to go home in March.

However, in the meantime I have so much to do! Finishing off all my tasks while I am here and mainly making sure that everything I have done can be sustainable – which will involve a lot of staff training.

I’ve also recently started working with a new NGO to assist them with fundraising – just to make my life more busier! I’ve set myself the task of raising a certain amount of money for them to open a training centre in the slum communities just outside of Phnom Penh. However, this I can continue working on back in Australia. 

I just spent an amazing weekend in Singapore for Laneway festival with a group of friends. Much, much fun – living the highlife on the 43rd floor of an amazing apartment with a friend in  banking. Ah…life choices. Why did I chose to work in development? No….I don’t need material goods..but seriously…who wouldn’t want to live in an apartment with 4 pools? 

The month of February will be filled with friends coming to visit my town. I put out the call to all my friends to come visit my town while I am here and I have quickly booked up 3 weekends of visitors. I look forward to showing everyone my little village and making the most of it while I am still here. 

My time will end with 2 weeks exploring Burma. One trip I have been wanting to do since I arrived. Cannot wait!

I know the next few weeks will just fly by but I plan on making the most of them and valuing every day I have left here.

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The Commune Chief and I – Part 1

In my time living in the provinces, I have had some interesting interactions with the authorities. Nothing bad don’t worry…in fact me in the Commune Chief are tight!

The first time I met the Commune Chief was actually in my living room…

It was the first week that Ben was in my town and he had been in the country for only 3 days. It was his birthday and I had just moved into my new house. Just before I was leaving from work the day before, my supervisor informed me that we HAD to have a party for his birthday and that we should definitely have it at my house so that it would be for my house-warming as well. What?!? A party. At my house? I had just moved in and Ben had just arrived in town and now you expect me to host a party?? I did my best to suggest the more appropriate, well-furbished ‘party/meeting room’ we had at work…but no he was not budging. The party would be tomorrow night at my house.

That night I cleaned up my house the best I could. In the morning I ran around with my colleagues buying all the necessary items that I clearly did not have as I had just moved in and was WELL underprepared. So we bought – cups, bowls, forks, spoons, a large sitting mat, washing bowls and other cleaning material. Additionally, we had to do all the shopping for food and of course the beer. We went to 4 different restaurants (for variety of course) and had them prepare the food to be collected later in the afternoon.

The party was to start at 4pm. By 3pm my house was filled with my colleagues taking over, trying to ‘clean-up’. Up went the LCD screen and large surround-sound speakers; down came my mosquito net and blankets and pillows from my bed. I should explain here that my house consists of 2 rooms – the kitchen/wardrobe and the living room/bedroom. So essentially the party was in my bedroom. Apparently the mosquito net and pillows were not appropriate for the event.  I had no choice – it was down in an instant. The bed remaining was okay.

At 3:30pm one of my collegues takes me by the hand to go ‘invite the neighbours’. Excuse me?!? How big is this party?? So there I went with my colleague knocking on all my neighbours doors inviting me to the party. I must admit it was a great opportunity to meet everyone on my street (including, dare I say it, all the loud, troublesome kids that scream every afternoon playing games in MY front yard. I guess they are a bit cute.)

AND THEN….I am told that the Commune Chief is coming. The Commune Chief! This guy runs this town and he’s coming to MY party!

And so by 4pm, I had about 30 people in my bedroom, sitting around a large mat, eating an array of delicious Cambodian food (that all my wonderful colleagues took over and had prepared) and drinking copious amounts of Angkor beer. One of my neighbours, who I had just met, chipped in and provided numerous utensils that I did not have – so nice!

Commune Chief

I had to quickly teach Ben how to formally address people and a couple of cultural tips. He was a quick learner but the whole ordeal was quite overwhelming for him I think – it was for me who had already been there for 3 months so I really don’t blame him!

I had to do an impromptu speech to thank everyone, which I decided to do in Khmer and judging by peoples reactions I don’t think I did too badly.

As the night went on and the beer was flowing – the karaoke began. The music was pumping from the loud speakers (possibly could be heard in Phnom Penh – 3 hours away) and the microphone was passed around. Everyone really got into it! And they all seem to have amazing voices! The Commune Chief, and his clerk who also joined the party (the more the merrier I gathered was the theme of the night) also gave it a good shot.

They kept asking me to sing but I was a little hesitant. The English music choices consisted of some 60s ballads such as Frank Sinatra, to 90s pop – such as Britney Spears ‘Lucky’ and ‘Stronger’. I finally guessed onto the fact that perhaps it would be polite of me..as the host…to pick up the mic. UH OH! My skills from choir in primary school were lost a very long time ago..and anyone who has had ‘the pleasure’ of listening to me sing…will know that i’m no Australian Idol contender. I was not given a choice of song and what did they choose?…

Bruno Mars’ ‘The Lazy Song’

Better known for the hit lyrics of: “Today I don’t feel like doing anything…I just wanna lay in my bed”

I rocked that living room like it was no-ones business. I forced myself through it. BUT I did it…and had the floor cheering and clapping like it was a hinley street d-floor. I even got the Commune Chief whipping out some moves!

The night ended with a big birthday cake they had prepared for Ben and everyone joining in singing Happy Birthday (the one English song that all Cambodians know the lyrics to).

Everyone left at 9 and we went straight to the balcony to sit and process what had just happened.

This built the foundations of my friendship with the Commune Chief – singing along to Bruno Mars in my living room.

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Normalization

It has been a while. A long while since I have written a blog post. One of the main reasons I have not written is that life here has become…well…normal.

When I first began writing this blog, every day seemed like a new adventure. Sure enough, I still experience something exciting all the time here but I guess it has become more of a regularity.

Sre Ambel feels like home now. I feel so comfortable in my wonderful home, people have become my very good friends, the streets and faces familiar and the town is really just like living anywhere else to me now. The everyday encounters don’t seem so exciting to blog about anymore.

This is obviously a positive thing though.

Every day I still tell myself how lucky I am to have the opportunity to have this amazing experience and every day I tell myself how lucky I am that everything has turned out so well for me.

And here are some of my favourite things that I love about living here:

I love my assignment and the tasks that I have been asked to do. I love my home. I love my street. I love chatting to my neighbours on my balcony. I love ordering coffee at my favourite coffee shop just to speak with the lovely family there. I love taking my clothes to the ‘dry cleaner’ and seeing her big smile every time I visit. I love visiting my favourite lady at the market who sells me my vegetables and the lady at the corner shop whose daughter lives in Melbourne. I love the bike ride home after work with the chorus of children yelling hello to me the whole way home. I love the beautiful sunsets over the river on my balcony. I love the free time. And most of all I love my colleagues for being so amazing and looking after me in every possible way.

In exactly 3 weeks I head back to Australia for Christmas. I have extended my assignment till March next year and so will return to Cambodia after 2 weeks away. I am extremely excited about getting home and seeing all my family and friends, however I know that when I return back to Cambodia I will also be coming back to my lovely little town that, despite my ups and downs over time, makes me very happy.

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Highlights

Wow. It has been a while! My excuse…way too busy doing too many exciting things! Fair enough excuse right? And now…I have to squeeze the last 2 months into one post!

Ben was here for 2 months and we had the most fabulous time. It was wonderful to be able to share my little world over here with him as well as to be able to explore the country together. And so I present to you now…the highlights:

1. Ben’s Welcome/Birthday Party, Sre Ambel. – hosted by yours truly – this definitely deserves a separate post!

2. Watching fireflies by boat at night, Chi Phat. One weekend a couple of my friends came to visit Sre Ambel – which was so great having visitors besides Ben. We headed to Chi Phat, which is an eco-tourism town about 40 mins away from my town. It was great to see how their project was working, however, it was a bit more touristy than we expected. We went on walks to the waterfalls and to a lookout, however the highlight for me was taking a boat tour at night time to see the fireflies on the trees alongside the waters edge. We had all never seen them before. They were so magical!! We felt like we were in a disney movie…and then named all the disney movies that make mention of fireflies!

3. Running out of Petrol on Bokor Mountain, Kampot. For Ben’s birthday we headed to Kampot for the weekend and stayed on floating bungalows on the river in Kampot…it was super lovely, especially the moonlight swim right out of our room! We hired a moto, which was great..until we decided to go up Bokor mountain. Stupidly thinking that the petrol gauge wasn’t working we only put in 1 litre (which is nothing) and rode up the 40km to the top of the mountain. Reached the peak and things just were not right. We thought to ask at the 5 star resort for petrol and they said ‘no petrol on mountain’. uh oh! so we asked one of the guards who told us we were completely empty. straight after being told ‘no petrol on mountain’. uh oh! the guard decided to drive down to another section to see if the sellers had some – they did! so he returned with a litre…enough to get us back to the sellers. hrrm. We were saved! We went back to the sellers…and then all the way back to the peak to see the old french colonial building on top, which was when the weather turned sour, so back down the mountain we go again. moral of the story – make sure you fill up your moto!

4. The Temples of Angkor, Siem Reap. Truly amazing and they speak for themselves. Highly recommended. I have heard so much about them in my time here and it was so great to finally see them for myself. Recommend not going in the rainy season as the sunrise over Angkor Wat was overcast but other than that we had a great 3 days exploring the temples.

5. Boating for 7 hours, Siem Reap to Battambang. We were recommended by a friend to take the boat from Siem Reap to Battambang. We took their advice and booked the ticket. The night before Ben thought it would be a great idea to check out about the boat online. uh oh! Ghastly stories of spending up to 11 hours on the boat, in the dark. Horror stories of being stuck in the dirt outside of the rainy season. Uh oh! After a bit of deliberation, we thought ahh why not…it’ll be an adventure. and an adventure it was. A long boat ride over the tonle sap lake and down the sangkae river, through floating villages, picking up locals on the way as well as random assortments of packages coming and going with little boats coming up to us to do the deals. We went through very tight paths between the mangroves with many spiders coming into our boat and we had to lean in as the trees would have wacked us for sure. It got a bit long towards the end, however a very worthwhile form of travel to Battambang. However, definitely worthwhile only going in the rainy season!

6.. Making friends on The Bamboo Train, Battambang. The Bamboo Train is a train…made out of bamboo. who would have thought. It is made from this material in order for it to be ultra-light to be removed in time before an oncoming regular train. No longer used by locals, it is the main tourist attraction in the town of Battambang. I really enjoyed the experience of bumping along the countryside at a pretty fast pace and having to get off twice to allow for other travels to go ahead – as we only had 3 on ours and everyone else had more – we were the ones that had to dismantle, however it was a bit of a laugh. My favourite part, however, was chatting with our driver along the way and hearing his life story, as well as the family who owned the shop at the turnaround point. It was pouring rain so we waited quite a while and we chatted away in Khmer. Some faces I’ll never forget. It makes you appreciate the experience and being able to learn the language to make simple tourist destinations that little bit more special.

7. Puncturing a tyre in our moto, a remote town near Battambang. Yet another moto incident. Not having much luck. We decided to hire another moto…this time filling it up with 3 litres. clever. We went to visit some temples on the outskirts of the city. We rode our moto up one hill where I met a monk who I’ve offered to assist with funding his organisation as well as where we saw a massive rain storm creeping its way towards us. That was like something i’ve never seen before – nature at its best. Luckily for us it made a de-tour around the hill we were on. We rode down the hill and wanted to take the ‘short-cut’ to the next temples. We got lost. Then finally found some stairs going up a hill that looked like what it was meant to be. We huffed and we puffed going up these many stairs…finally reached the top to discover we had climbed up the exact hill we had just been up…only from the other side! ridiculous! So down we went…AGAIN!

As it was getting late….about 4pm we decided to just head back to town. Just after leaving the temple, in the middle of nowhere, unsure of where we were, Ben noticed that the back tire was flat! uhhh ohhh!!!! Luckily there was a house just across from us so I went in and asked them for help – the guy pointed to the next house along and with his broken english and my broken khmer, we realised the other house could fix the moto! So there we were in the middle of nowhere, sitting by the side of the road while this old man in some old brown shorts, shirt removed, cigarette in mouth, takes off our tire and fixes it right there and then. It took some time but he got there – teaching his son in the mean time. We finally hit the tracks as it started getting dark to find that we were only a street back from the main road to Battambang.

8. Creating a video for my organisation, field trips around Kampong Som Bay. One of my outcomes for my assignment is to create a website for my organisation and we thought it would be great to make a short video clip for it. So as Ben has a lovely profesh camera and the skills to go with it….we went on numerous field trips with my team to visit our target areas. We met so many wonderful people along the way and got some great photos and video footage. stay tuned.

9. The Commune Chief’s 3 year old Grandson’s Birthday, Sre Ambel – again, this gets a separate post!

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Time to Reflect

Last week my boyfriend joined me in my remote village and its got me thinking.

I’ve been waiting for someone to come visit me for a long time in order to get another perspective on my living arrangements. Now that has come and it’s really making me ponder a lot about my situation.

As he is still experiencing those first impressions, I have come to be reminded of the lifestyle I have back home. I have been reminded about the annoyances of life here – such as: the dogs barking at night and other strange noises, the constant battle with insects, the need for continual cultural consciousness, the annoyance of week-long heavy rain followed by extreme heat and humidity, not having a fridge to keep things cold or to buy the foods I would usually, the preying of eyes on our lives, taking 1.5 hours to do the washing, never being clean and just how every little thing is somehow much more difficult than what it is back home.

Perhaps it’s just been a reality check that I need. He says that it just feels like a camping trip. For me it’s an 8 month long camping trip.

And perhaps up until now I’ve just done by upmost best to adapt to the situation – take it in my stride – and deal with it. Now I’ve started missing those comforts that I took for granted back home – a washing machine, a sink, a refrigerator, mosquito-free homes, lack of wild dogs (and cute dogs!), western toilets, clean houses, easy access to food products, stable internet connection, personal space and silence. And it makes me think about how much longer I have here…

Anyway, living here is what it is and that is what life is like (if not much worse) for the majority of the Khmer people and the majority of the population on earth. It makes you appreciate what we have back home and that we should never take things for granted. I should not let these things get me down and rather appreciate the opportunity to live like this for a just a little bit of my life, to experience the life of so many others.

**Let’s not forget here that I’m the westerner with an education, access to health and dental care and have been immunized, amongst other elements. These observations also only come from seeing this life through western eyes**

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