Sunday, December 11, 2011

Eastward Ho!

It's been a very busy week!  Not only is it end of year tests for the students, but I am also house-hunting.  I am never one for addressing one problem when I can take on two.  Now that I have been here a few months I realise I was paying far too much for my apartment.  However, I have a little time to write, as I sit here in Java having a leisurely Sunday breakfast.  The Java cafe near the Independence Monument has the loveliest balcony over-looking the park and the Prime Minister's house.  This morning there's a cool breeze and I feel positively chilly - I've definitely acclimatised.  The weather is perfect at the moment, and the breezy, slightly chilly mornings remind me of summers beside the sea as a child.  The sun is shining but I still have goosebumps.  Westward Ho!  and all that, except here it is Eastward Ho!

There was a total lunar eclipse last night, which was very beautiful.  On my walk to the bar the Khmer I passed just grinned at me and pointed to the sky, to which I beamed back and nodded.  The moon was salmon pink for about an hour in Phnom Penh.  It might have been bright red but for the light pollution.  The pagan in me was very excited.  I think it may have been an auspicious sign, as my day was pretty good.

One of my colleagues has left for a couple of months, so she had a leaving party.  It was a good mixture of Khmer and Westerners, and we ordered a beer tower to get the party started.  I wasn't that drunk, but pleasantly tiddly which is not good on a school night!.  We persuaded the Khmer to join us at Memphis to watch a band.  Our admin manager is a big flirt and is a lovely fella, but like all Khmer a little traditional.  It probably wasn't the best idea to jump up and down singing along to a cover of Rage Against the Machine's 'Killing in the Name of'.  Singing 'F*** you I won't do what you tell me' in front of the boss is never a good career move!  I think it might have been something to do with the full moon, but every man in the place appeared to be attractive.  Amber said I was wearing beer goggles, but I think that they were all just incredibly tall, and it was a combination of foreshortening and the dim lighting.

Last weekend it was the Phnom Penh bike hash again.  We cycled through some gorgeous countryside out in the sticks.  The trail was a little tricky to follow as the locals thought that the hares were marking the properties that would lose land due to the construction of a major road, they obliterated all of the paint.  But most of us made it back to the start, though we did lose Armpit on the way home.  He is the one who usually leads the singing but Leaking Duck made a fine replacement.  The food was very good and this time we didn't get caught in the rain.  The next day I went further into the Cambodian countryside on a day out to Kirirom National Park.  Inevitably the bus broke down and we were stuck on a road in the middle of nowhere for two hours.  Fortunately someone found a little place that sold coldish beer and we sat there waiting for the replacement bus.  We didn't get long in Kirirom, which is a shame as it looks like a beautiful place.  The bus journey back was played out to a soundtrack of 60's rock music and we all sang 'American Pie' as we crawled down Kampuchea Krom in the Sunday night traffic.  

I often watch the tourists wizzing through Phnom Penh traffic on motorbikes, or on the back of motorbikes, who aren't wearing helmets and wonder where they think they are.  I used to think it was confident, relaxed ex-pats that do it, but now I know better.  We know the dangers and we wear a helmet.  Do the tourists on their gap year assume that their skull transforms into granite the minute they hit South East Asia?  Two of the guys I work with have had accidents in the past two weeks, and I have witnessed 2 more.  The second of my colleagues has broken his collar-bone and has had to fly to Bangkok to get fixed up.  There are a lot of charming things about Cambodia, and it is a wonderful place to live.  It's not a good place to be if you get injured though.  There are no decent hospitals here, and if you end up in accident and emergency with anything other than a broken bone, you've pretty much had it.  If you come to Cambodia, get good medical insurance and wear a helmet.  You don't look cool without one, you just look like a potential corpse.

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