Saturday, January 8, 2011

Bob's Trip to Cambodia (January 7 and 8th)

Thursday January 7th Siem Reap Cambodia…

Hello America and all my loyal readers!!

Arrived on-time Thursday evening at Siem Reap… I always forget how looong the flight is!!! Probably a good thing or no one would ever make the trip. Nice and warm… tropical evenings have a certain charm that is missing from January nights in New England.

Now if only my luggage catches up with me…  I do hate doing laundry every morning in the shower!!

Shadow of Angkor II is a small guesthouse across the river… very Cambodian… dusty street, locals hanging out. No door on the lobby… so no A/Con the ground floor. Rooms are clean and comfortably big but pretty spare… not the Soma Devi. I think I’m going to enjoy it though… after I get some shampoo and a bar of soap bigger than my toenail!! Like I said very Cambodian.

I woke to the preparations for a wedding gathering. On the street next to the guesthouse outside my window there were about 120 chairs lined up in 5 rows… three facing two. Each was covered in the traditional gold cloth and women dressed in their best festive outfits were placing elaborately packaged gifts on each chair. Guests, mostly women, again beautifully dressed began to show up and be ushered to their seats. The guests were like an elaborate floral bouquet of glittering blossoms. The men on the other hand were standard dark trousers and blah white short-sleeved shirts… could have stayed home!!

At about 0730 the cymbals clanged the tro played and the small musical group lead the wedding party away.  Seems early but it is still quite pleasant so probably a wise time to parade in finery while the mid day heat gathers itself for the daily human barbeque. After consulting my Khmer culture advisor I learned that they were processing to the brides home with gifts from the groom’s family and the wedding would likely be conducted tonight.

Your daily SR correspondent is starting his day at the streetscape window of the café at Hotel de la Pax… best morning coffee and croissants in SR! Here on Sivath Blvd the town stirs and comes to life.

The day was spent engaging in critical discussions about the future of Water for Cambodia, the roles each is and may play in the future. Communications, how to improve communications and communications again as well as the roles of key staff dominated the morning’s time. In the afternoon we continued to explore the plans for the new organization that has risen from out of our new certification. We also set a basic agenda for next week… as usual it filled up pretty quickly… much field time planned!! I sure hope the cooler clothes get here!!

Saturday January 8th SRC

I was delighted to have a midnight visitor… no Santa has come and gone but this sprite was equally welcome for she brought my luggage!! Except for this brief but happy intrusion, I slept especially well… thanks to Dr. VH. Saturday dawned with a gently and comforting breeze heralding a very pleasant low humidity tropical day… this is what snowbirds dream of!! This Yankee is hoping for a long string of warm dry days.

Today I decided to forego another temple climb for exploring more of Siem Reap. Nearby I found the SR campus of PUC (Pannasastra), which seems to be pretty much devoted to teaching English. A prominent notice at the entrance welcomed the visiting contingent from BSU… Go Kevin!! Around the corner I spied a very long ceremonial canoe in a private yard… the owner was nearby and told me it was used for festivals… fun races and is usually manned by 22 paddlers.  This is reminiscent of pictures we’ve seen of ancient Khmer kings in their war canoes. I also explored the grounds of Wat Prak Va the site of a very serene temple grounds, really interesting and decorative stupas and a well regarded elementary school. A young Korean woman here volunteering with children told me is enrolls about 500 students and is recognized as a high quality alternative to other local education. Lots of happy students running about… it was dismissal time for the AM session. Wats like this and others I have visited are a real treat… serenity, beauty and a sense of connection with the history of Cambodia and Buddhism… not to be missed.

I have seen lots of neighborhoods that are new to me today… real untainted by the tourist invasion but unfortunately not advantaged either. It provides a good grounding and contrast to what continues to happen in the old market and along Sivath and National Road 6. Of course this clearly stamps me with the mark of a hypocrite as I interrupted my trek with a rest stop at the Blue Pumpkin for an air conditioned date with a vanilla and banana shake… probably unknown to the Khmer kings of past eras… my gain is their loss!!

Later in the afternoon I had the opportunity to see Riki play soccer and spend some time with Jon, Mieko and a part of their adopted family visiting from PP.  I am overwhelmed by the influence and heart of these two that I have the privilege of calling my friends. The soccer “stars” were still at the “swarm after the ball” stage but the “soul” was definitely in it… at the end Riki was tending goal and made a great save!! No one was keeping score so the kids decided it must have been a tie… I’m certain they were right!! We then went to another J&M favorite… Mr. Grill Restaurant for an excellent meal, good cold Anchor and lots of laughs. I had a chance to finally meet another adopted “son” the miracle working Reachsay. For the uninitiated he is the guy that gets customs done… here that takes miracles on a daily basis. We have been e-mail acquaintances for years so it was good to finally meet.

Kevin, Beth and their charges also arrived from PP today so we are now all in place at last.


  1. 10 inches of snow in rhode island...100 degrees there...wish i was there