Saturday, February 25, 2012

Highlights Package

Every day this week I have ventured further afield, whether intentionally or through getting lost.  It's been fun and everyday brings new experiences and discoveries.  Some of the week's happenings:

  • I have sat in many coffee shops and restaurants, sometimes to eat out, sometimes as an escape from the heat.  I sampled a Khmer salad with some familiar ingredients (chicken, pineapple, basil, chili) and some unidentifiable, yet delicious ones. 
  • I have graduated from catching tuk-tuks to catching motos and find it quite exhilarating riding around on the back of a scooter. 
  • The Russian market was ventured into and the silks, scarves, DVD's, ceramics etc on display are quite thrilling.
  • I narrowed down my job options to it's just to decide which one.
  • I went to look at the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda.. Accidentally missed seeing the Palace by going through a one way exit but managed to at least see some temples and the Pagoda.  besides the stunning architecture, elaborate embellishments and exquisitely maintained gardens, the highlight was the old man sleepily plucking his chin hairs in a corner of the temple.
  • Sitting down in for coffee (in an air conditioned cafe) I was joined by a Vietnamese woman named Thy Da who proceeded to have a rather stilted but very sweet conversation with me.
  • The kindest, loveliest girls who've welcomed me into their home and their friendship group.
  • Watched Safe House at the newly built Legends cinema.. woohoo Cape Town and Ryan Reynolds speaking Afrikaans, "√čk's 'n polisieman!" was my best.
  • Celebrating International Margerita Day.
  • Planning weekends away to beautiful beach's.
  • I meandered along Sisowath Quay and discovered some great second hand bookstores and scenic photographic opportunities.
A few pictures:)
View from where I'm staying

Sisowath Quay

Saffron Robe

Is this Riel for real?

Market/shop finds


    What is this wat? (Sorry, couldn't resist)
  • Sitting in a tuk-tuk looking for a tuk-tuk.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Getting stuck in a lift is not so bad...

After a comparatively short wait in Bangkok, during which I finally tasted Starbucks coffee and hoped no one would put drugs in my backpack (I saw what happened in Brokedown Palace), I boarded the plane for the 1 hour flight to Phnom Penh.  I was in an aisle seat so had to crane my neck past the old man sitting at the widow to get a glimpse of Cambodia.  Some dry ground, a few scrubby bushes and a long dirt road bearing a lone cyclist was all I could see from 3 seats away so I impatiently sat  back and waited to land.

The customs officials were scary and didn’t seem to like my request for a business visa.  I realised the following day that they had given me a tourist visa instead but that hopefully wont be too difficult to sort out.  I found Dan waiting for me outside and after an introduction we set off for her house in a tuk-tuk.  Tuk-tuks are not very fast so it was a good way to see a bit of the city.  My first impression was that Phnom Penh is big and noisy and full of smells, some good and some not so good:)  Dan and her housemates stay in a lovely, spacious flat with 360 degree views of the city.  The combination of very little sleep and the realisation that I was in my new home for the foreseeable future meant I was a little wobbly.  This is no 2 week holiday.  I really appreciated how welcoming everyone was though, it helped my nerves considerably.

The following day, Tuesday, I decided to venture out on my own.  Feeling terrified I nevertheless gathered my resources and stepped outside.  I got into the lift, pressed the ground floor button and waited... and waited... and waited.  I pressed a few more buttons and the lights went dark.  I didn’t have airtime to call anyone so I stood there in the stuffy darkness for a few moments.  Thankfully the door opened when I pressed the open button.  After 2 more similarly fruitless attempts I went back inside.  Later that day I managed to get out and set off in the direction of the Russian Market.  Unsurprisingly perhaps I got lost and finally wondered back home, determined to try again the next day. Ooh I nearly forgot, on the way home I found a stationary store and my heart soared.  Great journals, notebooks and pens adorned with creatively used English makes me happy.

It would probably take over 387 days to eat your way through all the eateries here and that night I sampled my first one, a place called Chinese Noodles.  While the decor leaves much (everything) to be desired, $2 will get you an amazingly tasty plate of noodles and tea.   

All in all my first day was a little less intrepid than I’d hoped but my brief foray into the streets made me feel a little more confident than before.  Onwards!

As an aside, apologies for the lack of photos, don't have a camera yet but hopefully soon.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

On my decision to move to Cambodia

I wrote an email recently talking a bit about my decision to move to Cambodia:

My arrival in Cambodia is a culmination and a beginning. A culmination of years of dreaming and planning, and the beginning of finding my way in my new home.

A few years ago, around the middle of 2008, I read a book called “The Road of Lost Innocence.” It is an autobiography of a young Cambodian woman married off as a teenager, sold into sex slavery, forced into prostitution and eventually helped to escape. She later went back to Cambodia to start up 2 organisations (AFESIP and The Somaly Mam Foundation) that rescue and rehabilitate children and women trapped in slavery. She has done this at great cost to herself and her family. Up until this point I’d been developing an interest in development and poverty but my interest was broad and a little vague. You know when you’re about to take a photo and you hold the button down halfway and the picture blurs and then finds its focus? That’s what happened to me. This story caused an internal focus, an aha moment where I realised this was what I wanted to give my life to, the pursuit of securing freedom for others. The more I read on modern day slavery and human trafficking, the more compassion for those trapped welled up in me. I felt my heart breaking for the many women, who through coercion or desperation sell their bodies and souls to survive. The numbers are staggering, an estimated 27 million people in slavery worldwide, and yet God hears the cry of every single one of these people. He hears their cry and is acting on their behalf, turning our ears to hear what he hears, breaking our hearts over what breaks His. He is raising up modern day abolitionists all over the globe who will not rest until His Kingdom has come. This is an issue the church is increasingly vocal about and I have been greatly encouraged to find many churches and Christian organisations involved in very effective anti-trafficking work.

The first question most people ask me is, why Cambodia? Another one that’s come up is,”why go there when trafficking is a problem here too?” Cambodia is a nation that grips my soul in a way I struggle to articulate. Having never been there nor ever meeting a Cambodian, I cannot say why exactly that is but I’ve known for years that I wanted to not just visit but experience living in the country. Whilst trafficking is a worldwide problem, including in South Africa, for a number of reasons I think that it is more concentrated in Cambodia and that there is a lot more being done to help the victims there. I am new to this and have no experience in this field and so I’m really hoping that my time in Cambodia will be an opportunity to learn and grow. I have looked at a number of organizations and so once I arrive I’ll set about finding one to volunteer with and where I can hopefully get some mentoring, perhaps in time do an internship. Another reason I’m going is that I want to travel and have an adventure I’m going on faith, trusting that God is calling me and it’ll become a lot clearer once I arrive.

I think that we hold the romance and the reality of what we feel passionately about in tension. Currently I am heavily on the romance side but soon will immerse myself in the reality and I hope that in doing so, the questions I have about what exactly my role will be there will be made clearer. That said, I hope to never lose the romance.

The deciding factor in going to Cambodia has been the great sense of peace I've had about the move, as well as the number of doors God has opened since I started planning to go. In May last year, my mom got lost in a car parking lot and while trying to find her car, she bumped into a girl who used to live in Harding. The girl asked her what I was doing and on hearing my plan to move to Cambodia this year, she suggested I contact friends of hers, a South African family living in Phnom Penh. I soon did that and since then the van Rooyen family have been the most incredible blessing to me. They have answered my questions, told me about job opportunities, looked at a potential house for me, encouraged me and are hosting me until I find my own place.

I’m going out a little trepidatious (as of now, that is a real word) and a lot excited.  I feel very loved, from hugs to sms’s to finances to prayers to encouragement to phone calls to excitement on my behalf, I have felt incredibly loved and supported. My words don’t do justice to the depth of gratitude I feel.

Kind strangers and frappucinos

Last Saturday, I set off with my family to Durban to have a farewell lunch with my aunts and uncles.  I ate a healthy amount of biltong to make up for the upcoming deprivation and to my great pride checked in online.  Every day of last week I woke up feeling very anxious about leaving and wondered if I was doing the right thing.  On Saturday morning however, all anxiety was gone and there was only peace.

My good friend Claire joined us at the airport which was such a treat.  After a sad farewell I was through the security check and waiting to board.  to my great relief I sat next to a very kind Grandpa who helped me stow my very heavy hand luggage (yes I really did have to take all those books with me:).  In between his viewing of Happy Feet 2 and mine of Susan Boyle's documentary (very inspiring) he asked me questions about myself and gave me handy tips for travelling.

As a chronic avoider of asking strangers for help I had decided that it was a good time to start asking for help.  Dubai airport gave me plenty of opportunites!  5 minutes after arrival I had asked 2 airport staff who had neither understood me nor I them.  Changing tack I approached the first fellow traveller I saw and he became my first ever airport buddy.  He turned out to be a South African and was also a bit confused so we set off to find our way together (literally haha).  Seeing as we both had long layovers and no friends we had coffee together and then spent a fair portion of the morning escaping the heat in a lovely, quiet air conditioned lounge.  After lunch, during which I met some more South Africans, my airport buddy left.  So began quest stay awake. Over the next few hours I emailed, ordered a Starbucks frappucino with caramel and to my great consternation discovered it was a cold drink, stubbed my toe, thought I saw a man taking my photo out the corner of my eye (although it was in a crowded restaurant so can't be sure), showered (did wonders for my self esteem), had dinner at an Irish pub and revelled in the countless accents all around me.

Eventually I boarded the plane at 1130ish for Bangkok, relieved to still be on track and with all my luggage and person intact.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Adventure awaits!

Tomorrow I set sail, or rather jet off, to Cambodia, with stops in Dubai and Bangkok.  For a small town girl who's never been overseas this is all a bit much to take in.  I'm embarking on the adventure of my dreams and will be documenting the sights, sounds and experiences along the way.  Join me!

Icing within a biscuit within a biscuit…

So I've started a blog, the pages of which will hopefully be filled with daring adventures, humour and fun.  For now though, here is something I did a few weeks ago:

Mike, Claire and I made Inception cookies. While mixing the ingredients we also engaged in the following activities:
Excitedly exclaiming how excited we were, scoffing cookie dough, spilling flour, laughing, documenting the stages.
We used wafers and Oreos but as far as I can tell you can pretty much use any type of biscuit.
I wonder what they would taste like with Zoo biscuits…

Here’s a link to the recipe if you’re interested in making them yourself: