A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about pub street

A guide to making the most of prayer time...

...it's pretty indie...

semi-overcast 27 °C

So have totally worked out how to combat 4.30am prayer time – don’t come home until after they start…then you’re already awake! Ok so I feel the stage that I reached in Siem Reap when I can start using names in my blog… Talia, one of the NZ girls on this trip (apparently New Zealanders flock to me over here!) who stays at my kos and also works at the Post, is a very light sleeper and constantly woken up by the prayers at 4.30 every morning. No joke, she can tell whether it’s Jim or Bob rostered on for the 4.30 shift each day by the tone of their warbling. Sometimes they even work in a bit of a harmony/competition with their neighbouring mosque to see who can be the loudest. Anyway, we got home at around said prayer time Saturday morning and were banging on the gate of our kos saying “malam, malam!” (“good evening” – It sounds weird in English, but that is the appropriate evening greeting), before we realized that possibly we world get a better response if we said “pagi, pagi!” (good morning), and then the prayers started up and Talia yells “haha I beat you, I’m already awake!” Hilarious.

As a side note, we read an article when we first here about an American man here in Ramadan last year, when the prayers are super loud, who unplugged one of the mosques loud speakers and got jailed for five months. Talia was very glad she read that early on…

Anyway, this weekend is a long weekend in Jakarta because of Chinese New Year, which I find very interesting that it’s a public holiday here and not at home, when we are supposed to be more accepting of other cultures and religions and what not. However similar to at home, being a long weekend it is quite expensive to go away, and also being a ‘journalist’, you do not have regular working hours, so a bunch of us spent the weekend hanging in Jaks.

On Saturday I went to the Monas, which is the national monument and also Jakarta’s main (and pretty much only) tourist attraction. However, unfortunately for Jakarta, it is nicknamed by the locals “Suharto’s last erection”. Awesome. Pretty much it’s just a big statue/tower thing in the middle of this park which is quite nice (the park I mean). You can go up the tower and view the metropolis that is Jakarta, but somehow I think that Jakarta is not really worth the three-hour wait in the queue. However, I think the Monas might be known as a ‘tourist attraction’ as locals just go there to hang out and get photos taken with us whiteys. No joke, we have so many photos taken of us…what do they do with them, put them on Facebook? Even just wandering down the street our kos is on, all the locals say “hello” as they are following us with their camera phones. I mean seriously? We’ve been here for three weeks now, surely they’re over it! Anyway, at the Monas people just yell out at you “Mister, Mister” (everyone is ‘Mister’ here apparently) and ask to take your photos. Ella who I was with (she’s from Tassie, but it’s ok, she’s still pretty cool…) would say to them “No…Mrs…”, and they would look back at her oddly and say “No…Mister…photo?” Haha.

So Saturday night we went to I guess what you would call a club, Red Square, and it was first time we’d actually been clubbing in Jakarta. By Jakartan standards I’d say it was quite small and relatively tame, but it was the closest I’ve seen anywhere I’ve been so far to Pub Street…there was like this runway thing to dance on, and they played the classics such as “We No Speak Americano” and like all of Rihanna’s back catalogue. Although no buckets…poor form.

One minor glitch from Saturday night was that my camera got stolen. No biggie really though, as it turns out getting a police report in Jakarta is even easier than in Siem Reap! Not that it was hard in Siem Reap, but it shocked me at how easy it was here! Maybe just because I could only speak “sedikit sedikit” Bahasa Indonesia (very little!) so they couldn’t be bothered to question me about it. Although apparently my religion is vital fact required when filing a police report. I said Christian. Apparently ‘Atheist’ (or ever ‘Jew’) doesn’t go down that well here…not that I really look like a Jew…just thought that was an interesting fact.

It was nice not having to rush around and sightsee on the weekend as it meant we could have a lazy Sunday. No Gossip Girl, but we did manage to find real Western brunch. Unbelievable. It turns out that Jakarta is just a city of malls. Like at first you may think most of them are trashy ones with a few high-end one’s in between, but no, there are as many posh ones as there are un-posh. And obviously I belong in (and can afford – not) the posh ones! But the one we went to yesterday, Pacific Place, had a massive dragon for Chinese New Year that stretched from the top to the bottom floor (maybe 6 or 7 floors?), and then the level we were on had a lake with boats on it and a lighthouse…crazy! The place we had dinner was so cute too – like kitsch, Asian cute – but amazing! It was called ‘Nanny’s’ and made into what I assume was meant to be your Grandma’s home. So we ate in a shower, but there were sinks and what not scattered all around…very bizarre.

Last night we went to a gig at the Jaya Pub, which according to someone on Google is the “worst place in Jakarta” but actually it was so cool. Plus, calling it the worst place in Jakarta made me want to go there more! All these Indonesian bands played, but each one of them was a different genre…you know the usual…Indonesian Irish folk rock, Indonesian power ballads…and a band that were basically like the Indonesian version of The Presets, except cooler if that’s even possible (The Presets are pretty cool…) as they wore sunnies that lit up and made noise. No expenses spared.

So yes, that’s been the weekend…but I guess I should actually mention something as to the real reason why I’m here. I’m struggling a bit to remember I’m here for work experience and learning – so much fun to be had! But actually I am really lucky with my placement. I’m loving it at the sports desk and despite the fact that the team there is so small – two reporters and one editor – they look after me really well and give me cool stuff to work on.

On Tuesday, my first real day of work, I went to a amateur golf tournament which is run by six-time major winner Nick Faldo’s charity. It’s a tournament series run all throughout Asia and Europe with the aim of making it easier for up-and-coming golfers to make it onto the tour. So I got to interview of the CEO of Nick Faldo’s organization, and the head of the committee for the Indonesian event, who is this guy called Rudy Hartono, and apparently is an Indonesian sporting legend! He used to play badminton and won the All-England Championships (equivalent to World Championships back then apparently) and won it seven times, six consecutively. My editor who went with me that day didn’t know he was going to be there so he was so stoked! We had photos taken with him and everything.

Then on Wednesday I went to a press conference with another one of the other reporters, Niken, which was about the National Games, pretty much the Indonesian version of the Olympics. It’s held every four years and like Aussie kids grow up dreaming of winning the Olympics, Indonesian kids grow up dreaming of winning PON (the National Games). However, as with everything in Indonesia, it was running super late, so we all just sat in the foyer outside the lift. People were very amused that I was there, and were taking photos of me and interviewing me…I think I was also on Indonesian TV that night saying that I though Barca was going to beat Real Madrid 1-0 – they care a lot about the Spanish soccer here since they won the world cup apparently. That particular press conference was all in Bahasa so I only picked up a few words such as ‘teman’ (friend) and ‘teman-teman’ (friends)…but it was an interesting experience.

Oh and there was a letter from FIFA being passed around that day, to the Indonesian Football Association, as they are in all sorts of strife. Everyone was taking photos of it so they could take it home and make it into a story, which was pretty cool.

On Thursday night I went to a press conference about this Indonesian group that are climbing the Seven Summits, which I found fascinating seeing really, you don’t associate the words ‘Indonesian’ and ‘mountaineering’. But they were a full on professional outfit, with only one peak remaining – Everest. The press conference was all in Bahasa again, but I got to interview the chief climber afterwards, who spoke very good broken English. I got a good feature out of it though – it even made the caption for the sport section under the title on Saturday’s paper.

http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2012/01/21/mountain-climbing-next-stop-everest.html

Then on Friday I had the true journalistic experience of working from home – lucky I have a Mac now so I can compete the SATC cliché right?! I wrote up my mountaineering article in the morning, went for an interview with a guy at lunchtime, and then went back home to write up the article. The guy I spoke to was really cool. Greg Wilson was an elite Australian weightlifter, won bronze and silver medals at Worlds’ back in the 80s, then became a sporting academic, and now in between coaching Indonesian athletes in strength and conditioning, works with the Indonesian Olympic Committee. So we were talking all about the differences between sport in developing versus developed countries, using Indonesia and Australia as the case studies, and about why Indonesian athletes have little to no motivation to compete well on an international scale. Basically they get paid millions of rupiah when they win at a national or regional level, and at the Olympics they are not going to win anything, hence get no money, so why would they try harder? I know – unbelievable. Also, apparently they are incredibly good at blue ribbon events such as dragon-boat racing and wall running – both which are unfortunately yet to fit into the Olympic schedule.

So this Greg Wilson guy that I interviewed invited me to another press conference tomorrow about women in sport and so hopefully I will get an opportunity to get some more sources for my big feature that will compare sport in developing versus developed countries. Anyway, I better go – I’ve got an hour and ten minutes of interview material to transcribe, which I swear takes about three times the length of the actual interview. And also I am lagging a bit after the long weekend…it’s been a good month since my Siem Reap days now, I’m out of practice ☺

Posted by ljmac2 06:58 Archived in Indonesia Tagged people parties night jakarta indonesia siem_reap sport english bars islam pub_street jakarta_post nick_faldo rudy_hartono seven_summits Comments (0)

Catch Cambodia...

...until next time "you say goodbye, and I say hello"

semi-overcast 26 °C

First of all, apologies on my slackness on writing my blog the past week. I have had a few queries about when my next blog entry is going to be, but with last week being my last week at school, in Siem Reap and even in Cambodia, it was very busy with ‘lasts’. Literally we had a schedule for where we were going to eat every night so we had time to say goodbye to everyone…or more to the point say ‘catch’ until next year - hopefully ☺

Secondly, it is with extremely mixed feelings that I tell you I am writing the first blog entry of this trip not from Cambodia. Currently I am in my comparatively luxurious and cleanly hotel room in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, formally known as Saigon. It’s funny because when I left home I was so excited about this part of my trip having never been to Vietnam before, but now having to leave school and all the amazing friends I have made, not to mention just the awesome lifestyle that there is in Siem Reap, it’s devastating. I feel bad for Mum (she is here now as well in case you missed that memo) – I think she feels a bit like bad cop, as if she’s coming and dragging me away from it all. But I guess the best thing about feeling like this about leaving everything behind is that I have had more fun over the past two months than I ever thought was possible, particularly with where I was at when I left home, so that’s pretty awesome ☺ And besides, it’s just catch until next time right?!

Anyway, let me think, what has been happening since last time I wrote my blog…there’s been so much I don’t even know where to start or where to end so things are going to be a bit all over the place…

Well last weekend Courtnay and I went to Battambang for the weekend as there was a music festival called the Friendship Festival on there, which is half Khmer acts and half Western DJs, one of whom was a guy we know from when we went to Sihanoukville. It was a pretty interesting weekend to say the least! It started off with Courtnay walking into our room at home from being out, just as the 6am alarm was going off to remind us that for some reason we booked the 7am bus! That turned out to be a joyous ride filled with ice-cold air conditioning and blaring Khmer karaoke music that I could still hear when I had my iPod up full blast. Seriously, the Khmer people were not singing along and I definitely didn’t know the words – was it completely necessary?!

So I went to Battambang the last time I was here and did the whole boat trip and everything so I knew what to expect, but Battambang is definitely no Siem Reap. We literally could not find a bucket in sight all weekend, not even at the festival! It’s definitely not your party town kind of place, it’s like walking in a ghost town at night, there isn’t even that many restaurants to choose from and they all close at 10 or 11! However, the ‘sightseeing’ as you would call it around Battambang is really cool. There’s the Bamboo Train, which I’m still not entirely sure if it is called that because it is made from bamboo or because they used to use it to transport bamboo, but anyway it’s on this single railway line that you ride along through the rice fields, and then when you meet a train coming in the opposite direction, one of the trains gets dismantled so the other can continue on it’s way. Anyway, they take you up to the first ‘stop’, which is where there’s an old lady selling drinks and a bunch of kids very eager to show you around the brick making factory, for want of a better word, which was actually really cool.

After the Bamboo Train we went to a Cambodian winery, which compared to what we know as a winery, was hilarious, seeing there are four rows of grapes in someone’s backyard. There was actually only one kind of wine to taste though, but there was a horrifically strong brandy. Neither of us could drink ours so we gave it to the tuk tuk driver and even he struggled! He did finish it though – not one to turn down a free drink I suspect! Luckily for him we had to cut through this back road to get to our next destination, which was actually one of the coolest parts of the day. In Battambang especially, they are not shy on commenting on how much they love your white skin, and along this road I don’t think they’ve seen some barangs for a while, as the kids were running out of their houses and people were taking a break from their work at the rice fields just to get a look of us!

Our next destination was the Killing Cave, which as it’s name suggests, was used by the Khmer Rouge for many of the atrocities that occurred during that time. Similar to the Khmer Rouge stuff you see in Phnom Penh, there are monuments filled with the victims’ skulls and bones and whatever else they have found at the sight. Again, unfortunately I am not sure whether this came about before or after the war, but it is also a holy site up there so there is lots of blessings and Buddahs going on up there as well.

Anyway as for the festival, the main reason why we went to Battambang, it was pretty funny. The Khmer part in particular was packed. There was this guy there who must have been Cambodia’s answer to Michael Buble, as whenever his name was mentioned the crowd just went nuts. It was a pity they didn’t speak a bit more English though, as the MCs kept pointing to the moon and stuff all night and we were just like “why are they so obsessed with this moon?” But it turns out it was because there was a lunar eclipse that night we found out the next day – a tad awkward that we didn’t spot that one…

So once we got back to Siem Reap we were thrilled to hear that on the Saturday night we were away, pretty much none of our friends were out – that’s right, we are the high season! However, it did leave some pretty big expectations for our last week, which means that between the emotions of leaving school and everyone in Siem Reap, and going out, and packing and doing whatever jobs you have to do when you’re leaving somewhere after being there for two months, right now my eyes are practically hanging out of my head I am so tired! Totally worth it though, every single minute of it ☺

So my last week at school was thrown out of whack a little bit, as a group of ten new volunteers rocked up on Tuesday morning. They are on a 10-day tour kind of thing of Siem Reap, which includes going to school at ABCs and Rice because Jenny and Gary who organized the trip, have volunteered at ABCs before. Because it went from there being one volunteer at school (me!) to 10, we had a different schedule all week where each of the new volunteers ran different activities. It culminated on Friday, which was kind of cool seeing it was my last day, when they brought all this fruit to school as well as bottled water and even fairy bread (the kids had never had fairy bread before, it was so funny to watch them eat it and not be able to deal with the sprinkles!). Courtnay came into school as well on Friday to surprise her kids, which was so cool, and also good for me because I had someone to help me initiate our regular Friday dance party!

It was a fantastic, yet very hard day. I got bombarded with the usual mass of cards that all the classes make for volunteers when they leave, and some of the kids even bought me presents, which I feel so bad about, but it’s also so special. One of the teachers had asked me the day before what my favourite number was, and I said seven, so she gave me a jar of these tiny little stars they fold out of paper here and call ‘lucky stars’, and she said she made 70 for me because I said seven was my lucky number – so cute! At the end of the day for each class they all lined up and we sang ‘Hello, Goodbye’ by the Beatles, basically ABCs theme song, and they were also incredibly keen to sing three little monkeys, which I taught my class in music about two weeks ago and they just can’t get enough of it! Literally we sing it about 15 times a day – very fitting though seeing I was in the monkey class!

Luckily having the youngest class, only a couple of the kids understood what was going on and cried, which made it easier for me – at least I could hold on until they left! One of my kids kept saying “goodbye Teacher, see you on Monday!” (the really cool one I think I mentioned once before, who likes to play Uno and was hit on her foot by her mum) so I hope she doesn’t get too much of a shock next week. Also there’s a kid we’ve had to take to the doctor everyday, as she had to have an operation last week but she still needed to get her wound cleaned everyday, and when we went on Friday they said she didn’t have to go back anymore, that it could be cleaned at school as it was much better, which made me feel very happy that I know she will be looked after ok ☺ Everyday when we ride home from school we go the same was as a few of the older kids and they like to ride with us, but on Friday we had an entourage, as half the kids wanted to ride up to the main road to us. One of the girls kept saying “ride slow Teacher, you leave at the end of the road and I am sad.”

Anyway, I have so many more stories about school and Pub Street and just life and how great it has been that I want to write about, but one blog can only be so long before losing one’s interest. Besides, I need to save up some cool stories for when I come home, otherwise I’ll just be boring! But from the bottom of my heart I just want to thank everyone I met during my time in Cambodia for making it pretty much the best two months of my life. Whether you were mentioned in the blog or not, you know who you are, and my time there wouldn’t have been the same without you. I know I’ll be back, as I can’t possibly say goodbye to ABCs and the kids and the town forever, so I hope that we will all meet again one day and continue the party, whether at home, back in the Reap, or somewhere else out there in the world. And to everyone who’s reading this and doesn’t understand what I’m talking about, sorry for the after school special, but I hope that I at least had a story or two to entertain you…if not look me up when I get home, there are plenty more where that came from ;)

Posted by ljmac2 06:52 Archived in Cambodia Tagged children parties bus cambodia phnom_penh siem_reap teacher bars winery sihanoukville volunteers pub_street battambang khmer_rouge bamboo_train killing_cave Comments (0)

An epic weekend on Pub Street...

...just a little insight into my other life in Siem Reap :)

semi-overcast 25 °C

So basically in Siem Reap I have two lives – my school life and my other life, which lets face it, I may as well call my Pub Street life – and it’s amazing how much the two coincide! I feel like I’ve told a lot of random stories about school, which is really the main reason I’m here, but I feel that seeing Pub Street has also played such a big part in my life over the past couple of months, you really deserve to be introduced to that as well…

This past weekend was epic, not just your average, run-of-the-mill Pub Street night out. For starters, Friday was Courtnay’s last day at school, which was so weird for me, let alone her, seeing she literally started at ABCs the day before me and since Amelia left, we have been the only two there…now I have to spend two hours a day by myself in my rides to and from school! Anyway, as Courtnay taught the oldest class there, her kids actually got what it meant for her to be leaving, and they were devastated, literally sobbing uncontrollably, which of course made leaving even harder for her…it was so heart breaking, it made me want to cry. And it’s so hard as how can you stay in contact with the kids themselves; write letters? I doubt they would even be able to afford the postage. Anyway, needless to say, Friday was quite depressing, which meant at lunch, as well as our regular one mango shake, one mixed fruit shake, one vegetable fried rice with cashew nuts and one fresh spring rolls with chicken, we also had two iced coffees with Baileys ☺ And after school, laden with sweat and dust in our finest school clothes, we went to the ever so classy FCC (Foreign Correspondents’ Club) for sangria happy hour…even if we’d dressed up to go there I doubt we would have had enough class!

The first weekend in December also happens to be the weekend that Siem Reap is inundated with extremely keen fit people who decide they want to ride a bike or run out around all the temples. Random, of all the reasons to come to Siem Reap, and there are many, but to exercise does not rate highly among them for me. However, that meant that Friday night was a pretty quiet one by Pub Street standards, which was awesome seeing Saturday night was Courtnay’s massive white out party for her birthday (and for the 1000th time, no it was not a racist party, it was a white out party seeing Ankgor What?!, the bar we had it at, is pretty much built from UV lights, so seeing the public would still be there of course, then we could see who was there for the party.) Anyway, we went out briefly on Friday and were talking to this expat, who amazingly in this small town we hadn’t met before, and he was like “hey, I heard there’s this massive white party here tomorrow night”…amazing the power of Facebook in a small town!

On Saturday morning we awoke to many grumpy people in our house, as there was a wedding on next door all weekend, which started with monks chanting and 4am apparently, and that or horrendous, tinny Cambodian pop music continued until about 12am this morning. However, luckily for Courtnay and I, both of our rooms (although we only really use one of them, the other just has stuff in it) are on the opposite side of the building to the noise…all that woke us up was the crappy quality Cambodian curtains, that seem to be a staple on every window in this country (we were good citizens and cleaned out all our spare beds for lodgers the following night.) However, despite the lack of sleep on universal sleep-in day, everyone was in fine form for Saturday night.

We had dinner first at Ankgor Famous, this little restaurant that we always go to as they have free popcorn, free fruit salad, 50 cent beer and buy one, get one free cocktails. It’s entirely Khmer run, and the girls there love us, as whenever we go we sit out the front and convince people to come in, so they don’t have to stand there spruking about their free popcorn, etc, etc. I also bought a cake, which was good, except the fans there are so intense that the candles just didn’t light, but it was the first real dessert I think I’ve had since I left home. Really I think I bought it more for myself than for Courtnay!

Then we went to Ankgor What?! and it was awesome coz so many people came out, not just our usual crew of younger volunteers. Tammy and Matt who run ABCs came, Sherry and Gemma who work for Globalteer (the agency we volunteer through), random travellers we had met earlier in the week and invited, friends we know just from generally hanging out on Pub Street too much, our own personal tuk tuk driver, Bruce Lee, bartenders from possibly the only other place in town we frequent enough to call them friends, plus a whole lot of volunteers who have been here for like a month and I don’t think I’ve ever seen them out before. And not only were they out, they were dancing on the tables! (Really, that is the only place to be seen in Ankgor What!? Although technically you can’t actually dance on the tables, you can dance on the benches or on the back of the benches…if you dance on the tables the security guards come along with sticks and hit your legs until you get off. It’s actually quite a fun challenge to see how long you can get away with being on there until they see you.) Kate and Julie, two other Globalteer volunteers, did the bike race that morning and they were in fine form. Julie even got a medal for being the oldest woman to compete in the race, and she backed that up by dancing on the tables and Ankgor What?! Although she did admit the next day that she had had a couple of cosmos earlier, and that they may have knocked her around a bit! At 12 Charlie, the owner, turned the music off and the whole bar sang Happy Birthday. And Courtnay could get all the buckets she wanted for free, so pretty much everyone we knew got free drinks all night as we just passed them all around – mmmm, so hygienic! So Court had what she said was the birthday ever, and I think we both agree that that was definitely the best night we’ve had on Pub Street ever…and there’s been a lot to choose from so that’s a pretty big call! There was a minor incident of mine where I was dancing on the top of the benches and fell off backwards into the crowd on the dance floor and pulled someone else I don’t know very well down with me…they were quite angry at the time, but I’ve only got a grazed elbow so it could have been worse!

Sunday was Courtnay’s actual birthday, so me, her, Estelle, another volunteer here from Tassie, and Will, who’s from Armidale, had a bit of a splurge day. We had brunch at Blue Pumpkin, which was about $6 a meal – expensive! Then we went to some posh hotel’s pool (again, a little too classy), had a massage, had Bailey’s milkshakes and then that night me, Court and Estelle went out again (everyone else said they couldn’t sleep the night before because of the wedding so they needed to get an early night – why stay at home then when the wedding’s still on, it’s the perfect excuse to go out!). Court had steak for dinner, which apparently was a massive deal for her - don’t see the appeal myself – and then we went to Temple Club for buckets, as we felt a bit bad we hadn’t been there the night before, as we usually start off there always, before heading over to Ankgor What. There are really cool Khmer staff there, Sally, Sally’s sister (they’re not actually sisters but they look similar and we don’t know the other one’s name) and Charlie, and this awesome security guard, who shakes my hand every time he sees me. He is also awesome as every time you buy a bucket, which for us is fairly regularly, you get a free t-shirt. You could clothe the whole of Cambodia with these t-shirts, except for the fact that they are bar t-shirts so that’s not entirely appropriate. Anyway, the reason the security guard is awesome is because we got bored of having so many t-shirts, so we invented a game where you tie them in a knot, throw them at the fan and see what table they land at. Then the security guard goes and gets it and brings it back to us! Hilarious! Except for this one time when Amelia did it and blew a light bulb…imagine if we were responsible for a black out on Pub Street…what would we do?! Anyway, there were no such immature shenanigans going on last night, but Estelle and I did manage to get them to play Happy Birthday at Temple as well and make the whole bar sing to Court, which was an achievement.

Oh and how could I forget – I totally made Courtnay’s birthday by having a fish spa! (Those things where you sit on the edge and dangle your feet in and the fish are meant to eat the dead skin off them? They are everywhere in Siem Reap.) Court and I set each other challenges from time to time, and I failed one and that was my punishment…I can’t believe I agreed to it! In case you didn’t know, I hate fish in all forms – alive or dead – and I had to sit with my feet in there for five minutes, but everyone got so bored of me sitting on the edge of the tank having a panic attack, that in the end I only had to put one foot in…I think I may have killed a few fish in the process as well with all of my violent thrashing. We are friends with one of the fish spa men, James, so we went to his one, but I really think we may have done him more of a disservice by frightening all his customers away and killing half his fish! Needless to say, it was a horrendous experience and every time I think about it my foot feels violated! But yes it is on video, so I can prove that I have done it and will never have to do it again.

So yes that was this weekend just gone, which unbelievably was my last full weekend in Siem Reap seeing we are going to go to Battambang this weekend for a music festival. I can’t believe how fast this time has flown…it sounds cliché but I cannot even begin to contemplate the thought of leaving Siem Reap yet! I thought I came back here to get it out of my system, but now I don’t know if I ever will. All I know is that I will definitely be back – I thought two weeks wasn’t long enough, well neither is two months!

Posted by ljmac2 03:41 Archived in Cambodia Tagged people parties cambodia siem_reap birthday volunteers pub_street ankgor_what?! Comments (2)

A heart breaker of a week at school...

...starting to see the true side of everything here...but Pub Street is still awesome!

sunny 27 °C

So last week was a bit of a heart breaker at school. On Monday it was Teacher Amelia’s last day, and yes I was successful in making all my kids write on her cards “Teacher Amelia is crazy!” Also, Henry, her boyfriend who got to Siem Reap last Friday, came to school on Amelia’s last day, and a picture of him made it onto almost everyone of Amelia’s goodbye cards, which pissed Amelia off after having been there for six weeks compared to Henry’s one day!

Also on Monday this little girl in my morning class who I love (I know you shouldn’t play favourites, but I think it has something to do with the fact that this girl loves to play Uno – she’s like my long lost sister! I think before I came along the kids just played by putting down random cards but now most of them have the hang of it, so pretty much every break time we play Uno – awesome!) …anyway, Uno girl came to school with a massive cut on her foot and it was really swollen and she was limping. I got her to tell the Khmer teacher what happened (as these kids can barely say the day of the week in English, let alone explain that to me) and she said that her Mum hit her. The stat you hear is that 80% of Cambodian children are abused at home, but basically until that happened, none of us really believed that that could happen to any of our kids at school because they are always so happy. But the fact that this kid and the teacher just told me so matter of factly and weren’t particularly upset about it means it must happen a lot more than we know.

So pretty much since then, I have been a resident doctor (as well as Uno player) every break time. We asked Tammy about it, and she said it does happen a bit but there’s not much you can do, as she’s heard similar stories of abuse, and then when white people interfere the families might pull the kids out of the school or abuse them even more. So all you can really do it treat it with Western techniques (rather than these weird green tea leaf-looking things she had on it) so at least when she goes home with a bandage on it, the parents are aware that we know what’s going on. This kid’s foot has healed up pretty well seeing we have re-dressed it every day for the past week as whenever she gets home from public school the parents must take the bandage off it. But it’s better than nothing. Needless to say, we go through betadine and bandaids at school like they’re going out of style!

Then on Friday last week, this one little girl in my class was absolutely inconsolable (which is rare, these kids are very tough, plus as the kids say themselves “Friday is Funday!”) and again via translation I found out that it was because her Mum and Dad have moved to Bangkok for work. At first all the Khmer teachers were like “it’s ok, her Mum is coming back in April for Khmer New Year”, but she is only coming back for a month and then she is leaving again. She has a little sister at the school too (who by the way couldn’t be more different from her in looks and personality…they have got to have different Daddy’s!), so pretty much they have both been abandoned and are living with their grandparents. I asked (via translation) if they liked living with the grandparents, and they said yes which is good, but all the same, this same girl came to school the day before dressed in a massive winter coat and was practically begging me for new clothes as she was about to pass out from the heat (we have a box of clothes at school that we can give to the kids if they either have something majorly wrong with their clothes, or if they’ve worn the same grotty thing for a few days straight…but it’s hard because really they all need new clothes a thousand times over. Seriously the supposedly poor beggar kids in town are so immaculately presented compared to our kids at school it makes me sick). Anyway, on Friday this girl was inconsolable and it’s so hard as there is literally nothing you can do to make it better. It’s not like her parents have just gone on holidays or anything, plus she can’t understand me, even if I did have good advice for her. Anyway, she was so upset that she fell asleep in my arms, and she stayed there for two hours until we had to wake her up to go home. It was so sad as she became attached to me and didn’t want to leave, so now I have to keep my distance from her, as I’m leaving in two and a half weeks anyway, so I don’t want to make her go through that all over again…it’s so sad ☹

Anyway, aside from all that school is still awesome, I guess that’s all just part of the experience, and it makes you want to be able to help in an ongoing way so much more. Even though my kids can barely speak a full sentence to me, I feel like I already know their personalities and what not. Plus they are hilarious! All of them love the library, or ‘banalai’ in Khmer. Every time the bell rings they all fight to have the honour of carrying my bag and my water bottle to the library. However the problem is that the library is pretty much the central room to our school, so as well as books being kept there, there is also games and the first aid. Stuff. You should see the line we get to treat freckles and moles for the younger kids at break time, all so they can get a coloured bandaid! But seriously, library time is tough, as some of the kids do like to have books read to them and would even choose to do that during break time, but most of them would rather play. Today I spent a lot of time during library yelling out “you are meant to read the books, not build houses with them” but due to their limited English skills, this was to no avail!

Library time is also hilarious due to some of the books the kids choose to read. There is this one book called the Jumbo Fruit Book, and it has very detailed descriptions of every fruit under the sun, but massive colourful pictures of them, so it’s a big winner. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read it, but if I had a dollar for each time I would be a very rich woman. They all know the names to basic fruits such as banana and apple and strawberry, but then they get to this page with all these random fruits on it that I have never heard of, and they don’t know how to say them in English, but they all go nuts trying to pretend to eat these crazy looking fruits off the page! Then there are some other books in the library, which are Khmer stories printed in Khmer and English, and not only, is the English translation appalling, but the stories are so messed up! We tell the teachers that they are bad for children, but they just say “it is ok, they are ghost stories”. This one I read last week was about this girl who was an evil spirit who possessed people when they crossed a river, so that they got constipated and died (no joke this is what it said), until this one man who was drunk, didn’t let the evil spirit get off his back, so it turned into a log and then he cut it up and blood came out of the log when he cut it up and then he soaked it in alcohol…seriously, I have not exaggerated it is so messed up! Plus you should see the illustrations; they literally scare the younger kids!

So yes, I guess that’s been school for the past week. In our other Pub Street life, it has just been the usual craziness, especially seeing we had going aways for both Amelia and Mairead. So much fun, but it is so weird now that they are gone, especially Amelia, seeing she was at the same school as us!

Our Khmer teachers also take us out a fair bit on their motos, which is really cool as we get to go to places where there are no ‘barangs’ (foreigners) and we just pay for their meals and petrol or whatever. On Monday, Amelia’s last night they took us to dinner and then Khmer karaoke, which was hilarious as some of them are so shy at school, but not when they are singing in Khmer! Plus the Khmer video clips are so entertaining and dramatic, I could watch them for hours! Amelia and I rocked the few English songs that were on offer, plus there were some Khmer songs that were written phonetically in English letters, so we sang them, which was apparently hilarious! Then on Sunday they took Courtnay and I to West Baray Lake, where we have been before with them actually, where you just chill out in hammocks and eat and swim. Although to be fair, very few Khmers can swim or have ever swum (so hard to imagine in such a hot country!) so we do the swimming and they do the eating. I’ve had a go at some of the real Khmer food that Khmer’s eat, so be proud, but chicken blood is going a bit too far for me! Chansip, Courtnay’s Khmer teacher said the other day “I save the children in Africa, I eat everything!” Hilarious, especially seeing Cambodia is such a first world country and all…

Anyway, Courtnay and I were in bed at 8pm last night watching Gossip Girl (I know, I don’t believe it either, neither does anyone in the house mind you) so we feel we have earned ourselves a night out tonight so better hit the showers. It is unbelievable how fast time flies – this is Court’s last week of school, and after that I only have two more weeks as well ☹

Posted by ljmac2 04:12 Archived in Cambodia Tagged children cambodia siem_reap teacher school pub_street west_baray Comments (0)

Just another average week in The Reap...

...school and Pub Street

sunny 27 °C

So I was very excited about the prospect of writing this week’s blog and starting off with something like “well finally I have completed a full week of school”. Alas, on Thursday afternoon I hit a wall and was sick, so had to miss the last two periods of school…so I will aim for next week!

It’s weird, this week I have been in Siem Reap the whole time and not done anything out of the usual, which is going to school followed by going to Pub Street, but I honestly don’t know where the time’s gone! Last Sunday night we decided to go out for a quiet last dinner with Fran seeing she was leaving Siem Reap the next day. It did start off quiet to be fair, due to a rather late night the night before, but then we decided to go to Ankgor What? Bar for “one last bucket”. Liam, the bartender there who used to work with Fran said seeing it was our “last bucket” he’s make it “extra strong for us”. Amelia, Courtnay and I all tried it, and were like “yeah, that’s pretty strong” but were still happy to go along with it, until Fran tried it and was like “guys, there’s only vodka in that, no red bull!” We would have been more than happy to just drink it straight apparently! Oh and it actually turned out to be our second last bucket, but who’s counting anyway…

Monday was school, the first day in the Monkey Class without Teacher Fran as well! Then Monday night was Julie’s birthday, who is one of the older volunteers staying here, so we all went out for dinner at Soria Moria’s, a hotel down the road from us, where we had to splurge as prices were $2 for a cocktail and $4 for a main meal! We were so close to heading into Pub Street after that as well, but we decided to be civilized and not…which is funny as it turns out it was the only night we haven’t been in there all week!

Tuesday, was school again, then Pub Street.

Wednesday was school and then Pub Street. However, in between that was $1 tapas for dinner at Soria Moria, our Wednesday night ritual. At this boutique hotel down the road from us every Wednesday night they have trainee wait and kitchen staff, so they have a tapas menu where everything, including all cocktails is $1 – it’s unbelievable! We basically have a standing booking there. It’s also really cool, as because last time I was here working at Anjali House I taught the oldest class, some of those kids work there on $1 night, so I still get to see them. It’s funny, because the first time I went there they recognized my face but couldn’t remember my name, so they just exclaimed “Teacher!”

I can’t remember why now, but school was awesome on Wednesday, the night after we’d gone out, so we had the epiphany that if we can feel that good at school after going out, why not go out every night right?!

Thursday was school, where admittedly I felt pretty sick all day, but did manage to go the whole time except for the last two hours. Besides from breakfast really, it is basically cheaper to eat out here than to cook for yourself at home, so we headed to this place called Under Construction close to where we live for dinner. However we met a couple of English guys we know down there, one of them who is the music teacher at our school, so all out good intentions headed out the door, and once again we were on Pub Street. Luckily I actually did feel well enough for school the next day…

Friday, we have discovered, is pretty much always going to be dance party day at school. So it looks like that’s our exercise day, when we go to school and dance for six hours straight! The first lesson usually starts off with good intentions, where we review what we have learnt during the week, but then I think it’s because Courtnay’s class has music in the afternoon, and her Khmer teacher Chansip is obsessed with Western music (he is always downloading songs onto his phone and getting her to translate them…which is quite awkward when it’s like an Akon song and every second lyric is a swear word). So he just hooks up his phone to this speaker, and eventually the whole school migrates towards her classroom and has a rave. We were showing some of the other volunteers a video of it the other day, and they were like “wow, it actually is a day rave at your school”…hilarious. There are of course the staple songs, being The Lazy Song, Party Rock Anthem, On The Floor (by Jennifer Lopez) and the Khmer song I think I was talking about last week (which I have discovered is called Yoyo Yaya – so now I know most of the lyrics – yay!) but then sometimes Chansip branches out and puts on other songs that are on his phone. I say to him “Chansip, there are some very bad words in these songs”, and his reply was “Yes, but they don’t know English so that’s ok”. So, um, what are we doing there?!

During music classes on Thursday and Friday, Teacher Jack, this English guy who’s been volunteering in Siem Reap for about a year, (and who coincidently we saw out on Thursday night) comes in and plays the guitar with the kids, teaches some of the older kids how to actually play the guitar, and sings very PG songs compared to what is played at the weekly dance party, such as Hello, Goodbye by The Beatles (which is pretty much the ABCs and Rice anthem now…I can’t say hello to anyone now without wanting to sing “hello, hello!”), Ain’t Nothing But a Hound Dog, and Let’s Twist Again. However, Friday was his last day which is awesome because whenever someone leaves it means we get to spend an hour making them goodbye cards, which consists of the Khmer teachers writing Cambodian-English phrases on the board and the kids copying them down and drawing pictures. They write stuff like ‘good luck for you’ and ‘I love you teacher’, and it’s the only time I don’t have the heart to correct the poor English. Anyway, for some reason Jack was late on Friday (he swore it had nothing to do with being out the night before!) so to improvise before he got there, Headmaster Purim said we should start off the dance party! Then when Jack got there, all the kids literally ran out of the classroom and swarmed to him with their card and crowns and necklaces and whatever else it was they had made for him, it was so cute. They by the time he actually got to sitting down and playing the guitar, he was like “ok, what songs do we want to sing?” and one of the little boys from my class yelled out “on the floor, Jennifer Lopez!”

Friday night was the ABCs and Rice quiz night, which with all of the NGOs in town are a dime a dozen and apparently quite a competitive market. ABCs hold their quiz at the restaurant Chilli’s, which is part owned by Matt, Tammy’s partner and I guess he’s like the 2IC of the school. We were the only group of younger people there, and out of the five teams, we finished a respectable 5th…is it a worry that we’re the one’s who are supposedly teaching the kids English? I hope Tammy doesn’t fire us! However, there was a raffle as well and of all things I won a pottery class for two people, so at some stage Courtnay and I are going to go and get our pot on!

Then, surprise surprise, after that we went to Pub Street, and for some reason we all went our different ways that night, and it is quite hard to locate people once you lose them see both Courtnay and I don’t have phones (Courtnay got hers ‘stolen’ Sihanoukville – although, I would say she lost it…) However, we are a well oiled machine, and as arranged everyone rendezvoused the next day at 1200 hours at what we call ‘all day happy hour, non-food poisoning place’. There are these little restaurants in the Old Market around the corner from Pub Street, that we don’t know the name of and who claim to have happy hour from 8am until 10pm…why don’t they just say it as it is and call it all day happy hour?! They are so good and cheap, plus they have the best fruit shakes in all of Siem Reap and they are only 50 cents! But when Amelia and Courtnay were sick they reckon they got it from one of those places, so now we just stick to the non-food poisoning place. We go there everyday for lunch, I’d say we have fruit shakes there on average twice and day, and I reckon we also spent a good four hours there yesterday!

This other girl from Melbourne (Mairead – pronounced like parade with an M as she says) got to Globalteer the day we left for Sihanoukville last week. She’s 18 like Amelia but volunteering at another school here (and goes to Monash Caulfield of all places), and apparently the whole week we were away, all of the other older volunteers at the house were like “watch out for those three girls, they’re crazy you know, they go out all the time, they never sleep…blah blah blah”…to which she pretty much replied AWESOME! So it’s a bit weird, but Amelia, Courtnay and I like to set each other random challenges, so we set Mairead an ‘initiation challenge’ at all day happy hour, non-food poisoning yesterday, which was to ask for the bill without making any sound and not moving anything but your face. Seriously it was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. She’d always be like “I’ve got it, I’ve got it” and they’d come over and bring it to the table next to us or behind us, only to have a very loud reaction from us which made everyone else there think we were nuts. Some people asked us what we were doing, but apparently they didn’t find it as funny as we did. Anyway, I’m happy to report that in the end she did get it: challenge successful! Seriously, you should try it some time…

Then last night was Amelia and Ian’s, this other older volunteer from our house’s goodbye dinner, seeing it’s both of their last weekends in Siem Reap. We branched out and went to this place called Red Piano, which I think Angelina Jolie had something to do with when she was here in 2000 filming Tomb Raider. They have a Tomb Raider cocktail, naturally Ms Jolie’s favourite, and for every 10th one they sell they ring this huge bell and you get one for free! Amelia wanted her last weekend out to be a glitter theme, but it turns out that Siem Reap is not huge on glitter, so we changed it too buying party Ray Bans, and you had to buy the same colour Ray Bans as the clothes you were wearing out that night. We also bought water spray bottles just for fun, and so then when we walked along Pub Street, every person that says “tuk tuk lady” or “fish massage lad” we just squirted with the water bottle…best was to not get hassled and they all thought it was hilarious! However, some of the Westerners don’t have quite the same sense of humour as the Khmers…this one huge girl in Ankgor What? Bar last night ripped my water bottle off me, emptied it over Amelia’s head and tackled me against the wall…seriously she needs to lighten up…literally and figuratively!

So yes…that was my week pretty much! Amelia’s boyfriend from home, Henry, got here on Friday night so tomorrow is her last day at school and then she’s leaving Siem Reap on Wednesday ☹ Courtnay and I have decided to go and meet her somewhere next weekend though so it won’t be as bad saying goodbye on Wednesday. And the one good thing is that it means two hours of card making tomorrow! We are going to get the kids to write on her cards “Teacher Amelia is crazy!”

Posted by ljmac2 04:18 Archived in Cambodia Tagged people children night cambodia siem_reap teacher school bars angelina_jolie pub_street old_market red_piano tomb_raider Comments (0)

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