A Travellerspoint blog

This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.

Getting there! Nov 21 - 24

Thursday, November 21 to London to Saturday November 24th. St. Johns then London then Siem Reap

sunny 26 °C

Thursday evening I left St John's, NL for London - a mere 8 hours flight, but with 16 hours layover in Halifax (24 hrs + 5 min!!!). Well, it all went smoothly. In Halifax, slept in the uncomfortable chairs, then read, then went to a "Tim's" and killed time, with arrival in London at 9:30 a.m. - hand luggage only - so on through immigration - smooth as silk.
IMG_0893.jpg
NO CHECKED LUGGAGE MAKES TRAVELLING A BREEZE. TEDDY IS NOT GOING ON THE TRIP, BUT WE ARE HEADING DOWN THE UNDERGROUND TOGETHER
Now, on the other side, I faced a small challenge of navigating the "Underground". It is surely the way to go: Follow the clear instructions from arrival at the airport towards signs for [London Underground]. You can't go wrong - I Googled it yesterday- the line from the airport: Picadilly, change at Holborn and take the Northern Line, then the DRL to Limehouse - hop out and walk a block or two left then right then ring on the door of the apartment building and "No Surprise! Danielle, I'm here." ) From the airport: an "Oyster card" costs 5 pounds - refundable, and the fare for this trip was a mere 2 pounds. The Oyster card is bought with your credit card at an 'instant-teller' as you follow the signs to the Underground. Don't spend 30 pounds on a cab-fare ..... go smart in London and save your cab fare for the pubs.
IMG_0878.jpg
NEAR DAWN 'TUBING' TOWARDS LONDON - LOOKING IN EVERYONE'S BACK YARD.
large_IMG_0879.jpg
EARLY MORNING TRAVELLERS ON THE UNDERGROUND ARE SLEEPY AND POLITE.

Well, I had a marvellous 2 days visiting my daughter, Danielle, and her significant other, Nico, in a "flat" that overlooks the Thames and a jogging path (for only 1200 a month ) ....and WOW and it is swanky!!! We 'hung out' and went to the movie Hunger Games 2, and dinner and stuff. I visited my 'little' ... (6'2") brother , Michael + and finally set out for a blood-pressure-raising ride to the airport with traffic tie ups and frustrated driver (Nico) and uptight passenger (yah - that was ME!) ......ooohhhh the "tube" (Underground)- if only they had not been so polite!!!!!!!!!. Well, we got to Heathrow and I found that China Eastern Airlines won't let me take hand luggage more than 5 kg. Yuk: so I had to say goodbye to my former hand luggage, and quickly sort what was needed in my carry on. (I forgot the cash and the phone!!!!)
IMG_0896.jpg
A NIGHT MARKET IN DANIELLE'S NEIGHBOURHOOD. CRISP AIR AND PLEASANT AROMAS.
large_IMG_0897.jpg
THE GINGERBREAD HOUSES HAD A GERMAN TOUCH, AS DID PRETZELS AND SAUSAGES.

Not all that long later, I boarded "China Eastern", though I felt like a criminal, as I had stopped at a pay-computer and sent an email to Danielle. The wonderful, charming China Eastern ticket agent, Linda, had come to look for me, and escort their last passenger to the plane.

That part - well, travel half way around the world is long. All the same - sleep like a pretzel - then you get there. (only 18 hours later)

Arriving in Siem Reap: A sultry night, polite immigration and visa officers... (well, my cash was in my checked luggage, so I couldn't pay my entry visa !!!YIKES!!! No problem, someone gave me the cash and said she'd see me on the other side!) I got through the seamless procedure, and collected my luggage and went on to find a ride to my hotel. Cabby service - I went for the motorbike. Kolab, was a charming fellow, who balanced my small bag on his bike and allowed me to hop on behind him. For $2 U.S. we biked to Riverside Hotel - the wonderful, welcoming hotel where I will see Khemera, Jasmine, Aunty and Uncle tomorrow.

Now, an hour later, I am sipping a fine Grant's Scotch (1 L for $16 U.S. in Shanghai airport) sitting on the terrace with the buzz of crickets (locusts? ...yum) and the occasional sound of a rooster (they don't all wait for dawn). It is so easy to get very mellow in a place like this. Well, tomorrow, I plan to be up at 6:00 to go to the orphanage for 7:00 and spend the day teaching and enjoying the absolutely wonderful kids at ACODO orphanage.
IMG_0908.jpg
AT MIDNIGHT THE TERRACE IS DESERTED, WITH ONLY THE BUZZ OF THE CRICKETS, AND 'CHIPR' OF THE GECCOS !
THERE IS THE SMELL OF JASMINE ON THE WARM HUMID AIR.
large_IMG_0904.jpg
AN HOUR TO SIP, WHILE SAVOURING THE AROMAS, THE WARMTH AND THE PEACE.

Posted by Sue McNicholas 15:25 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

NOV 25 CAMBODIA INSPIRES .......AGAIN

First day on the job! (Nov 25)

sunny 28 °C

6:00 a.m. rise with difficulty (4:30 p.m. in nfld.) I scraped myself out of bed and hoofed it along to ACODO Orphanage.

There were changes when I arrived at the orphanage - things were quiet. I could not find that dear man, Savon; there were no children. around. I spoke with one of the cooks who told me that Veasna, the director, would be back in an hour, and that the children would be back for classes at 12:00. I promised to return before noon.

Back to my hotel. There, a lady joined me for breakfast. Helen is an older lady who comes to Cambodia for 3 months a year. She told me of "Hearts and Love" orphanage, where she volulunteers and then offered to take me there with Pastor, when he arrived. He did; we chatted; we motorbiked to the orphanage.

That orphanage houses 35 children under 12, who were all in a large grass thatched and walled classroom. There were 4 Aussie volunteers form "The Gap Year" , and Deb, who teaches and coordinates many of the programs. As the kids were doing crafts, I had a chance to interact with some of the kids and to speak with Deb about the kids program, and share some of her good ideas about teaching English. I was shown about the orphanage - the kitchen, the sleeping area, the chapel (!), the small garden and the chicken coop. Deb said that I was welcome to return with Danielle and watch her teaching one of her English classes, which I hope to do on Thursday morning.
large_DSCN2233.jpg
THESE WERE SOME OF THE KIDS DOING ENGLISH CLASSES IN A THATCHED BUILDING
DSCN2268.jpg
'PASTOR' HELPS WITH COOKING THE MIDDAY MEAL FOR AT THE ORPHANAGE. HE IS A VERY FRIENDLY, LIKEABLE FELLOW.

Time up, so I hopped on the motorbike with Pastor and we rode over the pot-holed dirt road towards town. He asked if I was a Christian - and my reply took me into his confidence about his being saved 15 years ago. He deserted heroin, booze, guns, stealing and womanizing, and told me colourful stories to show "how great is the Lord! " I must warn Danielle to bite her tongue!

I returned to ACODO orphanage, to be greeted by enthusiastic kids who remembered me from January. There is a hired teacher, who I shadowed for the afternoon. 'Teacha's' methods include a long ruler which snaps loudly on the kid'd desks when an answer is not forthcoming. I was sad to find that a number of the kids are no longer at ACODO. There are some changes that may not all be good. I have asked some questions very carefully, and arranged to get in touch with a few of the students who have left. I assisted in English classes from noon to 5, and returned at 6:30 for the Khmer Traditional Dance performance at the orphanage (see my earlier blog: http://sue-mcnicholas.travellerspoint.com )
IMG_1004.jpg
ONE OF THE TRADITIONAL DANCES - THE FISH HARVEST DANCE
IMG_0992.jpg
THE QUEEN OF THE RIVER IN A TRADITIONAL DANCE ABOUT MONKEYS AND FISHES
large_IMG_0956.jpg
THREE OF MY LITTLE STUDENTS ENJOYED WATCHING THE DANCING

Well, Danielle was due to arrive at 9:45 and I had arranged with Kolab to get me at my hotel at 9 o'clock. We motorbiked to the airport and started the long wait - The plane arrived late at 11:15. I spent the time sitting on a wooden bench, often losing my spot as I succumbed to sleep. Danielle finally came through the gates, not looking too bad for her 23 hour flight. We hopped onto twin motorbikes and rode through a sultry night enjoying a light breeze.
large_IMG_0962.jpg
A MIDNIGHT RIDE TOWARDS SIEM REAP CENTRE.

Posted by Sue McNicholas 18:37 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Nov 26 Danielle's first day in Cambodia

sunny 34 °C

26 Tuesday morning and a sunny warm day by 7:30. Suddenly, we had a small downpour, which cooled the air for a short time. As we sat having breakfast on the terrace, Danielle had a chance to meet Jasmine, who she can not understand, though she finds her very friendly. We sat planning our morning, as we will not go to ACODO until midday.
IMG_1037.jpg
A relaxing time to enjoy breakfast and the sounds of a waking city.

large_IMG_1035.jpg
The plants are lush, and the light is so clear - so peaceful.

Soon we headed in to town to absorb the sights and smells and sounds. We had many offers of: "You my first customer, lady. I make you good price. It lucky." I even pinky swore on Buda with one girl that I would be back - If not Buddha will know that I am dishonest (sounds like this came from the Christian religions not Buddhist!!) We strolled under yellow umbrellas on Pub Street and poked into many market stalls, until 2 hours later, the only thing on my mind was a beer in the shade.
large_IMG_1296.jpg
Pub Street is bustling, but still, one can stand in the middle of the street to pose for a photo. Traffic is busy but certainly not crazy. No honking and no road rage.

IMG_0983.jpg
Danielle is writing postcards - What a refreshing idea in this instant Internet world.

We walked back to our hotel, showered and then walked to ACODO orphanage. Danielle met the director and then spent the afternoon in the classroom with me teaching, and her correcting the homework exercise and rewarding the kids with stickers on their work. She will have a chance to teach classes tomorrow.
Almost baptism by fire 15 children in the first class, but tomorrow we will split the class in two. There is a 5 minute break between each class, and 5 hours of classes. At 34 degrees in the classroom, it is a a challenging day. Danielle says she is not all that keen on kids. (Maybe bad experiences with spoiled kids back home) She did seem to take to the older kids, who were fascinated with blonde hair and a winning smile.

At 5 o'clock we left long enough to shower and change at the hotel and then returned for the evening show at ACODO.
Danielle and Sreidoeurn DSCN2318__1_.jpg
Sreidoeurn has taken to Danielle. They met each other in class today. (I think Danielle is taking to the little kids too!)
Komsot watching the dancing.IMG_1013.jpg
Komsot is only 3 1/2, so he doesn't yet go to school or perform any dances. He enjoys watching the other children dance. There was a new element in todays dancing: The heavens opened and the heavy rain pelted the tin roof of our building. It certainly was a wonderful atmosphere, to be isolated under a torrential sky, listening to traditional instruments, watching these graceful Cambodian dances.

large_DSCN2310.jpg
One of the young boys dashes through the rain from our performance building towards his room.

Although there are a few streaks of rain falling in front of the stage, we enjoy another traditional Cambodian dance.

Chana. IMG_1021.jpg

This is a traditional dance. I must check to find out the significance. It is so graceful. Later I will include a short video of this dance on this entry.

Kounga and Sreilleaph (or Roat?)IMG_1027.jpg

large_IMG_1025.jpg
Sreilleaph (or Roat?), Chana and Kounga
At this point all three girls slowly grasp and sprinkle flower petals in front of themselves.

We enjoy an hour of the performance and then all the children get up on the stage to say goodbye.

large_DSCN2202.jpg

The timing is perfect, as the rain suddenly stops just as the concert finishes. If I were in New York, I would assume that this is just part of the special effects used to add drama.

Danielle and I left, with some of the children seeing us off right to the gates of the orphanage. We walked along the now darkened street towards the centre of Siem Reap where we will choose from one of the many interesting restaurants.

large_IMG_1440.jpg
Pub street and apparently dinner at a mexican restaurant, Khmer Tex-Mex.

Posted by Sue McNicholas 02:06 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Nov 27 Just your regular workday in Siem Reap

Wednesday, Nov 27 in Siem Reap

sunny 31 °C

It is easy to roll out of bed when the sun is hot at 7:00 a.m. We enjoyed breakfast on the terrace, then headed for the pool. We relaxed, swam and sunbathed, then decided to head for town to get pencils (for kids who come to class without) and postcards for Danielle to keep in touch. We had a quick lunch, then headed for ACODO by 12 o'clock.

The kindergarten class was first, and I taught them while Danielle helped with the youngest ones. Next class was Danielle's class. She did well at keeping the kids attention. She is a natural and she did a fine job. Meantime I had a chance to read their homework and add words of encouragement and colourful stickers, which they prize. Third class was mine. Some students were missing because they were doing an impromptu performance for a visiting group, but the small group was a breeze.

Fourth class began, and I relaxed while Danielle stood to be greeted by her students. WOW - this sure makes teaching easy! Meantime, we noticed s few Japanese men around the orphanage with the director. It turns out they were a Japanese film crew. Danielle had started to teach the fourth class, when a large camera was brought in to the classroom. Danielle's tousled blonde hair and Canadian accent probably would look exotic (!!!) on Japanese TV. The students in this class are very capable and quite interactive. I'm sure this will go over well on evening news in Japan.
large_DSCN2212.jpg

The last class started at 4 o'clock. Teaching through the heat of the day is a bit tough, as the midday temperature is generally about 34 degrees. I spoke to one of the boys about the older students who had left since I had taught here in January. He will bring my email address to one of my old students. I am so glad that I may get a chance to get in contact. I usually finish my classes by being thanked by my students, and I high-five some and shake some hands and say "thank you for being a good student" I really do enjoy interacting with them - specially the older students.

I returned to the hotel and found that Danielle had gone for a nap when she left at 4 o'clock. I decided to nap too. We both woke at 10, and she insisted we should go to town. HEY ! It's my holiday too, and I didn't feel like getting up. I told her it was safe - which it is. She decided to set off for town, and discovered a nice little restaurant and later a night club: Angkor What?, where she spent an hour or so dancing. I slept on till 2, then read and "blogged" till I heard breakfast preparations at 5 a.m.

Posted by Sue McNicholas 04:23 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Nov 28: A Visit to Heart and Love Orphanage

Thursday, November 28th, 2013.

sunny 32 °C

28 Thursday

Breakfast on the terrace - so peaceful. Our 'breakfast included' is generous, and includes plenty of fresh fruit. We were greeted by Jasmine, and Eng who had started preparing food at 5 a.m. and a bit later we met up with Helen who had arranged for us to visit the "Heart and Love Orphanage". "Pastor", who also goes by Lasarus, 'cause he was raised from his former life of debauchery, arrived in a tuk-tuk to bring us to the orphanage. 20 minutes and a bumpy road later, we arrived there.
I met again with Deb, who had moved here from Australia with 2 of her children several months ago. She adds a practical dimension to the goings on at the orphanage, including the volunteering through "MyGapYear.com" She is resourceful, sensible and works behind the scenes as well as doing some of the teaching. While Danielle was shown around the orphanage, I watched some of her teaching and interactions with the kids, then as the morning classes were over, we talked at length.

large_DSCN2227.jpg
There were happy faces, even under the desks!

large_4ADAA4762219AC681746CC992E54F019.jpg
I watched Deb teaching some of the children. She knows some Khmer, which helps, plus patience and humour, which helps even more.

large_4AE09B292219AC681708D5C618E1CF03.jpg
The children were keen to have a game of learning English: Who will be first to find the word that has been called out?

Break time allowed some fun. The other group had brought some treats, including balloons. Danielle dived in along with Eddy and others of his group and soon there were organized little lines of the kids, waiting for the "tom" (big) balloons. "Tom,tom tom!" until they would someties burst.

large_DSCN2239.jpg
Balloons were a treat brought by some of the visitors

large_4AF286212219AC681724CAD4074C8CB4.jpg
The children quickly lined up to have a balloon blown for themselves.

large_4AFB19F92219AC6817B7C9CE360B2021.jpg
Danielle happily took over. "Tom, tom, tom........" sometimes ended in a loud "BANG!"

A big pot of soup/stew was being cooked, and we were asked to stay. We were getting a bit worried about the time, as we were arranging a different tuk-tuk driver to bring us back to ACODO for our midday class.

large_DSCN2273.jpg
We were offered some lunch, and stood in the shade with the pastor and his wife.

My first class had 15 students. We followed the workbook exercised that they had expected, for the next hour. The kids were excited and energetic, which with the heat and humidity was a challenge. I taught the class while Danielle helped with a 5 year old student, Suvut, who had not yet learned to write English letters. Khmer writing looks like Indian script with curls and dots. Stickers for good work seemed to delight all of the students. The later classes had older students, many of whom I had taught in January. 'Teacha' sat in the back as I taught and was supportive. He sometimes answered a student in Khmer, which I think was to clarify a question.

The classes continued with smaller groups, as a number of the older students have left the orphanage. I would love to be able to contact some of the students who were very dear to me. In January, when I taught at ACODO, Bunling had been determined to improve his very adequate English, and we had spent an hour each lunchtime for the month going over pronunciation, meaning and usage of words. He is no longer at the orphanage, but he attends the New York School in Siem Reap, as do the ACODO children. I am glad that he is still in contact with other kids from ACODO, but I would love to be in touch.

Some hub-bub was developing outside of the orphanage, so kids and teachers went to look. Loud music and a procession. It turns out to have been a funeral procession. I wanted to watch along with the kids, but oh-my!, I had to act like an adult and shoe them back into the classroom. Danielle was free to watch at this time. She saw the group go along our road and then across a bridge, to the other side of the river. There they walked along the river bank and finally entered a temple.
large_DSCN2284.jpg
The procession moved stately along the other side of the river towards a temple.

large_DSCN2283.jpg
I hadn't noticed the temple. (There are so many). Danielle and I will investigate after our classes.

Five hours of classes straight is tougher than the earlier arrangement of 7 - 9 then a break in which I would go back for breakfast , 10 - 11, then four hours off in the heat of the day. I often spent that time hanging out with the students, watching dance practice or at the hotel by the pool or exploring the downtown or napping. The last classes ran 3 - 5. Once again small groups and some challenging English grammar: remember noun-phrases, compliment of a sentence, preposition, determinate and nondeterminate nouns? I remember that from studying French and Spanish, but with English, you just did it right 'cause it sounded right, and I would be corrected or teased at home if I didn't use perfect grammar!
We finished our classes and decided to stroll across bridge to have a look at the temple. The pictures speak for themselves.

Approaching the temple, we saw that it was grand and stately

Approaching the temple, we saw that it was grand and stately

DSCN2290.jpg

large_DSCN2298.jpg
Danielle standing in front of the temple, gives you an idea of its size.

DSCN2293.jpg

The monks live in rooms behind the temple, and it appears that today is washday.

As we wandered around the grounds, I heard someone call my name. I looked over to see Sovy, a former student, leave a small group of people and hurry towards me. I was so pleased to see him and received a wonderful hug. He is teaching English to a group of around a dozen adults. I was introduced to his pupils and we said that we would meet and talk before I leave. He is also working as a waiter at "Geneveve's", where he is known as the 'Singing Waiter'. I had to release him back to his students. More about Sovy later.

large_DSCN2302.jpg
Wandering about these grounds led to a serendipidous meeting.

A quick trip back to the hotel, but no time for supper, and we returned to the orphanage. The dancing was done before a pitifully small audience. We sat in the front row below the stage lights. Danielle enjoyed seeing the kids that she had met during the day, in satin outfits doing very graceful and some playful dances - each one enacting a story of Khmer lore. Over the sound of the traditional instruments (some like a wooden xylaphone) was the buzz of the lights. I was being peppered with tiny bugs, that were stunned by the hot lights overhead. After several fell down my neck, we moved over to enjoy the rest of the show in peace. Danielle was treated to "The Monkey Dance" and to the "Fish Harvest Dance", as well as interspersed videos that tell the history and the aims of the orphanage. The hour went quickly, and as we left, we were escorted to the gates of the orphanage by enthusiastic children bidding us both "Goodnight"

DSCN2307.jpgDSCN2304.jpg
The students prepare to start the performance, using unusual musical instruments.

Time for the night life! We walked the 8 - 10 minutes into town from our hotel. As usual, it is busy and alive with sound of chatter, blues, eastern music and laughter, and exotic and unusual smells.We were tempted by offers. "Massage, Madam? Good price - only one dolla" (manicures for the $5) and" "Tuc-tuc*, Madam?" peppered the air. We strolled through the stalls, loaded with trinkets and some treats such as unusual spices and teas, chopsticks and sewn goods. The streets and walkways were quite busy, as many tourists meandered around. Smells of spicy foods, and the heat tempted us into an umbrellaed area that served cold draft beer for 50 cents. We enjoyed another stroll and exploring before we settled on a Mexican restaurant, where we had a small table right on the sidewalk. There we spent a leisurely hour eating and watching tourists ambling along, tuk tuk drivers waiting patiently for patrons and the general ebb and flow of the night. Before we headed home, we gave in to a "Fish Massage"

large_DSCN2344.jpg
No caption needed! The sign in the back says: "If our fish can't make you happy, we won't charge"

"Nibbley" fish DSCN2330.jpg ...a funny feeling! DSCN2341.jpg

Another fine day and a wonderful evening in Siem Reap!

Posted by Sue McNicholas 15:17 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 15) Page [1] 2 3 »