Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Talk about my room

The kids that we were teaching English to in Siem Reap were the most entertaining after the class was over. Our last class of the evening ran from 6-7pm. I had a beginner class and Jonathan had an intermediate class. Although most of the kids in my other classes were older and in grade 12 or so, half of the kids in my last class were young. The Life and Hope Organization houses kids from the countryside who otherwise wouldn't have access to education and so the kids live in the Wat compound. I think they mostly just register for English classes to entertain themselves for an hour each night with a foreigner flapping their arms around trying to act out or draw the English words I was trying to convey to these beginners.

After class, one of the older boys would lock up the classroom for me and I would sit on an old desk on the open air hallway and wait for Jonathan's class upstairs to finish. Jonathan didn't have a watch or a clock in his upstairs classroom so I would send two of the young girls on the mission of letting him know that time was up. They loved their little responsibility and took it very seriously, running immediately upstairs when I let them go, to deliver the news. They would then wait for Jonathan to make his way down the dark stairwell and perform a dramatic 'drumroll' before presenting to me, 'your husband!' While those two little girls were on the husband retrieving mission the rest of the kids like to crowd around me, keeping me company so I wouldn't have to wait alone. First, they discovered that if they pressed their fingers into my reddish skin that it would leave a momentary white mark. This, was very, very entertaining for them. Having darker skin, their arms didn't create the same show as mine. It began with just a dozen boney little fingers pressing into my skin, but it soon turned into whole tiny hands gripping hand fulls of my skin and squeezing as hard as possible and then laughing hysterically when my skin turned white for a brief moment before returning to its 'natural' red... it would also later turn a 'natural' black and blue... but the kids didn't stick around long enough for that show.

When I finally convinced them that their poking did, indeed hurt, the resorted to sneaking up behind me and then reaching around to grab handfuls of my stomach. Jonathan thought it was absolutely hilarious. I suggested they go back to just jabbing me instead. Jonathan declared them 'Jenny Jumblers' as a group, as they so enjoyed 'jumbling my fat' and they quickly moved up the ranks to his favourite students.

In more acceptable behaviour, they would often run off as we were collecting our books and bags at the end of the class and return with fistfuls of wild flowers for us that they would then painstakingly arrange in our hair, only to fall out the second we moved. It was very cute ,though; and super thoughtful.

As we made our way out of the Wat complex the kids would all hop on their bicycles to escort us to the gate. Well, mostly they liked when we pulled them along like a bike train, but, either way, we always felt like the most important people on the street when we walked away to a deafning chorus of 'Goodbyeeeeeee! Thank YOUuuuuuu! See you when I see youuuuuuuu!' accompanied by what I'm sure was NOT traditional Khmer dancing.

One of the assignments that the kids from my intermediate class completed while we were there was to write a paragraph about their favourite room in their house. Most of the kids try so hard for their assignments and often wanted us to correct them over and over again until the sentences were just perfect. We were so impressed by their commitment, especially considering that their marks in the class, in the grand scheme really weren't that important as the program is not part of their actual schooling. One teenage boy in particular was disappointed that we weren't staying longer, as he was hoping to 'become fluent' from our daily before class chats.

Anyways, we want to share with you a couple of our favourite assignments. We love their vocabulary and how creative they are in describing their favourite rooms. Having attempted to learn a second language ourselves, we know how daunting writing paragraphs can be and think that these kids, having only taken a couple English classes previously are pretty great, and kinda funny:

Talk about my room

'In my house i like my room too much. Because it's so large that can contain a lot of thing in it. Especially it have veranda that almost of many flowers and brightly coloure. Inside room I have desk for studying, chair for sitting. So many books that I have. I can save or put it in the drawers under the table. And then have a lot of flower's pictures around it. either my family photo or friend's photos on the wall. So it make hapy to study. serch. read. and draw the picture that i need. So then I can look over the landscape outside the window around my room. And have a good fresh air too. So I love it and happy with it so much!'

My Favourite Room

'My favourite rom is that i like is a long room. It has a lot of everything like books, a computer, a fan, a bed, along pe, a branket, a rideo, a TV and a mobile phone. Because they make me easyer than each time. Whe I have free time i like tye my computer lessons, play music, play game on my computer and listen to rideo about currency of news.'

PS: Facebook is blocked in Vietnam, so if I am ignoring you-that's (probably) why.

Also: We've posted a bunch of pics from Angkor and Cambodia as well as Vietnam in our 'Flickr Photostream' which is the badge of rotating photos on the right of the blog ------------------------------------------------------------------------------->

Most important PS: Congrats Amanda and Shawn! Welcome to the world, Jack!!!

PPS. J, here. My personal apologies for that devilishly sarcastic arrow up there. I told Kristen that it is an insult to you, our family and friends, to point out which way is to the right. I just couldn't overpower her here. I'm sorry. I have let you down. Over and out.

PPPS. Blah, Blah, blah. I think its aesthetically pleasing and in no way was meant to be an 'insult.' I am just impressed that I managed to make a keyboard graphic all on my own!

PPPPS. keyboard graphic? I wasn't aware that we were using MS DOS here.

PPPPPS: Jonathan = boring, graphic-less blogs.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter Greetings

We really have had an amazing trip thus far. If our trip finished tomorrow, we really would be able to call it a trip of a lifetime. Of course, we still have another eight months left on this adventure, all being well! Without naming names (there are too many) we can dole out the title salt of the earth to most of the people we have met along the way. More than any single aspect of this trip, our friends have been the brightest beacons for us in looking back so far. There have also been a few unsavoury characters along the way, too. Some of them we have written about in the blog and some we haven't.

It is really upsetting to knowingly be on the receiving end of a blatantly dishonest act. Or, to be spoken to everyday like you have absolutely zero worth apart from what is in your wallet is particularly grinding. Outright verbal abuse, no matter what language its in, is stressful to endure and just plain awful. Sometimes it can get too stressful and you want to pop. We've sometimes felt that way, anyway. Returning the favour can be a very tempting thought. For this person or that situation it seems the circumstances are extraordinary and the tenet of turning the other cheek no longer fits the bill. Your tune easily and angrily changes to an eye for an eye. After all, that person doesn't appear to deserve anything different or anything less.

The Easter story, however, says something quite different. It says that God has refused to discount the intrinsic worth of every person in the human community. It also says that an unshakeable commitment to every human person has been made and that it takes shape in Jesus the Nazorean. Of course, believing what the Easter story points towards is a matter of trust. But I wouldn't rush to call it a blind trust, though. If it were, I suspect very few people would bother making baptismal commitments. But every year, particularly at Easter Vigil services, people around the world do get baptized. And what they are saying in being baptized is that, "Yes, I trust there is a deeper purpose for me and for all people and that I want to explore this broader horizon that the Easter story sets before me."

Despite saying that there is, in fact, a built-in dignity to be honoured in every person, Easter by no means suggests that this is always an easy commitment to keep. After all there can't be Easter without the sometimes difficult journey there. Holy Week is a stark reminder of that. And this is the all-inclusive package that Easter offers. Of course there are people who can be depressing or frustrating to be around. With dreadful efficiency they can obscure every bit of their "built-in dignity." But they are no less important and no less loved by God than is a Mother Theresa or a Francis of Assisi. Indeed, Easter is an invitation into hope and into something fresh, but it is also (and equally) a challenge to committedly and lovingly look at all human people, annoying and saintly, as God does.

Christus resurrexit! Resurrexit vere!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

How to get left on the side of the road by your tuktuk

The temples around Angkor Wat are nothing short of spectacular. We bought a seven day pass for a whopping $60 that can be used over the course of a month. This way we could see as many temples as we wanted, and not feel rushed trying to cram them all into a couple days. We are here for two weeks anyways, so we figured we might as well explore this World Heritage Area as much as we could.

Today was our fourth day of 'Temple-ing' aka exploring the temples. 'Temple-ing,' according to its actual definition, which I made up, consists of me stealthily sneaking through ancient stone doorways and clambering over piles of ruins, pretending to be Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider. I'm very believable, as you can imagine. If I had a riel for every person who came up to me and said 'Hey- are you Angelina Jolie rehearsing for Tomb Raider 3'.... ok well I probably would still be poor, as there are 4000 riels to the dollar, but still. I'm good.

Our first day out we ran into a great American couple we had met back in Luang Prabang. Tuk tuks generally take their fares to the same middle of nowhere restaurants in between temples where they are given free food or drinks or something in return. Although the restaurants are generally overpriced and serve sub-par grub, it worked out fantastically in this instance. Joel and Sonia are on a similar route to us and are great company. We were so happy to catch up with them again and hope that that will not be the last time.

Anyways, as I was saying, today was our fourth day 'Temple-ing' and, so far, we have gone through as many tuk tuks. We aren't doing well. Maybe we should come with a warning as Tuk Tuk drivers don't have good odds with us. The temples of are anywhere from 10-60 km from town. Most are closer than further though, and most of the main ones are all linked on a paved loop road. To get there, you need to hire a tuk tuk. You can, I suppose, bike to the closest ones, but in heat like this, I, at least, would probably keel over, so we splurge on tuk tuks to take us around. Prices range from $25 for the day to be driven out to further temples and $10-$12/day for closer ones. It all depends on your bargaining skills. Tuk tuks are abundant in Siem Reap. You can't walk 100m without hearing 'tuk tuk lady!' at least five times. It doesn't matter if you are walking past and obviously not looking for a tuk tuk, if you are sitting in a restaurant eating, getting out of another tuk tuk, or even IN a tuk tuk. They still ask you. Its like it's cumplusive. You spot a person and you MUST ask if they want a tuk tuk, regardless of common sense. Maybe its a disease.

We arranged our first tuk tuk driver through the guesthouse that we were staying in. It happened to be the same tuk tuk that picked us up from the airport. He was great. He was smiley and friendly and we loved him. As much as you can love your tuk tuk driver. We even bought him a Red Bull in appreciation. The next day we had to change guesthouses to a cheaper one. We arranged in advance with our tuk tuk to pick us up at our new guesthouse the next morning at 730am and agreed on a price. 730am came and went. No tuk tuk. We waited until 8am, watching the sun rise higher and higher in the sky as the morning got hotter and hotter by the minute. We finally gave up and started a hunt for a new tuk tuk. As I said before, its not finding a tuk tuk that's hard, as they are actively (and loudly) letting you know that they are there. Its getting one to agree to a reasonable price that takes time, patience and effort. Our new tuk tuk was fine. Not super friendly or anything, but he took us to the temple and back without any hassle.

A few days later we wanted to go again. We agreed to go with one of the annoying tuk tuks that are always harassing us when we walk down the street from our guesthouse. It was a bad idea to begin with. They are just so in your face sometimes, its easier to talk to them then try to walk past the human tuk tuk wall that they form along the sidewalk. We probably could have got the ride cheaper, but we really wanted to beat the heat, so we agreed. It seemed like a good deal for him. He took us to the ruins we wanted and he had friends there who owned a restaurant. He played cards literally all afternoon and we even ate at his friend's ridiculously overpriced restaurant, because we are good sports. He was ok.
We got back last night and arranged for him to pick us up again this morning. We showed him where we wanted to go and agreed on a price. Again, we probably could have got it a bit cheaper from a different tuk tuk, but we went along. It wasn't even noon and we had finished about half of the temples we thought we had agreed on. 'Ok, just one more left,' the driver said to us. 'No, four more left,' we said and we showed him the map again. 'No, I only agreed to the 'Grand Tour' those temples are in the 'Short Tour' he said like his personal naming of the 'Tours' made an iota of difference to us. 'Now I don't know what to do,' he said, like he was making some sort of big, difficult, moral decision. 'I do. I think you should take us to the temples we agreed on for the price we agreed to,' I said, about five times in a surprisingly nice tone.' I think you should give me a little more money,' he replied, 'You want to go eight kilomters out of the way, now.' I repeated my radical idea of Mr. Tommy the Tubby Tuk Tuk taking us to the temples we agreed for the price we agreed upon. (As named by ourselves). After all his apparent moral anguish, he came to the conclusion that it would be a better idea to leave us stranded at the side of the road. Seriously. I must admit that I was a little shocked when he actually drove off, leaving us standing there in a cloud of his tuk tuk's disgusting, dirty, black fumes. We hadn't paid him yet and tried to give him $5 for the fuel he used driving us as far as he did. He refused. He was making a statement. We were the ones being unreasonable, expecting him to take us to the temples we had agreed on for a the price we agreed to pay him.

Luckily for us, we were deserted in front of one of the many popular temples. There were tuk tuks abound. Unfortunately they were all there because they were waiting for their respective charges to return from exploring the temple. We figured that stealing a fellow travellers tuk tuk was maybe not a nice thing to do. We went back to the ticket checker. 'Ticket please, ' he said, even though he had checked our ticket about twenty minutes prior. 'We don't have a tuk tuk. Are there any here who haven't come with passengers?' We asked. 'You lost your tuk tuk?' he laughed. ' Don't worry! He will come back. He probably just went to the toilet or somesing.' I wasn't sure, but judging by the way our tuk tuk angrily took off, I didn't think he'd be coming back. I didn't bother trying to explain this to the ticket checker. 'Ok, thanks,' we said and looked around for another option. Tuk tuk tuk tuks everywhere, and not a one to take. That thought itself was almost funny. I was standing in front of a sea of tuk tuks, wanting a tuk tuk, and none were available! hmm
'Lets start walking,' was Jonathan's suggestion. We were about 15km from town. I gave him 'the look.'
Just then a single blonde woman pulled up in her tuk tuk. She looked just like the kind of woman who wanted to save the day. I (practically) ran up to her tuk tuk as she was disembarking. I waved at Jonathan to stay behind, because, (you've seen pictures) and the last thing I wanted was for this poor girl to run off terrified after her encounter with Big Foot's hairier cousin. 'Hi!' I called. She looked to her right, her left and behind her. Her fears were confirmed. I was talking to her. 'Hi?' she responded a little nervously. 'Soooo.. our tuk tuk just left us here because we wouldn't pay him more money... and I was wondering if we could hop a ride with you for the rest of your route?' 'Of course!' our new best friend, Luba, answered without a seconds hesitation. Wow, what a relief! We love Luba! We had already toured the temple she had arrived at, but we wandered through again with her, so we could get to know her a bit and profess our thanks in an unbroken stream of 'You are so nice! Thank you so much! We are so happy to meet you'. And genuinely meaning it too. Luba is originally from the Ukraine but moved to Israel several years ago. She speaks Ukranian, Hebrew, Russian and English. She was very modest about her impressive language skills and a very friendly and interesting tuk tuk companion. We toured the rest of the temples on her route with her and met for drinks and a traditional Apsara dance performance that night. What could have turned into a travellers horror story ended up being a fantastic experience that afforded us the privilege of meeting Luba, learning loads about Israel and being extended an open invitation to visit her in her town, just outside of Gaza, whenever we wanted. Thanks Tommy the Tubby Tuk Tuk! And Luba, of course!

I would like to say that our encounters with Tommy the Tubby ended right there, and that the last that we saw of him was the back of his shabby tuk tuk as it drove off. This, however, was not the case. Although, if this was one of those 'choose your own ending' books, that certainly would have been the ending I would have voted for. The evil villain riding off into the steamy afternoon in search of more tourists to rip off, and getting a really nasty sunburn on route, but never ever to be seen again. A fairy tale ending it was not. We arrived back at our hotel satisfied with our days templing and looking forward to a bit of relaxing before dinner. Low and behold, much to our dismay, there was Tommy, stalking around at the tuk tuk stand in front of our hotel. As soon as he laid eyes on us, it was clear that all that humming and hawing over the 'right' thing to do earlier had dissipated. Now he just hated us. Somehow in his twisted little tuk tuk mind, we had been the ones in the wrong. It was completely unacceptable to him, and apparently the whole tuk tuk mafia that now surrounded and backed him, to refuse to pay more when it was demanded. Before we had even gotten out of Luba's tuk tuk Tubby had gathered his posse and together they put on a striking performance of 'booos' giving us the double thumbs down. 'Bad people!' 'Not nice!' They called out as we walked through group which stood between us and the hotel. Jonathan, always the peace-maker, tried again to give Tubby $5 for fuel. (He hadn't taken any money from us yet, which was one of the most bizarre aspects of this whole sharade). 'I don't want your money!' He yelled in Jonathan's face. 'It is bad money. I want money, but not yours. I am rich and you are poor!' Direct quote. Seriously. Where as I burst out laughing at his ridiculousness, Jonathan was polite and courteous as he worked through the crowd that was the growing Siem Reap tuk tuk mafia. 'Blah blah blah' continued Tubby like a broken record, 'I don't want your dirty money!' It was getting a little annoying. Especially because it was forty degrees and they were direct barriers between myself and the air conditioning. Unfortunately restraint is something that I rarely am able to display. 'Great! Then there won't be any need for your (hand making talking gesture) every morning any more then, right?' I asked Tubby defiantly. Jonathan gave me a very mean glare. Apparently I had gone too far. Tubby and the Tuk Tuk mafia are all up in my grill and I get in trouble for a little jab! Jeez. I could have taken them.. all. I know Tae Bo! I was in Tomb Raider! Hello, did he forget that time I starred as Sydney in Alias? Fortunately, for everyone, Jonathan dragged me through the crowd by the ear (metaphorically speaking) before I got a chance to display any of my moves.

By the next morning, I was the picture of calm, cool and collected. Hard to imagine, right? But still, our feud with Tubby continued. From his end at least. I admitted that maybe it would be better if we just ignored the catcalls, which was a good decision, because by the time we left our hotel the next morning Tubby had permanently positioned himself outside our lobby and decided he would refer to us, individually or as a pair, I will never know, as 'Mr. Stinky.' 'Are you happy, Mr. Stinky?!' he yelled in Jonathan's face that first morning. I wasn't really sure what sort of insult that he was trying to convey, but from that moment on I realized how hilarious the situation actually was. Poor Tubby was there, everyday to greet us 'Mr. Stinky'(s?) and yell at us in Khmer until we were out of earshot. Which is less effective then he obviously thought. Not once was he out tuk tuk-ing. Harassing us daily as opposed to driving customers didn't seem like the best business plan, to me. But then again, maybe he is as rich as he claims. By the end of the two weeks we smiled and waved our goodbyes to him like we were old friends. He didn't wave back. I don't know about him, but we were going to miss his daily entertainment.

What made Siem Reap even better was a chance run-in with our friends from New Brunswick, Abbie and Dalen! We were wandering down the main tourist street and we so surprised to come upon their two familiar, smiling faces. We had met Abbie and Dalen way back in Malaysia and they had celebrated our 100th day with us. It was so great to catch up with them and hear how their trip had been since then. By now they will very close to heading back home to the Bay of Fundy for another great season of kayaking. With any luck, the next time our paths will cross will be on the water!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Life and Hope Angkor

Our current volunteering venture is with the Life and Hope Angkor organization at Wat Damnak, in Siem Reap. Life and Hope Angkor is 'an education-focused organization run by the monks of Wat Damnak. It is committed to breaking the cycle of poverty by providing loving support and access to education to the poorest and most vulnerable in Cambodia...' Again, we will be teaching English, only this time our classes are mostly comprised of adults and older teens. We are teaching three classes, from 4-7pm, every evening. Most of the students attend school or work during the day and come to the evening classes because they really want to learn English. So far, they are pretty entertaining and provide us with at least one giggle worthy statement every day. I say this in good humour, not to make fun of them, the same way everyone laughs when I try to say 'goodnight' in Khmer, which must be coming out something like 'I love to eat boogers' judging by the way they laugh when I make what I think are the correct noises. For example, on the first day, one of the boys wrote, 'It is exactly in the midle of the dessert,' which is funny because dessert is supposed to be desert, and he was meaning to say the the Marrakech market was 'exactly in the middle of the desert,' which is still funny, I think. Then another boy decided that you could buy and espresso at a pharmacy, which is probably what people who drink espressos try to use as medication anyways! haha

We are teaching beginners to pre-intermediate levels. In every class, I introduced myself and told the class a little about myself and Canada and then opened the floor to questions. Without fail, in each class, a cheeky boy would stand up and ask me how old I was, what my favourite colour was, and if I could cook. That was a new one. Could I cook? haha Was I filling out an application of sorts, I wondered. Was I passing?

Our routine in Siem Reap is getting comfortable (which is solely based on the air conditioning in our room). We get up early and bargain with a tuk tuk driver to take us to Angkor Wat or some of the surrounding temples for a few hours in the morning before the heat becomes to unbearable, then we come back to our wonderfully cool room for a few hours to admire our shower curtain and make our lesson plans for that evening before heading out for some cheap eats at our favourite restaurant before class. After class we meet friends for dinner, or wander around the fantastic night market to practice bargaining with the smiley Cambodians. If it wasn't forty degrees outside, we might just have found it hard to leave...

More on the absolutely magnificent temples of Angkor soon...

P.S. Happy birthday, Frank and Jodie!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

And I Quote...

Yes, I realize my hair is getting longer. Kristen did, however, say something a bit unexpected (and related) to me just the other day. You probably aren't interested in what that was, but in the off chance that you actually are (Laura):

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Ode to the Shower Curtain

When people ask me what I miss most about home, besides my family and friends, of course, I always blurt out 'Maple Syrup' enthusiastically, without much thought. There are many other things that we find ourselves longing for, from time to time, but they always seem to elude me at the crucial moment when someone is awaiting my response. Shower curtains, for example, is a luxury that I completely take for granted at home. The fact that there is a specified area in which to shower, cordoned off by an aesthetically pleasing curtain that keeps all that water and soap inside the designated showering location, where it clearly belongs, seems to be the most obvious thing in the entire world, to me. Apparently most of the rest of the world doesn' t really agree, and in fact, we have not seen a shower curtain since we left Australia.

This may seem trivial, so let me paint you a picture of my curtain-less woes. The typical bathroom we have encountered has been approximately the size of a closet. In these closets-cum-bathrooms, there is scarcely enough room for a throne toilet, (when we're lucky), a sink (when we are really lucky), and an electric water heating box on the wall next to a small shower head (when we pay for it specially). The water heater and shower head hang somewhere in the one square foot of spare floor space between the toilet and the sink. There is no such thing as a 'shower' the way you are thinking about the definition of the word. As in, there is no special place in which to 'shower'. As long as you manage to keep the majority of the water in the bathroom, you can consider yourself successful. A 'shower' here simply means a hose from which water is able to flow onto your head (or chest, if you are over five feet tall). The 'problems' with this set-up (for me) are plentiful. First, there is the PSR (Pre-Showering Ritual) you need to remember before you can even begin to consider stepping under the water. This involves scowering the entire bathroom (ok, so there is a benefit to the tiny weeny bathrooms) and remove any toilet paper, waste bin that contains toilet paper (which they all do, because you never ever EVER flush even a single slice of TP down the toilet or it will surely cause a very embarrassing clog not only in your toilet, but probably in every toilet in the hotel, somehow. Believe me. We know (J: Kristen loves having the 'toilet paper excuse.' We like to learn things the hard way- it's more fun)... anyway, you remove towels, clothes, anything, ANYTHING that can't get soaked (besides the electrical outlets, which can't be removed, and apparently prefer a good dousing in water?) Thomas Merton famously died by electrocution when stepping out of a bath in Thailand. Being here, it is too easy to picture how that could have happened...especially to someone as absent minded as Merton. Anyway, why the ritual? Because everything is going to get wet. This includes the floor (more like a permanent puddle, really) and, horribly, the toilet seat. Midnight toilet runs become very frustrating when you have to somehow locate your sandals in the pitch black, fumble to find the light (which always seem to be located on the furthest possible wall from the bathroom) in your fifth different wet bathroom in as many nights, remember not to actually sit on the toilet seat, all while trying to keep your pj bottoms out of the floor that is now a puddle... and then, as you are reaching with your one spare finger for the toilet paper, you remember that you forget to return its rusty nail home after your shower!! EERRR!

Ok, so back to the actual adventure of showering. As you are standing there, trying to avoid touching the toilet with your bare legs, because that's just gross, you also need to keep your eye out for pesky mosquitoes, which thrive in the damp, constantly wet conditions. Water is flying everywhere and all I can think about is how wet the toilet is getting. We've tried to remedy this issue by leaving the toilet seat up while showering, and when that didn't work, we tried covering the seat with the lid, which was also to no avail. We've even tried to turn the water off while we lathered or whatever, and hold the small movable shower head so that the water could be more easily controlled. And while this method did lead to a significantly less wet toilet seat, it also led to more mosquito bites, more soap in the eyes and, really, have you ever tried to shower with only one hand? It's annoying.

So. You can imagine my joyous shock when we were checking out rooms in Siem Reap and I happened to glance in the bathroom and see the coveted shower curtain. I dragged Jonathan into the bathroom and closed the door behind us. 'Do you see this??!!! A special little designated showering area WITH a shower curtain!!' If he was excited he certainly did a good job of hiding it. Men just don't get it. 'We are taking this room, so you better get a good price!' I hissed as I appreciatively wrapped the damp, dank, but not yet moldy, dollar store (or riel store) curtain around me like a silk scarf. He rolled his eyes. 'You are absolutely nutso,' he said as he dusted himself off and opened the bathroom door to a very confused (and perhaps a little frightened) guesthouse manager who was still standing in the doorway waiting for us to decide whether we would take the room from her or not. At this point, she was probably hoping we wouldn't take it. I came out of the bathroom 'Ten dollars sounds good. We'll take it.' 'Ummmm, ok, good?' The manager asked herself. Then she turned in a dime and practically ran back down the stairs to the lobby.

Needless to say, we'll be hanging out in Siem Reap for a few blissfully dry toilet seat days!

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Flying not-so-high with Lao Airlines

We arrived in Cambodia in style: via an airplane! We had a fantastic time at Sunshine School, but other than that, after a month (and one day) in Lao, we were ready to high-tail it out of there. We wanted to stay until Friday of our second week at the school and so we had to extend our Lao visa for one extra day. This involved a trip to the dreaded Immigration Office at which we were bounced around in typical Lao style to pay one fee at this window, fill out this incomprehensible paperwork at another window, pay another fee in a different currency at another window, redo the paperwork, pay another fee at yet another window and so on until we walked out of the Immigration Office with significantly lighter pockets and an insatiable urge to hop on the next bus out of town. Instead, we skipped our afternoon classes in favour of a trip to the travel agency where we purchased two very expensive plane tickets from Vientiane to Siem Reap with Lao Airlines.

I was pretty nervous about flying, especially with Lao Airlines and especially on the tiny 60 seater plane that was flying the route. I was telling friends at the school how nervous I was about the whole thing and realized how ridiculous I must have sounded to people who have never and probably will never, be on a plane in their lives. 'This plane is too small for me! I want a bigger plane!' Ok, Goldilocks. Either way, the distance was barely a few hundred kilometers, we had a stopover in Southern Lao, and the whole trip was going to take at least three hours. In the end though, I was pleasantly surprised. Other than the fact that my carry-on bag didn't fit in the overhead compartment, nor under the seat and therefore ended up under my feet.. that is allowed here, apparently. The flight was smooth, the service was great, and, they even fed us! Twice! Who are we trying to kid? It was the food that won me over. The first flight was about an hour, we flew low, probably because this teeny weeny propeller plane couldn't push us any higher, but it was nice to be able to watch the landscape unravel below us. They fed us breakfast, which included dessert. Yes! We landed in Pakse, Southern Lao, were run through exit Immigration and directly back onto the plane. There were only about ten of us on the second leg of the trip and my bag was able to have its own seat in the adjacent seats (J: believe me, it needs its own seat!). They didn't even go through this-is-how-you-buckle-your-seatbelt spiel on the second flight. As soon as we were on board, the engine roared to life and we took off down the runway. I guess you don't have to wait for an opening when you are the only plane in the entire airport. Then they fed us a 'snack' which again, included a dessert. After my heart, this Lao Airlines is. We landed a little after 9am and I had eaten two meals already! At least we arrived in Cambodia on a full stomach!