Archive | April, 2013

Back in the city!

11 Apr

After a relaxing few days in Kampot, I had to return to the reality of Phnom Penh. I am quickly becoming accustomed to the way of life here and some of it isn’t anything I should be proud of. Mommy, I know you’re reading this so just know that I promise I will buy a helmet soon! The thing I am talking about which I am not proud of is that I have started using motos more often as my mode of transportation. The first time I rode on the back of one, I was absolutely terrified and swore I would never get on one again. But then I got on one again and it wasn’t as scary. The thing is, that at the moment it’s a cheaper way to get from point A to point B and not to mention faster than a tuk-tuk in this crazy traffic. Once again, Mommy, don’t kill me! ūüôā

Being back in Phnom Penh is strangely comforting and I guess that’s because technically it is my home at the moment. I mean I have an apartment, friends, favorite places to eat, and a basic idea of how to get around. There are definitely times when I miss the States but I try not to dwell on those type of feelings so much because I am trying my best to embrace this new and inspiring life that I am living.

Today is the first time I have done something “touristy” in Phnom Penh since my first Sunday spent here. I visited the Tuol Sleng (S-21) Prison. I knew that it would be sad which is why I have avoided it until now but nothing could have prepared me for the feelings I felt as I walked through the school rooms that used to be holding cells for torturing innocent people. I walked through at first struggling with whether I should even take pictures of the place because it just felt so morbid and wrong, but I decided that while¬†painful, moments in history such as the Khmer Rouge should never be¬†¬†forgotten just because it is hard to face. S-21 used was¬†a primary and high school before the Khmer Rouge turned into a detention center where they held people with political or intellectual backgrounds and tortured them until they confessed to things they had not done. ¬†Today it is a very eerie place, made even more so by the fact that you can tell that the rooms you stand it are classrooms and even the gym in the courtyard was warped into some sick torture device.

I spent two hours wandering from room to room, standing in cells, looking at the countless number of pictures of people who would die in those rooms. While I suppose some could spend more time there, it became too overwhelming and I had to leave. I am glad that I went, but unless it is for the documentary they show at certain times, I will not be going back. I am still debating on whether or not to upload the pictures. It probably won’t seem so bad to see the pictures, but in person it was just heartbreaking. But that is something I feel you have to face here, because this whole country is surrounded by reminders of that time and it’s crazy to see it slowly rising from the ground.

Until next time.

Cheers!

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The next step.

11 Apr

First let me start of by apologizing for sucking at keeping this up to date. There are lots of times where I am just too tired or uninspired to write and of course when something does inspire me I have nothing to write with! I think I’ll look into purchasing a small notepad and pen.

Last Friday I finished my last day of the TESOL course and received my certificate. One of the instructors took us all out for a graduation dinner to a soup place where I had one of the best meals since I have been here in Cambodia. They actually had vegetables. Seriously.

On Sunday afternoon I became the first of my group to leave the city. I took a 3 hour bus ride to the lovely river town of Kampot, where I spent 2 nights. My first reaction upon arriving in Kampot was that there was no way I was going to survive¬†two nights, because everything seemed so slow-paced, and I get restless easily. But I told myself to suck it up and just relax, because lord knows I needed it after spending a month in the city. I explored the riverside area of town which is really the main attraction and that took all of two hours. In that small amount of time I began to realize that Kampot had something special that I have not yet found in Phnom Penh. People there are incredibly friendly! Don’t get me wrong, I think Khmer people in general are very nice, but something about the people from Kampot was just so much different. Perhaps it’s that they aren’t living in a bustling city that hardens anyone over time, but isn’t that the case for every city?

While walking along the river I had children approach me wanting to dance and spin, young women wanting to just chat and  ask me why I was in Cambodia and what I liked the most about it, and even one teenage boy who wanted to practice his English with me.

The next day I woke to knocking at my door and when I opened it, still half asleep, it was the manager informing me that if I’d like to go on the countryside tour there was a bus downstairs and I needed to be ready in five minutes. I quickly got dressed and threw some things in a backpack and headed out. Once on the bus I quickly realized that everyone was wearing a bathing suit underneath their clothes, because apparently this tour would end up on an island. Poor planning on my part! The tour started with a half hour drive in the country and it was just so beautiful in a way I’ve never seen and don’t know how to describe exactly. We passed by many villages filled with people of every age and tons of animals. While I cannot imagine living such a slower paced life, I almost envied their laid back nature. On that drive I was reminded constantly of something I’ve noticed before and that is how Khmer people will shyly smile at you, but once you smile back and wave, those shy smiles become wide toothy grins accompanied by enthusiastic waves. This is what I love the most about this country. I have never seen such beautiful people.

Our first stop was at a salt farm, which in my ignorance I didn’t even know such things existed but it was really interesting the way it all works. The salt piles seemed to go on forever and it made for some excellent¬†pictures. ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Next we stopped at a pepper plantation where we learned about the kinds of pepper and even got to taste some. The red colored pepper was okay, but the green one was super spicy! After that we headed to a mountain where we would get to explore a cave. I use the word ‘explore’ quite loosely, because it was so dark ¬†you really couldn’t see anything and had to follow the voices of the guide and children (bodyguards) and the one small flashlight. I’d like to offer some personal advice here, don’t wear a dress and sandals when going through a cave. It kind of sucks. ūüôā

We wrapped up the tour with a visit to the seaside town of Kep where we took a boat to Rabbit Island. ¬†The island didn’t offer much but made for a nice couple of hours day trip. Be warned that if you order a chocolate and banana smoothie and ask them to add rum, all you will taste is rum. Felt a bit like Jack Sparrow as I was drinking it.

After a fun-filled day, I headed back to Kampot with my new Austrian friend, Michaela to the best pie/ice cream shop in the world. The WORLD. If you’re ever in Kampot,¬†check out Kampot Ice cream and Pie Palace. It’s a wonderful little shop owned by a very sweet Khmer woman named Mary. I would move to Kampot just for Mary’s brownies. Also, I don’t want to forget to mention EpicArts Cafe. They have tasty treats and as an added bonus, their proceeds go to the training of those with disabilities. Okay, enough of me advertising! :p

All in all I had a lovely get away from the city and I can’t wait to go back.

This post is becoming longer than I had anticipated so I will wrap it up and start a new one later on. Until next time!

Cheers!

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Salt farm worker.

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Kep.

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Rabbit Island!

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My personal “bodyguard” for the cave.

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The pepper plantation.