a blog about the cultural experiences my husband and I have because of our work abroad...what's delightful and beautiful about different countries and cultures...what we have learned from living and working in countries other than our home country...and how those experiences have changed us

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Goodbye Cambodia

In a few short weeks Stephen and I will bid farewell to Cambodia. For the last 2+ years we've lived, worked, and learned in this third world Southeast Asian country. And we have been changed by it. But over the course of those many months, we've gradually developed the desire to find a situation that better utilizes our particular skills, passions, and temperaments while also allowing us to serve some poor and under-served people. Our time in Cambodia has been immeasurably valuable to both of us and we are most grateful for the opportunity to experience life in a setting so different from the one we were born into. Stephen is proud of the work he has done here and he leaves behind staff who appreciate him and are sad to see him go.

I will miss the way the Cambodian people have treated me with such dignity and decency, the friendly smiles and gracious thank yous from tuk-tuk drivers even when I tell them I don't need their services today, the patient Cambodian servers who wait for us to tell them we are ready to order and when we would like our bill. There is much that is beautiful about Southeast Asia and we will miss all of those things.

Over the past 28 months, we've captured many images of Cambodia; a few of our favorites are below.

 Outside the National Museum

 Dragonfruit, my favorite.

 White flesh dragonfruit. There's a purple flesh kind too.

 So many motorcycles and scooters in Phnom Penh, And people use them to transport everything imaginable.

A truckload of people. This is how garment factory workers get to and from work each day.

 I love the way so much attention is paid to presentation in Asia. Doesn't that latte look just beautiful?! The napkins are folded into roses. And the pineapple fried rice is brought to the table in a scooped out pineapple. 

 A moto driver is transporting a ton of bananas to market.

 Sohka beach.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat.

 My class of adorable preschool children.

 Trucks piled high.

 Buffalo riders.

 Pony carts.

 We never cease to be amazed by what we see loaded on a moto.

Ancient ruins - Bayon.

Monks sitting inside Angkor Wat.

 Ancient ruins in the jungle.

 A menagerie of tree roots.

 Rice farmers.

Tonle Sap Lake flooding.

 The Royal Palace in Phnom Penh.

 Symbols of Buddhism

 A woman selling snails. They bake in the sun on her cart and she seasons them with an orange mixture when someone buys a bagful. 

 Fishing boats at sunset.

 A woman carrying food stuffs to sell.

 A young girl selling bananas to feed to the monkeys.

Carrying a bike on a moto.

A food cart, Cambodian style.

Independence monument at night.

Soon we will take the red-eye flight from Phnom Penh to Seoul for the last time. Then it's on to the US for a brief sabbatical to spend time with family and recharge for our next venture. So goodbye Cambodia. We will hold you in our hearts and minds.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Pchum Ben holiday trip

October 3rd-5th were the official days off for the Buddhist holiday Pchum Ben. Pchum Ben, or Ancestors' Day, is a 15 day festival when many Cambodians visit temples and celebrate their ancestors. Vanek, Stephen's operations manager, told us as he drove us to the airport that many Cambodians visit several temples so as not to miss their ancestors' spirit which would mean bad luck for them in the year to come. Many Cambodians leave the city and visit family in their "homeland", rural provinces.

Stephen and I took advantage of the holiday to fly to Singapore. We have reached a phase where the noise, pollution and controlled chaos of the third world city we call home, wears on us more than it did early on. A brief trip away is a welcome repreive. Our holiday in Singapore was wonderful in every respect!

Flights from Cambodia to Singapore are quick and inexpensive, an awesome advantage of living in Phnom Penh. And purchasing hotels from the Asian market means we get better deals than purchasing from the US. Stephen booked us a room at the BIG hotel and I think it's probably my favorite hotel yet. Awesome design and attention to detail. A wonderfully soft bed with light-as-air duvet and perfect pillows.

A rain showerhead in the tiled shower. The overall space had clean lines and a bright warm feel, very feng shui. And just outside our door a chilled and hot water dispenser with an ice machine right next to it. Living in Phnom Penh makes these perhaps "standard" immenities feel, to us, like pure luxury.

In Phnom Penh, we tend to stay indoors more than not to avoid the discomfort of heat and limit our risk of exposure to disease, pollution, traffic accidents... So we were both eager to be out and about in relatively safe and clean Singapore. But to get started we needed to first find a great restaurant and eat some delicious food!

A wonderful ramen noodle house fit the bill. Yum!

There is a small island off the mainland of Singapore called Sentosa Island. It's a big resort area with spectacular theme parks. We hadn't planned to go over to Sentosa but when we went to purchase tickets for the cable car to take us to the trails on the South Ridges of Mt. Faber park, the tickets included looping down to Sentosa Island. I am not a fan of heights so leaving the platform was a bit scary but the view of the city was so cool, I soon got over my fear.

So this trip we finally made our way out to the Singapore zoo. And it was so worth the long subway ride plus long bus ride to get there. I had read about the new "River Safari" and was so eager to see and photograph the animals we might see from the boat. Unfortunately the "Amazon River" section and the boat ride were not yet open. So I didn't my leopard photos I was hoping for! Maybe next time. We did get to walk through the other exhibits organized by rivers of the world.

An ALLIGATOR SNAPPING TURTLE found in the Mississippi River.

A RED PANDA found along the Yangtze River in China.

A GIANT PANDA also found along the Yangtze River.

These were the cool River Safari bathrooms: you get to look out at a garden while you wash your hands.

This giant tank was called The Amazon Flooded Forest. We were there when divers were feeding the manatee. I was so impressed by this and other wonderfully expansive habitats. I'm glad the animals have so much space to more around in. 

In the evening we went to the Night Safari. Though it was pretty hard to get any decent pictures it was really fun to see the animals active at night.

The highlight of the evening was watching a flying squirrel glide from the top of the enclosure down past this other flying squirrel sitting on the branch.

The next day it was back to Jurong Bird Park to see the exhibits we missed last time.

Toucans have such beautiful bright colors. 

Ostrich legs do look like dinosaurs don't they?!

I could get quite close to these Sun Parakeets.

This is one of the shots I was hoping to get. :) Emus are also "dinosaur descendants".

How crazy looking is this Shoebill? It was standing completely still.

The following day it was out to the zoo for a second day. I went straight to the tiger habitat. :)

And then to the polar bear.

And then to the cheetahs.

Stephen is not actually touching this lemur's tail but we were that close.

Singapore does a great job with their animal parks. They are beautiful places for people to visit and it feels to me that a good deal of planning and maintenance goes into the care of the animals and their habitats. One more reason we love Singapore.