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Published: July 20th 2006
...that you can fit 3 people and a huge pig all on one small motor scooter? Well, ya can! Too bad I couldn't get my camera out in time.
I have a feeling this is going to be a long entry... I'm in Cambodia now and I've been having a great time. Aside from almost getting on the wrong plane, I got here just fine. I made friends with the guy sitting next to me, so that was cool. The humidity is intense. It's just accepted that everyone is going to be a sweaty mess! I was told to hire a tuk-tuk driver for $10 per day so I did and it has been well worth it. The city is very spread out and in order to get to the sites I wanted to see you have to drive. A tuk-tuk is a cart attached to a motor bike. I have closed my eyes and wondered if it was my time to go more than a few times. The driving here is crazy. People here really have a knack for balancing (most people drive motorbikes).
Siem Reap is the city in which I'm staying. It's very built up
as far as Cambodian standards go. It has become very touristy due to the Temples of Angkor. When I say touristy, again, it's by Cambodian standards. I'd guess it's 10% tourists and the rest locals. The people here are extremely friendly and the country is extremely third world. My first day I found a cute, clean place to stay and then headed to the temple of Angkor Wat with my driver, Marom. This is the largest temple and is absolutely enormous and breath-taking. The temples date back to the year 820 and were built by different kings until about 1219. Apparently, they stopped building them when the country began to run out of resources and when the people began switching to Theravada Buddhism. The temples are amazing stone structures that you'll have to see pictures of because describing them will do them no justice. I'm not much of a history buff, but being there was fascinating!
After that I went to buy soccer balls for the kids at the orphanage (that was something they said the needed when I emailed). I was wondering where I was going to find soccer balls and Marom took me to a little shop
off of the street and they had some in a back corner. You would have thought I gave those kids a million dollars. They were so cute and were pretending they were in the World Cup. Being there was pretty rough on the heart. There were way more elementary aged kids than I expected. Many of them followed me around and wanted to speak English. There were several infants and toddlers, but not as many as the older kids. It's strange seeing babies without diapers. They just don't have the means for them. As a result, kids are potty-trained much earlier than what is considered normal in the US. I was holding the babies without the diapers and it crossed my mind that I might get pooped on. I really didn't care, though (I didn't get pooped on). I can only imagine that the most difficult part of the adoption process would be choosing one child. It would be absolutely excrutiating. While there, I found out that they have a shortage of baby formula. I went to the market today and bought a bunch of it. I couldn't believe how expensive it is for these people to feed their babies.
The average yearly income is under $300 and a can of formula costs $7.40. Crazy. I delivered it to them and they invited me to stay for lunch with them. I'm going back again to the orphanage tomorrow for a few hours. I guess the kids do some sort of a show every day at 3:00.
I went to another temple in the evening for sunset. There is a massive amount of stone and rubble "stairs" that you have to climb to get to the top. I don't think I knew the meaning of sweat until that moment, but it was very pretty up there so it was worth it. After I climbed down I had some pineapple on a stick.
Landmines are still a huge problem in Cambodia. Not so much in the touristy areas, but they don't recommend walking off the beaten path. I guess 2,000 minefields have been cleared, but many of the 10 million land mines that were laid in the 1980's haven't been found. I have seen a lot of amputees and I when I asked Marom about it, he told me most of them lost there limbs from stepping on the landmines.
I'm stickin' to the pavement.
Last night I met up with my friend from the plane and his friend for dinner and drinks. They have a pool at their hotel and we made a date for the pool for today. The pool was like heaven after visiting more temples today. They have salt water in the pool, which I thought was odd.
I've been battling with trying to be respectful to the kids who beg or try to sell you their stuff. "Laaaaaady...2 for 1 dolla for you!" They often follow you closely and can be absolutely relentless. Last night when we were leaving the bar we were surrounded by tuk-tuk drivers trying to give us rides. There were kids around and that was bothersome because it was 2am, but I didn't think much of it. I was standing there talking and I felt my purse move and I looked down and saw a little hand in my purse. Respect went out the window at that point and I yelled, "get away from me you little shit"! Luckily, he was unsuccessful in taking anything. It's so sad what these kids learn to do at such a young age.
He couldn't have been older than 6 or 7. Giving them money when they beg only perpetuates the fact that kids are sent out to beg while the parents or other family members hang back somewhere and observe and collect the money.
Anyway, the temple I went to today is called Ta Prohm. It is one of the most amazing works of nature that I've ever seen! The jungle has taken over the remains of a huge temple and massive trees and tree roots are intertwined throughout. Again, you'll have to see pictures. I was walking through some of the cave-like parts and at the time I didn't notice that there was an old lady squatting in the shadows. I jumped out of my skin and screached when she said something. She laughed at me and then lit some incense for me to do a prayer with her to a shrine of Buddha that was next to her. I was squatting across from her and had my water bottle between my legs and I must have squeezed it because the cap popped off and water soaked me. I didn't want to interrupt, so I just had to deal with
it for a minute. Clothes don't dry quickly because of the humidity and I walked around for a while after that looking like I had an accident.
Sorry for the novel. I hope you are all doing well!
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