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Published: July 25th 2008
If I remember correctly, when we last left off we were hanging our bug nets to save ourselves from the mice invasion. There were no computers at our visit to Kampot, so I took notes to fill you in on the highlights of the last several days.
We stayed one last night in our "mouse" room, but with very little sleep decided to upgrade to a beautiful little bungalow over looking the ocean. I wish I could say that we slept in peace but with every little sound we were reminded of past events. Sleep may never be the same again.
Tuesday we sat at the beach and hoped our bodies would begin to turn the golden brown of the Cambodian people. When I am able to download more photos you will see how wrong we were.
On Wednesday we took a 4 hour bus ride to Kampot, a little village looking over the Elephant Mountains southeast of where we were. We stayed at the Little Garden Bar and fell in LOVE with the owner, a German woman named Barb. She was wonderful! When she found out it was Courtney's birthday she baked her a cake, lit a candle and we all sang happy birthday. We felt like we could stay here forever. It is someplace I hope to visit again very soon, maybe with some of you willing readers out there?!?
Thursday we woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed to conquer the Elephant Mountians. After a 40 minute bike ride in the blistering sun we reached the base of the mountain and began to climb. We lasted approximately 30 minutes and could not go any further, water bottles already empty, sun at it's peak, our bag of rice too heavy to carry. All the village people we saw previously, chopping wood, swinging babies in hammocks, collecting wood while naked, watched us walk up and then watched us walk down. We made all Westerners look very weak.
Thursday evening we got a massage at the cost of $4/ hour. You may be interested to learn that all "legit" massage places in this area are by blind people. Any other massage parlor is just going to do inappropriate things to your body, and after what we witnessed in Sihanoukville, it seems to be a booming business. Ladies out there, NEVER let your husbands, boyfriends or significant others come to SEA unattended. More information can be given upon request.
It was after our massage, sitting by the river while watching the sun set that we met Samon, a young Cambodian anxious to practice his english skills. We asked him why people were starring at us, calling out to us on the streets, children giddy when we answered their calls of hello. The answer was so simple that we had never seen it. For most of those people, we were the FIRST white people, or westerners as some called us, they had EVER seen. Riding our bikes, with our clothes, our different hair textures and colors, our smiles, it was like nothing they had ever seen and nothing we had ever experienced. We had even turned to each other, thinking "they must think we are someone else". They didn't know why Courtney had glasses on, and had even questioned her about her "eye problem". People here can't afford glasses and so very few people knew what they were for. We sat for 15 mintues, trying to explain that I have "eye problems" too, but I wear contacts. They cringed at the thought of putting something in their eyes. And let me say for the record, Samon is an educated man, having just completed his college degree.
This morning we started our slow crawl north back towards Bangkok. We are in Phnom Penh for the night and leave for Bangkok at 6AM on a 14 hour bus ride on unpaved roads. It is ESSENTIAL for us to be out of the country by Sunday, as it is their election day. One of the parties running is a former Khmer Rouge soldier. We were told he does not have a very good chance of winning, but if he does it could cause some problems. We have seen many protests with trucks full of people with loud speakers waving flags and screaming their parties name. We spent a great deal of time talking with Cambodians about this election and if I wasn't compeltely and utterly exhausted I would be more than happy to fill you in. As corrupted as some of our politicans may be, once you have witnessed the corruption of a third world country, it makes me realize we have very little, if anything, to complain about.
Once we are safely in Bangkok, I will add more pictures. Wish us luck tomorrow.
Kristin and Crew
PS Interesting Fact #1: College here is free, but of the 500 people that apply, only 20 are accepted each year. Private college costs between $400-500. Seems cheap, right? The average Cambodian makes $160/year. So, let's say you make $50 thousand a year, can you imagine the price of college tuition being more than double your salary at about $120,000/ year? How many of us would be able to attend?
Intersting Fact #2: Cambodia has the highest infant and under 5 mortality rate. Not surprising as we saw a child walking around with a recycled water bottel being used as an IV
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