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Published: February 22nd 2011
Up at 5:00, out at 6:40, breakfast near C.'s guesthouse at 7:00. At 8:00 we went out to Sovann Komar orphanage. C. gave me a quick tour of the main building. Since my appointment with the director wasn't until later, I took a walk. The orphanage is not a collection of children and adult care providers; instead, young married couples were hired and asked to make a 20-year commitment. They live in houses on the grounds, and several children live in each family. It's less like a boarding school and more like a neighborhood block. You'll notice I have no photos with people in them--this is for the children's and families' privacy. I had a pleasant conversation with the director and I feel very positive about the work they're doing and the internship possibilities for my students or graduates. I was impressed with his sense of mission and the concern he had for the children. I was able to meet many of them informally and they were very sweet and engaged. They're a young cohort and I'll be interested to hear what it's like there when they have 60+ teenagers.
I had lunch with the director and the three volunteers
at his house, chicken soup, pork with (I think) bitter melon, vegetables, fish, and rice.
I had been offered and had declined to have the driver schlep me back to Phnom Penh, so I spent several hours birdwatching on the grounds, which include a banana grove, a soccer field, and the edge of the Tonle Sap River. In other words, bird city.
I understand that not everyone is interested in birds. I've always been at least a little interested. My family had a bird book and binoculars around, and I enjoyed seeing brightly colored birds and marine birds. I think, though, that I can date my more serious birding to a trip N. and I took to Mexico. We had a birding tour with a naturalist, somewhere south of Puerto Vallarta and north of Mismaloya. I was especially taken with the Great Kiskadee and wanted to know more about it. It's been nothing but books entitled Birds of
I found several great birding spots on the relatively compact orphanage grounds. Some identifications will have to wait until I'm home with my quite good but heavy SE Asian bird guide. However, I could identify these:
Indian roller (aka Blackbilled roller)
Asian open-billed crane
Oriental magpie robin
MAYBE greater coucal
MAYBE river tern*
*These are my new birds, but I need to read more about terns' range in Cambodia before I claim this one. Though I've seen them before, I was thrilled to see the storks, rollers, and bee eater since they're attractive birds and I haven't seen them in Phnom Penh before.
Since my inadequate little handbook doesn't list a bird I have seen perhaps 50 of since Sunday, I will call it a Frugiverous stripy-head, and another a Dendrocephalus fulvoventus. Further identification is required.
I also saw a cormorant but can't count it. Look at the photo of the Vietnamese family on the river. To the right of the man casting the net you'll see a cormorant perched on the edge of the boat. It's tethered there. Remember Peng the Duck? Same same. The cormorant is used for fishing. Because it's captive, one doesn't count it.
Bonus photo: This is what my shoulder looks like even after repeated applications of SPF 30. It was sunny
I know you're wondering what I did from 5:00-6:40 this morning. I admit that I was eating several of the yellow mangoes that Kosal gave me. They're perfectly ripe, juicy, and delicious, with an almost caramel aftertaste. They're outrageously good and I'm eating two a morning. Since I have no cutlery or plates and the last thing a person wants on a floor in the insect-rich tropics is dripped fruit nectar, I peeled them with my thumbnail and ate them out of hand while standing in the shower. I am neither proud nor ashamed, I am just pleased to have them.
Tomorrow begins with the last of the mangoes, then I'm going on a craft-buying trip with a person from SADP. I'll then hunt up a copy of the paper to see if the interview ran, and finish outlining my book talk. I'll inventory the crafts I'm carrying back and see about paying for a hotel room for Thursday night even though I'll actually leave for the airport at 9:00 PM.
I finished the Cambodian contemporary art book I mentioned yesterday and enjoyed it a lot. All of the artists are quite young and all
Crispy critters should probably use a more emphatic block and wear a broad-brimmed hat
but one are male. I also finished The Windup Girl,
which Wikipedia characterizes as "biopunk," or what used to be called "science fiction with like gene manipulation and corporate greed and like they have to use modified elephants to power the turbines, man." I thought it was generally quite good, and really, how much science fiction is set in Thailand?
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