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Published: August 22nd 2011
so it starts at 3am....I can't sleep. I've awoken to the sound of angry dogs trying to out-bark eachother, and CNN blaring out the news Tripoli, Ghadaffhi...bla...bla....bla. I watch it for half an hour, the same thing over and over, and feel privaledged to have heard the news before most of you lot at home. But I cant get back to sleep. It's 9:30 back home so i try to phone but it tells me the numbers are not recognised. I try again, but alas, to no avail. I text. Yes! it works. I tell my mum to get someone to phone orange for me and fix this problem. and yes, I have tried turning it off and on again. As it transpires, It is 4pm here and 10am where you are and orange are now texting me to see what the problem is. They ask me, "Have you tried turning it off and on again" ARGH!!!!
Then my mum calls and she can hear me but guess what....I can't hear her so I tell her how I slept and that I am feeling a lot bettter that I did yesterday but can't hear her response. Phew.
I decide to get up early, 7am and be ready to leave at 8. By 7, I am tired and try to sleep but realise this is a bad idea and will only continue the jet lag. I force myself out of bed and have a warm shower. It's freezing, the air con has gone from 23* to 17*, I must have slept on the remote control.
Changed, I stride downstairs with my huge bag full of phone, netbook, journal, pen, money and the kitchen sink. I know I'll regret it so I decide to take the laptop back upstairs and then out of fear of someone theiving it from the room I hide it under the covers, but then realise my bed will probably get changed so it will be found. Silly me. I don't now who I am going to survive these simple bits, this is where Carl tells me of a really good place to hide it. So I think...."What would Carl do?" I really havn't got a clue so I empty the laptop out of the case and leave that out on the bed then hide the laptop in he bottom of my rucksack. I don't care what you say, I think this is a jolly good idea. In the back of my little head the cogs are churning and they imagine (to the sound of Charlie Chaplin music) the cleaner coming in, seeing the empty case and thinking "ah, It's been taken with her". She sees the bag all tied up and thinks, "Hmm, I wonder what's in there?" then she finds £800 of camera equipment and a laptop. I cover it with dirty washing in the hope it will deter them.
Why did I take it with me??????? It's such a stress worrying about it.
Stuff it, if it gets taken, it gets taken. It's more likely going to get ripped off my arm on the streets than out of the hotel room. I convince myself. Plus, I'm insured if it's left in a locked room. Can't say no to that, can you Mr Endsleigh?!
I decide I'll walk in to town, look at the map and catch the nearest Tuk Tuk. "Take me to central market my dear Chariot and make it speedy"
Hmm, I think i've been overcharged...I expected him to argue more. Next time I'll try $2.
So me and my chariot are speeding through the mass of traffic, my hair lapping in the breeze getting more and more tangled. We swerve, we beep, we nearly hit some poor man in a wheelchair, then a little girl and her mother, then we nearly get hit by a landcruiser, then a bus then a moped drives in to us and hits the wing mirror.
The roads are horrifically looked after, someone should really complain to the council. You could get lost for days down some of these pot holes. More like crevasses.
I just thank my lucky stars that I chose to wear the sweat wicking sports bra for moderate sport like tennis. Next time though, its the high impact running bra.
So with saggier boobs than I left the hotel with, I hop of at destination 'central market'. Most stalls are shut but cambodia is waking and the stalls are being set up slowly. I walk around it and take in the views. I am the only white westerner there and they all stare. The foods smell gorgeous but I don't know what they are cooking and feel intimidated by it. The flower arrangers are arranging flowers and they are beautfiful. My nose is full of pollen and then I see the ghastly skinned chickens hanging from a hook with their long necks wrapped in to a knot - like you would with rope or with a tea towel you want to really hurt someone with. I look away and smell death and there it is staring at me in the face. Hundreds of skinned dead frogs, mouths hanging limply in a big basket. Then there's the fish, the shell fish, more chickens, spiders, and the infamous duck egg foetuses. I look around at the tabes full of cambodians of all ages, scoffing their hungry faces, fish eyes bulging out of their mouths as it slithers in. I decide I won't eat here just yet.
I walk past stalls with tiny little bras, bras stuffed full of liquid to make boobs look bigger...pants with extra padding in to help malaysian women to fill their jeans. I think I could make a few dollars....I have extra unwanted padding in my behind and there is definately a market for it here. maybe they are jealous of the junk in my trunk?
I have walked down streets which are all dedicated to hairdressing. Not the salons at home mind, more like someones front room with a chair, mirror and a few scissors on a table. But all of them have one thing in common, they all have pictures of white western women advertising beautiful blonde hair, big blue eyes something a Khmer girl will never achieve. Good to know the unobtainable is not limited to western society then. Even the barbars opposite my guest house does it with men. there is a picture of a youthful man who I can not remenber the name of now but he was the dude with black hair in saved by the bell (not screech).
I sit in a coffee shop and watch cambodia go by. It is safe being in here. Crazy out there. They fight to be infront on the roads, there is some sort of one-upmanship going on. They all have a death wish. To get to the cafe I had to cross the mad road. The red man stood there still lit up telling me not to cross so I wait. Next to it a sign counts down from 84. It gets to 0, a green man pops up and rather than walk it moves. Fast. Sprinting actually. Even the green man is desperate to get to safety.
I eat a pain aux raisin.For those of you who don't realise, Cambodia was part of the French empire at one stage and so there are a lot of bakery's and french styled patisseries. I'm gonna eat cake and get fat. The thing comes out with a knife and fork so I assume this is the done thing and proceed to scoff. It's good.
I write in my journal when a monk in red robes (not typical of Cambodia) stands at the door. This is weird. In all the text books at school it clearly states that monks do not beg, under any circumstances and they certainly do not ask for food or money. They are not even meant to handle money for fear of temptation. But still he stands. I look at him and he looks at me. It makes me uncomfortable so I pretend i'm not looking. The waitress opens the till, walks towards the door, takes of her flip flops and passes the money with two hands and places it in his bag. he then starts to sing to her ( I assume it's a blessing). Ten minutes go by and another one stands there, this time in the more typical Saffron coloured robes. The same thing happens and he goes. Then four turn up at once. They all stare at me through the window and this time i stare back. They aint gonna see me again and i want to know what the heck is going on. Same thing happens, expcept that all sing but one of them still stares at me and stares me out. I give in. I feel embarrassed. As i leave another one turns up. I dont like this.
I take a walk to the silver pagoda and palace, it's hot, im sweaty and my linen shorts are falling down where they have streched. Great. They are the only ones I have. I need a drink so call in to 'le pub'. It sells roasts on a sunday, fry ups during the week and beer. I don't care, i just need shade and a drink and it's the only place around. There is an elderly chap sitting drinking a mug of tea and eating an egg bap which makes me think of my Dad, Danny and his egg baps that he always has. I'm alone, could do with a chat so I start talking to him. He's a cockney! He tells me all about how he worked in spain, Holland, Thailand and cambodia. He has been here 8 years and this is a new business he has set up. I ask him about the monks and he starts to tell me about the life of Buddha. He got it all wrong, but I don't tell him. He says most of the monks are corrupt and will beg for money. He talks bitterly about Khmer women and how controlling they are "as soon as you sleep with them they want to control everything". He later reveals they are divorced and she got everything. Her business is down on riverside and it's huge. He talks about Thailand, and it is clear this is where his heart is but the bastards kicked him out when he was in News of the World - he got caught selling replica football shirts (they're fakes mate), but he is pleased to hear NOTW is no longer in production "cos they told bleedin lies innit". He has 6 kids, all different women and he doesnt see them. He then tells me he somes alive around young women. That's my cue to leave.
Still thirsty (he didnt get me a drink, the swine), sweaty, hot and in need of shade I walk past the palace because it's closed. This happened on the way to stansted on friday - I went to buy a euro millions, stood in the queue for 5 minutes whilst one women served and the other drank her tea. Got to the checkout (the woman who had finshed her tea by then) and was told "Sorry luv, it's closed. You're a minute late". Actually, actually, I think you'll find that I was here in time! If you had drunk your ruddy tea quicker or left it like a sainsburys worker should.... I had that feeling I was going to win.
sitting at another bar along the riverside, i ordered a coca cola please and wrote in my journal about the crazy old guy with a reminder to look the football shirt incident up. I bet NOTW have deleted all records so wont be able to find it anyway. I am pestered by disabled book sellers with one arms or large protruding chests, little children try to sell me postcards and men with fake (replica) sunglasses attempt to sell their wares. All the while, drivers shout at me "tuk tuk"? But I am clearly drinking my drink still. They wait all the same and when i go to leave they all pounce. I am polite, smile and say "No thank you, i'm walking" and incase they don't understand I walk my fingers to show them i'm walking. They don't get it and oiffer me a moto instead. A moto is where you perch precariously on the side of a moped and hope to God you get from A to B alive. Not for me.
I buy a dress, it;s very quirky and made by blind people apparently. I don't believe that though, it looks too precise and intricate. Maybe the person went blind making it? I bought a small bag. The one thing that has set me paranoid is my huge bag. All I need is that lottery hand or big red arrow pointing at me to chancers. I opt for a small bag. I notice there are two labels, one says $8 the other says $6- cheeky. I show them the $6 and barter for $5. They agree too quickly, I'm no good at this. I also buy a purse for the equivelent of 70p. It's pretty but it has note holders so I can put my dollars and my Khmer money in different compartments. It's rude to have screwed up money and so far every note i have given away has been screwed up or soaked with essence of jess sweat. I am sorted and ready to head back.
You'd think it would be straight foreward. The old man offered me some advice - don't accept a tuk tuk unless they know where they are going, always show them a map. So I duely did this and the tuk tuk man said he knew where he was going. I am currently staying in the far south of the city but we ended up in the far north. I show him the map again, "ah yes, I know" he continues. 15 minutes later, still lost. I get out a bigger map. He seems to recognise things but he is turning it in all directions. At least I got to see some cool stuff I think. Eventually we make it back. Relief. The thought crossed my mind that it was all a ruse to get me confused then in a few weeks time you lot would hear about the English girl found in plastic bags around Cambodia. Tragic.
I am finally meeting up with the other volunteers tonight. It's a relief really as I would feel safer as part of a number. This place is intimidating, fascinating but intimidating and even more so when you lack the confidence you need to bulldoze through those lonely times. Saying that, I have enjoyed the freedom of being alone today and doing my own thing and taking my time. If I wern't alone I probably would never have chatted to the old cray guy. There was no Carl going "why you buying a dress?, You already have a bag". I don't have to justify it. Yet. Only to myself and Mr Barclays. But then there was no Carl to eat a scary meal with at the market this morning. No Carl to give me the feeling that I am safe whatever happens. I have only had a pain aux raisin so far today and i had pizza flavoured crips yesterday. I don't have the courage to eat a meal alone yet. Usually if I don't like something, carl will eat it. It's rude to leave loads of food, particulary here where there is such extremes of poverty. I need to stop caring about what other people think so much. Tell myself that I wont see them again, but I just dont like being rude and I am not certain of the customs over here. I am sure, with practice, I will eat alone. Maybe in McDonalds. I'll take small steps at a time....There is no McDonalds here, but there is a KFC.
Laters Gaters x
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