June 19, 2002

Bokor, English class and the Beach


Since I last wrote my health has improved considerably. Before I was feeling drained and had very little energy, but now I'm much better.

After writing my last letter I did indeed go to the project office in Kompong Thmor. I ended up having to turn around and come back though after discovering that the scanner was not working, even with the new drivers I had brought from Phnom Penh. It turned out that the scanner didn't even work when we got it originally, but nobody had mentioned this to me or done anything about getting it fixed. At any rate I ended up bringing the scanner back to Phnom Penh where the company that we bought it from confirmed that there was indeed a problemÂ…the light bulb was not present. At the end of about a week of calling the company several times per day I managed to get a temporary replacement that we can use until they get our scanner working again. After wasting about a week to get a working scanner I went back to the project office where we finally were able to get some training materials scanned in to the computer. Most of the pictures we scanned will be used in training packets for the traditional birth attendants and the village health volunteers. Since many of them are illiterate, the materials to be distributed are mostly pictures that will help remind them of the training they receive.

Over the weekend while I was waiting on the scanner I went on a motorbike trip to Bokor Mountain National Park, which I also visited on my New Year trip. This time I went with Wes, Sam and James. We left Sabbath morning, spent about three hours on the good road to Kampot (150km) and then another two hours on the 30km road up to the Bokor hill station. Overall the trip was great and I really enjoyed the considerably cooler weather and remoteness of the hill station. In the evening I was actually comfortable wearing jeans and a long sleeved shirt. It was very misty which made the abandoned stone buildings seem even more eerie, and we enjoyed building a small campfire at night. On Sunday morning we spent some time swimming in the waterfall. Since the rainy season has started there was water in the waterfall this time, so actual swimming was possible. On the not so fun side of the trip the chain broke on my bike just as we got to the top of the hill. We managed to find most of the pieces on the road, and then towed my bike the remaining 3km to the ranger station where we spent the night. One of the rangers had an extra chain link to rejoin my chain and managed to repair my bike. Sunday morning after our swim Sam's bike got a flat tire, which again was repaired by one of the rangers. In the mean time Wes and James had gone ahead and James had a bit of a fall. He was fine, but got a little scraped up. James went ahead, but by the time the rest of us got back to Phnom Penh it was just getting dark. It was definitely a fun trip in spite of the mishaps.

The following weekend I stayed in Phnom Penh and went to church, followed by potluck. I used some of the supplies I brought from the states to make cornbread muffins for potluck. After dinner we watched an old black and white movie about Martin Luther which was quite good. The topic came up in the Sabbath school discussions so the Anthony's (who were hosting potluck) decided to show the film. In the evening we had our last game of settlers before James and Sam would be leaving. Sunday was a fairly slow day of doing things on the Internet and playing some games. Monday afternoon I was originally planning to head back to the project to start teaching English, but ended up delaying my trip until Tuesday. Since James left Monday evening he wanted to show me a few things about the computer systems here. Also, Geof got back from his 2 week trip to the US and we decided to travel to the project together Tuesday afternoon.

The rest of the week I pretty much spent teaching my first few English classes, which I wasn't particularly looking forward to. It went pretty well though and I think I'll survive somehow.

Sam had some visa worries, but ended up leaving as planned on Thursday. He is now back in Germany and no doubt he is glad to see his family and girlfriend again. Wesley will be leaving at the end of the month and there are still no plans regarding new volunteers coming to ADRA. There are a couple of positions open and some applications have been received, but they have not been processed yet as far as I know. Wesley's next position when he leaves here will be in North Korea where he will be working with ADRA. They have no Internet access, only email service provided by the government. All expats live on one big compound and they can only shop at certain stores. It should be interesting to say the least. Before he goes to Korea he's planning to spend some time trekking in Nepal.

This last weekend we ended up having Monday and Tuesday off from work. Tuesday is the Queen's birthday and most of the offices closed for Monday as well by substituting another holiday or taking annual leave. The long weekend kind of caught me by surprise, but I decided to go Kompong Som which is the main beach resort area in Cambodia. I traveled down with Wes and Chris (Geof's 14 year old son) Sabbath. After we found a hotel and got settled we met up with Geof's wife (Chris's mom) who had come back from Thailand that same day by boat. Geof came down and joined us on Sunday after doing his radio show. It was quite nice to just relax for a few days. We spent some time on the beach and swimming in the ocean, although in the afternoon the monsoon rains usually come through at this time of year. They are fun to watch as well though. Sunday morning Wesley and I decided to swim to a buoy a little ways from the beach, which ended up taking a bit over 2 hours roundtrip because of a cross current that made reaching the buoy a bit harder. Next time I know to start way up the beach so that the current can just take me to the buoy instead. For the long weekend I ate out 3 times a day, shared a hotel room with Chris and paid for my transportation costs. For the 3 and a half days I decided to really just enjoy the beach and not worry too much about saving money for a change. I ended up spending a total of about $40 even though I ate out and had western and Indian food the whole time. I also enjoyed fresh lemon juice (lemonade) with most meals and had a Thai massage Tuesday morning before catching the bus back to Phnom Penh. The lady who gave me the massage is actually from England but has had formal training in Thai massage and is working to support her Asian travels. When I got back I checked email briefly, and then got a much needed haircut. I feel much cooler now without the built in winter hat. After my haircut I took a shower and then read some more in "A Beautiful Mind" which I have almost finished reading now. It's the biography of a mathematical genius who suffered from schizophrenia. The recent movie of the same name was based on the book, but the book is much more detailed and factual.

Today I'm planning to head back to the project after I pick up some printer supplies this morning. I'll spend the rest of the week teaching English and helping out with the computers as usual.

Well, that's about it for now from Cambodia. I've got a few pictures online already from the motor bike trip, but didn't end up taking many at the beach. I may add a couple from there later.

Until next time,


Posted by andrew on June 19, 2002