February 26, 2003

beaches, pine trees and more computers

Greetings from Cambodia,

As usual I've been keeping busy over the last few weeks. The weekend after I last wrote I went on the ADRA Cambodia admin staff retreat. We all piled in to a large bus at 6:30 am Friday and headed to a nice hotel at the beach. We had some meetings over the weekend and some team building activities as well. The weather was warm as usual and we enjoyed playing on the beach and in the water. A few of us got a chance to visit a restaurant called the Snake House again, which is very cool with snakes and other wildlife decorating the open air garden restaurant. The table we sat at even had a live snake inside it with a glass top through which we could see the large python while eating. The food at the Snake House is reasonably priced (around $3 per person if you order a couple of items) and includes some Russian options since the restaurant owners are from Russia. In the surrounding garden area they also have a couple of salt water fish ponds and some other local wildlife including a crocodile. Most of our other meals were in local restaurants in the beach area near our hotel, although we also got some fresh tropical fruit (pineapple, mango, papaya, dragon fruit, etc) from sellers on the beach. On Saturday night several of us took advantage of the free karaoke system in our hotel. Believe it or not, and I know it's hard to believe if you know me, I did sing several songs with Jonathan, the other ADRA volunteer. They were even songs that we didn't really know since the hotel only had two English karaoke discs with no songs that were very familiar to us. On Sunday we had another meeting in the morning before leaving, and then arrived back in Phnom Penh in time for supper. It was nice to spend some time playing at the beach, and the game of the weekend was a version of American football that usually degenerated into keep away.

The following Friday a group of about 17 members of the local English Sabbath School class traveled in one van and one car to Kirirom, which is a national park about 2 hours from Phnom Penh. I had arranged to rent an entire 5 room guest house in the park for the weekend, and since a couple of people decided not to come at the last minute there was enough room for nearly all of us to sleep in beds. Originally some of us were planning to camp outside, but it turned out that only two people slept outside and then only for one night. We did enjoy having a camp fire for each meal and some of us used it for cooking. On Sabbath we had a baptism in a nearby river, followed by a picnic lunch in small huts by a stream. Saturday night we sat around the campfire eating camp bread cooked over the fire and we even enjoyed a special treat of big franks from the US. Sunday morning we piled in the van and drove to a pond where we lounged and swam. It was a bit overcast so the heat wasn't too bad and the water felt great. We played frisbee both in and out of the water and took turns jumping off the little pier into the water. We all enjoyed spending time at a slightly higher elevation (which was somewhat less hot than Phnom Penh) with lots of pine trees and fresh air. After arrival back in Phnom Penh we played a quick game of settlers to make up for missing games night over the weekend.

During the last two weeks I've mostly been working at the TOH project office getting their new broadband Internet connection, Windows 2000 Server, phone system and new web site working. Most everything is finished there now, from the network cables to the email accounts. Last week I also started working with a newly hired IT person. He will be finishing up a degree here in Phnom Penh this summer, and is working part time until then. He's been learning and helping out with the configuration at the TOH project office, and towards the end of last week he spent time on various projects in the Admin office. It has been nice to start handing things over to him as he is learning quickly.

I spent last weekend in Phnom Penh, where I enjoyed potluck and my first 'normal' Sabbath in several weeks. In the afternoon I went on a mini outing with several friends to check out a park area on the other side of the river from Phnom Penh. Afterwards we got fruit smoothies from a street vendor for just under 40 cents each before heading to Scotts house where we played some games.

Sunday morning I went in to the office to catch up on a couple of things before taking a taxi to Pursat with Ann (ADRA Cambodia Associate Director) and Debbie Harold (from ADRA International). The trip to Pursat normally takes around 5 hours, but we had an extra delay since one of the bridges along the way was damaged and was being repaired. While waiting we were entertained by watching several vehicles attempt to avoid the delay by driving through the river. The larger four wheel drive vehicles actually made it through without a problem, but one Toyota Camry and a smaller pickup weren't so fortunate. They were both buried up to the axles and had to get a tractor to pull them on through the river and across the sandy river bank. They may have gotten stuck, but they did get on their way well before we didÂ…

Here in Pursat I have done some trouble shooting on several of the computers and spent time coming up with an easy to use system to create some basic video cds for use in the field.

This afternoon I'm planning to travel back to Phnom Penh where I will spend Thursday and Friday in the admin office before heading to the Siem Reap ADRA office next week.

Well, I guess that's about it for this update. I've enjoyed hearing about the snow in Maryland and wish I was there to enjoy it. I guess I'll have to settle for swimming at the beach insteadÂ…

Talk to you later,


Posted by andrew on February 26, 2003