Today, the two male volunteers, Richard and Lawrence, and I brought both group of kids to Bayon in Angkor to take photos of the other puppet project - once in the morning and then in the afternoon. It takes 45 minutes to get to the project, so we basically spent 3 hours of the day riding in a tuk-tuk back and forth, but for me it was really lovely because I LOVE Angkor. Angkor is the big national park where all the temples are: it's very green, clean, the roads are nice and the air is fresh. I could wander around there for hours. We only spent about 30 minutes shooting at the project, but enough time for the kids to take some nice shots and not get too bored. I'm starting to really see the difference in the kids' work and each' unique style is starting to shine through. I'm hoping next week's workshop will really help them out some more.
For lunch, I still didn't feel so comfortable about eating the food at Anjali so I sped to the city on my bike and had some fried rice, which I ended up eating next to a really cute French guy who was traveling through Asia by himself for 2 1/2 months. I would really love to do that next time, to go for a longer period and get to see more of Asia - everyone I've talked to who is on that sort of trip is having the time of their life. And it's so incredibly cheap here, that it's very easy to do with some extra cash. I mean, I had a really yummy vegetable rice dish dinner with a liter of water for $1.50, and before that I had a foot massage, back massage and ear candling for $8 total. Yep!
I've been in Siem Reap for a week now, and I'm starting to feel quite cozy, which the Cambodians make very easy to do. I have my little routine, my new friends, my typical food dishes and smoothies I like to eat and drink and I even have a little gecko I share my room with. Geckos are everywhere, and giant ones too. You see them climb up walls and ceilings all over restaurants, stores, they roll in hundreds everywhere you go. One thing that I'm having a little difficulty with, but am trying to just deal with is the dirt and the mosquitos. By the end of the day, my feet are completely filthy, my skin is covered in an inch of sweat and dust and I feel like I'm constantly on the defense from mosquito bites. I even have one of those electric tennis rackets in my room to kill them with. I used it for the first time the other night and as the mosquito hit the wire net, it sparked and fried - it was pretty cool and somewhat sadistic, but better to feel a little bad about freakishly murdering a bug than catching malaria!
Although the center of Siem Reap is very touristy and nice and comfortable, there is still a TON of poverty inside and outside of it. There are a number of beggars who work their way down the restaurant streets - little girls, invalids missing limbs, blind people - it can sometimes be really sad, but one has to somehow immunize against it. On the way to Angkor, you see plenty of single mothers or fathers just sitting on the side of the road with a water bottle and a toddler - I never really know what they're doing or planning to do with their day, they just seem to sit there for hours. The children's hospital we pass every time also always gets to me - the huge line of mothers and children and the big sign that says "warning, huge epidemic of dengue fever" is pretty disturbing. The best thing you could do for yourself is wear a hospital mask. A lot of people wear them when they're on their motorbikes or bicycles because of the dust, but it's also a good preventative thing to do from getting any diseases.
Every Saturday evening, the Swiss pediatrician Dr Beat Richner plays a selection of pieces by JS Bach on his cello in order to raise money for the Jayavarman VII Hospital to provide free healthcare to the children. There are a huge number of organizations and NGOs working in Cambodia to help the children, refugees, sex worker victims and invalids, which brings a large number of Westerners to live here year-round. A lot of the work done here is very important and Cambodians are consequently quite appreciative of the foreign aid and dollar it brings to the country. I could definitely see myself living here for a few more months and getting involved with other projects, there's so much to be done. I'm quite regretful for not being able to stay longer.
The line at the Children's Hospital:
The view from the lounge upstairs:
Tomorrow, maybe I'll have a relaxing day at the spa and the saltwater pool at the nice hotel around the corner - I deserve some downtime! : )