The shameless tourist

It’s all very well going native – eating in local restaurants, calling yourself a barang, feeling very superior as every new batch of holiday-makers arrives for the obligatory 3-day Angkor Wat pilgrimage – but there are times when you just want to let rip and be a total tourist yourself.  So with that idea in…

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Good Old Tesco

  Grace House has the only Special Needs Unit in Siem Reap Province – not just the town but the whole province – which has an area of over 10,000 square km with a population getting on for a million.  The Grace House Unit can take 20 children, with five living in the residential house…

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Another handicraft mastered

To add to my already impressive panoply of skills, I have now learnt how to weave a mat from dried water hyacinth.  I hope you’re impressed.  If you’d ever seen the needlecase I made for my mother at school, you’d be astonished. We went to Tonle Sap, which is the largest lake in south-east Asia. …

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Beach body ready

On a jaunt to the beach – Otres near Sihanoukville – I suffered another violent assault – this time it was called threading. I was approached by two smiley ladies as I sat reading on the beach, and they offered their services, assuring me that afterwards I would be ‘smooth like baby bum’.  How could…

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Trail Blazers

  By no means everyone in Cambodia has access to clean water, and this has a massive impact on families and the community.  Water-borne illnesses are a huge threat and children often get ill and can’t attend school and parents can’t work because they’re looking after them, or the parents themselves get ill and can’t…

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Two surprises and a shock

I’m surprised that I continue to be surprised by things that happen here, if you see what I mean.  It’s all very well to expect the unexpected, but if you don’t know exactly what you’re expecting, it’s hard to anticipate. In the weekly computer lesson this week, the children were learning to compile a table…

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Once upon a time

Yesterday I was on library duty – sorting books, sticking in loose pages and so on. Whilst the English section is full of page-turners where Biff and Chip go to a car boot sale or spend the morning watching paint dry, the Khmer section was far more interesting for a barang like me. The books…

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Investigating the language

Khmer people have great difficulty with the sounds ‘th’, ‘sh’ and ‘w’ in English.  And they don’t pronounce the end of words in Khmer either, so when speaking English they fall into two groups – those who don’t pronounce the ends of English words, and those who end practically every English word with an ‘s’,…

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Another confession

I’ve become a groupie. Kevin, an American guitarist and singer, plays every Monday in Belmiro’s, and I’m always there – waving, singing along, requesting songs and generally behaving in an embarrassing way. Kevin has a broad fan base. Here he is with Jess who’s 21. And this is Rene, a 69 year-old Cuban, who grew…

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Hell-raisin’ again

  Thankfully my male mid-life crisis only seems to strike at weekends, so I haven’t yet strutted into school wearing a large medallion and a Hawaiian shirt. This weekend it was quad biking. Annette and I were given a quick demo and then a five-minute test.  I passed and was deemed safe to go out…

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I am truly blessed

I have been blessed three times so far in Cambodia and have now started giving off a saintly glow – either that or my antiperspirant’s stopped working. The first time was on a food tour, where we stopped for a blessing on our way to the food market. It must have worked because I ate…

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Thank God for mini aubergines

Well, I’ve taught a couple of cracking science lessons this week – even the school director was impressed.  Perhaps I’ve missed my vocation after all. I used great ingenuity, as the lesson plan to teach The Solar System required many spherical objects of different sizes, including a coriander seed and a blueberry.  Cambodia is famous…

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The grass is always greener … or browner … or whiter

Going shopping is a very different experience here, as I discover every time I go out to buy something. If you want some tanning products – something to give you that healthy bronzed glow – forget it.  Everything here’s all about being white. Even international brands have a different slant over here. In fact, it’s…

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A visit to patisserie

The patisserie is just across the road from the school. First thing in the morning they cook the cakes in special containers with burning wood on top and underneath. The cook lifted the lid to show me the cakes sizzling away. Then Grandma bags them all up and hangs them up and they sell them…

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