Actually, it’s chickenS, plural. Something which the kids I’m teaching are totally fine with, but which I, comfortably-raised and wimpy Westerner that I am, do. not. like. at. all. Result? I spend a good deal of my working day dodging chicken dung and mentally yelling at Oh Be Quiet (the school’s Cockerel) to… well, be quiet! Fortunately the chickens are among the least interesting parts of my life here in Cambodia… in fact, WHAT AM I DOING? I’m going about this completely ar*e about face! I haven’t even told you why I’m here.
In the beginning there was a mishap.
So I’m hoping, with I am aware a little vanity, that you’ve read about my last trip to Cambodia: arriving really ill, strolling around soothing Temples, sunbathing by beautiful pools, delicious Western food and, of course, the massage to end all massages?
The sequel is that I came home and promptly couldn’t shut up about how wonderful Cambodia had been, how friendly the people are, how nice the weather is, how rich and complex the culture is… until one day a work colleague of my Mother’s mentioned that he knew some people running NGOs out in Siem Reap
And so a madcap return trip was born.
A testament to juts how madcap is that I’ve already been here a month and I’m only just catching a moment to write about it! Technically speaking I’m supposed to be planning the weeks’ lessons, but for some reason I’m clacking away at my laptop instead.
But WHERE ON EARTH DO I START…
Would you like to hear about my cycling, my teaching, my living arrangements, my class, the food, the weather, the people, Sue, the other volunteers, the clubs… WHAT?
Let’s start where I start every morning: in bed at Prom’s. “Prom’s” is shorthand for The Golden Takeo Guesthouse, which is run by the eponymous Prom and his wife, who are friendly on an epic scale. It’s clean, comfy and I get a lovely discount for working at HVC since he’s a friend of the orphanage. And, bless all that is holy, it has air con. (More later about how this is an absolute necessity!) Just by-the-by if you ever plan to stay there: beware the tuk tuk driver’s patented “yes yes,” it roughly translates to “I have no clue where you want to go but I’m going to drive around a bit and ring everyone I know for directions and eventually I’ll know where to go. Maybe.” Don’t bother asking a tuk tuk driver to get you to Prom’s. No on in the whole of Siem Reap bar people who actually live there seems to know where it is. Cambodian’s don’t exactly believe in intellectual property so there’s actually another guesthouse clear on the other side of town called The Takeo Guesthouse at which you will unfailingly find yourself should you trust your navigation to a tuk tuk driver. And no, no amount of over-the-phone help from their best friend’s wife’s second cousin’s dog is going to help them get you there… despite their insistence to the contrary.
Ok, so. In bed at Prom’s sleeping peacefully through my alarm clock. Then jolt awake, stretch, yawn, stumble blindly into shower, dress and head upstairs to the roof for breakfast. Apparently I’m a terribly boring human being that loves routine because Rosa very quickly started greeting me with a cheery “same same?” and serving my breakfast with absolutely no input from me except a sleepy nod. Back to the room to collect teaching materials, suffocate myself with jungle-strength insect repellant and don sunglasses, then out the door and onto the bike.
Oh god…. the bike.
My butt hurts just thinking about it. Prom’s bikes were, around about the dawn of time, spray painted gold. But now they are a flaked and rusted fleet of wonky-wheeled crash magnets. Since a tuk tuk to HVC and back costs a pretty hefty $8, and since I’ve actually grown very fond of getting places under my own steam, I brave the bikes…
Sorry: a guy’s just walked in wearing a painfully orange vest top with some vaguely racist slogan to do with refusing tuk tuks and he’s boasting in a very loud voice about smoking drugs and slamming shots and waking up sans memory and with a strange Khmer woman in his bed. I have to go die a little inside.
Be back soon!