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Archive for March, 2010

Excited!

6 days till my 10th birthday so exciting.  We are having it in pattaya and staying in a very posh hotel.   And there is a water park not very far away and it is 50 baht $1.55 in USD (for kids).

I am listening to the Harry Potters on my ipod and Leah has bought the audiobook of Percy Jackson and the Olympians for us to listen to on the bus to Pattaya.

There are lots of really cool paintings of the Cambodian Gods, some of them have lots of arms and they make statues of them as well.

I am also really excited because in 64 days we are meeting Norah and Papa in London.

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Tonle Sap Lake

Our big adventure this weekend was a trip to Tonle Sap Lake.  This huge lake covers about 4% of the land area of Cambodia, in the wet season the river draining the lake becomes so large it cannot drain into its downstream river and so it reverses flow direction and the lake becomes even more enormous.

35% of Cambodia’s population lives on the lake – that’s about 4 million people – more than live in NZ!  And I mean ON the lake, in floating houses, there is even floating schools.  People get about in little kayak shaped craft, often with a little motor at the back.  We went out in a shallow bottomed boat to take a look at one of the floating communities.  It was frightening and amazing to see so many small children so at home living above 3m deep water – the lake is at it’s shallowest this month, as the rain comes in April, the depth is more like 12m then.  Many buildings that do float were actually sitting on the dry ground as we started out on our trip because this is the dry season.  Further out on the lake, the houses in the floating villages were very like the stilt straw thatch houses we’ve been going past on the way to school each day, predominantly one room dwellings, with pans on hooks on the wall.   It is an unusual contrast to see a family group in such an impoverished dwelling, but with Playstations and cellphones.

Floating House, Tonle Sap

People on the lake make their living fishing and now also from tourism as people come to see their communities.  We were fascinated to see lots of children carrying pythons and even watched a toddler and a child of about four arguing over who should be holding the snake – one holding each end!  Poor snake!  We stopped for a drink at a cafe and saw some crocodiles on the lower deck that were being farmed for skin.

Boy in a basin, Tonle Sap

I was grateful it was the dry season as we made our way onto the lake as the water was very shallow and I felt sure we’d get to the shore easily enough if we came too close to the other, larger craft vying for space in the channel out onto the lake.  I was also relieved to hear that aside from the farmed crocs, there aren’t many in the area of the villages because they don’t like to be too close to people.  Many of the bigger boats got stuck in the mud in the channel and their motors threw mud everywhere as they tried to get out.  It was a bit funny to watch the large 5 star tour groups stuck in the mud, while our cheap wee boat got though just fine!

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We went to a restaurant called Little India and since we went there I’ve wanted to go back every night but mum says we can only go every 2nd night but the good thing is we get to go tonight.  It has the best Indian food in the world but I haven’t been all round the world yet so I might change my mind later.   I like eating Malai Kofta and the garlic naan.  There are two little girls there that Florence likes to play with.

It rained when I was doing my maths today and it isn’t supposed to rain here till the 1st of April, 3 days before my birthday.

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We went to the land mine museum it was so cool it had biographies of war survivors and a fake land mine field.  The founder of the land mine museum and his friends got guns when they were 10.

We now have like 40 movies because mum found a video shop with movies for $2 and a buy 5 get1 free.  The movie we are watching today is tom and jerry it has 80 shows in one and we are watching all of it.  We also got Eragon and Curious George (for Florence).

I have lots of friends at Knar  school because I am teaching there with Leah.

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Ta Prohm Temple

Wow!  We had a lovely afternoon at Ta Prohm today.  When we visited Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, the two most touristed and accessible temples on Saturday we found it very difficult to manage to boys who alternated between manic excitement at the height and steepness of the stairs and boredom at the history given by the guide ( the guide was in fact great, the kids were just – fairly poorly behaved – kids).  Today we went without a guide to Ta Prohm, which meant we could go more at our own pace, exploring interesting nooks and crannies.

We were accosted at the entrance by small children offering their wares making it nearly impossible to even get out of the tuktuk.  These are 5-10 year old rural dwelling kids and we choose not to give them money as the kids here are quite exploited by their parents and others because they are so appealing to foreigners.  Kids can earn $300 a month from begging which is ten times what the average rural parent would earn working, so some families even keep their kids hungry to make them look more needy to tourists.  It is not a pleasant side of the tourism here.  Emmett especially is just totally overwhelmed by kids coming at him from all sides.  We give our aid money to organisations working with rural kids and offer the kids fruit which they get to eat not give to someone else.

Ta Prohm is amazing because the jungle nearly reclaimed it so it has these amazing huge trees growing around and through the temple, it is like a fantastic adventure dream!  The boys loved it and found it much more exciting for all its fallen down bits of trees in the brickwork.  A joint Indian – Cambodian team is working to restore some parts of the temple but the trees will be left where they are.  We have learnt quite a bit of Buddhist and Hindu mythology and history looking through the temples and the kids can now identify Vishnu and Shiva and their symbols in the temples.  Most Buddha images were defaced during a resurgence of Hindu belief centuries ago so Florence is constantly saying “Uh-oh, Buddha no head…”  Cambodia has had a mix of both Buddhism and Hinduism in its history so the temples show both in an interesting mix.

We had a stop to feed bananas to monkeys on our way back to town which was very popular with the kids!  We also crossed a bridge with some piles of stones beside it and on looking more closely (mainly because 3 cute kids were waving from one of the piles) we realised they were indeed ancient piles of a previous bridge a thousand years ago.  We found a lovely (read not completely revolting muddy and full of garbage) swimming hole with local kids swimming but as yet are not brave enough to throw our kids in, just in case they catch something they aren’t immune to.  Although giardia is probably the worst they’d get and they’ve been swimming in the Manawatu all their lives which is up there as the third most polluted river in the world I believe (on looks alone though I suspect whoever rated the Manawatu didn’t measure the pollution in the Siem Reap river…)

I’m going to escape with no kids sometime to check out the Children’s Hospital which provides free care to all Cambodian kids, funded largely by donations, including ones made by the audience at each Saturday night cello performance by the head paediatrician Beat Richner.  The lines of people waiting to be seen go right down the road and our tuktuk driver tells us people wait about two days to see a doctor.  So my patients have nothing to complain about!

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The Tuktuk ride

like Anna’s hat incident but with Emmett doing it purposely and we got it back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Leah lets me play Kingdoms of Camelot on her Facebook page. I got 1898 might but then all my food ran out and I couldn’t build a level 6 farm out of my level 5 one so I am leaving it to be destroyed by other players.

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