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26 Dec 2011

Christmas, Kratie Style

Merry Christmas once again from Cambodia.  After the dream came the reality of waking up at 5.30am to sub-20-degree temperatures and retreating back to bed for the ritual opening of stocking presents.  Lots of treats, mainly edible, readable and wearable which are my new key requirements for receiving wrapped presents.

Once it had warmed up a bit we hit the 'tree' and got down to unwrapping more presents including books, chorizo sausages, films, sweets, tea, a watch, a calendar, book tokens, money and more.  We also gave each other a custom made ring.  For me this was to replace my wedding ring which got lost on a volleyball court last year.  For Gilly it was to set a stone she'd bought at the gem mines in Ratanakiri.

(Thank you to everyone who managed to get things over to us despite the rubbish post service here.  We've heard a few more are on their way so hopefully it'll be like the 12 days of Christmas with things turning up well into January.)

Next was the obligatory fried breakfast to remind us of home before packing our swimming things and heading to the local 'port' for the ferry over to Koh Trong, an island in the Mekong directly opposite Kratie Town.  Here's what happened next...

So far, so happy, just before setting sail. 

Safe landing, Gilly goes all beach for Christmas. 

Thumbs up, Christmas colours too!

Windswept Xmas X. 

A walk on the island brought us face to face with the local water delivery firm. 

Gilly on her throne at Sala Koh Trong, Kratie's answer to the Fat Duck. 

King of the castle!   (Note my new shirt, tailor made by our local seamstresses.)

What happens when you try to use the timer photo mode but forget to press the timer.  Gilly sends her positive energy so that it works next time. 

And it does. 

What better way to kill time waiting for the ferry than doing a Baywatch impression.  Note the t-shirt selection is spot on. 

Gilly joined me and was suitably refreshed afterwards. 

More experiments with timer mode.  (Still waiting for the ferry though!)

 Back on the mainland it's time for some imported fizz courtesy of Gilly's parents.

Friends and fellow volunteers from nearby Stung Treng Town opening their carefully selected presents...

...including this, another addition to my favourite Cambodian brands, packaging and slogans. 

Then back home for dinner by candle light.   (Candles were one of our gifts from Stung Treng.)

French bread chorizo pizza on the menu! 

Goes perfectly with an Appleton Extra Old and coke.  Heaven! 

 My new ring, bling bling!

 Mini pancakes, nutella, caramelised bananas and ice cream for dessert.

All smiles.  Merry Christmas once again, Happy New Year and see you all in 2012!

18 Dec 2011

Merry Christmas from Cambodia

Another Christmas in the tropics (click for full size image)

Merry Christmas one and all!  For your own health and safety we've decided against singing this year in favour of a pictorial representation of how we'll be spending next Sunday...

We hope you have a good one too and that we'll see you in 2012, either in Cambodia or on our UK tour in April.

Merry Christmas!
Lots of love, Gilly & Sam xxx

29 Nov 2011

Jetsetting round Cambodia

I haven't written a blog for awhile, mainly because I've been busy with work and study but also because Sam seems to have been on a bit of a blogging rampage so I didn't want to interrupt.

October and November are made up of a ridiculous number of workshops for those in the Education world. As a result I have barely seen anyone from my office in the last few months which has made doing any meaningful work difficult. Luckily the schools finally opened again and were fully functioning by the middle of October, bar the few that were still flooded. So I've mainly been concentrating on lessons observations of teachers using the new literacy materials I did a workshop on in September and finishing setting up libraries in three schools.

Children working in groups to read their book, My Family, and then introduce themselves and describe their own family.

A newly opened library

Then my travels began. I organised a three day study tour with the volunteers in Mondulkiri and Ratanakiri to visit two schools in Kampong Cham (KC), a nearby province and where we spent six weeks learning Khmer when we first arrived. I hadn't been back for over a year so it was great to visit some of our favourite restaurants again. It also made me realise how tiny Kratie really is - the market in KC is so much bigger!

The study tour went really well and it was great to see the provinces interacting, discussing ideas, sharing experiences and using what they had learned to set their own objectives. There was even a little bit of time for some sightseeing which everyone really enjoyed. Even though KC is very close to Kratie, some of the teachers had never visited it before.

The teachers trying to find their correct name cards in under four minutes

Taking notes from the student council about vegetable gardens

Learning about the school's cultural center

Kratie Teachers visiting Phnom Proh (Man Mountain)

Me and my landlord who also happens to be a teacher!

Then I set off on my 11 hour epic journey to get from Kratie to Siem Reap by bus for my long awaited 100km cycle. Unfortunately, I woke up not feeling very well that morning and felt even worse by Saturday morning. But I was determined to do the cycle after travelling all that way. I did finish the 100km but it was a real struggle and not an experience I think I will repeat, although the scenery was amazing.

We started off just as the sun was rising

Weirdly I look quite happy. I didn't feel happy knowing I still had 75km to go at this point

The end....finally, after five hours of cycling! I was feeling happy now.

Leandra, Andre, John, and Olivia were all waiting for me at the finish line with water and hugs which made me feel even happier

After Siem Reap, I headed to Battambong with Leandra and Andre to learn about some of the work Leandra has been doing there. It was great to see where they lived (and add another province to my list) and get some new inspiration for activities for the coming year.

Then me and Leandra set off for Phnom Penh for the two day Education Sector Workshop. It's always good to meet up with the other Education volunteers and hear what everyone's been up to in their placements. We rounded off the week with a VSO Christmas Party.

After over a week of being in three big cities, I was ready to get home my small town of Kratie and to Sam.

And I got home to find the house all decorated and ready for Christmas. (How lovely is my husband?)

Only two weeks to go! (Note the handmade Christmas tree.)

26 Nov 2011

Signs and Other Stuff

In amongst the photos that we take and place on the blog there are always some that don't quite fit with what we're writing about.  It seems a shame to let these go to waste so here is a miscellaneous collection of bits and bobs from our time and travels in the country.

The picture above is another great example of the hand painted signs found all over Cambodia and features alongside all my latest discoveries in this post over on the Ghostsigns blog.  Also on that blog post are a number of funny non-hand-painted signs and then this snippet from a depiction of hell from one of our local pagodas.  I'm sure a few people at home would question any conception of hell that involved copious amounts of beer!

Sweet FM 103.25, love it!  This was spotted on my recent visit to Battambang, Cambodia's second city.  If I went back into radio, it would have to be Sweet FM.

Drying fish, also in Battambang, spotted when I was taken on a cycling tour of the outskirts by Andre (of Leandra & Andre).

 More drying fish, this one another variety that looks less like smoked salmon.

Casting the net to catch the fish, again in Battambang, this is a typical picture of Cambodia as you see this activity everywhere.  This spot can only be fished when the waters are very high, and this was taken after the worst flooding in years across the country.

The water was so high that these guys had to improvise to get their boat of cargo under the bridge.  This one lay on his back and edged it towards the other side using his hands on the underside of the bridge.

All smiles as the task is completed and he paddles triumphantly away.

And now the power of the engine can be employed once more as they are successfully on their way.

All sorts of receptacles are used to store petrol for sale by the roadside.  These old Johnny Walker bottles caught my eye as a more premium fuel container.

A rarity in Cambodia where many people have two or more mobile phones.  I've no idea how you're supposed to use a phonebox in a country with only uses paper money.

A grave in an indigenous community in Ratanakiri.  It was noteworthy for the red tins used to decorate the headstone.

The brand is Kifocan, a Vietnamese company which is not surprising as Ratanakiri border Vietnam.  They look like something off the shelves of the UK in the 1950s or 1960s.

The product is sardines in tomato sauce.  It seems unusual to pay for tinned fish in a place that was situated on the banks of the Sesan River.

Continuing the previous posts about Cambodian products (here, here and here) here is a photo of a new mattress bought from the market.  What you can't see in the picture is that the 'intimate partners' are a cute pair of cuddly teddy bears - I can only wonder...

You may recall Walker's pyjama outfit from our house cooling party last year.  Well, here's a close-up of the writing on them.  All suggested corrections to the English on these welcomed in the comments section.

Back to Ratanakiri and the discovery of a huge beetle.  The claws look vicious but one of the locals flipped him so that we could watch him breakdance for us.

The soft underbelly of the breakdancing beetle.

Speaking of spinning around, these ants were going around in circles on our visit to Sambok Mountain, Gilly and her dad were discussing how they might solve the problem they faced in moving the grasshopper in one direction rather then in never ending circles.

And finally, a scene from our bathroom where, soon after the lights went out, this spider began to devour a cockroach.  The next morning all that was left were the outer shell of the cockroach scattered around the toilet and a very plump spider resting in the corner...