A day at the orphanage

Day XXXIX –April 26

There won’t be any school today; the teachers are having a big meeting.
So in the morning we come along to the orphanage and help paint the new shower room while Yun is teaching. It’s a voluntary class, so most of the kids are out here, watching what we’re doing and playing football or cuddling the pups or splashing in the pond.

It seems like every day it’s getting hotter here in north Cambodia. And it’s not just me waking up bathing in sweat, even with my fan on, at 5am, the coolest time of day.
So we’re happy to be working under a fan in the afternoon.
We’re working on a little project for tomorrow’s class. We’ll be teaching on countries, and are making a poster showing the flag, landmark, animal, food and greeting of all our countries.

Afterwards I reward myself with a cigarette from the pack I just bought at the roadside store across the street, for just 500r. That’s about 10 cents. And it’s not killing me instantly!?

Another example of miscomunication: this afternoon Mariella was in the internetcafé and she checks for me till what time they’re open: 8pm. So right after dinner Rikke and I get on our bikes and drive over there to find the place closed. The boy told Mariella they might close early if there are no customers, but than just go out back and holla. So we do that. But the lady tells us off. “I always close at 6pm, no later.” More luck in Siem Reap tomorrow.
Instead we find ourselves a cold beer. Cafés don’t really happen in this town, but there’s a convenience store open, with a few chairs out front, where we perch in the fluorencent lighting.
At some point a few boys walk by that strike at the opportunity to practice their English. They’re surprised to see foreign girls, drinking beer none the less. We’re surprised at how worldy-wise they are –despite that little thing- for kids from such a small, remote village.

It’s been a long time since lightning and thunder could scare me – but the loudness with which it comes down over here… gets darn close to it.
Even the dog, that is used to living outside –it’s not a pet the way dogs are held in the western world, but only here for guarding purposes- couldn’t have been happier to see me coming out of the shower just now, while everyone else has already gone to bed, and is begging me to let her sleep in my room; she’s found out already I have a weak spot for her. I try if I can make her lie down besides my bed but she’s just trying to get in, so I have to leave her crying on the other side of my door.
The rain that accompanies tonight’s storm should help things cool down though, finally.

Why visit Bali

52 more days until I board.
About 16 hours later I’ll be back on Balinese ground, where a hot breeze will caress my skin as a warm welcome, and the sun will pull my face into the broadest smile, the way it does with all the locals. I might take a while to get back into the game, but I’m sure I’ll find a friendly taxidriver to take me to the Perama busstop in Kuta for a reasonable price.

The haggling rules as I remember them:
They’ll ask about twice the fair price, so start at half the asking price, but don’t forget it’s a game, keep smiling, and be willing to give a little.

We’ll get in his car, or rather on his bike, he’ll start his engine and we’ll pull out onto the narrow roads that meander the island between the green ricefields, sudden shrubs of jungle, and countless temples and shrines, all decorated with daily offerings of colourfull flowers and incence still burning.
Traffic will be crazy around 10am, but we’ll swoosh between the honking cars, and I’m guessing we won’t take more than 30 minutes.


I’ll get my 60.000rph ticket for the 4 hour ride on that bumpy bus with the old-school shove-down windows. I could go the fastlane and have that taksi from the airport take me right to Padangbai in an hour, but the view from the highway is so dull. Whereas the bus takes the scenic route through diving, snorkling and surf-town Sanur and creative capital Ubud. Also the bus is a good means to meet fellow travellers.

I’ll contintue to Padangbai. A busy rumble during day time as harbortown to Lombok and the Gilis, but a quiet slumber falls as the sun sets.
Not as quiet though when you know the locals, a music loving folk. Every night the bars take turns in having a band playing well known covers, interspersed with local hits. Everybody plays an instrument or jams along where they see fit. And they will invite you to do the same. Always a party with these friendly people!
My friends at Sunshine bar will most likely tempt me to a shot of arak, the reuniting will be reason for celebration, and the night might last longer than I can handle…

When I wake up the next morning the sun will have already risen. I’ll pack my beachgear, and on my way I’ll pass those dear ladies, selling their sarongs and massages, and the men trying to get you to take a tour with them. “Where you from? How long you been here? What’s your name? How long you staying? Transport?”
I might see some more familiar faces.

blue lagoon

I’ll make my way out of town, up over that steep hill with such a reward at the top : a fresh oceanbreeze cools the sweat on your face, the broad blue will show itself, and if you look down you’ll see the most idyllic, hidden whitesand beach, palmtrees swaying over the little shacks.
One of them is run by the sweet Pari family, who bake a mean banana pancake. Goes well with their fresh gingertea.
After breakfast I’ll let the break hit me, wave after wave, washing the worries of homelife away.
There will be some local boys, practicing their guitarskills, or playing frisbee. I’ll join them from time to time, in between playing with the waves and crabs.
When the time is ripe we’ll enjoy a cold bintang before it’s time to go back into town for the next gig.

I think I’ll be well able to keep that up for a week.
Then I’ll get myself a bike and start exploring those windy roads through greenery. There’s temples to be visited, town to be checked out, surf to be had, volcanoes to be climbed.

tanah lot

Anyway, I’m trying to get one of my best friends to book himself a ticket to Bali, to join me in November. He’s just graduated, wants to quit his longterm collegejob at the museum, but hasn’t found anything new or serious yet. He wants to get a new appartment. He has the budget. All points to one singular direction: GO TRAVEL!
But he’s not sure. Bali is all the way to the other side of the world. And he’s never been on holiday for a whole month. And he doesn’t like heat… He can be a bit of a grumpy old granddad sometimes.
But I love him to bits and want him there. Why visit Bali
So this one’s to you, dear! Please come to paradise with me! The bounty beaches, beautiful jungle and cold bintangs are awaiting us!
Have I convinced you yet?!


School is cool

red roadsDay XXXVIII – April 25

Today was our first day at school, but cycling back and forth on the dusty roads of this town already feels so familiar.
Everywhere we go, kids come running out of their houses shouting “Hello!” Some even ask our names. Though I doubt they remember what they learned the sentence means again, and they don’t know how to continue the conversation when we answer or pose a question in reply, and suddenly become shy again.
We almost feel like celebrities with all this attention. And all those smiling faces are just so contagious!

In class they perform so well!
We’re teaching them colours today. We got a set of coloured paper to explain what we mean, and after writing them down on the board and repeating them a few times, we made a game out of it; holding up a colour to have them saying back the name to us. They’re all shouting out the loudest!

We cover the same material with all of them, depending per class how far we can take it. With the eldest we can even get into sentences like ‘My shirt is white.’ and ‘My eyes are dark.’ and ‘My pants are darkblue.

We teach 6 classes a-day; 3 before, and 3 after lunchbreak, which is from 11am till 2pm. They each have the three of us for an hour.
They’re all different age groups, about 20 kids to a class. It’s hard to tell which is which though; some in the younger classes look like they could be 14, while some in the older classes look no older than 12.
We also have Leak (the ‘k’ is quiet) with us, a girl of maybe 20 years old, who speaks English and translates to the kids in Khmer. Otherwise they’d never understand us.
There is no steady English teacher; us volunteers are the only classes they get in English.
But the eagerness with which they all respond already is so rewarding!

That patch of skin that was torn off; well I figured I’d best let it dry and heal to fresh air. But in class today, this big black fly wouldn’t leave it alone and was, I don’t know, feeding on the crust? Really disgusting!
So I asked Leak for a bandaid. “Here, in school? No we don’t have those…” like I was asking the weirdest thing…

During the break I go to the market for a good look with Yun and Ingrid. A curious experience.
You will find all sorts of stalls, from toiletries to clothing, fruits and meats. The meat is mostly dried, but the fish are usually but barely alive. The fruit stalls make for the most diverse colour palets.
You can walk around it, but there are little pathways leading inside. There’s a sort of covered but not completely closed hall, with a maze of tiny alleys leading up and down along all these little stalls, stacked almost on top of each other, literally selling anything.
Unplaceble smells fill the air as vendors hang out at eachothers booths, chatting away.
Actually, it’s exactly what you imagine it to be when you see this sort of thing on TV. It’s just impossible to describe what it is like in real life.

After school we stop at this place to get some icecream. And that same sort of celebrity feeling comes over us when the shopholder ambushes us with questions, trying to strike up a conversation, wanting to practice his –and his daughters- English. He even sends her to escort us down the street.
“So when you coming again?” “And how long are you staying with us?” The chat does give a sort of sense of being a temporary local, taken up into the community.

I wanted to go to the internetcafé –even this remote a village has one- after dinner, but Mr. Ya isn’t comfortable with us leaving alone after dark.
Dinner is as early as 6pm, but the heat and full workday have made us hungry enough. And while we sit, dusk falls swiftly.
No one else is up for the trip tonight, so I’ll have to wait for tomorrow to find out if any of my facebook friends back home have found a penny to spare to help fill that gap the Saigon-thievery has made.