Talk with Monk

I just had a lovely talk with Bov. Sinath, a Monk where I’m staying.

He told me about a holiday called Pchum Ben Day, which is fifteen days of giving. The holiday will be in September and celebrated  in all the over 5,000 Pagoda’s in Cambodia.

It’s a religious festival known as Ancestors Day. People bring food or shoes to the Monks, to help them, and in doing that, it gives the givers a good feeling and a long life.  This is a summary of what I learned today.

Sinath was a very interesting, and informed person, who spoke pretty good English. I enjoyed meeting him. There are very few opportunities to speak English with anyone, so I appreciated him very much. It was a pleasure, for sure.

 

The day in the life of expat

Just had breakfast: a bowl of soup with beef slices and another kind of meat and lettuce leaf, onion greens, some kind of sprouts and who knows what else? Then there was some kind of sweet roll and coffee with condensed milk and sugar. Tea and no rice this morning.

Last night the meal was rice, stir fried vegetables, duck egg omelet with onions.

Yesterday I taught two classes and both of them went very well. The principal of the school even participated. I organized the competition with the game, Board Boggle. At first, I needed to explain the word boggle then students threw out names to put into squares. The teams had five minutes to come up with as many words as possible from the letters they chose.  They all had a great time.

I taught one class the song, Six Little Ducks, and they loved that.

Then I got my ride back on a wet tuk tuk, as it poured down rain while in class. We drove through the dark with fire flies lighting the way and crickets and frogs singing their night songs. I had dinner and then went to my room.

My bed is stone hard.

Hanging out at the corner

The first day I was at the Wat, on a walk, I saw this woman squeezing sugar cane using a machine that would result in a juice product. She would then put the juice into a plastic bag or  in a cup with ice and sell it that way.

I took a photo of her and will try to post it, if not, it will get posted sometime for sure. I’m taking advantage of every moment the wifi is working.

 

On that same corner, I have stopped on occasion when someone has invited me to sit with them. This happened when  tuk tuk driver, with a loud voice, stopped for a break and invited me for a glass of coffee. He had brown eyes that didn’t seem to blink when he looked at me. It was more of a ‘study’ of me, I felt. He was intrigued about a woman like me roaming the world alone. Well, on this eventful trip to Asia, I wasn’t just roaming, it is with purpose. I told him about the program, Buddhism Immersion, and teaching English, and he had better understanding. Then the juice lady told him I was teaching her son. “He’s very tall.” The man interpreted for her. Because of that, my coffee was free.

She also told him how old I am. He saw that my ankles seemed a bit swollen and gave me some advice to exercise more. That was a little bit too much of a ‘study’, but I think he was sincerely concerned. He also asked me to write the days of the week down to help him with his customers.

“I work by the river and sleep in the tuk tuk,” he said. He looked pretty cleaned-up to me so I’m not clear how he manages that.

Yesteday, I sat with two bankers; one was the boss and the other man worked for him. They seemed happy to practice their English with me.

On the way back to my room, a Nun met me and told me to follow her and motioned about something to eat. I was stuffed and couldn’t eat another bite, but I thought it too impolite not to abide by her thoughtfulness. She stopped at a traveling booth where rice and other ingredients were put together and sold. She purchased one box for me and oner for herself. She handed it to me, with pride. I accepted and went to me room, carrying the gift.

On another day, this same Nun saw me sitting at the lunch table where my meals are served and from across the way, I heard her say, “Oh”, and with concern on her face and worry in her eyes, she quickly came over to me, put her hands together and bowed. Then she kneeled down by my feet and began feeling my arms, my face and my feet. I know she said I was warm. You are right there, lady. I’m in the tropics, of course I’m warm. But, then she had me feel her arms and they were not cold, but not hot.

I’m not sure if she’s a fortune teller or what, but that night I felt that I did have a fever, and then sitting on the bus all day, didn’t help. That’s when I got the antibiotics and now I’m feeling fine.

Another Nun, who speaks a bit of English, after I asked, spoke to the Monk to see if someone could help me with the wifi modem. She came and got me later that day and took me to the young geniuses who work for the radio station. They helped me get going again.

When I wanted to say something to them, I would write it in English and then have it translated on the internet. That worked pretty well.

 

Hit and miss

I’m trying to beat the clock for when the modem goes out and I cannot get back on wifi.

Sophak, the country coordinator I depend on gave the tuk tuk driver, Keog, the modem for the wifi so I can continue with the blog. So here’s hoping.

Yesterday, we were taken to the Cambodian border by a bus full of people heading the same way. Once we got there, it was a long walk from Viet Nam border to the customs agents on the Cambodian side. A nice man from Australia carried my computer for me…thank goodness. I could have managed but when there is an offer, I take it. We all got through customs and I had to purchase another visa for the Cambodian country.

Back on the bus, it was a long drive to the city of Phnom Penh in sheets of rain. I tried to use the bus wifi and it was hit and miss as it is right now.

When we got to the bus station, my wonderful, (blessings to this man), Keog, my tuk tuk driver was waiting with his rain poncho and took my hand in one hand and my computer in the other, and I pulled my suitcase. We walked in puddles, and weaved in and out of other folks trying to find their drivers.

On the way to the Wat, circulating among thousands upon thousands of motorcycles, tuk tuk’s, buses, trucks hauling pigs, truck loads of folks going home from work, whole families on one motorcycle, and then there were the chickens.

I saw them on the side of the road, intelligent enough to know that crossing over the other side, wouldn’t be worth it. So that’s your answer about chickens crossing the road.

Keog maneuvered the tuk tuk with the skill of a race driver on a slick course. He’s a hero to me. He waited for me in the rain and then took me all the way back to the Wat and asked for the same fare that I gave him the time he took me to the bus. I slipped him an extra $2.00 and he was so happy. “For my baby, he said.”

The baby, I learned is one month old.

I barely got back to the Wat with enough time to put my stuff in my room with Keog’s help and then with another tuk tuk, went to teach English to the school kids.

On the way back, in places the road was in total darkness, except for a few fire flies, and the sounds of crickets. My dinner was waiting for me.

I’m now going to post below what I wrote on the bus. I will post the writing from yesterday. Be patient about photos for awhile, please.

Leaving Viet Nam nearly brought tears to my traveling companion, Kate. She fell in love with Viet Nam and can’t wait to return.

I, on the other hand, am ready to call it a day – weekend, anyway. It’s been an interesting journey and I’m happy for the opportunity.

We stayed in a hot tourist area where it was alive with action day and night. Daytime merchants with fans, fanning your face hoping you’d buy, restaurants, shops of all kinds, beckoned us to come in.

“Ours is the better”. We’d find out later that many of the restaurants are connected with one owner.

I was eating dinner last night with my back to the street and some man began messaging my neck. Message madam? Massage? You feel good? Massage? “ “No thank you.” “Massage?”

“No thank you and please go away.”

“Newspaper?” You want a newspaper, Madam?”

“No thank you..”

“Newspaper Madam.” Well, guess she didn’t hear the first time.

One evening I decided to get a facial and Kate went with me for a massage. We had the brochure and address but couldn’t find the salon.

“Come here, Madam. Spa. You’ll feel good.”

“No, I want to find this place.” I showed the eager young man, and his reply was….”No good. This place better.”

“No, I want to go to this place do you know how to get there.”

“I show you follow me.” Well, turns out he didn’t know and instead led us to a tiny side street that had a big neon business sign announcing: MASSAGE!!!

That looked like a place where the ladies of the night perform their ‘feel good’ medicine, but I persevered, and kept walking to the end of the alley and there was the spa.

I got my facial and Kate got her massage.

“I believe I can fly” was the music played throughout the hour and half. Once in awhile, one of the women would try to change the music but it always, after bumping up to a bar or two of a few other tunes, returned back to, “I believe I can fly.”

Later, I purchased two pairs of pants at the open market because I had only one pair with me and they were filthy with mud, something like tar stains, and just too difficult to wash out by hand, so I left them there to be thrown out.

The deal for the two pairs of pants was a great deal….for the merchant! I didn’t do so well at bargaining, but got what I needed.

 

Yesterday, we took a daylong tour to Cuchi tunnels.

The underground Ben Duoc battlefield tunnel system could almost give me a claustrophobic nightmare.

The tunnels were situated near the Gia Dinh Regional Party headquarters and military command. The tunnels have of late, been classified a national relic. The underground systems are deeply located in a cobweb of boarding, meeting and fighting areas.

Our guide, a funny, tiny man pointed out several times that Viet Nam people could climb in the holes and through the tunnels easily, but, “American’s have big asses. They get stuck.”

We got to the forest area where peaceful people once lived, and walked through a long, wide open tunnel until we came to those tiny underground holes. There was once crawl space that I could have gone through the maze like nearly everyone else did. But I, and a very tall man, who would have had to crawl most of the way because of his height, and he also had an open wound from a motorcycle accident, sat it out with the guide and watched the folks pop up at various exits. They were all sweating profusely and seemed happy to see the opening.

I’m finding it difficult to walk in places with steps and no side railings. There always seems to be a hand there to support me.

At one point on the long walk we watched a video about the Viet Nam war that showed the devastation of a country at the mercy of American war machine.

 

We also went to the War Museum where I lost it emotionally. One photo after a next: Children, young men fearing for their lives, and begging for mercy at the point of a gun, elderly men and women bent over trying to run, and more devastating photos by war journalists. Many journalists died during the war, and many American soldiers went missing. There are statistics on the numbers of Vietnamese who died and American’s, as well. Who needs statistics? The war was unnecessary.

The war was hell.

 

 

 

Hugging a boa constrictor

My travel partner, college  student, Kate, from Fullerton and I headed off to Viet Nam yesterday. Kate and I are both in the same program but she is a volunteer in an orphanage while my time is spent in the Buddhist Wat.

Kate and I spent six hours from Phnom Penh to Ho Chin Min and for about 4 hours I needed a bathroom, but was told we would get a break when we arrive at the border. We’re always reminded to drink lots of water because of the sweltering heat, and I’m been taking that seriously. One quart of water before heading for the border was a big mistake.

I spent the next day in bed after I purchased some anti-biotic for the bladder abuse, rested up and drank more water. Anti-biotic over the counter…imagine that.

But today, I felt great! We joined a tour group that began in the morning and ended at night. We actually made a round trip, first on the bus, then a boat, then a row boat, then back on the bus again. We saw a coconut candy making facility and a bee hive action where honey is manufactured.

candy making

I looked at the row boat and wondered how the heck I would get on it. It was in the water, and there was an old beat up ramp I had to step on to board. One young lady got on board and tried to help me in. She fell and we nearly turned the boat over. We continued down the river through a lush jungle and then it began to rain. It did more than rain…it poured. I was soaked all the way to my skin. My pants were so wet that when I tried to get out of the boat the pants nearly fell off. Try to hold on to a bag of honey, a camera, a purse, and my hat, pull up your pants and get off the boat without tipping it over.

boatget on the boat

We got to our lunch place and were invited to hold a boa constrictor. One man volunteered and so I thought, heck, I can do that. So I did. Well, nearly everyone did get a chance to be hugged by big snake. He didn’t seem to mind.

I’m pretty tired tonight, so I’ll have some more time tomorrow. We’re going to a war zone memory and then to the market. feeling constricted

 

From July 17 to July 23

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I love details and find them everywhere. This is a fence.

More Photos down below this text.

 

Thursday, July 17

Sophak, and I took off to my destination, Kultortoeng Pagoda, where I would stay for the duration of my time in Cambodia, except for two planned trips; one to Viet Nam and one to Siem Reap.

The driver of the tuk tuk negotiated the heart of the smoggy city. Dust, exhaust, snarls of traffic and no traffic rules, made our trip equal to the other folks caught in the same rush-hour maze.

Farm trucks, with farm workers headed off to the fields, competed with merchants on motorcycles that were piled high with such goods as flowers, metal pipes, plastic containers they would sell at the market – or various stations throughout the city.

It was noisy all the way to the quiet country road. Then the terrain was a few degrees cooler, and greener.

Sophak said the plush jungle we were in, came about from the rich earth of the nearby river.

The tuk tuk jogged bumps but hit some bumps square on the head, all the while I hung on and put my trust in the driver, who wore a helmet.

We twisted through muddy water and around other vehicles and finally, we arrived through the big gates of the Wat (temple) where I began to immerge into the realm of Buddhism.

I was introduced to Om Chie who would cook meals for me, and I found out later, help me get into my room in the dark of night, with a flashlight.

Sophak took me on a quick tour of the facility, after showing me my room, checking out the air conditioner and the refrigerator. The air conditioner, I learned, needs to be turned on up above by using a broom handle, and the refrigerator works by securing the plug into the outlet by stuffing clothing under the plug to keep it connected. It then works to keep the water bottles cold. Water is extremely necessary in the every day heat.

We walked through the facility and heard Monks chanting, and some walked by me, while I held my hands in prayer-form to show respect. I was surprised to see little Monks around the age of eight or ten. All Monks were dressed in burnt orange robes, with one bare shoulder exposed. They were barefooted while entering the building.

I learned that I, too, would be expected to always leave my shoes or thongs outside before entering any facility. I learned many other rules, as well: more about those later.

The monastery has several large buildings that serve as places for worship, chanting and eating.

Nuns, with shaved heads, dressed in white, eat at one end of the community and chanting room, while the Monks enter and eat on the other side. Monks and Nuns eat two meals a day; breakfast and lunch.

It was not only a warm place in heat of the day, the people proved to be friendly, quick to smile and curious, as heck about me. It seems my age was on the top of the question and answer list.

Sophak has filled Om Chie in regarding my age and desire to eat Cambodian food whatever it would be.

 

Friday, July 18 Getting started

Monk, Ven. Sopea knocked on my door and when I opened it, he stood, wearing the traditional robe and said, Ven. Sophear had asked him to visit me to welcome me and give me information regarding Buddhism.

We walked and talked a bit, and watched the Monks line up for dinner. While they walked by in procession fashion, I stood with my hands in prayer-form and held that pose until they all left. In the beginning of the procession, some of the older Monks smiled at me, while some seemed a bit shy.

Monks get two meals a day, breakfast and lunch, no dinner. They arise at 4 a.m. for meditation, prayer and chanting. They sit on rugs and listen to a leader repeating the phrases on the microphone. The sound is nasal and rhythmic.

Ven. Sopea met me in the late afternoon and told me I would go to the school in the village to teach the children. I thought I would be teaching Monks, but it is a school that was organized by a Monk to pay back the village for their support. The children’s parents pay for the school that begins at 5:30 p.m. and ends at 7:30 p.m. I wasn’t prepared to teach little children, but with a previous background in Head Start, I did okay and both the children and myself survived. Ven. Sopea bounced around with me in the tuk tuk to get to the school and he helped out during the lesson.

He is an easy-going person, as I am learning most Cambodians are.

One Nun who I met, named Wanton, with gold and silver capped teeth, speaks a bit of English and was welcoming to me with a big smile. She has since, brought me cooked pieces of squash and bananas.

Nuns wear white tops with white wrap around skirts and some wear a robe over that.

I find myself to be a novelty to the folks in the monastery, with the top question being, “how old are you?” No one else here or even near here has shoulder length white hair. That makes me different, indeed.

The food I’m given is very different from American culinary, and in the beginning, it was enough for a family of five.

For the first two days, I experienced stomach pains and bloating, so on the third day, I asked for Ma Chai not to cook dinner for me. That seemed to help a bit, and for the next few days I felt better.

My old childhood rule that I should eat everything on my plate stood in my way of declining food, but, in spite of that, I began to leave food untouched.

She eventually realized that I couldn’t eat everything presented to me, so the food was delivered in separate dishes and bowls so I could take what I wanted and place it on my plate. The bowl of rice and a bowl of soup is an unusual breakfast for me, but typical for Cambodians. Sometimes, I couldn’t distinguish the contents of the soup.

 

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One of the Monks who visited me and he’s taking my photo.IMG_1579

Children in the school showing the pens I brought with me from Nathalie in Germany. She collected them from the company she works for. Thanks Nathalie.IMG_1602

Farm workers – Cambodian style. I found these folks while on a walk.

July 19 – Met a smiling Monk

Ven. Sopheap, the second person in charge of the Wat while the head Monk is away, visited me and apologized for not greeting me earlier. He is a student at a university in Cambodia where he is a PhD candidate.

Sopheap always has a smile and an easy laugh. He is simply joyful and fun to be around. He took me on a more in depth tour of the Wat, and we ended up next to a lake. I sat on one bench and he sat on another. Never sitting on the same bench as a Monk is one of the rules of etiquette as well as never touching a Monk. There are more rules.

Sopheap loaned me a book, “The Transformed Mind” by His Holiness The Dalai Lama. He speaks of the middle path, which includes the right understanding, right view, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right concentration, right mindfulness and right effort.

Ven. Sopheap told me that people who suffer – and we all do – should make use of our suffering for enlightenment.

On meditation he said, “we have monkey brains” with our mind jumping all over the place, which is why meditation helps us to become calm.

The total teaching of the Monks could be summed up with, do no harm, do only good and purify ones mind.

Venerable Sopheap and I sat quietly in meditation. It was not too difficult to turn off the action going on in my brain, because I have become relaxed – there is no pressure on me.

It was a pleasure to be in this man’s presence.

 

July 20 – Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths

From gleaning information regarding Buddhism from Ven. Sopheap and several other Monks who were sent to talk with me regarding Buddhism, plus the reading I have done, I am sharing the four noble truths of Buddhism.

One – There is suffering in this world

Two – Causes of suffering are do to attachment, greed, hatred and delusion.

Three – The end of suffering

Four – The pathway to end suffering

The eightfold path consists of right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right meditation.

Five Moral Precepts – when people become Buddhists, they have to follow the rules which involves the five moral precepts:

Avoid killing

Avoid stealing

Avoid misusing sex

Avoid lying

Avoid using intoxicants

The day before this day was the celebration of Buddha’s birthday, which was 2,558 years ago. Lay folks came from various parts of Cambodia to this Wat to help celebrate with the Monks and the Nuns, by bringing food as gifts.

Each Monk sat in a chair facing the Nuns and other people, and prayed. Then, the Nuns and lay people distributed the food among the Monks, into their separate bowls or into plastic bags.

A woman came to me with a young man holding a large aluminum bowl loaded with little bags of rice and something else that I never did learn about. She motioned to me to place a package into each Monk’s bowl or bag.

When I thought we were duplicating some of the food, I said, “He already has some.”

“It’s okay we keep going until it’s all gone.” The young gentleman said in perfect English. It was as though he just appeared and then disappeared just as quickly. I would have liked to speak more with him in English.

 

My daily walk in the Wat – July 23

My life at the Wat has become a day-to-day routine. I wake up around 5:30 to 6:00 a.m. and by 6:30 to 7:00 a.m. I walk to the shelter of Om Chie and her family – where I eat breakfast, watch the dogs, and kids play around the shelter. I can hear the Monks and Nuns chant, and then the Monks depart for their quarters and the Nuns, to there’s, as well.

I read for a while in my room, or out on the veranda at a table that his been set up for me. I sit close to exotic plants of all kinds and a pool of small fish. I usually take a walk down a choice of two roads.

One road leads to a farm and the other leads to small houses on stilts, and sit among newer houses. Large pots stand on each side of a house, catching rainwater.

I cannot possible explain in detail the many images I see in the course of one day – but some here are some:

A woman squeezes sugar out of sugar cane to sell.

A frog sat on my front step but when I tried to move him he protested in frog noise. A nun walking by, saw it and chased it away with a stick, all the time, the frog protested loudly.

Huge white cows and their colorful cousin cows roam among the greenery and call out to one another, as they slop through the water. There were other cows finding treasures among the dump.

Children on tricycles played games and looked at me with quizzical faces, until I smiled and they smiled back.

Teenagers walk to their job, carrying their boots and water bottles. They help by loading greenery on top of trucks.

The fruit I have been given is delicious, and items I have never seen before. Ever.

After a walk I read a bit more and then I go to lunch, afterwhich I take another walk, or talk to a Monk that has been sent to me, or read a bit more.

Then at 5:20 p.m. I hop on a tuk tuk and head to school to teach.

The kids have warmed up to me and it has been fun.

The classrooms sit on planks and rough benches, in a room that is open to the street, one light bulb lights the room and a fan above circulates the air. Children sit two to three on a bench, shoulder-to-shoulder. The first one to enter the bench does not have access to get out on that side.

Everytime a student has an answer, he/she stands up to recite the answer.

The teenagers are shyer than the younger kids, due to embarrassment among their peers. This makes it more difficult for their one-to-one participation.

I have taught some games and some songs that they seem to enjoy. Two teachers help interpret the rules of the game.

By 7:30 p.m. I am drenched, and my clothing sticks to me, but it’s time to board the tuk tuk and head back to the Wat. Dinner awaits me and I sit and eat and then take my flashlight to head back to my room.

 

I was featured on a radio talk show!

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My bedroom is in back of this pond

My bedroom is in back of this pond

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Ven. Sopheap found me eating dinner one evening and said I had been invited to take part in a talk show on they radio station 96.7 FM. A few minutes later, I was sitting in front of a microphone, that was circled with sweet smiling flowers, and five Monks in the room operating the station.

Ven. Sopheap translated the questions phoned in to me, and my answers, as well. I must admit to being stumped when it came to scholarly answering the difference between Christianity and Buddhism. But I did manage to say that when we die our soul remains. And, yes, God is responsible for everything we have in the world and we often offer our blessings to God.

After a few more of those types of questions, Ven. Sopheap, I learned later, came to my rescue and asked folks to ask other questions, that it wasn’t intended to be a forum.

They asked questions regarding the difference between the United States and Cambodia. I had a lot of fun with that question and couldn’t leave out the huge numbers of motorcycles, tuk tuks and cars that share the road with farm equipment and trucks carrying farm workers, all the while with no noticeable traffic rules.

The questions and comments after that were very complimentary. The folks thanked me for being in the country and for teaching their children English.

Ven. Sopheap said I would be invited again to the radio station another time. It was lots of fun.

You can listen – but I don’t have a date – on www.mettapage.org or www.mettafm.org.

 

A Nun approached me the next day like I was a star. She told me she heard me on the radio. Later one of the teachers at the school also heard me, he said. So now, the mysterious white haired lady has been discovered.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Without power what can you do?

There is an important form I need to fill out online to the Univ. of Albany so they can receive the stipend I earned from AmeriCorps. It will pay for the Buddhist Immersion program I’m on right now. I have put off this chore for a few days and decided last night would be the right time.

I’d just about get finished then the power would go out. When it came back on I tried again. Three times and I didn’t get it done, so I went across the road to an Indian restaurant. I was still stuffed from a fabulous lunch – it was fish with curry and other spices. I’d like that recipe.

I sat near the entrance and watched human activity (oh, there was that one cat) walking in the rain. Umbrellas bounced, tuk tuks rattled by, revved up motorcycles whizzed down the road, smoky trucks  poured exhaust, and traveling merchant wagons with loud speakers announced their goods.

I just sat there with my favorite drink: ice coffee with thick cream. The restaurant host has been in Cambodia for two years, and likes it so far, he said. The restaurant has a front area exposed to the street, but defined by a large canopy and a short hedge in front. Water trickles down on the side of one wall to bring a sound of peace.

I asked the host if they had dessert and the answer was no, however, there was one tiny bit of sweet he could let me try. The purple round looked like a plum, was in a tiny bowl of a thick syrup. He said it was made with a corn and flower paste and fried and then put into honey. I don’t know why the purple color.

I got ready to pay, and he said not to pay for the sweet, it was his pleasure to offer it to me.

“Most people in the world are good.” That is my mantra.

I’m up early this morning to pack my bags and get ready to leave. I’ll be at the Wat Koltertaing – a monastery for monks and where I’ll begin to teach.

I’m told there will not be wifi, so I won’t be able to post daily entrees, but will if I can find a place. Otherwise, the next post will be on July 24th, when I arrive back to Phnom Penh and the same hotel to prepare for the trip to Viet Nam. That’s complicated, but Sophak is working it out for me.

I will go with another volunteer from Global Service who is working in an orphanage in another area.

Getting educated

sophakTop photo: Sophak, my incredible teacher and guide. The photo below is the National Museum and the bottom photo is an elephant bush on the museum grounds.museumelephant bushIt was another day of learning and fun. After breakfast, Sophak went over the vocabulary and sentences in Khmer language, with me. Then the tuk tuk driver dropped us off at the National Museum, where I saw an extensive collection of sculptures and bronze artifacts, some going back to the 4th century. I’m always pleased to see a country display their culture and history. It’s a true gift.

The grounds were beautiful with a few elephant bushes. The elephant was a big part of the Hindu religion, which was the practiced religion in Cambodia before Buddhism.

In Cambodian political news today, a violent protest took place yesterday in Freedom Park. Four protest leaders were arrested. Also the Embassy has warned travelers to watch belongings as there had been some recent robberies.

Today we also attended a lesson given by Friends International. Their work consists of giving traveler tips from the Child Safe Network. Little children with pitiful and sad faces approach to either sell something or beg. The advice is not to give to the children; but instead contact one of the official ChildSafe Network Sites, which can better serve the children and their families. There are nice gifts for sale that are made by the mothers of the children who found their way into the program.

The lesson on child safety was given in a room on top of a restaurant; the restaurant serves as a culinary school for teenaged children.

The last thing we did after lunch was to take the silk material I purchased at the market yesterday to a seamstress who will make a jacket for me, fully lined. It will cost $17, and will take only a few days. I was measured for a perfect fit.

We had lunch in another restaurant from the other days. We’re trying out a different one every day. I had the most delicious dish of fish in coconut, mint, basil, pine nuts and red peppers. Yum. I’m really liking the iced coffee served in a glass with sweet milk.

 

 

 

Marketing and Wat do’s and don’ts

 

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From yesterday’s tour of the royal palace.

Today, Sophak, my teacher and guide, went over the Khmer pronunciation of words. Sometimes I thought that my mouth just wouldn’t do what it was supposed to do, but it’s not me to give up. I’ll keep trying.

After the language lesson, Sophak and I boarded a tuk tuk and headed to the old market.

If you have eye contact with a seller, you’re sure to get railroaded into their stall, and if you stop for a second, you’re hooked. This happened to me this morning. Sophak said the sellers will make better deals in the morning because when they sell something it brings good luck for the rest of the day.

Well, the handsome and charismatic young seller had me wrapped around his fingers, and I got a ‘deal’ but didn’t stop looking. He laughed. I laughed. Sophak laughed. I bought more. Sophak bought something and we finally got away.

I like what I have purchased and pleased with the ‘deal’. Sophak said it was good, so I believe him.

We also stopped at a pepper shop. I heard from the professors who I eat breakfast with that Cambodian pepper is widely known. It comes from the foot of the Cardamon mountains. There were pepper sorters in one room of the Kuratapepper Company – the website: www.kuratapepper.com will tell you all about it.

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A little bit of coconut juice quenches the thirst.

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Cute girl in the market.

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Pepper sorters

Sophak and I got back on the waiting tuk tuk for the ride back to the hotel. We then went over the Wat Do’s and Don’ts and all the proper etiquette I’ll soon need.

On Thursday, I’ll be at the Wat Koltertaing and not near a wifi, so my postings will not be visible until July 25th when I venture on to Viet Nam. No doubt I’ll find wifi there. However, if it’s possible to get to a wifi sometime during the Wat stay, I will.

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Street scene.

So, see you tomorrow right here.

Chom reap sour

The headline means Hello, written so English speakers can pronounce it.

“Are you okay?”, said some American as he walked in back of me down the steps of the Phnom Pehn’s memorial.

“Yes, I’m doing fine.”

“You don’t look so good.”

“Well, thank you.”

Sure, it was rude, but he had a point. I wasn’t as ready for the day as I should have been, and I forgot my hat and sunscreen. A pain pill would have been nice, as well. It was hot and humid, my face was red and I walked funny. Not to mention how unpretty it is to see my get out of a tuk tuk.

But it was a day of learning and an opportunity to see Phnom Pehn’s history from my teacher and guide, Sophak Touch.

A flower from a tree similar to the tree a woman named Phnom Penh found in the river in the 1400s and where the city’s name came from. The tree is called the Buddha tree.

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We saw the royal palace and the grounds, where the colors on the buildings are yellow and white – the national colors of Cambodia. Memorial’s where ashes are placed of former kings and can be seen on the grounds.

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I especially liked the long mural that was painted many years ago by 42 artists. It has faded through the years, but you can still see the history depicted in the art work.

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Sophak took me to the Genocide Museum to see the ghastly prison,that was operated under the ruthless leader, Pol Pot. We saw the cells, some of which are barely as large as a closet. People stayed here until they were taken to the killing fields and murdered. It’s a dark place and dark history, that is still a memory to many Cambodians, who’s loved ones were victims.

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To have record of Pol Pots work, he seemed it necessary to take  photos of every prisoner, both men and women. There are rooms full of photo after photo of people who eventually met their death. The eyes told the story of their fear, or the hope they had from the lies they were told. It’s a sad statement on the wickedness of the regime.