This is a personal site. The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of VSO.

Saturday, 28 November 2009


Here's a quick insight into the better looking of Cambodia's wildlife. I've yet to be brave enough to photograph a cockroach or the great big spider I found under the lamp in my living room....

Saturday, 21 November 2009

A day in the life...

And so I’m in Sisophon, and I don’t know where to begin really. When I first arrived it felt like one big ball of emotion, one minute everything was great, but it would take only the smallest trigger (like someone trying to overcharge me for an apple, for instance) and suddenly I’d feel rubbish and wonder why I thought it was a good idea to come here in the first place. It’s a lot to take in: new house, new job, new language. And with no-one to tell me what to do… I’ve taken to just kind of doing something and hope I got it right and didn’t offend anyone. To be honest, it still is a lot to take in, but I think I’m slowly getting the hang of things. Slowly.

The first few days here were marred by the fact that my house, unfortunately, was stationed between two Khmer weddings. If you know nothing more about local Cambodia, know this - Khmer weddings are not a quiet event. It’s like having a radio stuck in your head that you can’t switch off. So, this - together with the three confused roosters that live next door to me – has taught me a very key lesson: I will never need an alarm clock again.

Anyway, the weddings finished and life continues – I’m getting into a routine and feel at home. I will tell you about my job, but first – in a Bridget Jones kind of a way, here’s a quick insight into a day in the life of Jen:

3.00 am:Wake up. Consider slaughtering roosters. Roll over and try to sleep.

5.30 am:Urge to pee forces self out of bed. Stumble downstairs. This sudden movement has caused a new layer of sweat, so I brave the cold water and have a shower.

6.00 am:Get dressed. Apply layer of DEET to newly formed layer of sweat.

6.30am:Sweep up the new collection of dead insects from floor, throw outside. Boil up water ready for water filter, have breakfast and water plants.

7.30am:Meet Vomit (my assistant and translator - and before you ask - that is his name and everyone finds it hilarious) at the Provincial Office of Education. Put on my sexy VSO helmet and light-weight moto jacket and head out to work.

11.00am:Hopefully, I’ve achieved something at work (more on this later). It’s now officially lunchtime, so I’m free until 2pm. Generally, I’ll go home, have another shower, create a sandwich and have a nap.

2pm:Head out to the office m’neck-eying (alone). Cross fingers in the hope that someone will actually be there, sit in office in an attempt to make friends and improve my Khmer. Have a couple of conversations that generally revolve around the themes of heat, family and food. I may also do some reading about my job, education and Cambodia.

5pm:Get home. Get changed. Flop on bed.

6pm:Invariably I go round to my friend Anne’s, or she comes round to mine.

7pm:Eat food. Most probably rice.

8pm:Talk to the lovely Matt on Skype.

9pm:…. and I’m all tucked up and ready for sleep!

Monday, 2 November 2009

Where there's a will....

What I love about Cambodia is the sheer ingenuity and creativity of its people. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the money or resources – if there’s a will, there does indeed seem to be a way. It might involve some string, sellotape, a wing and a prayer, but so what?
One of the most worrying aspects of life in Cambodia is the lack of rule and regulation. Who ever thought they would miss red tape? Cars and motos know no bounds - a vehicle isn’t considered full if there aren’t ten people and a pig inside with a truck load of luggage tied to the roof. Here, you haven’t got a leg to stand on if you accidentally fall down a pot hole, and the third floor ‘Emergency Exit’ is a window with a bundle of rope and a make-shift anchor (to stop the rope falling through the window, you see, they’ve thought of everything). England would have a fit. But on the up side, at least there is an emergency exit.
I once read about a floating school made entirely from plastic crates. The walls were crates, the floor was crates and the desks were crates. And so the children sat learning their ABCs without complaint. And why not? It’s better than having no school at all, and at least it wont flood during the wet season.
And so, ironically, this free-for-all (as crazy as it seems at times) is also Cambodia’s greatest asset. Nothing is too much trouble. You can carry pretty much anything you want on a moto and be as creative as you’d like. Moving house? We can do that. Taking your pigs to the market? We have baskets, so we can do that too. Don’t have a field for your cows? Not a problem, just take them for daily walks like everyone else.
It’s great fun, and really quite useful – as long as you don’t spend too much time thinking about what it is you’re actually doing. The photos above are two of my favourites so far and shows our Tuk Tuk loaded to the gills with sofas, cushions and people. Actually, given the amount of padding we had inside, it’s probably the safest road trip I’ve taken so far.
Oh and sorry for the depressing posts recently, they followed a bunch of lectures and seminars on all that's bad about Cambodia, so I thought I'd put them both together and then move on to more cheery things....