Ort Jong Tov

Something I wrote after leaving Cambodia whilst on the plane.

Ort jong tov

That is something I have been saying a lot of recently. It means I don’t want to go. In all honesty, its how I feel and how I will feel for a good long while. As I am on the plane, Phnom Penh rapidly becomes smaller and the Khmer coverage lessens all the while England grows closer and university beckons. The confirmation of it all becomes far too real. I remember when I decided that I should go to university all those months ago; I would just get this overwhelming feeling of sadness as I would be going around Phnom Penh. It would be as if a comical cartoon cloud would come over me and rain on me for a little while. That cloud has grown and grown and now it’s constant.

University is nice and all but it’s not quite Cambodia is it?

More recently this is me:

I have no idea what to write. I want to write. I have a desire to write but I don't know what about. On top of this, I have a growing apathy for everything around me. I don't want to depress or distress people further about my feelings. I know I want to go back. That's all I can say. I worry that people might get upset if I say more. I don't know how to convey this feeling to someone. Perhaps you've already had it whether that's through a hard breakup or the loss of someone close to you. It's that feeling of longing. You want to be with them. I can rectify it easily. If it wasn't for this stupid bit of paper. This degree. It's infuriating. I have experience. Hire me off of that! Although if you want to go higher you need one, if you want to do this or do that, you need one. But maybe i can get away with doing that or this. Aaargh! It's all the time. It's constantly in my head. Arguing. It never stops. I just want to smash my head in at moments due to the indecisiveness of my brain! I can't switch it off for the life of me.

Not as poetic I'll admit. Catch you on the next one. 

One month back. One week in.

This is a tough one. In some ways, I’m celebratory at the fact that I’ve been back a month already. Because it means I’m just that bit closer to being back in Cambodia. But I’m upset at the fact that I’ve been gone for a month. People lives move on. They start to forget. The edges blur. The fog descends. I hate that fact. I remember the parts that will stay with me forever. But it is the day to day you lose. The routine you were in, the worlds you were a part of. Nothing can replace that daily grind. It’s plastic here and controlled.  There is a hole that I thought the university would replace. I felt as though it will all be alright when I get there, the day to day schedule would mean I don’t think about it is as much. Though as I’ve talked about it with people here, I realise it’s what defines me. It is me. How can I not be with me? It’s nonsensical. Now it’s all I think about. It’s a constant war in my head. What would I be doing there? How would I phrase that in Khmer? What would my friends think of this? It’s like a block in my head. I have to mentally move it out the way before functioning.

This blog isn’t a slight in any way whatsoever to the people I’ve met. So far I have enjoyed myself thoroughly and enjoyed their company. However being here has made it glaringly obvious the difference between me, my peers and my countrymen. I’m not in the same mindset anymore, I’m out of place. I feel as though I’m a square peg trying to shove myself into a round hole. I’m not an academic; I haven’t been since I went to college. And yet here I am trying to push myself through it. I told myself I’m doing it for those less fortunate than myself, I’m doing it to help Cambodia when I get back. However, the tug of my Cambodian heartstrings means I’m more desperate to return than ever. That although they can function without me. That country saved me, I can’t function without it. I’m homesick. 

When I was out there people would call it the ‘wild west’ I never really understood. I always looked around and saw safety and peace. Now that I’m back in the west I realise how little freedom I have. I feel as though we constrain ourselves by how others may end up perceiving us. The crippling thought of doing or saying something wrong that will end our social lives. I hate this. We are thrown into the pot, put together and have to make it work. I’ve dealt with this already at secondary school. On the other hand in Cambodia, I had the freedom to not see those people I may not have liked or agreed with. I could leave situations I was uncomfortable with. In all honesty, I could run away, it’s not healthy but I was happy. Now I have run in the wrong direction and I feel like it’s a farce when I mention the degree will allow me to burst through a glass ceiling. I was happy, I could trot along doing what I was doing with no problems.

Yes, there are things I miss massively: food, people, attitudes and language to name a few of them. These can’t be replaced. The language is the only one I can possibly sort out. But how does one move on from these things when you don’t want to move on? Is it unhealthy? Yes, probably.

Now at university, I hate how unbelievably stupid people think we are. The other day we had a compulsory fire safety talk that lasted at least an hour. I thought it was ridiculous that at this age, they thought we were going to play with fire. Naturally, I didn’t go. Fire is hot. Don’t play with it. You would just not have that there in Cambodia. Some may say it is to their detriment, that they could use a little more care and forethought. I don’t; carry on carrying on Cambodia, you’re perfect the way you are and I miss you.

Link of the day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4d4h1i2zaU8 Happier times

England, for now.

Well I'm back. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done. I cried and cried. I can't get over how enchanting that little country is. Life was easy. Going to cafes and restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Speaking a wonderful language. Doing memorable things and making memories. Maybe another blog I'll write about it. When I am a bit more stable.

However I'm back. I have to get over it. I have to leave it behind. I have to go into this new challenge with my head held high and my history holding me up. People say don't talk about, just start again here. That for me is almost impossible, well for the time being. I left college, worked for 8 months and then went and did that! Everyone else went to uni and I'm sure they'll still be talking about that for awhile yet! So how am I not allowed the same allowance of talking about the stuff I've seen and done. I don't want to be only talking about these things but that's all I've got for the time being.

So now it's time for university. I have to focus on this. I think for me it will be a different experience to those who went straight from school. I have other duties I need to fulfill. I must get back to Cambodia next year. So I need to get a job to save up. Which means I won't be going out all the time. Hopefully this doesn't isolate me from my flatmates too much but we will see. Also got to find some football to play! See if I'm any better than rubbish!

Where's home? : https://youtu.be/4VX3anCH_MQ

Under 17 Tournament

So I wrote this and then sold my phone so lost it! It was another football write up for COP's last tournament with me at the helm.

When I first joined the team as a coach it was at the exact same tournament. Under 17s. It was my first experience with them and my lack of khmer was really difficult. I was trying to give advice but could not get it out. Incredibly frustrating.

They came dead last and missed all their penalties.

This tournament was much better. Their maturity in the six months with them was incredible. I know they had matured from playing in the big boys league. So it was an interesting experiment to see what would happen when playing in their own age group once more.

We had just started a new warm up technique so we got all players to turn up early. The tournament started at 0730. We got them there at 0645 and warmed up until 0710. Due to their only being one pitch and the way the pools placed us, our first game? 0930. No need to get there so early! Never mind we played on.

The first game and first half was dire. It was against a team that had some muscular kids and had just battered a team about 4-0. So COP was playing nervously. We had to get to half time.

Half time arrived and we hadn't scored nor had they. It was shaky but we could do it. I had to shout at them and reignite their desire for it. I asked what have they come for? To win? Or to play nicely? They replied they wanted to be champions. I had to get onto Vitu's back telling him if he has come to watch then he can sit with me. Something my Dad used to ask me.

Second half began. I made two subs. A workhorse of Rothana on the right side and our secret weapon of little Roth (13 yrs against big 16/17yrs) in the middle and moved Vitu to the left. It worked. Rothana bust down the right hand side, played in a cross and Vitu was on the end to head it in. 1-0. Now because this was a while ago, I can't remember as to how they equalised but they did. 1-1.

Our secret weapon, little Roth worked. He made some nice movements and Rothana put in another cross of which he headed in. 2-1. Just before the end of the game another chance came of which he volleyed in. 3-1.

Match number two. Local rivals.
Had to win to advance. First half again was sloppy and they went 1-0. We never looked like we had it in us for most of the half. But then one of our thinkers got the ball, Mony (17 yrs), He played a quick passing move with little Roth and he got it back and scored. 1-1. However they were still all over us. Get them in again. Change it up. My assistant coach spoke to them tactically. I spoke to them passionately. I took Vitu off, he had some blisters from playing in the heat. Brought Rothana on again. We were playing better and were more sound defensively. Though we weren't scoring. Brought Meng (16) off and replaced him with Vitu. Last minute of the game a ball came from the left from little Roth beating his man. Crossed it in, Vitu checked his run and side footed it into the bottom left hand corner. 2-1. Full time.

Semi final. Big rivals who's captain had looked down upon us. He had previously practiced with us but had left under a rain cloud.
We played well and were sound. It was a feisty game. With our most improved player Ro getting a yellow card for some afters. Also Vitu getting a yellow card for lashing out. We were doing fine, just couldn't unlock the door. We hit the bar. We made the keeper work a fair few times. It just didn't want to go in. Then a lapse of concentration from our defender meant they got in one on one and scored. Never mind.
The lads heads were down. They were panicking and lost their heads in actual fact, 3 players went to close down one and he slipped a ball through 2-0. Game ended a couple of minutes later. We ended up hitting the bar twice and the post once. With the keeper tipping it round to a corner 4 times. Unlucky.
Penalties with the other losing team to find out who came third.
Now as an English man I'm never confident with these. Especially since what I had seen all those months ago and we hadn't practiced them since. Little Roth had the confidence to say he wanted to go first. So he was one out of three chosen.
The other two were the captain Hab and Vitu.
Roth steps up and misses. I told him to pick a corner, not change it and shoot. He didn't change it but he tried to shoot into the corner too well and it went past the post.
They scored. Pressure on.
Vitu steps up and scores.
They scored. 2-1.
Hab steps up and scores. 2-2.
They step up and it's saved by our keeper, Meng (17). True heroics. He'd saved penalties in the big league as well!
Another player needed to be picked to take the fourth. I choose Mony.
Steps up and scores. 3-2.
They step up and miss!
We did it! Third. What an improvement, I regret I wasn't able to give them a trophy. But after coming dead last and then in six months coming 3rd. Looking back I'm incredibly proud of their efforts and the result. Of course, the fairytale would be champions. Though it didn't happen. I will remember it forever. Thanks COP, you made me, yourselves and our fans incredibly happy and proud of you. To the next one.

Link for the day: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=RJqimlFcJsM

6 Months ago

Hab stepping up for a penalty

Waiting for the first game

Dark photo but, third!

The CISC family

I wrote this once and it got deleted so let's go through it again. The lovely, wonderful and dysfunctional CISC family.

I worked at that school for two years and I'll have memories for a lifetime. I'm not going to go through all of them. As you haven't the time nor do I have the patience or writing skills to do them justice.

The students were, of course, lovely. There are the ones you didn't particularly enjoy teaching as they were difficult but they could also be the most rewarding some days.

The first year was a massive learning curve for myself in a school environment and it was such a far cry from working in the volunteer school. I certainly didn't think the year before I left England that in a few short months I would have been the a teacher and main speaker at school events of an international school. How incredible is that? At 19, I was writing and presenting performances for the school. This continued through to my second year. I ended up doing 5 or 6 events in total. Even at one point dancing! Although I don't think they plan to do that again!

In the classroom I learnt a fair bit. How to teach, how to not teach. What to do and what not to do. Then because they saw something I got a contract to be a primary homeroom teacher which means teaching everything else.

I got very worried the day before school started because I thought I was going to let these kids down and get found out. I think I did right by them in the end though. I tried my hardest and they got through it. With my silly antics and all sorts of stupidity! The first year was a learning curve. The second year was a year of maturing. Rapidly. Having to constantly care for children. Constant worry about 'are they okay?' 'Do they need anything?' I once read that nowadays would-be parents forget that when you have a child, you no longer come first. Try having 6. 6th in line for everything. However it was wonderful as they pick up some of your traits and mannerisms. They essentially become mini yous and it is really nice. Maybe my siblings wouldn't appreciate having 6 mini mes running around. I did though!

Other than that though the students were just a small part. What made it worth going to school were the staff. My colleagues. They were always supportive. Always helpful. Always there. If you had a question they'd help. There was no backstabbing office politic rubbish. If you needed help they would be there for you. My morning chats with one certain member of staff. The jokes with the others. It's something I will miss in the day to day. There was so much comradery. Something I will miss in the coming years. I really want to thank each and every one of you. Enjoy the next school year.

It's a bit jumbled and not as nice as my previous version. But we'll go with it. I haven't got a link today. However I do know in the next couple of weeks with my return to England. I will be writing a lot as a type of therapy.

See you on the next one.

Crunch Match

As a child when we used to play in the mighty Strides FC down on Chesham Moor one of the parents used to kindly volunteer and write up a match report. So as it was coming to a close I thought best to try and do something similar. All credit of this idea goes to Simon Standish.

It was a relatively coolish afternoon in South East Asia for that afternoons game. Well, cool for Cambodia.  We arrived knowing this was a crunch match. If we lost, we would not be going to the quarter finals. If we won or draw, we would be. We had worked incredibly hard for this. We had had some tough games in the run up to this 6 pointer. Memorable games as well. Perhaps if we had won games we drew, and drew games we lost, we might not have needed to worry about this game. Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20. We were the youngest team in the tournament by far. Our average age was about 20. The other teams were probably 25+. They had experience on us, we had energy on them.

The lads were raring to go. The team we were playing had slowly been creeping up the league after changing most of their players. They had some quality but we knew how to shut them out. Due to unforeseen circumstances football training and friendlies were not played in preparation for this game.  Was that a mistake? We would soon find out. The team talk was held. Do it for the supporters today, do it for our defender with a broken leg, do it for me, do it for yourselves. The flame was lit inside of them.

The referees blew the whistle, handshakes and bows were done. The teams lined up and off we went. We started lethargically. Not much energy, no focus. Green Max smelt blood, they attacked from the off. Within two minutes, they had passed themselves through our defence and from about 12 yards out from the left hand side they shot past out goalkeeper into the right hand corner. 1-0 down. The worst possible start. The team that needed a win desperately could now sit, defend and frustrate. We had never had to deal with this before. To break a team down, the one thing we hadn't learnt to do.
Their key midfield player had decided to play in defence. This meant he could ping the ball and recycle possession all day long. I, playing in midfield, could not get close.  This doesn't mean we didn't have our chances. I got a knocked down ball, saw our striker with his blindingly bright green new boots making a run in behind, scooped it over, he got onto it. We were all screaming shoot, everyone was leaning forward in their seats, wishing and willing him to score. He did shoot! He fluffed it a bit but it was going over the keeper! It was a goal! Come on! I can remember it now! The slow motion movement of it all. It hit the underside of the crossbar and unlike Lampard 2010 no goal line technology was needed, it bounced away. We, of course, screamed goal. We all knew it wasn't though. That pretty much set us for the rest of the game.

We had many chances from many different players. Even two phantom goals! Two crosses from myself to our target man, who finally had learnt to head the ball. It was in! I screamed and yelped and jumped for joy. Then wondered why no-one else was. Much like English grassroots football the side netting had a hole in it. Twice, our striker found that small hole but not the net! We hit the post a couple of times, the bar a couple more times. At one point, I was sat in front of the goalie after falling over and the ball came into the danger area and I tried heading it in from a sitting position. Cleared off the line. Clearly need to practice my heading from sitting down!

We did have some luck though. Our second goalkeeper was in nets. Only second purely by the fact the other goalkeeper is just slightly better and older. The attacker was brought down in the box. Penalty. Soft, but a penalty all the same. Yellow card as well! In these nets and this tournament unless the player actually misses or puts it down the middle, it's generally a goal. With fingers crossed and prayers said. The player stepped up and put it down the left side. Our goalkeeper dived to his right and made the save! Strong hands to put it round for a corner. Our hearts swooped! Always rated our goalie! We were still in this.

Our striker with his new boots wasn't firing on all cylinders. Slow to shoot and when he did it was going over. My shooting wasn't much better. But for love nor money that ball wasn't going in. Whipped in crosses were being cleared whereas previously they may have been own goals or handballs. Shoots were being fluffed, or going past the post. It just wasn't going.

Then as we were throwing players at this impenetrable wall  of skin and football boot. We won a corner they got the ball and quickly countered. A ball over the top and a mix up from our two most experienced players, the defender and goalkeeper, meant that the attacker ran round them picked up the ball and passed it across the pitch for the other player to score into an open net. Against the run of play but they smelt blood and they took it well. 2-0. Mountain to climb.

Then the ugly side came. We have never had too much luck with referees this tournament whether due to our youthfulness or what, I don't know. That day was just another level. There were at least two or three penalty shouts from handballs or pushing. They were leaving feet in, they were stepping on players boots. Bullying. Pure bullying. To frustrate and distract. These kids haven't experienced it. So it's another lesson learnt. Although it's a shame they had to do that. We had our other foreigner square up to one of their players after constant little kicks and pushes. The funny thing is, our guy is about 195cm and the guy that pissed him off was about up to his waist. The other player knew he'd made a mistake and backed off pretty rapidly. I was swearing at refs. It got to a point where a player bounced off me and fell over, then quickly it went for a goal kick which I didn't see. I thought the ref was calling a foul on me. So I gave him a few choice words (in English) which the crowd didn't understand but they knew from the intonation. Then when I turned around and realised my mistake. I had to laugh and the crowd followed suit after. I apologised to the ref afterwards.  RESPECT and all that.

Then it was over. There were tears. We had a team meeting. I let them know that we have all learnt so much. Don't stop now. This was all experience and how they can be proud of themselves. I am really proud to have played with these guys and to call myself; coach and captain of COP. Hopefully we can get them into an U-17 tournament and they'll tear it up with their new found experience.

End result: Green Max 2 - 0 COP

Consequence: Knocked out the tournament. Final position in the league 9th out of 16. 
The team - The one time I don't smile, they do.
Check out No.11 new bright green boots, trying to blind defenders.
Do it for yourselves.

Centre of Peace

The orphanage I've been helping out at for the past couple of months with football and English teaching. Their blog -http://geckocry.blogspot.com/

The days are like those long summer evenings you never want to end. The nights are like the end of parties when it starts to die down and you're left with your close friends and just talk into the night. 

The relationships are as warm as the glowing embers of a bonfire. Every time I drive over there it's like being on a rainbow. For I know, at the end there is a pot of gold. After a long day of work, to just go there and chat is just the most wonderful thought. It calms on the days filled with frustrations. It warms me on the days when I'm sad. It fills me with excitement on good days. It's inexplicable. The dreary greyness of the outside world is shut out and the love and warmth of humans is kept in. 

There are problems. The main one being I can't be there all the time, the other being I can't speak more complex Khmer to fully explain concepts or get my idea across. However the kids make concessions and speak simpler for this white foreigner in their midsts. 

I now know how my dad used to feel every Sunday night. When he would take me back home after spending the weekend at his house. It's like leaving a piece of your heart behind. The realisation of how truly alone we are in this universe comes crashing down on your back like a tidal wave. If you're lucky enough to have shared this feeling with another person, you truly care for each other. I have it with all the kids in the centre. 

Sunday mornings have become my favourite part of the week. I get up at 5:30AM make my way to the football field for coaching for 2 hours. Finish that and pack everything up and take it to the centre. Then we all listen to the director/teacher/mother talk and teach with some prayers and songs. It's enlightening and relaxing. Now, I'm not Christian. However I can see the appeal. To come together at the end of the week, sing, joke, laugh, learn, enlighten and pray. The songs and prayers are in Khmer but it adds to the charm as they are beautifully sung. Not like churches in England with old ladies wailing through the hymns.

It's these memories that I cherish. It's these kids I will miss. It's this pot of gold, this corner of the earth, this place that I will miss. However it will always be in my heart when I'm on the other side of the world. 

Link for the blog : https://g.co/kgs/unJw7y

Two years over. Two months left.

How can I begin to explain my relationship with this country? It's a place I now call home. For the past two years, the sights, smells and sounds have filled my senses. Soon these will disappear and be replaced by the modernity of a western country.

When people have visited they have said it smells, it's dirty and so on. For me that's what makes Cambodia, Cambodia. It's what I think endears us all to this country. It's like that scruffy toy we all have somewhere from our childhood. When anyone else looks at it they think it's disgusting, but to the owner it's the most perfect toy in the world. That's how I view this country. Other's coming in might think; look at the rubbish, look at the child, look at that noodle truck in the middle of the pavement, look at the smelly river. They can't understand it. For us, it's Cambodia style. We know it has problems, some much bigger than others. We love it all the same.

Over two years, those problems I am used to and am no longer bothered by. They could drive a little better though and perhaps drink a little less. How can I leave? That is a question I don't know the answer to. It's going to be like a tongue stuck to an icy lamp post. It will be a wrench and it'll hurt a lot. I know I have to. For my prospects to improve and for my future to be more assured I have to leave and study at university. This Greg hates it, however I think future Greg will be very thankful. It's just incredibly difficult to see it now. I want to be here for as long as possible. In fact, I only just booked my ticket yesterday.  The ticket I did book is last the possible date I can be here.

I will have parties and I will have goodbyes. However it's not just those people that I will miss. It's the old lady who sells me my breakfast in the morning, it's the lady who sells me my mangoes, it's the people who make up the background of this place but make it all the richer. The ones who come in and out of our lives but will know something's amiss when the white fella doesn't come anymore. The goodbyes are going to be the hardest part. I have already written about goodbye being the hardest word when I finished at the volunteer school all that time ago. That was a temporary goodbye and I made good on my promise to go back and do it again. This time, for everyone, it is permanent. How do I say goodbye to people that I have made immensely strong connections with. They are from a different culture, different backgrounds,  a different country and speak a different language. How or when did that happen?

I don't want to go.

So for the last two months, I will finish work. I will begin to sell my things. I will begin to prepare myself mentally. I will have parties. I will pack. I will go. This isn't something I want.

How can I leave my volunteer school? They are all so hopeful and filled with life. How can I leave the orphanage? They have taught me so much about life. Truly humbling people. How can I not speak this language I love? It's incredibly complex and interesting. How can I leave my international friends? It's going to be a bubble burster. We all live in this little Cambodia bubble and I have to blow it up.

I don't want to go. However I must prepare for it all the same. 

Link of the day : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9Vh_z9mtv8
Class A Volunteer School

Orphanage Day Out

Orphanage Football Team - I coach them.

I cried on Wednesday

I cried on Wednesday and I haven't the foggiest idea why. So I thought it'd be a good idea to write about it and try to work out why. As most of you know I have my normal work in the morning and generally every Mon-Wed-Fri afternoon I go to work at the volunteer school for a couple of hours teaching English to high schoolers. So far I have enjoyed every minute of this and don't tell my boss but I much prefer working there than at my school with a salary. Every minute is filled with laughter and joy and stress-free. If I could bottle up that positive energy these guys give off I'd be a millionaire. The class I teach already know a fair amount of English so although there's no seen progress I always feel as though they learn something every lesson. They might not, I don't know.
Anyhow that's the basic run down of my volunteer school. I mean I could write about the students for hours with all their niches. So back to the crying.
An old volunteer came back after not being there for two years. So to her all the students have grown up. The students haven't been coming in on time much due, to studying in extra classes, so I got talking to this volunteer and she seemed nice and she said she had presents to give. So we were waiting for them together in the classroom. Then two of the students with the brightest outlook on life, that are right peas in a pod as well, arrived. They remembered the new/old volunteer and with that there was a heartwarming moment of the three. She then gave them these gifts. Just two lunchboxes for 15 and 16 year olds. Probably not much use for them. But you know what? I teared up. I couldn't look at them but they worked out what was happening. I left the room and went to the toilet and ugly cried for about 15 minutes. Incredulous at myself for being so emotionally weak. I calmed down went back to the room and everytime I thought about it I got all teary eyed again. Then more students came a bit later and she gave them books as well. I was more prepared for this and only got a little bit weepy. The effect of this was me feeling all diminishing for the rest of the day and shaky.
This is still playing on my mind and has been for the last couple of days. Any idle moments I sit and wonder why? Now this is an unusual occurrence for me. Last time I cried for something that was happening in real life (i'm discounting movies) was about 7 years ago when my Grandad died. I understand why it was strange as it has been a length of time since I have cried. However I can't fathom as to what struck the chord, what lit the match, what made me blub like a little girl. I have spoken to people close to me to try and work out as to why and I think it's an amalgamation of many factors of the following:
Emotional weakness due to being sick. Last week I was very sick and in hospital. Getting an injection in the bottom for a stomach infection.
Although I was feeling better, it may take longer to become more resistant to the poverty again. The amount of it I see on the daily is mind blowing and becoming resistant to it is part of life here. Much like our ignorance to the homeless in England. That Wednesday morning I ignored a beggar that I wish I hadn't.  I was with the private school children and had just been given a free water by one of the workers of the place we were at. I ignored him. Why? I don't know. I rarely ignore them and more often than not give money. Their lives are mind blowingly difficult and being unacknowledged as human by me ignoring him just adds to it. I really wish I could go back and just look at him and shake my head. Even better would have been me giving him the water on a hot day like it was. I'm a role model to these kids they're very privileged. They need to see these moments of human kindness between people. So that when they're in control of the money they can do some good beause they saw their teacher do it when they were younger. Now all they saw is me dehumanising a beggar. I wish I could slap that version of me in the bus and give him some sense. So then the afternoon happened and it added together to create what happened.
It could be my love of Cambodia. Cliché, I know. I have taken a lesser salary just so I can go and work at another place for free. I could easily go make more money taking on tutoring and working at places to earn. However I don't want to. I want to help and then seeing someone else who has had the forethought and cared enough to spend money on children that aren't hers. It was a physical representation of what I was doing with my time. She spent money, I spent time. And amongst all this poverty that I see; there was this woman who was was a reflection of me essentially. Just doing something for the love of it rather than the reward. It was such a smack-in-the-face realisation. About how much I care for these people, this country, these students that in the moment of clarity I was a punctured balloon. The tears came I patched it back up and hopefully I can improve as a person because of it.
I think also the fact she was remembered added to it. The definition of success to me is:  "To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded. " So for me her being remembered because she had made 'a life breathe easier' was huge she had achieved my success. It's what I'm selfishly chasing. I want to effect people enough that they remember me and tell others about the time their teacher got through to them with English or something of the like.
As I've been writing this it's finally relaxed me which is what I wanted. What made me cry was the fact that she was remembered, something I want, then also the realisation of how much I actually care about everyone of these children. Due to me not being an outwardly emotional person. It hit me in the face. I do care and not just that, I care a lot and I do want to be remembered by them and care about what they have. I want them to have enough on their plate every night. I want them to be happy, safe and healthy. This person giving them something made me realise this but at the same time that they are poor and sometimes don't have enough and giving them something as simple as a lunch box, just set off this chain reaction of realisations that were unyet known to me and set me crying. I'm so glad I've written this and I can rest easy now for my Chinese New Year break. Phew.

Better days

Another week swims past in this river of life. The flow went one way and I went the other. I was sick, well, violently sick, just getting over it in fact. In my delirium I sat and wondered what could I write about. Be it a story about me and my motorbike/scooter/moto? Give flavour to the many lost in translation stories I have posted on facebook of which I have many to do. Although I suppose I have many stories because that's what life is. A collection of stories and chapters until the big book closes and we call it life. I know this current volume would be called 'Cambodia' and this past week would be entitled 'Sickness'.

It started with me eating some food from the market which is a normal tendency for a cheapskate like me. They didn't have any of the super scrumptious stuff so I went for one of the lesser chosen ones. Pork and some unknown vegetable. It tasted a bit weird whilst eating but, of course, you eat it anyway. Next day was a Friday and I complained about feeling funny. Come Saturday all hell broke loose. I'll spare you the details but I saw the back of one door. A lot. Obviously I slept a lot to try to recover. This led to me passing out and waking up in the darkness. So to try to fall back asleep I went to go and get some water. This meant creeping past my roommates room. I came back to my room and tried to go to sleep. Although I couldn't thanks to a load of children outside my flat screaming and playing in the street, at what must have been midnight or beyond. I was furious at the parents for being so neglectful to their children at this hour. I couldn't sleep so i decided to read a bit to calm the mind and wait for the children to go back inside. About half an hour later they were shepherded back into their respective pens. Peace and quiet, I could finally sleep. I just decided to check the time before I went back to sleep and make a mental note to tell anyone about this children who were outside playing at .... half past seven pm. My roommate wasn't even home yet! I'm putting it down to sickness that I didn't check one of my many electrical devices for the time.

This got me thinking when else have I been sick and been stupid. Although this time it wasn't my fault as such. To set the scene, in Asia they tend to overhire staff so that people have jobs, pharmacies tend to be one of these places. I went into a pharmacy to get some medicine for a runny tummy. Pharmacies in Cambodia tend to hire pretty girls for some reason. I manage to wrangle the owner's attention and call her over. The owner was an old plump lady.  No-one else was now being served by any of the pretty calls working there so they all came over to listen to what was my ailment much to my annoyance. There they stood, watching, listening. There I stood with my runny tummy. So I, with my best Hugh Grant impression quietly said 'I...uh,...umm....ate...some...uh...bad....food.' Hoping this lady would clue into the situation. She clued in alright just not how I expected. She paused, focused and like a tiger before a meal, licked her lips and loudly replied 'Diarrhea?' I turned a shade of beetroot, she feasted off of my embarrassment, got her fill and then some. I rapidly paid ( I hasten to add, I've never been quicker with correct change. Not before or since.)  and left the shop in a haze of embarrassment.

Anyway enjoy those, I'm finally better with some antibiotics from the doctor. The only problem is my right foot a la Christy brown; so I still can't play football, 6 months and counting. Hopefully it's better soon.

Song of the day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKVrVAA7E7I

New year, new blog

I've made the decision to come back to England because I've been enjoying teaching so much, I know it's what I want to do in life. In the process of applying for university I said I write a blog and have my own style of writing, whatever that is. However knowing I said this I feel it is necessary for me to at least try to pick it back up again. Hopefully in the coming months I will be able to write a little bit more frequently about life out here.

Since it's been over half a year since I wrote a blog. I'd like to say why. Mainly it's because I haven't had the inspiration nor the interest to write about life out here. Although since my recent trip back to England for Christmas, it became glaringly obvious how much I had assimilated into life in Cambodia. Things that are normal for me, just aren't normal for others.  I would like to try and write about those things no matter how long or short. Although this blog will mainly be about my teaching over the past couple of months.

Phnom Penh's consistently long dusty days that drift lazily by; me drifting with them. My only anchors being work and volunteering. My work starts as it always does in the cool mornings at 7.30 and finishes at the peak of the heat at 12. This, of course, runs from Monday to Friday. It's never a fight for me to get out of bed in the morning. The only fight I deal with on a regular basis is the one of chiselling children into  being perfect sculptures with all those perfect human imperfections. Half way through the year I have been pleased with how my sculpting has gone.

I was first enticed by the job because when it was first offered, apart from it being part time, was that the children really do become mirrors of yourself. This thought interested me and it pushed me towards accepting the job. Having now had 6 months on the job I can honestly say that they have. To show that I have 3 stories.

1. One day, I saw a student arriving at school. I quickly ran into the classroom and made all the children play dead. This went well and everyone played it to a tee. The student came in and after a while everyone started laughing. Now I didn't think much of it until a month and a half later. I quickly nipped out to get something from the office and returned to all of my children pulling the same prank on me. Couldn't believe it! Cheeky wotsits.

2.I was sat enjoying my breakfast (rice and pork) one morning when a student came up to me. He saw my food. Took a bit of pork. At this moment, may I just say I was sat gobsmacked in the fact that this student had had the gall to take some food and then jokingly put it back. But then he didn't put it back, he ate it with the smuggest smile i'd ever seen. He then left. Not one word had passed in this interaction. I couldn't say anything out of pure dumbfoundedness. Boundary pushing cheeky wotsits these children are.

3. For Christmas, my brother bought me a lovely pen set. I told the children to keep their 'dirty mitts off of them because they'll break them.' This past week I left them out in the classroom for break time, not too bothered as the children would more than likely leave them alone. At snack time a bit later on, I came out to check on them and a child came up to me and said 'Your pen broke.' I was perturbed to say the least. My reply came sharply 'Who did it? I knew I should have put them away!' The student then went on to say 'only joking!' Then off she scampered confidently.
So not only are my students boundary pushing and cheeky wotsits. They're lying boundary pushing cheeky wotsits that I love dearly and will miss upon my return to England next year.

What makes you do it?

Why do you get out the bed in the morning? What makes you do it? Two questions possibly coming from a person who is too young to ask them. At twenty i'm possibly only just a quarter of the way through life and yet i ask myself these questions. Are you doing something worthwhile with your time? Is this going to bite you in the butt when you're 80 and on your deathbed. Are you going to be asking yourself why did i waste so much time doing that?

I came out to Cambodia to try to find some answers to those questions because i felt as though i wasn't mature enough academically for university and i didn't want to plunge myself into debt on a major that i just wasn't cut out for. So i set out to come here and try to mature in a self-imposed exile in a country that i had visited and loved. What i didn't reckon on was the fact i like this independence, that if i don't want to do something i don't have to do it, but on the other hand it's not going to get done if i don't do it. I have to answer to myself and others if i let them down. I'm sure this is how many people of my age feel when they're in university and are now back at home and once again feel trapped and under the constant gaze of their parents.

Recently my sister came out to visit and then my father and i began to feel this feeling of being trapped again. However wonderful it was to see them it was a familiar mixture of homesickness, familiarity and what i have now come to understand was depression. When in England i would have probably been diagnosed with depression of some sort by a clinical psychologist. I wasn't going out much, i didn't do much other than play games and i wasn't being stimulated enough mentally. I'll never forget my brother saying that when he comes home i would never shut up. Mainly due to finally having someone to talk to or entertain me.  So when my sister and father came i wasn't depressed all of a sudden, however after a couple of days there was certain lethargy in me. Which wasn't great and i know that this is something that will come up again if i live in England.
So that's why i did it. 

That's why i left. To get away from this, to change, to grow and become better.

What keeps me out here is the children. Not the little ones at my proper school but the ones at my volunteer school. I have changed my job within the school to be part time and be a homeroom teacher which means i teach more subjects rather than just English. I have done this for three days now and have enjoyed the teaching, maybe not so much in other areas, but originally my biggest worry  was my ability to teach the children but this so far hasn't been a problem. So now, i have afternoons off i go to teach at my volunteer school.  It is so good. It's such a release and help to myself to be able to do it. No paperwork, no internal office problems just straight up teaching and helping.
Up until recently what made me tick was football and to some degree it still does. However because of niggling injuries and constant problems it has taken a back seat. This made me upset because i can't play and i was down in the dumps. However it has now been replaced by these children. I hope someday that my peers finds this feeling that i have. It's like having a bottle and every time you drink from it, you are lifted three inches off the ground and stand that much taller and smile that much wider. It's beautiful.

So that is why i am out here, i have found the reason to still be here.

Yet there's this problem of not having a university degree from England. Something that i have looked into rectifying. One solution is by doing a university course here (some are available in English) however the one i liked is no longer being taught and psychology (second choice) i'm just not that interested in. So i looked at UCAS and some courses caught my eye of English and teaching intertwined but i wouldn't be able to teach in England, only abroad. I could home study from the Open University but the courses aren't great and there isn't much support for fees. Am i ready for uni back in England? Possibly, but do i want to go back to England? I'm unsure. It's such a shame that i am being limited over what is essentially a piece of paper.

Due to some problems i had at work, i have already written a resignation letter. Whether i'm jumping the gun, i don't know but if i stop working here, is that an opportune moment to leave Cambodia and come back for a few years? However the feeling after teaching those special, wonderful children meant i lost all desire to leave this country. Maybe i'kk make a u-turn on that psychology degree? However i do know i would be ripping my heart in two if i left here and didn't see those children again and in fact many of the wonderful people that i have met.

So what will i do? I honestly haven't got a clue. But i do know i'll do it my way. 


Rock for Kampuchea 1980

Do you remember this concert, 4 nights at Hammersmith Odeon with Paul McCartney leading the way with the Who, Clash and others raising money for impoverished Cambodia? Seems such a long time ago I watched this concert at home one late evening, above all it raised awareness among young people to the plight of poor Cambodia, embellished later in the mid eighties with the movie 'The Killing Fields' which I managed to see upon it's immediate release and its very moving ending.  I never thought I would be visiting this little Asian country 4 times in 6 years.

Cambodia, is sandwiched between Thailand and Vietnam and consequently is the most delicious filling in that sandwich.  The people are welcoming, able to speak some english, and often fluently, and courteous to their visitors, which is more than can be said of it's neighbours, and I still believe the people here are absolutely lovely and for this reason it is understandable why people return, or even linger like our Greg.

Since my first visit in 2010, the rate of change cannot go unnoticed. For example, on my first trip I had to cross a river by pontoon on my bus to head towards Vietnam, and was the same in 2012, now there is a splendid suspension bridge, not quite like the Marne Valley in France, but none-the-less marked progress changing lives. Greg assures me the built the Aeon shopping mall in one year, a huge investment, catering for shopping, ice skating, bowling and the like.

However, regardless of this, if you are a foodie, there is something for your palate, Spanish, French, American, even Costa coffee, but not seen it's adversary Starbucks. Burger King, but not McDonalds, Dominoes but not Pizza hut.

So a country changing so much, but despite this, poverty is still here, among these millionaires, children still beg, schools are over crowded and have two sittings in a day to accommodate them all, but hospital wings and new high tech buildings get built and remain empty, there's only one post office for the city - or so it seems, so money talks as ever even in impoverished Cambodia.
After such a soapbox introduction, what's Greg up to? I spent most of my time at Phnom Penh Sports Club reading and sleeping away the days whilst Greg went to work, a bit of a novelty, parent sees kid off to work whilst parent does SFA.

Naturally we played football as promised, first on concrete, my rickety bones only got two minutes and Greg was in goal, undeterred, we made a twenty minute journey to another game. Well everything was fine until, until, my knee decided to crumple on me, same injury for last 10 years I guess, but I gamely continued until it happened again, thoughts of hanging my boots up did enter my head. But mum knows I should stop, but she also knows I can't give in. However, this was not the most worrying issue, Greg's ankle was tender once again. A day later and he's wearing a protective boot for his ligament injury, game over or so I thought. No chance, on to the next evening to see his team which became cup winners and guess what? Game on! Barefooted I played, easy, no reaction and played quite well until I sat down and had the ball booted into my face from one metre away, ouch, cue nosebleed and sore nose and head.

Greg and I have not had our customary adventure, but instead shared our continued healthy father/son relationship and had our heated debates, more from my concern over his welfare and health given what I and he had experienced in just three days. But overall he is at ease in these surroundings and that I am pleased. This I completely understand as I puttered along in my tuk tuk to the sports club.
Phnom Penh is a delight, limited in scope for museums once you've seen the Killing Fields stuff, which everyone must do on a visit here, just as we should never forget our soldiers of the first and second world wars, but for someone who wishes to live here and work, it is very easy to navigate life. The food, coffee shops, and bustling markets are entertainment in themselves, plus we will be off to the casino later like a pair of male Thelma and Louise's without the car crash.

She Came, She Saw, She Sweated

Emily came out to see me for two weeks this past month. We didn't do much as two weeks isn't a lot however we tried to do some.

She arrived on the 18th June, a reunion marred by a bit of rain that cleared up when she came through the arrival gates. I was so elated to see her again although to be honest it has only been 6 months since I had seen her previously. Immediately we got onto a tuk tuk and got out of there and back to my house. As soon as wifi was set up on the ipads that was it. A return to normality of not looking at each other and grunting in answer to questions. I am joking of course but even if it was slightly like this I didn't mind because my sister was sitting across from me! How fantastic to be able to reach out and touch a member of my family. That endless longing that most of us have for our family was filled once again by my sister this time.

I took her out on my moto upto the riverside (with her clinging to my back with dagger like fingers and shrieks of worry) and we had a happy hour cocktail on a rooftop bar which was devoured quickly and then we went to eat at a restaurant i favour. With Emily experiencing a bit of Cambodia for the first time with many shouts of 'tuk tuk!' 'weed lady' 'money please' 'you want to buy book?' All these things that are generally normal for me but for her it was a bit of a head turner i think. In the sense she's experienced people asking for money and peddling their wares but not in such an intense in your face way. I'm sure Cambodia isn't the worst at it nor is it the best but i love it all the same. So it was a long evening of catching up with her and then settling down to sleep.

On Friday, i worked and she went to see the atrocities. Which Emily said were horrible of course, it's hard to put into words how you feel when you see a tree that people used to swing babies against all the while listening to stories about how people survived or died. Truly horrific. After she had finished her day off with a little shopping at the Russian Market she came to my school and waited for me to finish teaching at my school's kindergarten.

We went home and changed put some clothes in a bag and went with Shaola and her boyfriend in a private car to Kampot they were staying for the weekend we were kicking about for a week or so. So we stayed at the same hotel i did previously which was nice to see those folks again and get a slightly better price. We arrived fairly late so went to eat and came back to bed.

The next day it was okay so we went to the local sights of a pepper field, a cave temple that was traversed in flip flops and no hard hat can't imagine doing that in England. It was nice morning with a plan to return and retire to the pool. This plan was destroyed by the rain.... something that would become a reoccurring nuisance. So we spent the afternoon inside watching movies and planning. Whilst also rueing the fact we could have staying in 34 degree heat in Phnom Penh. Never mind.

We woke up with a determined attitude to get up Bokor Mountain on our rented moto. This was a silly decision and i'd like to say we thought about it some more and decided to stay in the room dry and warm. However the determination and competitiveness in us drove us up that damn mountain. In biting wind and lashing rain we got to the top and couldn't even see the 5 star resort from 50 metres away because of the cloud and fog we were in. Parked up and got inside. I just mentioned to Emily i wanted to move the moto to a more sheltered position you stay here. So there i go off running to move it. I return to her having photos and being chattered about. Some Vietnamese or Chinese i haven't quite decided took a liking to Emily's nose size. With that they touched it and also thought to take photos with her because of this rarity. So i return from the rain and there she is being treated like a bleedin' celebrity. Camera flashes and a crowd around her. We meandered around the casino even gambled a little and broke even. Dried off a bit and then decided there was no point seeing the other attractions in this fog as you wouldn't be able to take any photos or even see them! So it was time to go back down the oversized hill. It brightened up slightly and we stopped to take a picture of the view, as Emily got back on the moto there was a huge crack of thunder and we were off faster than the speed of sound as the rain returned with a vengeance and the wind with a vendetta. As we got back to ground level we looked back and worked out what happened. At the top and where Emily took the photo we were above the cloud. As we came lower down we were below and so it rained on us. This is what you get when you come in rainy season.

We decided there was no point in staying in Kampot so thought it best to move onto Sihanoukville. This was a good idea that once again was spoilt by rain. So instead of sitting on the beautiful beaches we had a day watching movies and an afternoon seeing a pagoda with the strangest monks i have ever met. With the evening filled with a fire show, we drunk a bit and ate a lot. On our last night there was a huge rain storm which solidified our plan to return to the heat of Phnom Penh.

A short bus trip later we were back and by a pool. That was how the rest of the week laid itself out, market, palace, pool. It was pretty nice to be honest and i'm sure Emily was pleased to be finally getting her sought after sun tan. I even got to take her to my volunteer school which was slightly selfish as it was more for me than her but at least she got to see the kids i taught and saw how it worked slightly and hopefully understood why i want to go back there.

On the Monday she was off to Siem Reap to see the temples. I can't tell you much about this because i was working but she enjoyed them and of course got a bit templed out after a while but that can't be helped when it's the main attraction in Siem Reap. She returned on the friday we had a lovely meal and she paid for the desert as a birthday present to me. Then on Saturday 4th, she was going back to England. So a small climbing excursion at a kidszone type thing which was enjoyed. Then lunch and off to the airport. That was it. Two weeks over in a flash and she was gone. Although she seemed to have malted most of her hair onto my floor so at least there was that remaining memory of cleaning it up. Other than the rain, the wind, the hair, money, travel times we had a great time together and it was lovely to see her again and can't wait for her to return at some point in the future!

Link of the day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIYiGA_rIls Unfortunately we couldn't do much of this,..

One Year on

Wow, how quick has that gone. Unbelievable. 20th May 2014 I left England with hope and trepidation. So far the trepidation has gone, the hope is still here but most of all it is excitement and happiness. I can't believe how much has changed in 365 days.

In the first couple of months i was staying in the guesthouse which was no problem and working in the volunteer school. This was also the start of getting used to the diet, the people, the weather, the culture and the city. The hardest was probably the diet. For 18 years i have eaten potatoes, bread and cereal. This was turned upside down when it became rice, rice and beef or pork. It was a gradual transition to enjoying but it makes so much sense now. Before it was to fit in and save money. Now it's a staple part of my diet with me rarely going out my way to find western food unless it's cheap or chocolate. The rice in the morning fills me up until 12:00 or 12:30. If i have cereal, that will only fill me until  11 or 11:30 and i'll want to eat again or have a snack. So now it's all rice or noodles.

The people were no problem at all so welcoming and lovely which is why i love this country anyway. The weather can sometimes be too hot which is not much of a complaint compared to England's grey weather. The city is pretty easy considering it's got big avenues and numbered streets so I learnt it pretty quickly, it's a lot easier than London to say the least! The culture, i'm still learning and i find it fascinating and love learning more all the time. Like just recently i found out they have another language within their language! For example i knew that they have language if they ever talk to the king, another language for speaking with monks and recently i learnt they have rhyming language a bit like cockney rhyming slang. Which is another step up from just learning the base language!

The language on the other hand, i'm still coming to grips with. I've just started having lessons two weeks ago and the teacher thinks some of my vocabulary and idioms are very good for a foreigner. This is probably due to me hanging out with my khmer friends and picking up the local slang rather than the polite 'correct' way to speak that the locals don't actually use but foreigners learn. So i'm pretty happy with my small grasp of it. My teacher has just been teaching me the basics that i completely missed such as food, colours, objects, basic nouns and verbs that are needed and helping me with my pronunciation. So far, so good.  

Then in August, i got a job at a primary school which if you have read has been pretty good experience so far and i have learnt so much. It has been really great to watch these children grow and develop and use words that you have taught them! Especially in the kindergarten! We recently had a run through in kindergarten of our 'family day' celebration and my K1 and K2 looked so grown up compared to N1 and N2. Especially K2 as they are nearly in P1. It made me proud to see these children maturing. All the way through from K1 to P4 they have really calmed and matured and become better than when i first started teaching them.

Every once in a while i would reflect what i was doing in the time last year and I'd think how much has changed. From working in customer service in Uxbridge and living in Chalfont St Peter to then move to London and commute to Uxbridge every day. Playing football every once in a while. To then helping educate poor children and then educating well off children and then moving into my own apartment at 19! Playing football every day. It truly is bliss. Never in a million years would i think i would have a job, house and be master of ceremonies for the second for my schools family day celebration next week!

 If i could change one thing it would be being able to survive whilst educating the poorer children of Cambodia. I really want to help my old volunteer school with their students, it's been documented that it is not good for the children to be constantly forming connections with teachers and then the teacher suddenly disappearing and changing. Plus it means they are always learning the same thing over and over. Not actually developing their understanding of English. Even though i only have one year's experience i really think i could help them. Although i would be working for free... so it's 
trying to work out a way to work there and live.

So what will the next year bring? I don't know but I know that if it was anything like the last then i'm in for a blast! Even though i'm living day by day going to work and coming home and it's practically the same routine, i'm so excited for it.

Link of the day, not much to do with the article, just been listening to it a lot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0PjECSyJ7w

Happy Khmer New Year!

What a holiday it's been. Very happy with the destination and the content. 
So for the Khmer New Year, the school had a party with me dancing, speaking Khmer and being a presenter for the show which was a first. It all went rather swimmingly.

Then on Monday, I had to work and in the afternoon fell horrifically ill. Putting my trip away in serious jeopardy. About 18 hours before the bus I felt a bit better. Not well enough to travel. Went to bed, hopefully to improve the condition.  7 hours before, I wake up from my slumber feeling that I certainly had improved but was still too dizzy to do anything. 5 hours before stopped feeling sorry for myself and tried to act normal as a way of medicating my self. 3 hours before a lot better, seems pretending to be okay has worked also i'd spent $10 on my ticket, i'll be damned if i'm not travelling after paying that. So i decided to travel. 0 hour on the bus and on my way to a town called Kampot. Popular with expats and the more savvy traveler, however this may no longer be true as it's becoming a more popular destination due to its location to the beach town of Kep, a national park and Bokor Mountain. 

Nothing booked which was a bit dangerous seeing as though everyone was migrating to Kampot for the New Year holiday. Got there without a hitch, although lots of restaurants and cafes were closed for the holiday. Phnom Penh had also become a ghost town in the mean time. Due to all the workers going back to the province to meet their families.

Anyhow i'm in Kampot and i need a place to stay and ask a tuk tuk driver, 'i need somewhere with a swimming pool.' Hop in and off we go to a place called 'Two Moons' first hotel the tuk tuk driver and I checked out and I checked in. Swimming pool? Yes. Chill? Yes. Out the town a bit? Yes. Quiet? Yes. Cheapish? Yes. Boxes checked, trunks on and in the swimming pool for a bit. So a lovely hotel was found, went out for dinner which didn't have a huge selection because of places being closed. So had a miserable meal and then returned to the hotel's bar.

Talked to a rather strange Russian-Polish-English person who lives in Russia 183 days a year to get less tax, because he's in the top tier of salary for London so doesn't want the 45% tax or whatever it is. However he does own a house in zone 1, i think he said Canary wharf.  He's interviewed one of Russia's most wanted criminals. Flies all over the world for holidays. Cuba, China, Norway, Germany, Spain, Brazil, Thailand, Vietnam and many others. He was strange, something seemed a bit off about him as he never looked me in the eye when speaking to me. Although a very clever bloke. Spoke four languages of Russian, Polish, English and a bit of Spanish. Unfortunately i forgot his name so couldn't research him. He also didn't want to tell me his job...probably KGB.

So then the next day i rented a moto. Sorry Mum! I went up to a river that wasn't particularly interesting lots of khmers enjoying themselves but not much for me. Came back and sat by the pool and got rather burnt.  In the evening talked to the same KGB bloke again and another khmer bloke who was nice and spoke lovely English. He was in Kampot just for the holiday like many others.

Then on Thursday, I decided to go down to the seaside down of Kep. Longest ride on a moto so far. Around 30 minutes. Good road as well, one small embarrassing moment was when my moto ran out of petrol. The fuel gauge didn't work, so all of a sudden it spluttered out and i was walking with it to the next petrol stop... Fuel bought, let's go! Nope, wasn't starting. So the bloke whom had filled it up said 'get off and unscrew the cap again.' I oblige. He gets down and blows into the petrol tank, afterwards he says 'off you go.' There's me questioning what the hell was that, silently laughing thinking this ain't gonna work. What d'ya know? It flaming worked and off i went. Kep was nice if it wasn't so busy! I didn't even get onto the beach because of what felt like the entire khmer population had descended on to Kep's one beach. So i rode on past and stopped a lot further down and walked around, took some photos, paddled, sat and then it became the hottest hour so i decided to shoot back to Kampot. I have unfinished business in Kep because i'm sure it's gorgeous if there wasn't ten million people there.

This evening I went to the bar again, Kirsten you'd be proud. Spoke to an Irish bloke with whom i'd had a couple of words in passing. Turns out he's travelled around Asia a fair amount and is in between contracts back in Ireland so decided to come back out to Cambodia. Loves fishing and used to be a big construction worker in London back before Europeans came over. Now does reconstruction on Georgian houses and loves it.

Friday, i decided to go even further on my scooter about an hour and go up to Bokor Mountain. Now this was beautiful road, incredible viewpoints, long sweeping bends and i was enjoying myself pretending to be Clarkson and commentating myself going around the corners. That was fun until i spoke slightly too loud and some westerners heard and i got all embarrassed. It was very far! The road just didn't stop and i was fearing for my life that i was going to run out of petrol half way up this mountain....thankfully it didn't and there was a little stall at the top that had some petrol.  Stayed up there for a while and came back. Again half of Cambodia seemed to decide it was a good idea to go up there as well. So rather busy again.

Back to the pool and bar for the night. Spoke with a lovely couple and played uno with them for half a night. Lovely conversation about what they think of Cambodia, their experience and what they do and everything, really, really nice conversation. Plus i won at Uno. So y'know Preston's were on top again. Too many years spent playing that game.

Saturday, leaving day. Not happy to be going back to the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh. My bus was at 3. So had time to kill. By the pool. Met a lovely bloke called Alan (i think). Who was on a mission helping locals with something, i can't remember. For about an hour and a half we had a frank conversation on religion and life. Which for the first time in my life since i was a child i have had a serious conversation about religion and had my questions answered about it. I'm still agnostic so don't worry, that i'm going to be a bible basher all of a sudden. However it was really nice to talk about all the issues with it, the problems it's creating, middle east, muslims and islam, the world, america, evolution and logic. I have never had that. I got sunburnt in the process of being so caught up in the conversation. Also he was an evangelical christian and he started talking about 'elders' which he said was just a word taken from the bible but it in my immature mind i thought 'oh my god, it's a cult.' He's going to start speaking in tongues in a minute. All joking aside, lovely bloke, great conversation.

Then from that same group, i was sat next to a women on the bus on the way home. Who had lived here for a year and a half. She spoke near fluent khmer. It was lovely to finally  meet someone who spoke khmer with a western mouth so i could ask all my burning questions about the language and how to speak it. That made the three hour journey back to Phnom Penh fly by. Holiday over. Back to work on Monday.

Very successful, tanned and happy. I will be returning to Kampot very soon as there is a three day weekend in a fortnight! See you soon Kampot!

Here have some photos

Kep, no people where there's no beach.

Bar and a screwdriver.

Bokor Mountain view point

Big chinese 6 star resort on top of Bokor

Old abandoned church


Above the clouds.

Old abandoned casino

Big lizard that woke me up every morning.

Me being artistic....

Pool and hotel.

Part 2 Finally!

Note: I deleted this by accident managed to recover but had to transcribe it. Tenses change all over the place. Only just doing it now! This was meant to be posted in February.

So I may have mentioned that we were going to the mountains for our Chinese break. I got up at the usual time of 6 to hook up with Shaola at 7 to get a bus at 7:15. Then a five hour bus ride to Andoung Tak. Where we were met by a little Khmer man and his mate with a boat. After which we sat on getting to know our crew mates. Two English people who live and worked in Da Nang- Vietnam. ( I only know Da Nang from 'Good Morning Vietnam' and its hot) They were nice down to earth people. Also a German biologist who is the leading specialist for crocodiles in Germany. Nice bloke again.
So after an extensive journey up the river passing these huge boats digging out sand that is doing untold damage to the banks and selling it to Singapore for artificial beaches, all this for 3 hours, whilst sat on a small uncomfortable cramped seat.

We arrived at a small village on the river and then walked up to an information centre at which we booked a nice trek for tomorrow and a bungalow to sleep in. Life was good, peace, quiet and no tuk tuks! Well apart from the fine sand being kicked up by the motos and people. Had a lovely meal cooked for us by a local women's mother whilst we were watching on, surrounded by salivating dogs! You probably wouldn't been able to tell the difference. It really was a delicious meal, fried vegetables and pork and of course, rice. We went to bed rather happy and full.

Up at 6 again, to get to the information centre for breakfast and for our trek. The same people on our boat had chosen to join us on the trek. Our guide spoke little to no English which is useful when you're out in the wilderness and may get injured. So i tried to teach him some intertwined with me practicing Khmer. At the beginning we were walking on a road and i mentioned to Shaola that this is more of a 'long walk' than a trek. I was soon to be mistaken....

We stopped for lunch after some hours of walking at a beautifully secluded spot, with the sound of nature and a waterfall for scenery. It was gorgeous and peaceful. However me being stupid, dropped my plastic spoon on the dirty ground so i had to eat my lunch with my even dirtier hands. Like a monkey.

Then it was the journey back. This was much tougher going after the lovely rest. It took us until 5. So lets do some math. Stopped for 1.5 hours, 7:30 to 5. 8 hours of walking. 32Km. Hell of a long walk. I decided to retract that statement half way through the journey back. Got back and ate some noodles and went back to our bungalow which was another 20 minute walk away. On shattered legs. Thankfully our friends went by on a moto and they sent him back to pick us up. Showered and in bed by 8:30.
Slept all the way through until 6. Well i say i slept all the way through till 6, unfortunately 3 cockerels strategically placed themselves around the bungalow and decided that at 5:40 it was time to get up. I was not a happy chicken. We were getting up at 6 anyway to catch our moto to bring us back to civilisation. The moto ride was ten times better than the boat and way more interesting. So we went back to the madness of the city after the serenity of the country.

Take a look at what we saw:

Had a swim in it. Lovely and refreshing.
Main road!

Chi Phat

Big boats, taking the sand

Information Centre

The bungalow.

England isn't the only green country.

Short break and off again. (Our guide)

Got time, part 1

Got time, so it becomes time to write. There hasn't been much happening to be honest. Well not until recently anyway. From the last one I wrote about my time back in England. I honestly thought that it would be tough returning to this wonderfully mad country! Although last night I was riding home and it just hit me like a tonne of bricks. I love this place, I want my future to involve it somehow, someway. I understand that it may not always be like this, that I may eventually get sick of the place but right here, right now, I'm happier than I have been in a long while. 

I want to try to tell you about the love and death in this place from what I know so far. I may write about it again, in a couple months and say that this was all out my arse. So here goes....death in western culture is generally a bit taboo of 'oh we can't mention lest they get upset' it's always 'i'm sorry' and what have you. It's a dreary and upsetting affair for all those affected. Then, once they are buried that's it, you move on and remember them with rose tinted spectacles unless you're jimmy saville. However here, they're never forgotten. They have services for one whole week after their death, drinking and remembering and praying in their name. After that I think it's one month on they have another service with more drinking and celebrating the persons life. Then it's one year on they celebrate again with drinking and laughter. After five years, they again celebrate with dancing and singing. There maybe more but that's all I know so far. This does get irritating because over here they just block the main streets up with big pavilions but still how incredible is that? For five years they celebrate the death and life of someone. They're not forgotten, and death is accepted as a thing of life. The ying to yang. You don't get the gift of life without the release of death and over here it is accepted that it happens and it's a thing to dance and sing about. I, personally, think it's wonderful. I will learn more this weekend as I'm going to a five year anniversary funeral....

On the other hand we have love. Again streets are blocked up with tents and monks praying for good luck. Obviously there are different levels of wealth bigger tents, more important streets being blocked, more garlands, more people. I know less about the wedding rituals apart from there is traditional clothing and food and what have you. Then we have got the poorest of the poor. People having to live and work on construction sites. It popped into my head, what happens for these guys? The ones that cannot afford a house and roam around looking for work. The ones whose children live on site and live in less than sanitary or safe conditions. So as I was going along I happened to go past a construction site and do you know what? They were having a wedding! Playing loud music and having a good time. Everyone deserves their special days and these guys certainly got one, I was so happy to see it. That even though they have a tough life, these two people got their special day and celebrated it with their friends. Everyone loves a bit of a party and it showed here. 

Anyway what have I been upto recently. I've been playing in a football tournament and we are through to the quarter finals after topping our group with a goal difference of 39. Playing two matches this weekend to get to the semis. Wish me luck! 
Work is fine but we have three days off now for Chinese New Year. So I'm going off to the mountains which I hope will be fantastic. No light, sound, air pollution. Will be able to see the stars, will probably be bitten by Mosquitos as well...will let you know how it goes. 
However for a celebration of the new year my school had a professional lion dance, it was brilliant. Makes you want to go to China...

Link of the day - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zUeAaBGVTk 

 Here are some photos and videos of the event.



Well wowee! Have I got a lot to write about! Mum came and went. It was lovely, she completely understood why I want to be out here. Which made me happier within myself as it kind of justified it again, that I'm not crazy and it is okay for a person to move away, just as much as it is okay to live in England, some of us are born to follow a different path. 
Meeting mum and being with her did make me miss home a little bit. Those home comforts of speaking back at a higher tempo, of asking someone to do something  or what have you. It made me miss just the little things that are hard to come by out here or are just stupidly expensive. 
It was lucky then that for Christmas....that...I went home!! Most of you already know this by now. It was really really...cold and of course, lovely. It was a strict schedule I had to keep to. Not much choice in it either if I wanted to meet everyone. So I got back on the 22nd after a rather long flight...eurgh! Got picked up at the airport by my friends to keep the ruse going, went around with them for the day and then went to Uxbridge for a drug-deal esqu handover from my friends to my mum. Car to car. No messin' about. 
Afterwards I met my grandparents and my sister! It was brilliant! I've not seen my gran move so fast in years. Teary-eyed reunion. 
Immediately the next day I shot up to Bury for another reunion (you're gonna get sick of this word) with my father. Had a lovely Christmas with him and then we tried to go and see my other grandparent but unfortunately it snowed and we had no chance of getting over to Chesterfield. Afterwards I rejoined my Mum and her partner to go to her house in Shropshire on the Welsh border for a couple of days. Then on the Monday, I went to Portsmouth on the coast and had a reunion again with my other sister which was fantastic! Then shot up to London to see my brother and stay at his and use his house as a base of operations until I went back. So in the meantime until I went home I saw my friends for New Years which is my first proper New Years doing something and for it to be exciting and fun. Afterwards on the second the day before I left we went a big family reunion with which I haven't got enough adjectives to describe how it was. Let's just say very very good however it was much more than that. Then on the third I was on my way back, flight was delayed but it was well worth it because I was on an A380, it was really cool!! Top class service. The delay meant I thought there was going to be some squeaky bum time in the transfer but in the end there was no problem. 
All in all it was a beautiful holiday, back to the home country. Although it was a bit hectic! Never seen so much of England in such a short space of time! It was nice to fulfil the itches that were needing to be scratched. I may have returned to Cambodia with a suitcase full of Jaffa cakes, Haribo and After Eights. Only half a box of Jaffa cakes left eek! 
On my return, my tuk tuk was ready, the language was familiarly unfamiliar. I immediately went and played football which in hindsight may have not been the most wisest of decisions but it was nice to see my friends again. Due to the change of climate I got rather ill, luckily I had a day off on the Wednesday due to another of Cambodia's holidays. 
Bought a new bicycle so am now doing everything off my own back again which is nice. Back into the swing of things and all sorted for the upcoming year. Very excited to see what this year brings if it's anything like the last, it's going to be even better. 

I'm sorry I didn't manage to see everyone but I hope that the next time I come back I'll be able to see you! Good luck to everyone! I'll see you on the next one. 

Link for the day: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pr7wcHTzcTg&sns=em

This was the only photo I took on my phone the whole time... So please enjoy looking at me and my sister. 


Hello! Mother is here to give me a right good ear bashing on what's what and whose who. So she's  decided to also take over my blog for the next couple of days, whilst she is here. Please enjoy!

Greg met me at Phnom Penh airport yesterday after telling me that he wouldn't be able to which was my second (wonderful) surprise upon entering Cambodia - the first being that the visa had gone up by $10 since my Lonely Planet guide was written in Sept 2014.  Flight over with Thai Airways was brilliant and managed to watch 'Frozen' at last.  A bit bleary eyed I got into the tuk tuk Greg had arranged to take us to his flat, driven by his friend Sky.  She drew a lot of glances as one of the very few female drivers in the city and then - out into the heat of a crazy world of thousands of motos carrying everything from up to 5 people (3 of whom are often small children and babies clinging on), tables, huge sacks, monks in their saffron robes sitting side saddle, live ducks gazing out with loads of chickens hanging upside down apparently hypnotised their beaks nearly on the road surface, tuk tuks loaded up with every conceivable item used by mankind, old ladies walking along with a stick across their shoulder with their cooking implements hanging from baskets on either end.  Lorries loaded sky high usually with someone on the top, little refreshment stalls with a moto attached with one bent wheel hanging on for dear life.  A trailer on a moto being loaded up with 20' wooden poles - how does he go round corners?  The side roads are full of potholes, dust, rubbish - then to my horror there are people on motos and bikes coming towards us on the wrong side of the road! Junctions - pah; traffic lights -  might stop if everyone else does; zebra crossings - don't bother!  I cling to Greg's hand when we cross roads now as if I were the child.  The trick is to be confident and they go round you!  

Everywhere is full of personal industry - cafe's, stalls, workshops fixing anything that has ever worked, shops stacked high with bits of metal god knows from where, another old lady selling snails off a tray by the road side, chickens on the bbq smelling delicious, all covered in a thick layer of dust and diesel.  What an experience - I can see why Greg loves it here. 

The poverty is unconsciounable - I watched a female street seller lay a blanket on  the pavement last night on the equivalent of the Embankment (but warmer) by the Mekong river for her small child to lie on for the night inches from the busy road.  Young boys no older than 5 or 6 approached us begging in a street cafe last night.  No-one walks anywhere - the pavements are broken up badly and covered by parked cars - huge 4x4's so there is wealth here and which are an obvious status symbol, heaps of debris, cafes, parked tuk tuks and motos on which you find the driver asleep.

I visited one of the 'Killing Fields' sites today in the suburbs and was very moved by the peace there as in the war cemetries in France and Belgium and the audio tour, then went to a genocide museum near where Greg works which was a secondary school before it was turned into a prison and torture centre by the Khymer Rouge in the second half of the 1970s.  People were taken from here to the Killing Field I visited to be executed.  It was full of photos of the people held there and the cells they were kept in.  They were the middle classes, the teachers, doctors, lawyers, shop keepers that Pol Pot hated despite being a teacher himself.  The rest of the population were worked or starved to death in the countryside growing rice to export to China to buy arms.  3 of the 8 million population were murdered. Horrific. When will we learn!