Thursday, December 18, 2008
I finally have a real book published.
It was self-published (which means that I'm the only person who likes it at this point) but I just received a copy and it looks awesome.
If I do say so myself.
All the profits from the book will go to the Cambodian Good Water Fund so you'll feel good about buying it AND you'll get to travel to Cambodia without all the hassles of flying. It's a win-win situation.
Just click on the picture at the top right of this blog. You can preview the book before buying it but you'll only see the first 10 pages or so which are (unfortunately) in black and white and um, a little depressing.
Trust me, it gets better after that.
Thanks for checking it out.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
And yes, I know I went to Cambodia a month ago and should have gotten it out of my system.
But, I still think about that country a lot and I REALLY wanted to post some of my favourite pictures from my favourite temple.
Ta Prohm was built in 1186 and was a Buddhist temple dedicated to good ol' mom; which in this case was the mother of King Jayavarman VII. Unlike some of the other temples, Ta Prohm has been swallowed up by the jungle and is mostly in a state of ruin. If it weren't for some of the enormous spung trees embracing the walls, I'm sure this place would have crumbled even more.
I just finished reading the uplifting book called "First they killed my father" by Loung Ung and in it, she describes how Ta Prohm is where the gods live. I can believe it. Once you step inside this temple, you are transported to another world.
You put your left foot out ...
Here is a little Apsara peeking out from behind the roots. An Apsara is the fabled celestial dancer who is exquisitely beautiful and has alluring charm.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
Let me give you a little background.
The best place for sunset viewing was apparently the temple called Phnom Bakheng. It was POURING out but this wasn't going to stop my desire to be a real life Indiana Jones.
At the top of the hill, I got my first glimpse of Angkor Wat. It was very far away but my camera captured it nicely.
And to add to the general chaos, this temple is on top of a hill (Phnom is Khmer for hill) and after the sunset, everyone has to make it to the bottom in the complete darkness. For a more exotic trip (and probably safer one), you can also make the journey by elephant.
(Insert big laugh here)
The next day, our first stop was the Bayon. This is a large temple located within the even larger Angkor Thom. This was one of my favorite temples because of all the gargantuan faces staring out into the jungle. For me, these carvings symbolize the exotic beauty of Cambodia.
It was still raining out the next day. We bought garbage bags (I mean, um, rain coats) for $2 a piece. The price doubled because it was raining when we bought them. Damn those Cambodian entrepreneurs!
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Sunday, December 7, 2008
It probably won't be a simple recovery.
They tell me that the mouth-to-mouth didn't work. They're going to have to bring Jesus by to resurrect the dead and apparently, Jesus is VERY expensive!!
Forget Cambodia. Donate to my Save the Computer Fund!
(That's a joke. I'm still taking donations for the Cambodian Good Water Fund and every little bit helps).
I may have lost all my pics from this summer and about a third of my articles I wrote for a book. This is very bad news.
Don't forget to back up your computer or else you may eventually be seriously depressed like I am.
And if you sent me an email recently and didn't get an answer, now you know why.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
I think this is worse than death. At least death is final. A computer crash is something like living hell.
My backup didn't work. At least not all of it.
Don't know how much writing and photos I have lost. Have sent my hard drive in for data recovery.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
I was invited to spend some time at Savong's school which was established in 2005 when Svay Savong was only 24 years old. Incredibly, the school has 450 students and there are no fees for the classes.
Although I only spent a couple of hours at the school, Savong invited me to visit a remote village on the weekend. I agreed and two days later, I was sitting on the back of a motorcycle driving through thick mud, avoiding cows and wondering where in the heck I was going. I bought a case of noodles with me and the other Cambodian men (there were five of them) took along some books, pens, pencils and a rubber ball.
After an hour, we arrived at the village of Srass Kvaw. The name in Cambodian appears below.
I think I was the first foreigner they had ever seen. The whole village, it seemed, came out to greet me with hands clasped in prayer and bowed heads. The noodles were quickly divided up and some of the children didn't even wait until their meal was cooked before they started chowing down.
Hmmm, just a little dry perhaps?
With translation, I told everyone how happy I was to visit them. It felt a little strange, as if I were a missionary back in the 1800s visiting Africa for the first time.
This pit is their water supply. Yes, this is the water that they drink.
After seeing this village for myself, I couldn't help but be affected by the experience. All the people (except for one older lady) agreed that the village needed water pumps. The older lady told me that she wanted a mosquito net but I’m pretty sure that she wouldn’t complain about a supply of fresh water either.
The cost for a water pump is about $200 and ten are needed for a village of this size. Mosquito nets and water jars would also be of great help but a supply of water is the top priority.
I would like to raise money for them. I HATE HATE asking people for money but this cause is something that is just too important and the dry season is now upon them. I have included a link to a paypal account for any donations and of course, even the smallest amount is going to help.
Click below to donate
My contact for this village is Savong and I know that he will use the money directly for this village and get the pumps built. In Cambodia, the government is no help (corruption exists at all levels) and no social welfare system exists. The only help these people will get are from foreigners such as ourselves.
So far, I have raised about $600. As an added incentive to donate to reach the goal of $2500, I can offer the following options:
With any donation: I will give free veterinary advice via email at email@example.com. If you don't need veterinary advice, then I can offer other advice. Just ask!
With $150 donation:You will get a 2009 calender made with my truly awesome photos taken during my trip to Cambodia. I will pay for the calender so 100% of your funds will go to the pumps.
I also plan on making a hardcover book of my photos but this will take some time to finish. (Hopefully available middle of December 08). All the profits will go to the Good Water Fund.
Here is a link to a story about a family who had a similar adventure to mine. It also has some good pictures of what a pump looks like. http://www.marinij.com/marin/ci_7552059
And if you would like, check out Savong's school at http://www.savong.com/.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
So with that in mind, I signed up for the Cambodian Cooking Class in Phnom Penh. This one-day course is designed to give tourists some insights into the ancient and unique Khmer cuisine. For $20 per person, it was also a very inexpensive way of eating for the entire day.
The first stop was the local market where our instructor pointed out the various ingredients that we would be using for our courses. Everything was very fresh and we were able to sample a couple of things here and there.
Here are some water lilies which are supposedly pretty good.
We returned to the restaurant where we began to make our own food.
Our first challenge was to make spring rolls. They aren't hard to make but the instructor thought I was doing a lousy job of rolling them up. He didn't hesitate to correct me as if I were actually going to make these things in the future. Doesn't he know that I can buy them at Trader Joes for a very reasonable price?
Amok is a unique Khmer fish curry which is steamed in banana leaves. I think this took 12 hours to make. Actually, I can't remember exactly how long it took but it seemed like a freakin' long time. Everything was done from scratch. We made the curry, the sauces and even the banana leaf bowl.
I don't think I have ever made anything that looked and tasted as good as this.
This course is highly recommended if you happen to be in that corner of the world. It is offered by the Frizz restaurant, which is where I had my best meal in Phnom Penh.
You can check out the website below.
You meet great people, have a lot of fun and get to eat some amazing food all for $20. What is not to like? Airfare to Phnom Penh not included.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
It was pouring that day. This did not deter the army of motorcycles swarming the city. I was AMAZED that I did not see more accidents.
We arrived in Phnom Penh in the early afternoon and the city was much more charming than what I thought it would be.
I guess I expected an urban toilet but instead, I saw parks, beautiful architecture, and a much more laid back atmosphere than Saigon.
One of the main reasons why I wanted to come to Phnom Penh was to get a glimpse of Cambodia's very dark past. If you're not familiar with their history, let me give you a little bit of background.
In the spring of 1975 as Saigon was falling (or being liberated depending on which side you were on), Cambodia was just beginning a period of intense turmoil. Pol Pot, the leader of the communist movement called the Khmer Rouge, took control of Phnom Penh and started making up his own rules. He changed the name of the country to Democratic Kampuchea, abolished religion and enforced the concept of "Year Zero", which meant that a new civilization was being created. The population was forced into the countryside to do backbreaking labor for no pay. Pol Pot's ideal society was an agrarian one; everyone worked in the fields.
But it got worse.
Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge army began a reign of paranoid terror. They killed off anyone whom they thought might have an opposition to their new government. They tortured prisoners to get more names. Their biggest fear was the KGB or the CIA, but even religious subjects were targeted. Nobody knows for sure how many people were killed during the four years of madness but I have read numbers from just less than 1 million to three million people. Women, children and babies were not exempt from the killings.
As a memorial to all the lives that were lost, visitors to Phnom Penh are able to visit Tuol Sleng, otherwise known as S-21, which was just one of the torture/execution centers for the Khmer Rouge. Strangely enough, Tuol Sleng started out as a high school. It is estimated that 17,000 prisoners were held here but only seven were found alive when the Vietnamese took over Cambodia. The seven survivors had their lives spared because they had talents which the Khmer Rouge found useful.
This is Tuol Sleng. Nice eh?
Inside the building are some very creepy photographs of the victims. The Khmer Rouge was apparently very good at record keeping and they took pictures of all the new arrivals.
Tuol Sleng is a very tragic place. Almost overwhelming. It's difficult to believe that someone could have done to this to his own country.
Sadly, Pol Pot died in 1998 of possible natural causes. He was never brought to justice for the genocide.
In one room, they showed some of these people during the time of the Khmer Rouge regime and in present day. They told their stories and many of them didn't regret the choices that they had made.
Since Tuol Sleng wasn't enough misery for one day, we decided to take the tuk-tuk out to the infamous killing fields which are located about 30 minutes outside of Phnom Penh.
For a great movie which dramatizes the horrors of this location, check out The Killing Fields, directed by Roland Joffe. Haing S. Ngor won the academy award for Best Supporting Actor and he was also a survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime. In a strange but sad twist, he was shot to death in Los Angeles in 1996.
At the entrance to the killing fields is a monument to all the people who lost their lives. It is filled with skulls and other assorted bones.
Many of the victims were stabbed or bludgeoned to death. The Khmer Rouge did not want to waste their precious bullets.
Many of the mass graves still need to be excavated.
Are you depressed yet?
Cambodia seems to be a country that is missing an entire generation of older people and so even the killing fields had their share of children running around.
Of course, they all want money and we were told by many people that we should NEVER give money to the children if they are begging. The children are often being pimped out by their parents to get the money and they'll never see their share of it. The other reason is that begging can set them up for a life of dependency.
These three kids followed me around while I was taking photos. They had their English lines memorized, "One, two, three, SMILE!" which they followed up with hands clasped in prayer and a very odd, mechanical (almost creepy) song. They wanted a dollar for their efforts. It was really hard to tell them no.