Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Leaving on an airplane

The bags are packed.  I'm wearing my cold weather clothes and I've said all my goodbyes.  Except for one and I apologize to Krisna.  I'll have to send him a message on facebook. 

Today was a great last day.  We started off the day with a swim and massage.  I dined on lemongrass chicken by the pool and then we packed up.  In the afternoon, Savong picked us up and took us out to the middle of nowhere where there is a very poor family who needed a water pump

I had met this family a couple of days ago.  The father has five children and the mother died.  They all live in a tiny shack made up of palm leaves. 

Ooops, I gotta go.  My luggage is disappearing and the car is ready to go. 

I have SO much to tell and lots of pictures to share. 

See ya!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Last day in Cambodia ... for now

This is our last day.  We're waiting on Savong to take us around and see the pumps that were made on our last visit.  We also hope to see the building of a new one today.  I'm not sure if they have started yet. 

I also hope to buy some t-shirts and say goodbye to the kids at the orphanage.

Goodbyes are so difficult.  I even hate saying goodbye to my apartment every morning when I leave for work. 

It was a very quick trip.  In some ways, I felt like I accomplished a lot but in other ways, I felt like I simply ran out of time and needed another week to get everything done.  Of course, I'll be in close contact with Savong to see how everything is going and I hope to keep everyone updated on the new and EXCITING projects that are ahead of us. 

We leave tonight around midnight.  It will be a very long trip home and I hope that the tempers between North and South Korea calm down before we fly into and out of Incheon airport

I'll be back home Thursday evening.  I'll spend the whole day shell-shocked and then it's back to work on Friday.  AGGH!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Slow day in Siem Reap

I finally have a couple of hours to slow down and relax. 

And that's only because Eddie's condition has deteriorated from EBD (Explosive Butt Disease) to EEBD (Extreme Explosive Butt Disease).  Last night, he shit all over town until we dragged ourselves home around midnight.  And then I think he shit again.  Imodium isn't doing the trick; I think it's time for a cork. 

So, yesterday was a temple day.  I've been trying to mix up the days; do the touristy stuff one day and the next day go to the orphanage or do some humanitarian work.  It's been a lot of fun but it has been quite exhausting.  Like Eddie indicated after our last trip to Cambodia, we need a vacation after our vacation. 
I had wanted to go see the Roulos temple group after my last trip back in April.  These are very old temples that are just outside of town.  They are smaller, less visited by tourists but they have a certain charm and the red bricks that they used for the construction (especially at Preah Ko) are quite beautiful.  After breakfast, we got in our tuktuk and headed out.  We visited the three temples.  I took lots of pictures.  Sweated a LOT.  Had some fresh coconut water.  Got bombarded by girls selling silk scarves.  Dodged the Korean tourists with their visors and umbrellas.  Sweated some more. 

Then I wanted to go out to one of the most beautiful temples in all the Angkor area:  Banteay Srei

Banteay Srei is much further out.  It takes over an hour to get there by tuktuk but the drive isn't a bad one (although at times, it can be quite bumpy).  There are plenty of sights to see in the countryside; water buffalo submerged in their muddy water, palm sugar boiling in big steel pans, waving children and the general quiet hum of country life.  You have to pay an extra $5 from Siem Reap for the ride but it is definitely well worth it because Banteay Srei has the most incredible carvings.  So intricate that they call it the women's temple since it is believed that the carvings are too fine to be carved by apparently clumsy men.  The temple itself is quite small, especially when carved to the massive structures of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom.  It is surrounded by a moat and most of the temple is in great condition.  We made it there in the early afternoon and spent a couple of hours mulling around. 

There are two people that I have seen on previous visits to Banteay Srei that I really wanted to see on this visit.  One is Toi who was a boy of about 7 when I first met him a couple of years ago.  He had the saddest face when he tried to sell me his Angkor DVDs and I have a great picture of him near my tuktuk. I saw him again during my visit in April and already he looked a lot taller and much stronger.  He spoke very little English, especially for someone who was always around tourists.  On this visit, I looked for him but couldn't find him.  I hoped he was at school but who knows?  Any number of things could have accounted for his absence. 

The second person that I wanted to see was a girl who is terribly disfigured.  I don't know how old she is but my guess is that she is in her late teens or possibly early twenties.  It is difficult to tell because her face is so badly altered.  She barely has a nose and she doesn't have a tongue.  The only sound that I have ever heard her make is a low groan which I have heard when she approaches a tourist and begs for money.  My guess is that she was a victim of an acid attack although another type of burn could have happened.  As we were coming out of the temple, we saw her and she looked much better than she had on my previous encounters; her hair was relatively clean and tied back in a ponytail and her clothes weren't dirty and torn.  Eddie whipped out his wallet and gave her $20 and her eyeballs nearly popped out of her head.  She bowed down her head with enthusiastic thanks and then she held up the bill for all her friends to see.  With her immobile face, it was impossible to tell if she were crying or just really happy.  That much money was quite possibly more than she would get for a full month.  We decided to take some pictures and the girl was happy to oblige with the support of all her friends.  She held my camera with her twisted fingers and I scrolled through the photos.  I have no idea what was going through her head when she saw her face looking back at her.

We made it to the Bayon for sunset.  The Bayon is a large Hindu temple that sits at the exact centre of the walled city of Angkor Thom.  It is famous for it's large smiling faces carved into the rock and is a great temple to see at sundown as the dramatic lighting highlights the faces well.  It is also less crowded at sunset because most tourists flock to the hill temple of Phnom Bakheng, and I'm really not sure why.  Tradition perhaps?  You can ride an elephant to the top.  We stayed at the Bayon for about an hour and then headed back to town.  If you're in Siem Reap, then a trip to the Bayon should be high on your list.  Just try to avoid the morning hours when you have to battle all the other tourists who have the same idea. 

For dinner, we went to Picasso's which is a very Western tapas bar which has great food and drinks.  I drank a carafe full of sangria which made me appropriately drunk for my first ever fish massage. 

A fish massage is not a massage for fish.  And it isn't really a massage.  But there are fish involved so I guess they got that right.  For $2 which includes a beer or a glass of wine or a bottled water, you get to stick your nasty stinkin' feet into a pool of fish for 20 minutes.  During this time, the fish eat your dead skin and according to the sign, make you "happy and funny".  When I first stuck my toes into the pool, I could barely stand it.  I have ticklish feet and the sensation of having 20 small mouths chomping on my extremities really took me to my sensory limit.  The best part was watching other people.  There were two Japanese girls in the same predicament and one could barely keep her feet in the water and the other just shook her head and screamed.  If you're in Siem Reap, you have to try it so that you too can be happy and funny. 

Then it was off to do some shopping at the night market where I bought 10 t-shirts for $16 and I met a girl who wanted to show me how she makes handmade scarves.  At this market, there were plenty of opportunities for massaging your body parts.  For $4 you could get a real hour long foot massage which made me re-think my opinion that a $2 fish massage was a good deal.  The vendors at the night market are all very friendly and they are not hard bargainers.  They smile a lot and I fall for their sweet natures.  Typical Cambodians.  This is why I have been back to this country three times. 

We went to a bar later that night and tried to teach someone how to play Blackjack which was, for the most part, unsuccessful.  Eddie had to go to the shitter on two different occasions and his pathetic face told me that it was time to leave earlier than I had hoped. 

This morning, Savong picked us up and we went to the new market.  We bought $300 worth of medical supplies for the clinic (that lasts for only 3 days!) as well as shoes, blankets, mats, bowls, plates, spoons, chickens, eggs, fish and soap all for the orphanage.  Savong said the kids will be very happy with all the great food and new household items.  Looking after 33 children is apparently a lot of work and expensive, even in Cambodia. 

And now it's now.  I just had a conversation with Ponheary about the disaster in Phnom Penh during the water festival.  345 people died because of trampling and drowning.  Ponheary is very sad because she is a very empathetic person.  She has a tour to do this afternoon but she looks tired and I don't think she wants to go.

This evening, I hope to go to the orphanage again and Eddie needs to pick up a beautiful carved Buddha head he bought at the night market.

Time is passing TOO fast.  We leave tomorrow at midnight for the long trip back home. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Water festivals and ghosts and babies with big heads

It's late. I'm exhausted.  And I have another early start tomorrow.

But I thought I should update my blog before another couple of days pass and I'm on my way home. 

Saturday.  We tackled the temples.  We met a couple of guys who decided to join us on our adventures.  One is from Austria.  The other from Germany.  Great guys who enjoy street food (not such a great idea in Cambodia unless you can identify the mystery meat) and they seem to like taking pictures as much as I do.  We all fit into one large tuk-tuk and set off about 9am. 

I set the itinerary.  I wanted to see some of the smaller temples and avoid all the tourists.  Everyone agreed to follow my plan which was slightly scary to me since my plans are always faulty on some level.  The first temple we visited was Preah Khan, which has probably become my favorite temple since they ruined the "lost temple" atmosphere at Ta Prohm by putting up barricades and wooden walkways.  Preah Khan has lots of small corridors, tons of carved Apsaras (or heavenly dancers with large breasts) and a fair number of trees that are taking down the walls with their large roots.  Although everyone wants to see the Bayon with the large carved heads and Ta Prohm and Angkor Wat, they should really try to see Preah Khan as well, especially since it is usually avoided by the large tour groups. 

I really wanted to find a smaller temple called Ta Nei.  I had seen one picture of it; it looked small, crumbled and completely deserted but the tuk-tuk driver made up all sorts of excuses why we couldn't get there.  Finally he drove us down a long dirt path, which eventually turned into impassible mud and stopped.  If we wanted to see Ta Nei, then we had to walk the rest of the way.  The only problem was that we weren't even sure if we were on the right road (our driver couldn't speak much English) and the map wasn't any help.  To make matters worse, we came to a fork in the road after walking for a couple of minutes.  We decided to split up and jog (!) for a minute and then return back to the spot if we couldn't find anything that resembled crumbling ruins.  The jogging idea belonged to the German dude.  To him, there wasn't anything even remotely bizarre of jogging down a muddy path in the Cambodian jungle in 85 degree heat with strange insects to find a temple.  As it turned out, we DID find the temple and both roads led right to it.  It was an incredible discovery.  We came to the end of the road and there was a relatively intact temple that had absolutely no human presence.  I felt like I was discovering Angkor Wat for the first time.  We were able to climb over the ruins, explore the corridors, photograph anything we wanted without the intrusion of other tourists and pretend like we were Indiana Jones.  We found out later that it was "closed" to tourists because they were using it for "research"??  I have some great pictures of it that I will share later. 

I was driving our tuk-tuk driver a little batty.  He didn't understand what I was saying and I think he wanted to do the regular tourist circuit.  I, on the other hand, wanted a custom tour that went all over the place and even to temples that were apparently closed.  As with all the Cambodians I have met, he was still incredibly tolerant and put up with all of us for almost eleven hours for $28 including tip.  And he was happy. 

In the evening, we went to a Cambodian drag show.  Yes, a little weird but why not?  To say that this show had low production values does not fully explain how low budget it was.  The shoes didn't fit, one dress was ripped and covered in mildew and at one point, a wig flew off and landed on the floor.  The Cambodians seemed to enjoy it.  Ignorance truly is bliss. 

Okay, I'm just about caught up.  Today, there was a huge (and I mean, freakin' huge) festival going on in Siem Reap called the Water Festival.  This festival signals the end of the rainy season (goodbye water) and everyone pours into Siem Reap in the north of Cambodia and Phnom Penh in the south.  I thought that Siem Reap is chaotic on a regular day but add in another million people and you pretty much have breakdown of all systems, especially the traffic one.  This morning, we were walking down the sidewalk near the river bank catching all the festivities, which included boat races and lying around, and we came across a baby which had the head the size of two basket balls.  I am seriously not joking.  This baby's head was enormous and he lay there on a cot, clutching bills of riel which locals or tourists were giving to him.  He was in front of the children's hospital and I guess it was their way of raising money for him.  Just put him out on the sidewalk and make him earn money for his care.  There were plenty of people surrounding him as if he were part of a sideshow circus.  It was all very disturbing.  My guess is that he had a severe case of hydrocephalus and was never treated for it.  If this had happened in the US, the hospital would have been burnt to the ground and all the hospital staff would have been thrown in jail.  In Cambodia, there is a different system; you try to get through life any way you can. 

In the afternoon, I FINALLY had a good long talk with my partner in crime, Savong.  We met at a restaurant and discussed all the details of the Savong Foundation, which is the charitable organization that will hopefully be a 501c3 soon.  He answered all my questions and I was very pleased how the meeting went.  I'm very excited about the direction of the foundation and the two hour meeting only reinforced what I already suspected about Savong; this guy is pretty incredible and I am very blessed to have him as a friend. 

Okay, dinner and a massage.  Fast forward through that.  I'll just say that the massage cost $26 for an hour and a half.  That is actually quite expensive for Cambodia but it was worth it. 

In the evening, I met with Savong again and he took me down to the river to watch the water festival.  The river was full of handmade boats with candles and incense which made for an incredibly beautiful sight.  There was lots of music and HORDES of people.  Amazingly enough, there were no traffic accidents or people run over by a wayward tuk-tuk.  As far as I could tell anyway.  I suppose this was the definition of ordered chaos. 

Then Savong took me to the site of the killing fields in Siem Reap.  Under a full moon, he showed me the stupa that was loaded with the skulls and other bones of the victims.  (That was more than a little creepy).  He told me how the old people with killed with blows to their heads and how babies were bayoneted after being tossed up into the air.  He told me the stories of his own family and how some them survived and some of them not.  Then he told me stories about his father who has sort of a psychic gift and how he has healed some people that were possessed by bad spirits.  One tip for keeping the bad spirits out of your body; don't let the banana tree leaves touch your house.  The spirits will slip and slide on those leaves and enter your house and then it's possession time. 

And then I went back to the guesthouse.  I think I should have been in bed about an hour ago.  We have a long day tomorrow; we're going back to see some temples and then we may do some shopping.  On Tuesday, we're going to buy some supplies for the medical clinic (thanks Anneke!) and probably buy a pump for a very poor family. 

Oh wait, this morning, I also helped to buy a rice plough with Ponheary Ly who runs the guesthouse where I'm staying.  We bought it for a farmer who needed it for the rice harvest.  I'm starting to loose track of everything I did.  Thankfully, I have the pictures to jog this damn brain of mine. 

I gotta get to bed.  I'm gonna hurt tomorrow.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Waking up in Cambodia

This morning I woke up in Cambodia

The first thing I heard was the squeaking nose from a junk collector roaming the streets.  She squeezes a little toy which makes a noise, presumably to tell people that she's there and she wants your junk.  I found out later today that a junk collector makes about $1.50 per day.  Although that is low, many people here make less than $50 per month. 

Waking up in Siem Reap, which is in the northern part of Cambodia, is like taking a cold shower and listening to rock music at full volume.  There is sensory overload and initially, it's all a little difficult to take in.  There are lots of people, lots of motorbikes, stray dogs roam the streets, nothing looks familiar and there just doesn't seem to be any order.  About anything. It's third world chaos but this is my third time here so I didn't expect anything less. 

I've already been here for two days.  TWO DAYS.  I feel like I have already settled in.  I don't mind the beggars anymore, I don't mind it when I get asked for a tuk-tuk ride every five minutes, I don't mind the noise, the pollution and the blank stares when I speak too quickly.  I love the people, the food and the feeling of being in an exotic land.  Time is passing far too quickly but here is what I've done so far ...

The first day was spent walking around.  Getting a feel for the place.  We went to the market and bought some t-shirts.  I also bought an Omega watch for $29.  The Rolex was the same price but I decided to go for the better-looking Omega.  I have my doubts that it will work in a week (or less) but the vendor was very sweet and somehow I felt like I couldn't disappoint her and pass on the sale.  Eddie was suffering after the long plane ride so we decided to get massages.  I paid $26 for an hour, which is quite expensive in this country but the amenities were excellent and the masseuse was very professional.  My friend, Savong, said that he knows where I could get a great massage for $3.  This is something I will consider.

We had lunch at the Red Piano.  The claim to fame for this restaurant is Angelina Jolie who apparently dined here during the filming of Tomb Raider and had a cocktail named after her.  The food is very cheap, very good and we got a great view of the chaotic street below from the upstairs patio. 

In the evening, we were invited to have dinner at the Seven Candles Guesthouse where we were staying.  This is the second time that we have stayed at the Seven Candles and there are some very good reasons why; the family who owns the guesthouse is absolutely incredible and it only costs $20 a night.  There is no better hospitality for that price.  When I stay at the Seven Candles, I feel like I am staying with my own family and they all remembered us from the last visit.  Welcome home.  They are that nice. 

The dinner was great.  We dined on spring rolls and Amok, which is a Cambodian fish curry.  For dessert, we ate some weird hairy fruit that had a gelatinous center.  Everything was perfect, from the cool evening air, to the conversations with the other guests to the delicious food.  And the price?  $5.  These are the reasons why I come back here. 

And today nearly killed me. 

We went to the orphanage very early because we had planned to take all the children to Phnom Kulen, which is the sacred mountain where one of the Cambodian leaders (can't remember who) proclaimed himself a god-king a couple of centuries ago.  We stuffed about twenty kids into two SUVs.  In our car alone, there were 14 people, including three very young children who were either asleep, crying or climbing all over the car.  And I mean it when I say they were climbing ALL over the car.  The trip took about an hour.  When we got there, Savong took Eddie and I up to see the famous reclining Buddha and we deposited lotus flowers and incense at a shrine.  Then it was off to the waterfalls. 

There is no way that they would allow children of these ages anywhere near these waterfalls.  The water was downright treacherous and if the water wasn't passable, then they had flimsy narrow boards to help you cross.  All I could think about was one of the kids (some of whom were only 3 or 4 years old) either getting washed away and drowning in the sacred waters or else breaking a leg and requiring surgery in a provincial hospital (That's scary.  You just have to take my word for it).  The kids threw caution to the wind and leaped over big wet rocks and played in the swirling pools.  Of course, they jumped on me, splashed me, wanted me to carry them across the really dangerous parts and generally threatened my life with their antics as well as theirs.  For lunch, we had a huge feast consisting of hacked up chickens, fried livers, rice, dried bananas and plenty of soda.  And then there was more swimming, more photo taking and more taunting fate by scrambling over big wet boulders.  The ride home was uneventful but slow.  Quite a few people were trying to sleep but the road was so rough that anyone who did fall asleep ran the risk of whacking their head on the window while the driver slipped into a pothole. 

And now it's now.  It's warm outside but comfortable.  I'm dang hungry and look forward to going to one of the better restaurants in town which is just down the street.  I didn't sleep very well last night but I'm wide awake.  I wish I didn't have to sleep. 

Tomorrow, we teach English at the orphanage.  This could be interesting.  The kids love to play with us but listening to us in a classroom could be a whole other ballgame.  Savong told us to be ready for 8am.  He didn't give us any other choice.

And so, for now, I'll sign off.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I've got Cambodia on my mind

Yes, I have decided to do it twice in one year. 

No, I'm not talking about balancing my checkbook.  I'm talking about taking another trip to Cambodia

I leave this Sunday on the red eye.  Technically speaking, I'm doing two red eyes back-to-back because I leave on Sunday night and I arrive on Tuesday night.  This is one helluva long trip and I'm not looking forward to it but at least Korean Airlines has a good in-flight entertainment service.  And their flight attendants are very attractive and helpful.  Those are definite pluses when you are cramped into a stiff chair for a gazillion hours. 

On the agenda:  

The main reason for my travel is to meet with Savong to discuss the recent birth of The Savong Foundation.  This is a non-profit organization (with the 501c3 status pending) that will benefit the Savong School, the Savong Orphan Center and the surrounding community of the Bakong district of northern Cambodia.  We will discuss the various projects and see what directions we wish them to take.  The push right now is to come up with ways to make money for the Foundation so that it can accomplish everything that we dream about.  I am very excited to be a part of this charity and you can keep an eye on the updates on The Savong Foundation facebook page. 

Besides the business stuff, I'll spend a lot of time with kids at the orphan center and hopefully I'll get a chance to see what's happening at the school.  I'm sure that I'll be exploring the temples that I didn't get to see last time and for the first time, I hope to travel to Phnom Kulen which is the sacred Cambodian mountain known for its waterfalls.  

I will be staying at the Seven Candles Guesthouse which is the best accommodation I know for $20 a night.  I am very excited to see Ponheary Ly again who is the Big Mama of the house and was recently awarded the title of a CNN hero for her work with schoolchildren.  The guesthouse is very centrally located and you really do feel as if you are part of the big family when you're there.  I highly recommend it if you ever decide to take the trip to Siem Reap

And of course, I'll try to see sunrise at Angkor Wat.  And I'll visit the markets.  And I'll walk down Pub Street in Siem Reap and hope to see a show at the Temple Bar this time around.  I may even try a fish foot massage for $3 which includes a coke or a beer.   Yes, I am a tourist at heart and I love to take pictures. 

This is a good time to visit Cambodia for the weather; it will be cooler with less (wishful thinking here) rain.  The weather has GOT to be better than it was in April which felt like I was running through hell wearing a fur coat.  If it does rain, it doesn't tend to last and scrubs everything clean (including the sweat-soaked tourists). 

It's a little tricky to post updates due to the exhaustion factor (I tend to go until I drop when I'm on vacation) but I'll do my best at letting you know that I'm still alive. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Murder in Italy

This trial had all the ingredients for a really good fiction novel; sex, drugs, beautiful people, a foreign country, a suspect with some very odd behavior and the brutal murder and rape of a young woman.

Except it wasn’t fiction.

The case I’m writing about is the murder of Meredith Kercher. If you don’t know the details of the case, then you can search for them at your leisure by typing her name into google but otherwise, here is a very superficial account of what happened.

Meredith (a British citizen) was the roommate to Amanda Knox (an American) while they were studying in in Perugia, Italy. On November 1st, 2007 Meredith was murdered in her apartment. Her neck had been slashed, she had been choked and stabbed and there was evidence of sexual assault. She apparently died a very slow agonizing death. There were three people who became primary suspects; Rudy Guede, Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox who was the girlfriend of Raffaele at the time of the murder.

Due to overwhelming evidence at the crime scene, Rudy Guede was convicted of the murder and initially sentenced to 30 years in prison. As far as Raffaele’s and Amanda’s involvement, the facts aren’t quite so clear.

I was up until 2am reading about the case and even though I was wide awake, I still had a difficult time putting everything together. Let’s take a look at Amanda who became the most notorious of the suspects:

• she was really quite attractive, at least before the trial took its toll. If you look at her pictures, she could have been an Abercrombie and Fitch model with those all-American looks. In the pre-trial videos of her, she seemed to have a very care-free attitude towards life and she came across as very likeable. Yes, I know that attractive people can kill but in our superficial society, we still have a difficult time believing it.

• Her behavior in the days after the murder was definitely ODD. She changed her stories about where she was (was she in the apartment when the murder happened or was she in Raffaele’s apartment?) She apparently did cartwheels and splits at the police station. She didn’t appear to be sad or upset and didn’t offer any condolences to the family of Meredith. She even pointed the finger at a restaurant owner and he eventually won a case against her for slander.

• Her behavior became even stranger once she was standing trial; she smiled and laughed in the courtroom and even wore an infamous “all you need is love” t-shirt that made her look like she was heading to a slumber party.

• And she chose not to flee the country after the questioning and instead, planned on finishing up her studies in Italy, presumably after being found innocent. I certainly don’t advocate running away if you become a prime suspect in a foreign murder case, but if that shit happened to me, I would have been on the next flight to JFK.

Her boyfriend, Raffaele, wasn’t much help in Amanda’s case. He said he was doing computer work that night even though his computer was never turned on. He couldn’t even remember if Amanda was with him the entire night.

The trial was a sensation in Italy and after all was said and done, all three suspects were convicted. Amanda Knox is in an Italian prison but apparently she can do yoga and play volleyball and well, probably write the rough draft for a best seller.

What do I think?

Amanda did some incredibly dumb things. She said that the Italian authorities assaulted her and forced her to say things that weren’t true. I find this very difficult to believe; even if the police did slap her (which I don’t think happened), why would she spout out so many incriminating statements? Let me tell you that if the police beat me, there is no way I would say I was anywhere NEAR a crime scene if I were innocent. Now if they started to cut off my fingers, that’s another story but a couple of slaps? Hmmmm ….

And you shouldn’t be convicted if you don’t appear to be sad about someone’s murder but Amanda didn’t show respect for either the family of the deceased or the Italian court system. Why was she smiling for the photographers and acting like she was walking down a red carpet? Amanda apparently considered Meredith a friend and she was on trial for her MURDER. This brings up another question I have; why wasn’t anyone coaching her? Where was her family? Why weren’t they telling her to act like a mature adult? Why didn’t her lawyer to tell her to leave her PJs at home? And why didn’t she get the hell out of Italy?

I have not poured through all the evidence of the trial but I’m tempted to pick up one of the books on the subject and learn more. From everything I’ve read, there is no doubt that Rudy was guilty. As far as Amanda and Raffaele? My guess is that they were using a lot of hard drugs and they weren’t even sure where they were or what they were doing that evening. I do suspect that they know a lot more than what they are telling and yes, they very well could have been in the room when Meredith was murdered. However, there just isn’t a lot of evidence to support this which means that either they were very efficient at cleaning up the scene or they really were in Raffaele’s apartment when the bad stuff was happening.

I don’t think the world will ever know what truly happened that night. The only living person who I’m sure knows everything is Rudy Guede but he is a proven liar.

It’s a sad, sad case. Meredith Kercher was a beautiful young woman and her life was cut short by either one or three assailants.

And if I were on the jury for Amanda Knox, how would I vote?

Guilty of murder: Likely innocent
Guilty of being a silly stupid girl: 100% guilty

Saturday, November 6, 2010

She's a biter!

A client BITES the owner of  a veterinary clinic because she was unhappy that her dogs weren't finished on time.

Read the story here:

I actually think this is quite acceptable behavior.  The poor client was probably having a bad day because her husband wouldn't do yardwork and the last thing she deserved was some damn groomer telling her that her beloved angels weren't out of the dryer.  Yelling and screaming, as everyone knows, will only get you so far.  Pushing someone on the ground and then biting the shit out of them--now THAT tells everyone that you are not a client to be messed with.

And check out the veterinary clinic where this happened  ...

Check out what they offer; "our low cost surgeries ALL include a shot of pain ..." 

That's what I want for my pets.  A shot of pain that lasts for 12 hours. 

Guess you get what you pay for.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

In memory of Dusty the wonderdog (1993-2010)

Dusty was already a senior citizen when he came into my life. 

At the time, I was working in a veterinary clinic in Las Vegas and three Pekingese were dropped off for adoption.  The owner had passed away and nobody in the family wanted to take them.  Their names were Snowball, Prince and Dusty.  Although they weren't related, they looked similar because they only had one eye each.  To be completely accurate, Prince did have two eyes but only one was functional.  Clearly, the previous owner did not do a very good job at looking after their ocular health. 

I love the Pekingese breed.  They are gentle dogs who don't bark a lot.  They aren't demanding of your attention but they love it when they get it.  Although they are prone to eye problems, they are generally low maintenance in the health department.  They are cuddly and cute and they make a blissful snoring noise when they are in a deep sleep.  No, they aren't intelligent or obedient but that's fine with me; I don't want a dog that needs to be challenged.  And Pekes are okay with being who they are. 

Prince was adopted right away by one of our clients and after a week had passed without any offers on the other two, I decided to take them home.  I wasn't looking for two dogs but I just couldn't separate them.  Snowball was white, of course and Dusty was black but the differences weren't only in their colors.  Snowball was extremely affectionate and mischievous (forget about trying to get pills down his gullet) while Dusty was skittish and shy but polite.  The two of them got along great and I was blessed to have them. 

Several months later, a Peke was brought into the clinic to be euthanized.  He had been hit by a car and had a broken leg.  The owners couldn't afford to do anything and wanted him "put down".  As luck would have it, my receptionist recognized the Peke as Prince and after an extensive surgery, he came home with me and joined his brothers. 

Here they are posing.  To get this shot, it took A LOT effort but I finally managed to get it.  You may have heard the expression "like herding cats"?  The same expression could be used for Pekes. 

I no longer have Snowball or Prince.  Prince developed paralysis of his hind end due to back injuries that he sustained after his accident.  Snowball lived to nearly 15 years of age and was euthanized after developing a neurological issue that made him walk constantly in circles. 

They were incredible dogs and both of them were very well loved, by me and by the people who knew them. 

Dusty always had lots of energy.  He loved to run and play, even as the years crept up on him.  I had an old couch in my backyard (yes I know, it was ghetto) but he loved to jump on it and sit on the top. 

I would like to say that Dusty missed his brothers but I think the opposite was true.  After they were gone, Dusty became much more outgoing and affectionate.  Of course, he got ALL the attention which he didn't seem to mind one bit. 

As the years passed, Dusty developed a lot of health problems.  His kidneys started to fail, he developed a heart murmur, his discs in his back deteriorated and he grew a cataract in the only eye that he had.  I figured I didn't have much time with him so birthdays were a big celebration.  McDonald french fries were his favorite and he probably wondered why every day wasn't his big day.

For another birthday, I gave him a dog cake from Three Dog Bakery.  Not quite as good as the fries but still pretty good.  Or so he told me. 

When I took off four months for a sabbatical, I really didn't think Dusty was going to be in earthly form.  I was wrong.  He was quite content to sit in the backseat all the way from Los Angeles through to Savannah, Georgia.  He then flew with me up to Canada for another month and finally returned to California. 

By the time Dusty reached 16, he was a sleepy guy.  Still, life was pretty good. 

Dusty left me when he was 17 years and 8 months.  Like most owners with senior dogs, I knew the day was coming but I didn't know exactly when. 

Clients ask me all the time when "it's time".  I tell them to watch the quality of life.  Is the pet comfortable?  Does he still play?  Does he still get around well?  How well are we managing the diseases that may be causing him discomfort?  These are easy questions that I ask but the difficult answers I leave up to the clients.  With Dusty, I knew exactly what they felt like.  How in the heck do you really know when to say goodbye??

Dusty developed pancreatitis and he quickly declined.  I suppose he made it easier for me although I briefly thought that he still had one life to use up.  But in my heart, I knew.  I knew that it was "time" and I hope all my clients have that peaceful feeling when they know that there is only one thing left to do. 

Being a veterinarian, I could never take one of my pets to another veterinarian and have it euthanized.  I suppose I consider it a blessing that I can do it myself.  There is a private grief that I have to have.  A final private moment between myself and the dog that has given me so much love and laughter over the years. 

Dusty lay on my bed eating his McDonald's fries.  When he was done, he quietly, peacefully and happily went to sleep.     

Dusty, you're my buddy and I miss you so much.