Thursday, September 30, 2010

How you know you're in Cambodia

So after being here almost three months, I think I have a pretty good idea what are the major Khmer traits, which I will attempt to summarise in the following bullet points:
  • 4 people on a moto, 1 helmet (if you're lucky) and also as many people in a tuk tuk/car as possible
  • Babies on a moto (I know it's so dangerous, but actually it's kind of cute)
  • Person driving the moto is on the phone (often with 3 other people and baby)
  • Road signs? What road signs! No jokes guys, red lights, no turning, one way street rules just DO NOT apply here.
  • An abundance of Lexus cars with no number plates (for some reason people prefer to have a massive car than a nice home)
  • Crashing whilst driving is totally normal, if it's not bad you just keep on driving if not you just abandon your moto in the middle of the road.
  • Woman and pyjamas: it's like the ultimate outfit here
  • Every time you drink you get food. Yes, even if you have just been out for a meal.
  • Men holding hands
  • The love of the colour pink: pink phones, pink tuk tuks. You name it, it's in pink.
  • You get used to bartering and questioning every single price you are given
  • Singing karaoke is completely normal, ALL THE TIME.
  • When you're sick you get scratched with a coin
  • Loos have no loo paper, only a bum hose. This is more hygienic in my opinion, but walking around with wet trousers just isn't worth it.
  • You eat fruit with chilli, salt and sugar - Actually quite nice! It adds a bit of a zing ;-)
  • You drink hot tea with ice.
There are probably many more, so if you can think of any faithful reader feel free to comment!

Special beer ingredient

So far I've not really talked about the booze in Cambodia. To be honest, when I first arrived and found out that everyone was drinking beer I was dreading it. The last thing I generally ever want is a beer. Wine, spirits, fine. Beer, no thanks. Although after years and years of beer repression I decided to give it a go in PP and you know it was actually really nice! The secret ingredient here is ice (I never would have guessed it). Anyway, now I'm totally bumming beer and sometimes even have a can by myself on an evening, classy! So girls, if you usually hate beer, don't knock it until you add the magic ingredient of ice!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Malet goes down under!

I know this blog is entitled "Malet does Cambodia".... But, Malet went down under! Yes I did, literally. So I think some of you must think I'm absolutely mental, and I can agree with this on some levels, but hear me out there was actually reason behind my madness. The reason was an exam, I'm not going to go into boring details, but essentially it mad loads of sense ;-)
So now you can decide whether I'm an absolute nutter or not, but in the meantime I'm going to tell the tale of my aussie adventure! So I departed last Tuesday morning from Phnom Penh, I have to admit I was quite looking forward to heading back to civilisation briefly. I figured it would be nice to not be perpetually sweaty and also not have that constant feeling that you're being ripped off, and also being stared at all the time. As I arrived to the airport I thought my days (or at least day) of not having to worry about being taken advantage of were over. Well guys, it wasn't. Somehow I had to pay $25 before exiting the country, now this fee seemed massively crazy to me they were only asking certain people to pay it and some people had to pay less, ect, ect, ect. MASSIVE FAFF.
Anywho, I didn't dwell on this as I hoped happier times would lay ahead, and they did! My next stop was Changi Airport Singapore where I was transferring. So, maybe I'd been in PP for too long but this airport was the most magical place I had ever set foot in. There were long chairs, free internet, water fountains, a cactus garden, a gym and an outdoor pool, ouh and also these machines which massage your feet. All of these features made my 10 hour wait highly enjoyable.

Changi Cactus Garden

After my somewhat long wait I jumped on the plane to my final destination Melbourne. Armed with a jumper (thank you Ida), shorts and leggings I hoped that this would be enough to keep me snug throughout my stay. To be honest I probably could have done with more layers but I coped ;-) Melbourne was a pretty nice city, pretty big and the weather was EXACTLY like Hull weather (except less wind), and no chavs (although that's not really weather related I just thought I should mention it in case anyone was wondering).

Sooo, long story short I few days past, I sat my exam and then enjoyed a couple more days just soaking up the atmosphere. I didn't get up to anything uber exciting, mainly because Melbourne seemed quite expensive after having survived in Cambodia on about $20 a week, turns out it's more like $20 a day there. But I coped! I stocked up on all the western fav's like pizza, pancakes, donuts, it was pretty unhealthy really (I'm glad I've gone now because I'm not sure whether I'd be able to handle all the temptations!). So here are a few pictures (at the end) for you guys to ouh and ah at.

My Hosts!

So after a few very relaxing and stress free days (thank you Chantelle and Patrick!) it was time to head back to the heat: Phnom Penh! But first, Singapore. This time round I only had to wait 6 hours for my connecting flight, the waits are just getting better and better it seems! This time though the flight was at 6am :/ Needless to say, as much as enjoy sleeping in airports overnight I like beds more. Although luckily Changi Airport has been catering to many of my needs and I have enjoyed just being able to try 10 types of different moisturisers free of charge. In addition it seems to be a very safe airport even at 4am there were officers walking around with massive AK guns...

So, in a nutshell, that's what happened when I went down under. I realise now that I have not actually included any of the activities I did so have listed them here for people interest:

Shopping (this seemed to be the main activity of interst): I visited DFO (the aussies go crazy for it!), Melbourne Central
St Kilda Market - cool crafts
Queen Victoria Market - cool food
Pancake Parlour - yummy pancakes
The Shrine Memorial - Very impressive, some ouhs and ahs were apparent
Botanical Gardens - very green
Woolworths - yes, it still exists (and is massive!)
Visited many coffee and chocolate shops

Melbourne's solution to pollution!


Memorial Shrine

I hope you enjoyed my brief summary of events. From now I must leave you as the last leg of my journey is about to depart shortly!

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more injury related posts once I arrive back to Korsang ;-)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Monthly Review

I've actually massively failed on the blog front. Posts over the past 2 weeks have been few (none). I'm going to try and recap them all, and attach a few pictures for visual aid ;-)

I think I've now properly settled into my role, I'm now more proficient in Khmer and can just about get myself by speaking (even though sometimes I'll say something in Khmer and people will think I can speak fluently)

Number of abscesses: 3 - One on a man's heel, one on a man's toe (which was quite amusing when we cut into it a blood literally squirted out about 15cm in the air) and one facial abscess.

Number of colds, headaches, weakness: Countless. This is how I've managed to progress so much in Khmer!

Moto accident inj
uries: 15 (maybe more)

Machete accidents
: 1, where the nurse did 7 stitches. (I did half a stitch too!)

Deaths & cremations: 1 cremation. 2 deaths.

Last night another participant passed away in the hospital, he had reoccurring health issues and had been admitted to the hospital a fair few times before, he used heroin heavily and had HIV. When my colleague Vathna arrived he was barely breathing, and was just lying on the floor of the emergency room surrounded by doctors. When the doctors realised that we actually had money to pay them they moved him onto one of the beds, intubated him, put a drip (in his forehead) and then plugged him into an artificial respirator. He was in a coma.

After having paid all the outstanding bills and having seen this participants pulse drop countless times we headed back home. The next day we went back to the hospital, his pulse was stable but we knew that the respirator was the only thing keeping him alive. The bed in the emergency room was costing us $25 a day and the doctors said there was no way that they could move him to a cheaper room. By this point I was pretty fed up with the doctors at this hospital, they really just didn't seem to care about anything but money.

Yesterday evening we went back again to see our particpant, as we walked into where he was the monitor displayed that he had no pulse, he had died and none of the doctors even knew. After we managed to get a doctor to check his heartbeat and unplug him from the monitors, drips and oxygen, we had to transport him to the morgue (I couldn't believe that the patient's family actually had to take their dead relatives to the morgue).

I think the saddest thing about the whole story was the man who passed away had no family, no parents, no children. He lived on the streets and at Korsang. The other guys I work with seemed to be dealing with the situation well: "it's my job, we used to have people like this every other week".