Thursday, August 31, 2017

oNe PhOtO a DaY AuGuST 2017

My month of trying to use the alphabetic and numeric prompts to showcase our local environment and Cambodia in general. As a new arrival this may be a little ambitious but here is my attempt.


TUESDAY 1st STARTS WITH A: For my month of showcasing Cambodia, you can't go past Angkor Wat. Cambodia’s prime attraction starts with A


THURSDAY 3rd STARTS WITH C: Kep's attractions focus on crabs- the giant crab in the bay, the crab market and ...... well, eating crabs by the seaside of course. Crab starts with C

FRIDAY 4th STARTS WITH D: Cambodia is endowed with a huge diversity of tropical fruit including durian but my choice is dragon fruit. This purchase for PAD in the market this morning cost less than 50c and was a great addition to our lunch

SATURDAY 5th STARTS WITH E: It would have to be elephant. This is a statue at one of the intersections on the main road in Kep. There is actually an abundance of statues along the road and it makes navigating and giving directions so much easier

SUNDAY 6th STARTS WITH F: Fishing boats full of fishermen on the water in Kep. Fish play a huge role in the local economy and diet and these boats are always visible in the bay

MONDAY 7th STARTS WITH G: Having just returned from the local market starts with "G" just has to be garden fresh greens. Over half our haul today was fresh greens including limes, kale, spring onions, knife blade coriander and broccoli

TUESDAY 8th STARTS WITH H: The houses of Kep; some beautifully restored, some dilapidated and in ruins, some concrete, practical designs for families, some holding on to former grandeur, some modern interpretations of traditional residences, some opulent and comfortable and one simple unique bamboo home in the paddies

WEDNESDAY 9th STARTS WITH I: In Cambodia a lot of vendors and households still rely on ice, not refrigerators, on a regular basis. The blocks of ice are sawed into the required size at point of sale. Dripping motorcycle-powered delivery carts ply a busy trade at all times of the day

THURSDAY 10th STARTS WITH J: Organic and unrefined palm sugar is also known as jaggery, which happens to start with J. It is painstakingly produced all over Cambodia's rural regions. Due to this prompt today I have now purchased these two styles- one syrupy and one powdered. The most common block style wasn't available locally. I'm now on the look out for recipes to use them in

FRIDAY 11th STARTS WITH K: For many places K is a difficult prompt but here in Cambodia the Khmer language, living in Kep and visiting Kampot easily come to mind but it is the ubiquitous Kramer that is the obvious choice. Locally made, often by women's cooperatives or empowerment to eradicate poverty initiatives these "scarves" are irresistible and so much more than a scarf. If you are interested in their many uses please read the link below which I wrote while travelling in Cambodia in 2013

SATURDAY 12th STARTS WITH L: The local limes in Kep are the best I've ever tasted. They are large, bright green and juicy: absolutely perfect for our digestive lime juice and water every morning and well this is the tropics so the evening tipple of GnT's wouldn't be kosher without a couple of slices and a squirt of juice

SUNDAY 13th STARTS WITH M: Orange clad monk is the obvious choice for the letter M

MONDAY 14th STATTS WITH N: The N prompt brings to mind another of the statues, which line the roads and especially the coastal strip in Kep. Another of our navigational landmarks the nymph; a nature goddess usually depicted as a beautiful maiden. She sits playing a lyre on the shorefront. I'm not sure what the Khmer Buddhists would call her but to me she is the nymph

TUESDAY 15th STARTS WITH O: The ocean. My go to place for calm and quiet and here especially on weekdays. Sometimes we just ride to the beach and stare at the ocean. This is Kep Bay looking out towards Rabbit Island with a backdrop of the Kep National Park. We see it almost daily but it is crowded and chaotic beyond belief on weekends

WEDNESDAY 16th STARTS WITH P: In this beachside location nothing adds to the glamor and resort feel more than palms. A coastline dotted with palms and summer, vacation and relax come immediately to mind. It is wet season so there is not much blue sky but coconut palms on the foreshore are very Kep

THURSDAY 17th STARTS WITH Q: Quintessential Cambodia from my perspective- the serenity of the monks, the lush tropical flowers made as offerings, the details in the temples of Angkor Wat and sunsets silhouetting palms over the Mekong River. Cambodia to a tee or in this case Q

FRIDAY 18th STARTS WITH R: Neighbouring Thailand calls them tuk tuks but the trailer pulled by a moto (as they call motorcycles here) is commonly known as a remork or remorque. They are everywhere and are popular with locals and tourists alike, to transport both themselves and goods. Whether it is a local run or farther afield. Although more expensive than the bus for a longer run, it is a pleasant well-ventilated and slower ride

SATURDAY 19th STARTS WITH S: Both Kampot and Kep are famous for their salt and pepper production. Opportunities to see the plantations abound but so far we have merely sampled the products and can highly recommend them. Kampot is perhaps more internationally renown and this is our current supply but we will surely try the local product next

Second choice would have to be Spirit House but I posted the one in our yard last month… I really do love them and so this is another shot of ‘our’ spirit house

SUNDAY 20th STARTS WITH T: Transplanting rice seedlings. Surrounded as we are with rice paddies, it's impossible not to notice the enormous amount of backbreaking work, which goes into this staple of Asia. It inspires us to appreciate all that we eat just a little bit more

MONDAY 21st STARTS WITH U: Ungulates are mammals with hooves and these beasts certainly qualify. We see them daily in fields and along the verges of the roads. We are not sure if they are a breed of cow or ox or something completely different but local farmers pride themselves in owning them as a form of wealth. They are never milked and seem to rarely be put to work but more commonly pampered and hand fed

TUESDAY 22nd STARTS WITH V: Today's visit to Sala (school) Monkey revealed a vibrant and viable learning environment and we hope there maybe scope for us in some capacity as volunteers in the future

WEDNESDAY 23rd STARTS WITH W: Wat is the Khmer equivalent to Buddhist temple. (just like Thai) This particular wat is just a few kilometres from our home and is called Wat Mony Ratanak Keo Krousang we just discovered. Not the best shot going, as after cycling there specifically in response to this prompt, we fled in a hurry having spotted a huge snake shedding its skin on the forecourt of the temple

THURSDAY 24th STARTS WITH X: Actually X marks the spot where the Kep Gardens Association, established by fellow Adelaidians, runs an educational centre offering English language development, technical trade skills, life skills, community support, agricultural skills, sponsorship for further education and so much more. We visited today to offer our services as volunteers and we were warmly welcomed and instantly felt a connection. Hoping to contribute to the individual reading programme in the near future

FRIDAY 25th STARTS WITH Y: Youth are the future of any nation and this talented group of young people showcased their talents, leadership skills and determination in the Kep Gardens Association Annual Concert last night. The balance between maintaining traditions and youthful exuberance for modernity was apparent. We left feeling optimistic about the future knowing young people like these are rising to the challenges their lives present with the assistance and guidance they receive

SATURDAY 26th STARTS WITH Z: That would be zingiber - commonly known as ginger but from the zingiberaceae family! One of the many distinct flavours which combine to create the base for Asian cuisine. Khmer dishes are no exception and this is a must have ingredient if you want to create an authentic flavour

SUNDAY 27th ONE: One small spirit house. No matter how big or small your business, office or home a spirit house is required. This simple one adorns the wall of a small local retailer

MONDAY 27th TWO: cold beers -Cambodia of Course!!!

TUESDAY 29th THREE: distinctly Cambodian handmade items I have bought since arriving. None of them were essential or necessary and all of them bring me great pleasure- a cane dish, a silk Kramer and lacquered chopsticks

WEDNESDAY 30th FOUR: monkeys in another of the many statues in Kep. This one is at a point where we never see monkeys but either side of it we regularly spot them. Unfortunately they are prone to raiding the garbage bins and creating a huge mess boldly foraging among the picnickers leftovers as well as openly stealing whenever possible 

THURSDAY 31st FIVE: of the stalls we frequent in the Kep Market

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Living in the Bamboo House

Now that we have reached the half way point of our tenancy in this Bamboo House, it seems worthwhile to reflect upon our living situation. 

I vividly recall the stages of adjustment, when living abroad that I used to talk to ISEC students about, when I was teaching in Adelaide and I had not really considered, until now how they might apply to us at this point in time: 1) the honeymoon period, 2) homesickness / loathing, 3) adjustment and 4) acceptance.

Our honeymoon period was characterised by taking thousand of photos of the house itself, the interior and sunrises, sunsets, environs and bird life in the surrounding paddy fields. Things we continue to enjoy and feel grateful for. We marvelled at the ability to stay cool and comfortable without any aircon, by simply availing of the breezes and airflow through the doors and windows. We delighted in the low impact living that comes with this abode, thoroughly enjoying a simple, quiet life without motorised transport and with a minimum of possessions and appliances. Our bikes were and still are a source of great joy. They simultaneously provide mobility and exercise, as well as the feeling that we have remained committed to the environment and the satisfaction of reconnecting with our bike riding days in Adelaide.

I don't think we have felt the slightest bit homesick or any real sense of loathing but the next phase might accurately be described as facing the challenges and adjustment. So somehow- perhaps because we have now resettled so many times in different countries, we seem to have skipped a step and quickly moved on.

The wet season began with a bang. The first major storms with howling winds and torrential rain had us wondering if the roof would blow off or the house simply become inundated. This is not an exaggeration. Some houses did lose their rooves that night. While lying in bed a mist gently sprayed over us. Since the top quarter of the walls is constructed of wooden slats covered with fly wire, certain wind directions cause the rain to come through them despite the overhang of the eaves. For the next few days we felt we were being held hostage by the never-ending rain. However it soon evolved into a few days of rain then a few days of sunshine and it was possible to some extent to predict it or at least manage daily tasks around it. With our rain capes, sunblock, hats and kramers (Cambodian scarves) about our persons at all times, we continue to ride about and have only once been soaked to the skin. Even that was a source of amusement as it is still hot and we were going to the pool and dressed in our bathers anyway.

The menagerie of wildlife in the house is an ongoing challenge - no battle. The mouse, who was in residence when we arrived has survived and outsmarted Ian’s numerous creative attempts at humane entrapment. All out warfare has now been declared and just today we fear we have also discovered a rat in the “loft” area. To our dismay the three snakes we initially observed in the garden and lurking in the shade under the house cannot be positively identified and we can only hope that they are not venomous. As yet we have not been able to photograph them to positively identify their species. At least two species are in residence however and Ian’s removal of the fourth one spotted indoors with a gecko in its mouth at the time, was nothing short of heroic in my opinion. The following day another species of snake was spotted on the verandah and we remain ever vigilant, carefully inspecting indoors and out. The renewed rain has kept them at bay for the past couple of days but we are mindful and cautious. By now the daily occurrence of frog removal, either by sweeping them out or capturing them between the broom and banister brush is positively passé. As for geckos, the only strategy seems to be peaceful cohabitation. Indoor-outdoor living has certainly taken on a whole new meaning.

While we continue to see this as an adventure and not torture, the added complication of three or four leaks in the roof that require buckets if the rain persists creates another reason to remain ever alert. So far, neither the bed nor the bookcase that contains electronics have been in the firing line and we have settled for a permanent arrangement of furniture that avoids the wet patches when the inevitable occurs.

Inconveniences, challenges and adjustments aside, we are still not convinced that we wouldn't simply continue on here if the opportunity to extend our tenancy became available. Perhaps we are hopeless romantics, eternal optimists and ageing idealists after all. In the meantime we keep an ear to the ground about the availability of alternative housing and revel in the good life in Kep.

Cooking in general and recreating many of the summer Eurasian style dishes and other favourites we have mastered over the years continues to bring delight and provide healthy, nutritious meals. Sharing our creations with neighbours and friends is also a regular occurrence. We have now established a thrice-weekly swimming routine as well as  cycling about 15 kilometres a day. We only walk short distances in the late evening or early morning. Mindfulness and mediation have become a daily routine for me and I ponder the irony of have time for such pursuits now when I am less stressed than I was as a fulltime worker. I am reading like I have never been able to read before and sometimes stop myself and marvel that there is no sense of guilt about reading for pleasure, as there is no onerous marking hanging over my head. Though I do still stop and want to correct erroneous errors I find in the ebooks I currently read.

On that note after several attempts we have made contact with a small charity based primary school here and organised a visit for next week with the hope that we may be able to contribute in some small capacity as volunteers. I note that a dear friend Jenny pointed out that after Druk (dragon) we have set our sights on Sala Monkey. Perhaps playful animals are in our subconscious.

Things are moving forward. We are happy and the Bamboo House has proved to be a true learning experience in addition to being an aesthetic haven. Perhaps this is the beginning of acceptance phase.