Hi, from a very cloudy 30* Siem Reap. For here this is a cold morning and people are dressed accordingly, socks, cardigans and in some cases jackets. Although I mock, I certainly notice a coolness. It was brilliant for cycling yesterday, but the normal sun and heat appeared late morning. However, the past week has been very hot, but it is now taking the sun longer to wake up, and it certainly goes down a little earlier in the evening. We have had a few torrential storms which have turned most of the sand to mud for a while, and made cycling a little easier on the backside.
Another beautiful ride yesterday and a few new tracks discovered. We hadn't been going too long yesterday, but quite a way from town when the back tyre on an American guy's bike exploded. We all jumped wondering where the gun was, before he pointed to the flat tyre. A long walk back to town, but no a short walk to a hut where a one legged man lived with his family, and unbelievably he repaired bikes. As it was a smart US bike and tyres he hadn't got a replacement tube or tyre, so he immediately began a surgical operation with old tyres, tubes and I think glue, but not sure. The tube could not be repaired so the shattered tyre was lined and eventually inflated, and then the tyre was bandaged from the outside in critical places. About 15 mins later we departed, I expected Steve to cycle back, but he continued with us for about 45km over and through testing terrain and arrived back in town with the same air pressure. We were all trying to persuade him to see how long that repair would last, but obviously silly to cycle to out lying again. The repair cost him 2$, but6 barangs watching the work had really freaked his toddler son, who wouldn't stop crying, despite his mum's cuddles and reassurance.
The downside of cycling is theft! I was riding to Grace House with Kirra, an Aus volunteer, on Wed am, she was behind me, so I saw and heard nothing, but a moto pulled in parallel to her and just lifted her bag from the basket. It was over so quickly there was little she could do. Luckily, there was not much in it, but the inconvenience of losing her bank cards. As yet, nobody here knows how to use them, it is cash, phones and possibly cameras they are after. It was an opportunist attack, but still unsettling, as I've felt so comfortable cycling on my own during the day. It is too hot to use a backpack, but on some days that might be necessary. Kirra, arrived earlier this week, ironically she was the volunteer I took over from on my first visit to GH, so it is good to see her and hear about her uni course etc.
This afternoon I'm going cycling with the GH students, so hope it brightens up a bit. Need to go and hire a geared bike for the day. Next Wed I'm going on a 75km ride in preparation for the biggy on 1 Dec, a cycle guy from Grasshoppers is coming me with, and then we are brought back by truck. I think I'll manage ok, but hope I can get to school the next day! The sponsorship is coming in brilliantly so there is now a great weight of expectation on my shoulders. Thank you to those who have already paid up front!
Part of yesterday's ride was following a large, 40+ herd of rampaging water buffalo, instead of plodding at their normal slow gait they were racing through water, going forwards and backwards, but I think it was mainly to protect their young. As there had been grey clouds the camera was at home!
Tues evening was spent at a "posh" hotel's opening night after complete reconstruction. A very grand place, beautiful rooms etc, but way, way out of my price bracket. About 300$ per room per night without any meals! The ex pats were there to enjoy the free drinks, canapés and entertainment that was on offer. Wine very nice, canapés ok, the guys from the Battambang circus excellent, as usual, but we did not stay for the disco, I cannot remenber who the DJ was, but I suspect someone quite important as he was high on the billing. The view from roofs top was great across Siem Reap, and luckily, by the time we went up there the storm had finished. I sort of dressed up to go, but by the time I arrived was drenched in sweat, as so humid prior to the rain.
Friday 5pm I thought my end had come, not by truck, bus, tuk tuk, car, moto or bike, as one would suspect here, but by hot air balloon! I and everyone I know believed they were banned here, because nothing is allowed to fly over the temples or higher than them in SR - planes an exception, also atmospheric conditions do not render them safe. So those who saw one on Wed pm were surprised. As I was cycling home on Fri there was one in front, but when I got here I couldn't see it, so forgot about it. A short while later I went onto the roof to ring Dad, as it was too noisy down here and saw the balloon struggling tobgetvaovervthe house opposite. I rushed Dow here, with my iPad to finds hundreds just standing staring. The local schools had just finished, so it was mayhem. We could see clearly into the basket, two guys, furiously igniting the flame to get elevation. Somehow they managed to clear that house, then it was the 20 - 30 electric cables in front of here, those of us who realised the potential danger, did not know where to go, but expected it to land amid them. I expected an uncontrollable fireball. Eventually it crossed them by about 6 inches and then had to immediately rise over here, 3 more storey's of height - they did it, and managed to land immediately behind here on a very small patch, without damaging anywhere, I think. I could have had phenomenal shots, but the iPad is full and refused to take any pics. The balloon was possibly a showing off by Siem Reab province, as here was hosting a major Asia conference, prior to Obama etc meeting in Phnom Penh on Mon for a few days. The Khmers all thought the incident was hilarious, because none of them realised the potential danger we were in. Fri morning our teaching at Grace House was punctuated by sirens blaring and helicopters hovering as dignitaries were driven to be shown Tonle Sap, another of Cambodia's jewels. However, that and it sustainability is threatened by the reservoir that is going to be built in Laos. As part of the security for Obama, the universities and schools have been closed for the duration of his visit. Some expect him to be brought here too, but perhaps his schedule won't allow, we will see. The US couple who run the Landmine Museum have invited him to see their project and Bill has met with the US Ambassador.
Last Monday, I met up Megan, from the US charity, Caring for Cambodia, to see how their work was progressing in three of the state schools children from Grace House attend. They certainly seem to be helping improve the quality of teaching, ensuring that teachers turn up every day and that the classrooms are more interesting rooms to be in, but as she is a business person rather than an educationalists, her talk was very much off pat, and seemed to be well corporate rather than heart felt. However, all must be helping the children, whether it be the meals they can eat there for free, the uniforms they are given and the stability of learning. None of this comes from the Cambodian gov, although, their curriculum is followed with the addition of English. In light of this, and other factors, GH is considering taking another village under their wing that does receive any help, and it's school no additional resources.
9:35 am, the clouds have disappeared and blue sky and sun.
Friday evening was the last night for Matt (Brazilian) and Cathie for the UK, soma large group of us went to Sugar Palm Restruant for dinner. It was the place I had seen Gordon Ramsey cooking in on his Cambodian tour,mans their Fish Amok is supposed to be the best in Cambodia. It was enjoyable eating in a smart place with decent plates and cutlery and my squid and green peppercorns was excellent, goodness knows why I didn't have their amok, another time perhaps! A shared starter of chicken satay (delicious), main course, a gin and tonic and two glasses, of a good red wine I paid 20$, or the equivalent of about £12:00. Only 6 of here now, but three very lively, but very nice, young Australians.
Time to go into town for brunch, perhaps look for a few things in the market and then go and rent my bike ready for the ride.
Have a good week, take care and love to all, J x