Sat 5:20pm and 36*
Sitting in the front of Globalteer watching the rush hour go past, it is absolute bedlam as the local schools have just finished for the day. Motos and bikes carrying anything between three and seven people plus all their bags, boxes, buckets, you name it! Unfortunately, very few are wearing helmets, but the majority on their mobile. The worst sight has been three mini buses that should hold about 15, stuffed with about 40 - 50 children being taken home from school. No safety belts or adequate seating, the motor taxi may be a godsend for some, but will soon be mass killers unless road traffic laws introduced. Darkness is beginning to descend, smoke is hanging around as many people have lit bonfires to get rid of their rubbish - no one stays with them or tends them! The air is also very heavy with dust, as no rain has fallen for a few days. The hum of motors is broken by the bells being rung by vendors selling food, dogs barking and kids playing. No one has thought about turning the lights on their transport yet, and many never will, however far they go. One positive is that the majority travel at a slow speed, but then an idiot in a truck or something shoots down so dangerously, as many vehicles are not road worthy. The pancake man has just driven past, a moto with his cooking bit on the side.
The 75km ride on Wed went much better than I anticipated, the terrain was more varied than I expected, so harder work, and slower, but I finished feeling fine, was able to cycle home once we got back to town, and then walk back for dinner in the evening. No stiffness the next day either, so the cycle to school was a doddle. It was a beautiful ride through villages, paddy fields and areas of banana trees, coconut and bettel nut palms. Many people were working in the paddies, washing clothes in the drainage ditches, washing themselves, on their bikes going to buy from local markets, kids walking/riding to school, fishing, dogs lying everywhere or chasing chickens. I loved passing/meeting the water buffalo/oxen carts carrying stooks of rice, sacks of rice of wood, the most upsetting bit was that my camera battery was flat and somehow I had missed to pack a spare - usually so diligent about that. Very early on I lost count of how many hallos I shouted, and how many were called to me. unfortunately, some "one dollar, lady!" There was only me and my guide, Som on the ride, so it was good that we could go at my pace, so I always felt in control of what was happening. We had three 10 min breaks to drink water and refuel if necessary, bananas were great and pineapple refreshing. Once at Beng Melea we atet fried rice and egg at a local stall. The two bikes were then dismantled and loaded onto a tuk tik for the return journey. Apparently, my time was very good. The ride back far bumpier than the cycle there.
My Sat ride this morning was more mountain biking than speed work, along six inches tracks between paddy ditches, through horrible sand and over deep, deep furrows and occasionally deep water, very tense, but I didn't fall off and only walked for a very short distance. Sadly, that was my last ride, as next Sat is the big 100km one!
Came down to a very cloudy sky and puddles from the overnight rain, but they have now cleared and a beautiful, cloudless, blue Cambodian sky and a temp of 33*. However, heavy storms have been forecast by BBC SE Asia weather. The rains should now have stopped and cooler temps arrived, but all part of the tipsy turvy world pattern of different weather patterns. Will go out later for brunch before cycling to GH to ride with their students to West Baray as a further practice for them before they cycle 30km in next Sat's Angkor Ride. Poor nutrition and lack of stamina preclude them from doing the 100km.
A couple of interesting things I heard last week: Dani acquired two pups whilst I was here last year, but the dog vanished and she still has the b****. She believed as they were siblings the b**** couldn't/wouldn't become pregnant! When Choi went that was no longer a problem. On my return she told me that Chay had already had a litter of pups, then the other day she announced she was in pup again. Then she told us how cross she was because she had been giving it a tablet every day. We enquired further to be told that she had bought the human contraceptive pill from a Khmer chemist and given it Ito the dog every day and was absolutely aghast that it hadn't worked. We were shocked, and tried to explain differences between us and dogs in our biological make up etc, but she couldn't see what would work for one wouldn't work for the other. Alan has pro,used her that if a vet appears here he will pay for it to be spayed. The worrying thing is if locals hear the story they won't believe that it is any good for them either. It's use is very much in its infancy here, and is more successful when implanted rather than taken orally. In another discussion about rabies, a dog will be cured if you cut off its ear!
Yesterday we went to visit Loung, Kimsoueng and Bunchay, it was great to see how much he had grown and changed in the month since my last visit. He is now wearing a necklace made of two pieces of narrow cotton cloth interspersed with pieces of wood, this is because a few weeks ago he was unwell, so they went to visit a traditional healer, was given a special medicine and the necklace to wear. As a result his health improved and he cries a little less. It is still very difficult for the people to move away from the traditional methods, even though some look like abuse. On my cycle the other day I saw a girl of about 12 yrs attached to a drip dispensing a vivid lime green liquid - none of the medical people who are here could imagine what it was. The IV bag was attached to a roof beam, so she couldn't move and she was sitting on a hard wooden plank unable to lie down or get comfortable in the tremendous heat. She looked ill and I felt so sorry for her.
Khmers are now well into the wedding season, this is because they will have harvested some rice, so will have some to eat and will possibly have raised money by selling some. Last Sunday, I merrily turned into a town street on my bike, only to find I was entering a tent with the wedding in full flow, a hasty braking and turning of the handlebars saved my embarrassment, but probably I would have been made very welcome! Also cycling back in the dusk, torrential rain, thunder and lightning along the river road I hit a traffic jam, again it was because a wedding tent had been erected three quarters the way across it. One day, an out of control vehicle will plough straight through. Along one of my favourite red roads to school on Thurs and Fri were two weddings, the chanting and loud music from each competing, unfortunately both start at dusk and continue to dawn, so there is no peace for the neighbours, and here sound travels far. Often a wedding is near to a funeral, so their different music and chants compete.
We have three days of holiday this week as Tues, Wed and Thursday are Bon Om Thook or the water festival when Khmers celebrate the end of the rainy season and the reversal of flow of the Tonle Sap and Mekong. Unfortunately, due to the king's death no celebrations will be happening. Also this week is a Photographic Experience so different things will be happening and worth seeing, so today I must go and find a programme of events. I will spend my time relaxing and cycling, mixed with a bit of last minute shopping, but that is easier said than done, as all the markets sell exactly the same trash at vastly inflated prices. None of the vendors can understand why they can't sell their wares, so do become very whiny and moans to the tourists. "Good price for you lady, first sell of the day/night!" However, I do admire how these illiterate women, on the whole, can swop so quickly between so many different languages. There is still a predominance of Asian tourists- Japanese, Chinese and Koreans with only a smattering of Europeans and everyone seems to know the true price of rubbish!
Apparently, Obama's visit to Phnom Penh caused mayhem, as the airport was closed for the day, along with universities, schools and the majority of roads. People I know who were there said it was impossible to go, see or do anything which was a shame for those on a limited visit time wise.
Time to out for brunch before collecting my mountain bike to cycle out to Grace House. Thanks for the sponsorship, it will make me pedal harder and faster and the money will be we'll spent at Grace House.
Enjoy the rest of your wet weekend and have a good week. I cannot envisage coming back to the greyness, cold and damp,but next week it will happen!
Take care, love to all, J x