Holy smokes!! I’m on a bus heading OUT of Cambodia! How did this happen considering it feels like I just arrived? My intention was to write many posts and update Facebook frequently. In reality… I’m still getting used to writing on a tablet, having unreliable internet, and being in classes all day. This has been challenging at times, especially for a gal that hasn’t been in school for 14 years. So, with that, let me tell you the story of Cambodia as I lived it.
Well, it took two days to get here. I stayed in a lovely hotel in Taiwan on the way. Once in Cambodia, I was greeted by a guy (I call him Bob Marley because he was wearing a B.M. t-shirt and didn’t speak English). The first thing he did was walk me through the airport parking lot and across the street to his tuk-tuk. The street was very busy so we weaved through and the vehicles went around us like a school of fish. Welcome to Cambodia! We hopped into the tuk-tuk and were ourselves weaving around the crowded streets to make our way to my new home, the Marady Hotel. For those of you who do not know, I am taking an intensive TESOL course that starts in Phnom Penh and ends in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Our hotel was a bit far out and honestly did not look too inviting to explore the streets. I did not see any tourist shops, restaurants or even a mall. I kept thinking, ‘what did I get myself into?’ I was also feeling quite lost without my better half, Paul a/k/a Patty.
My room was OK and incredibly sparse. I was happy to have air con and TV. Anyways, it was a good thing that I knew there were other students here so later when I got hungry, I headed downstairs to see if I could meet someone. As it turned out, I met about 5 of them and we headed to the only place I knew….the river front. My new classmates seem really nice. I have 9 of them and 8 of them are under the age of 25. After two weeks (now), we are going to different places; Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and some are staying in Cambodia.
The day after I arrived in Cambodia, the school organized a city tour which was great. We went to the palace, a famous pagoda and the riverfront. That evening the school organized a welcome dinner so we could meet our teachers and find out the schedule for the next two weeks. We learned that we have three different teachers and we will be in class from 9 am to 5:30 or 6:30 pm every day. Some days we will stay at the hotel and have classes and some days they will take us to the University to have classes. Everyday we will have homework which will include mini teachings of what we learned the day before. Our classes are intense. I’m still not entirely sure that English really turns me on but I do like the idea of doing fun activities and teaching folks to speak English.
Most evenings I did my homework, ate dinner, Skyped with Paul, did laundry and went to bed just to do it all over again. I do have to say, I really liked my classes and I think most of it was the interactions I had with the teachers and classmates. Let’s just say we had a lot of good laughs throughout the day. I loved going to the University because there were great coffee shops and restaurants within walking distance. Heck, we could even walk to the riverfront, which had plenty of excitement of it’s own.
Our first weekend was fun. We piled into a van and headed to Siem Reap. It was a miserable ride on horrible roads. Probably not even that far but it took us 8 hours to get there. We were pooped from the ride. We stopped by a pizza place; which was great after the long ride. There was even happy pizza (pizza laced with marijuana–take note Seattle). I did not partake but I hear it really didn’t have much of an effect. Anyways, the rest of the weekend was about Angkor Wat but since I’ve been there before, I decided to do the sunrise there and then kick around town.
I started out at the Peace Cafe where I took a cooking class. It was lovely; only two of us…me and a gal from Lithuania. We made tasty spring rolls, papaya salad and my personal favorite…amok. We sat for hours afterwards eating our lovely meal and chatting in the lush garden. Then she showed me a craft-making village, which was pretty cool, and I walked around for the rest of the afternoon. In the evening we planned to meet up to do a monk chat but it started pouring rain so it was cancelled. We had a great time walking around in the warm rain checking out the town. Later I met up with my classmates and started to feel ill. I ended up vomiting for a couple of hours. So much for my new cooking skills. And so much for the rest of the weekend.
Our next weekend, the school took us out to Sihanoukville; the beach. We were very excited to go out to the beach. We even had a three day weekend. We got to our guesthouse and it was a dump and very far from the beach. We ended up getting tuk tuks to Serendipity Beach and found a very gritty place filled with unsavoury guys who seemed to prey on cute little chicks from out of town. Not my scene at all. It was interesting but I headed home after dinner and went to bed.
On the way home we went to a travel agency to see about a boat tour the next day and I was so surprised to be handed a brochure of the boat Paul and I went on and there was a picture of us in the brochure. I’m pretty sure we didn’t know that we were famous nor were we given royalties for our likenesses. Welcome to Cambodia. Anyways, the group decided they were going to do a booze cruise. I wasn’t too hip on the idea but I was even less hip to spend the day by myself paying for expensive tuk tuks around the city. So, I went and it turned out great!!! No one got crazy and we all had a great time. We snorkelled, we had a great buffet lunch and we spent three hours on Koh Rong; which is very chill. In the end, the weather was great until it started pouring and the day was fun. That evening the group wanted to go to the beach that Paul and I stayed called Otres Beach and it was amazing. Tons of restaurants and guesthouses with a chill vibe. We got a $5 barbecue on the beach with lovely tropical drinks. My kind of place. I was so happy we went back there. The minute we got home it started pouring down rain and hasn’t stopped. Welcome to the rainy season.
We are now heading to Vietnam. We have our visas (arranged by our school), the bus conductor has our passports and I am happily sitting with no one next to me. I’m with two classmates and we are the only Westerners on the bus. The school has given us detailed instructions on what to do and where to go and if all goes as planned, a very nice woman named Hein will be waiting for us in Saigon in about 6 hours. But first we must make it over the border.
The next two weeks of school will consist of lesson planning, teaching real students and learning Vietnamese words and culture. Should be more relaxed. I’m totally looking forward to this. Hope you are enjoying your summer as much as I am. Until next time.