I hope this will be an interesting story of a public school teacher, some might say past his prime, looking to change it up big time. I have a one year position at the East West International School in Phnom Penh teaching science. I will know more soon but this school has a mission to educate Cambodian students to be the leaders of their country.
The year is coming to an end and it is all going too fast. A lot of the teachers at East-West are moving on so the last couple of weekends have been full of doing things together that we talked about but never seemed to get to, like going to the Elephant Bar and the Sun Set Bungalows on the Mekong. And then there was the end of year concert and of course more rides across the river. Also one more tennis afternoon and Vietnam Cambodian Friendship Park for aerobic dancing. Next week is the end of the year dinner at school and on Friday nite renting a boat for an evening on the Tonle Sap River. All the while I continue to make untold (don't tell the IRS) and uncounted millions. Nice work if you can get it.
Me and Surim
Picture after the concert
Jackie Kennedy came to Cambodia in the early 60s and went to Angkor Wat and pointed out its beauty to the world but also how it was neglected and riddled with bullet holes and priceless pieces were being stolen. While she was in here she went to the Elephant Bar, the most exclusive watering hole in the most expensive hotel in Phnom Penh, and so that is where we ended up one night. They named a drink after her, the Femfatal, not exactly sure why, but we all saw her autographed picture on the wall and played pool and generally acted like we were out of our element. More to my liking was the end of the year concert. Each class does an act and they were really fun to watch. All the students wear uniforms to school (I would recommend it) but on this night they were all dressed up and looked great. Lots of picture taking after the show. I got a lot of compliments too because I bought a new shirt and wore a tie. I actually heard one kid say that I looked like the old double zero seven (obiouvsly they dont know Sean Connery's name ) (or did he say he looks like an old big zero?)). Hey, we all hear what we what to hear, right?
Me and Bunleng on the Mekong
Riding off road
Even ghost need shelter from the storm
I know I am probably boring you to death with my rides across the river but I am going to have to do it again. I rent a bike, take my life into my hands riding down to the ferry, 500 reil ($.25) buys a ticket and then in ten minutes I am in the third world. I've gone with maybe six different people and sometimes by myself, why no one wants to come back with me I wonder, too hot : I love it. Ten minutes of riding and the 21st century is left behind. A student of mine, Bunleng, saw me riding one day and asked on Monday where I was going so I told him. Ever since he has been hinting that he would like to go too. So last week I invited him to come. He invited a friend and off we went. They both had really cool mountain bikes and mine was like the wicked witches'with the basked on the front, well they wanted to go off road and so we followed a road that lead away from the river and into the fields. Mango groves, sugar cane, corn, papaya, sweet grass, rice all laid out in neat grids, The road became just a moto/bike trail.. We passed an old shack with some horses teathered outside and the man inside yelled to us. As we moved on I asked Bunleng what he said "Come in for lunch". I thought for sure he would have said "I'm calling the cops" or "Get off my property". After about an hour Bunleng pulls out his smart phone and goes to the GPS to see where we are.... lasers in the jungle, right. Well we managed to find our way back to the SMango resort for lunch and then got caught in a big thunderstorm on the way back to the ferry. They were riding ahead and ducked through a gate and when I arrived they were under the tin roof overhang of an old woman's house. We were all wet and muddy but she invited us in so we sat at the top the stairs out of the rain, so glad Bunleng and his friend were there to talk with her. I noticed through the steps these big eyes stairing up at me, two little kids were under the house, I made my move to scare them and they went screaming off to there mother who was under there too. I asked Bunleng to tell them I was only fooling, but he said they were scared because they thought I was a ghost. Well pretty soon those big eyes were peering up again trying to figure out if I was the good ghost of the west or bad ghost of the east.
Aerobic dancing in the park
Phnom Penh does not have a lot of green space but there are parks and my favorite is the Vietnamese Cambodian Friendship Park. During the day it is generally deserted because it is so open and hot but it comes alive in the late aftennon and night. It just fills up with people and there are soccer games and lots of families and then aerobic dancing. For 1000 reil you can join a group and try to keep in step. The leader wears a head set and counts off time over the music which is incredibly loud. Really fun to watch and join in. Cambodians love to dance and sing and wear bright clothing. So strange that the Khmer Rouge made everyone wear black pajamas and singing and dancing was banned. As it gets dark the fountains light up and it is really pretty.
Nightime fountains in the park
I really gotten to like Phnom Penh. I've said and thought many times that it is a nice place to live but I wouldn't want to visit here. Then I wonder how did I come to live here. Of all the places in the world I never thought I would end up in Cambodia. Now that my year's paid vacation is coming to an end (have I mentioned that I make millions) I have no regrets only a true appreciation of this far away place.