Saturday, 29 December 2012

Wandering in the 'Kingdom of Wonder' #3

My first two days in Cambodia have been a complete sensory overload, and quite overwhelming. The sights, sounds, tastes, smells and textures make every moment one to remember. 32 degree heat greeted us as we walked off the plane and across the tarmac into the Siem Reap terminal, where visa application required you to hand over your passport to have it completely disappear as it is passed down a line of blue-shirted officials who each have to check or stamp or sign something and then you sigh with relief when your name is called out at the other end and you have your passport safely within your possession once again! The first rule of travel: never let your passport out of sight!
We then packed all 11 of us plus our luggage into a minivan, in which people were seated 2 to a seat, on the floor and perched on an esky for the trip to town and our hotel. Road rules here act more as guidelines and it seems to be a free for all system as you weave between people, dogs, scooters, motorcycles, bicycles, tuk tuks, cars and buses. Cutting corners is recommended and street signs are completely disregarded. If I thought being in a car was harrowing, having to cross the road was terrifying! Thankfully there is safety in numbers as we simply launch ourselves into the middle of the mayhem and somehow everything on the road simply swerves around. My nose has been in a first world country for too long and at first I was assaulted by new and pungent odours, however you very quickly become accustomed to the smell of rotting fish, sweat, rubbish, fumes, fruit and dust. The market places are a fluttering rainbow of silk scarves and clothing, with intermittent stalls of silver, carvings and other products (the silk scarves have me mesmerised- I haven't purchased any yet though as I am waiting until I have deposited my 15 kilograms of books for the school library when we get there). I have had my feet eaten by fish in a traditional foot cleansing/massage, which was more torturous than pleasurable as my feet are extremely ticklish! I have eaten delicious Cambodian food (very easy to be vegetarian here as there are lots of vibrantly coloured vegetables to eat in a range of sauces and concoctions).
On our second day, we visited Angkor Wat and two other ancient temples and the biggest challenge of the day was keeping enough sunscreen on (as it kept melting off), ensuring we reapplied mozzie repellant often enough and remaining hydrated. By the end of the day I felt as though I was caked in sunscreen and aeroguard mixed with layers of sweat and a shower was a welcome relief. The temples themselves were magnificent, but words simply cannot do justice to them. I feel like I have so much to write about after only a couple of days, however I have rambled enough for one post, more to come next time I have Internet!

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Wandering in the 'Kingdom of Wonder' #2

Finally flying, dinner in Darwin and slumber in Singapore

Day one was an exhausting day of airports and plane seats. After a few hours in Brisbane airport we were finally off to Singapore via Darwin. On both legs of the journey the person behind me had no awareness of how flimsy the seats are and constantly kneed and prodded me in the back! Combine that with vigorous coughing to my left , a rather disturbing '70s cop show on the screen in front of me and some loud whiners a few rows back and I was very glad to land! Darwin airport is quite, simplistic, in its facilities, but I found a cafe that made lovely Chai lattes and a nice sandwich for dinner.
Singapore airport on the other hand has lush gardens, vibrant purple orchids and vast amounts of space (and the baggage trolleys are free!)
Our hotel is quite grand and I am sharing a room on the tops floor with a girl from the team, we have quite a spectacular view over the city and I appreciated a comfortable bed and pillows after a hot shower. We have been forewarned that this is the peak of our accommodation and it is downhill from here- bring on the adventure! Another day of flying today- tonight we will be in Cambodia!

Monday, 24 December 2012

Wandering in the 'Kingdom of Wonder' #1

Cambodia is known as the 'Kingdom of Wonder' (a phrase that I'm sure can be interpreted in many ways!).

Before I head off, I have done some research, so to begin my blog posts of my trip, I have some fast facts about Cambodia.
1. Cambodia is the only country in the world to have a building on it's flag

2. Cambodians are the true masters of fresh spices (especially pepper-their pepper was once exported to France and exclusively used by the top chefs)

3. Sometimes eaten out of necessity, spiders can be served in Cambodia as a local delicacy
I shudder at the prospect and am glad I am vegetarian and so have a legitimate reason to not have to eat unidentifiable meat substances

4. Ankgor Wat literally means 'city temple' (referring to its size and grandeur)

I fully intend to write on my blog while I am away, however do not expect pictures, as I may not have much internet access. I am looking forward to adding to my collection of scarves whilst I am in a country that is known for its silk and textiles as well as learning about the history and culture of a country I really know very little about.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Making Up for Lost Time

My poor blog has been left sadly unattended for so long that I am attempting to make amends by writing two posts in one day!

School holidays are a wonderful invention as a sanity saver for poor teachers (holidays were not made for students, they were made for teachers and I defy you to find any teacher who will not agree with that!).

Now that school has finished for the year, I have been able to start preparing for my next trip away (which I leave for in 5 days). Those of you who have been following my blog for a while may recall a photo somewhat similar to this one about a year ago, when I set of for my northern hemisphere jaunt (if you are new to my blog, look back at my posts from December last year).

I have invested in extra-tough (and very pink) padlocks for my bags and have a few spare padlocks as well as the ever-reliable cable ties (zip-ties) packed away for the inevitable moment when my locks get broken open by over-eager immigration officials (it happens to me every time I travel, even though I buy the proper locks that you are recommended to have because security officials can open them with a skeleton key).

I've also been testing out my camera, practising for playing the tourist again

And of course, it is nearly Christmas, so I've been getting into the spirit of things with some baking
(I think my gingerbread house is a little more architecturally sound than the one I attempted last year!)

Christmas decorating is not complete without just a few bows

And to wrap things up, I unwrapped an early Christmas gift yesterday from a family who are very special to me. Aren't the vibrant colours beautiful?

If I thought I was busy in May.....

If I thought the middle of the year was busy, I had no idea what the end of a school year was like as a teacher!! The last few weeks of school left me with a pile of fossilised mush for a brain, piles of paperwork that would compete with the highest of termite mounds and so much stuff in my room that it became an obstacle course just to crawl into bed (after kicking off more piles of very important paperwork/resources/general parephenalia). However, I am now rewarded with the great satisfaction of being able to say that I have survived my first year of teaching! (They say it gets easier from here on in-all I can say is, it better not be this hard again!)

My secret santa gift on the last day of school was from a colleague who obviously knows me very well-it was a copy of a book I have been wanting for a long time and is providing me with a bit of light holiday reading:

The book is based on the premise that punctuation 'really does matter, even if it is only occasionally a matter of life and death'(sounds perfect for an English teacher).
The blurb on the back of the book reads:
'A panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air. "Why?" asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.
"I'm a panda," he said, at the door. "Look it up."
The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation.
'Panda: Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.' (Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots and Leaves)