Friday night I went to school and there had been a murder near the school. Allegedly there was a collision between a tuktuk driver and a four while drive, an argument, and the 4WD guy took out a gun and shot the tuktuk driver dead. One of the other teachers had to excuse a student from class because she had witnessed the incident and was too upset to be inclass. On Saturday night I went to the only English speaking cinema in town: Flicks on Street 95. The film was american. The plot was an amlagamaton of Star Wars IV, Matrix, and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Some young kid is the saviour of the world but doesnt really want to has to learn to control all elements: earth fire water and air so e can thwart the evil fire benders who intent on taking over the world… or something.
I took some of my stuff to UPS to ship back home. It cost $145
Tonight a motor bike sidewiped me. The only smashed my basket. They drove on.
Today (Tuesday) I’m having another tage of the root canal surgery done, then I’ll probably go to see the Royal Palace.
I was cycling past a market near my hotel when I saw a woman, lying on the side of the road, feet pointed out to the roadway, head resting on the curb.
It was an obvious position someone would be dragged into if they collased in trafic and were draged them to the side of the road. She had black curly hair and filthy clothes. I couldnt see any blood on her.
Other western teachers have warned me, as do various websites never to become involved in traffic accidents or altercations here in Cambodia.
If you call an ambulance or get involved, people will say its your fault, you caused it, to get money out of the rich westerner.
This is the third time I have seen someone on the road or side of the road like this.
I went back to the hotel and spoke to one of the staff.
He said if I found the police and told them they would take up two or three hours of my time. And, he said, probably the woman is a drug user and if she has no money for drugs
“she loses her power and lies down like this”.
I got on my bike and rode back to where the woman was. She was now sitting up, staring into space, sonmetimes looking around. I left. In Australia I would have called an ambulance. How is this country changing my beahaviour?
I discovered the other day street 178 goes all the way from Monivong Boulevard (a very major road near where I live) to Sisowath Quay (the water front area) in a straight line with no interruptions for temples palaces or museums. So I hopped on my bike tonight and headed down to a cafe near the waterfront. (For those watching the photos, the Royal Palace is opposite the waterfront
I stopped outside a house – actually 4 houses – that had stone buddas on display outside: (too heavy to steal.) The adult daughter of the business owner –NIN- spoke quite good English and told me they are all hand carved using granite or marble. This is truly astounding, and I guess the father has devoted his life to it. She told me I could come back and take some photos if I wanted to.
She also explained something that’s puzzled me about Cambodian addresses. Many of them have Eo after the house number for no apparent reason. Some authority somewhere can designate houses being 42A, 42B, 42C 42D, 42E etc. The small o refers to the fact that the addressee lives on the ground floor.
The man next door to NIN’s house had gotten his house numbered 42.8, since 2 4 and 8 are lucky numbers
I will have to look more closely: I’ve seen many Es but not many A B C or Ds. In the meantime photos of Buddhas will follow in a day or two.
If you’ve read my other posts about the migrating garbage piles , the street kid recyclers who work the rubbish tips at night etc., it is reminiscent of a Leonard Cohen Lyric about “she shows you where to look among the seaweed and the flowers.
We’ve just had a three a holiday here – Pchum ben – on Thursday Friday and Saturday – where the Cambodians go back to their villages and pray for their ancestors. A lot of Phnom Penh was empty: or emptier than I’ve seen it since I’ve been here. People get together, visit pagodas and pray for their ancestors. Some pray for people who died without decedents and therefore don’t have anyone to pray for them. I went and looked at some pagodas. Nice architecture. During this I lost a credit card (it was eaten by an ATM) and broke a tooth, needing root canal treatment. Fortunately I could get a dentist to look at it on Saturday and do the root canal work on Monday. The rest will be done over the next few days.
I was short of cash when the credit card ate my machine so I had to get someone in Australia to send me some money via Western Union, and try to get some “wired” (don’t you love that expression?) to my Cambodian account by my bank in Australia.
The rainy season hit last night. It started bucketing down late into the afternoon with a vengeance. Very soon the streets were flooded and the drainage system couldn’t cope. Instead of riding my bicycle to uni, I took a tuktuk. The tuktuk driver got lost, the motorbike stalled and I had to walk the last few blocks on my own. When I got there none of the students had turned up (because of the rain, I guess.) They sell these little plastic raincoats for 50 cents here. I had a purple one over the top of a blue one. If you saw it in the movie it would have been funny.
I was walking up Monivong Avenue today, looking for a computer shop that would print off the internet. It’s surprising how many places will print and copy but aren’t connected to the internet. Monivong’s a wide street, 3 lanes each way, with concrete dividers up the middle to stop Cambodians enjoying their national sport of driving on the wrong side of the road.
On the road was a guy, with only pants on. No shirt, no motor bike helmet. He was half sitting, half slumped, slumped forward to his left, so far that this head touched the road. His face was turned to his right (i.e. to his knees). It appeared to me that, had he vomited, he could have asphyxiated. At the same time I didn’t know if moving him could aggravate a spinal injury. Why did I never take one of those first aid courses where they teach you this stuff? I took his pulse and he had one. I tried to find someone who understood any English. “He’s drunk” said one woman bystander. “He so drunk he falls off his friend’s motor bike.”
“Can you call an ambulance?”
She waves her hand dismissively. “No need. His friend pay for tuk tuk to take him to his friend’s office.”
By the time I turned back to look at the guy again, he was flat on his back. Not the position you want to be in if you do vomit. I looked around. Two cops were about twenty feet away. One with – I think – a rifle over his back. They didn’t seemed too concerned.
After a while a trishaw- that’s a three wheled thing where one guys wheels the carriage from behind, using just leg power- appeared. Two other people began to lift him into the trishaw. The tri-shaw pedals off. The onlookers disperse. The cops probably didn’t even take notes.
I wonder what would happen to me if I were hit by a motorbike?
My First Almost-Collision + the Trash Mountain is Moving.
It may be hard to tell from these photos, because I have to take them at night and can’t get a really wide shot, but this trash mountain is slowly moving out into the main street as the recycle collectors appear to scavenge its rear end and the residents put more stuff on the front end. Eventually the council garbage men will have to collect it or move it. Given the way half the population think the trafic lights are meant to other people, I’ve learning to look over my shoulder in five different directions at once. Nevertheless, today the inevitble happened. A motorbike ran into my bicyce: fortunately they hit my front tyre forward of the axil, so I didn’t get knocked off. However, in viewof the number of children who play on the side of the street only 10-12 feet form bicycles and motor bikes, I have learned the Cambodian word for ‘watchout’: it’s ‘pror-yat!’: Ah well… into every life a little rain must fall. Tomorrow will be a wasted day filling in forms.
For the first time tonight I did what I’ve read others advocate. When I was approached by a child beggar while I was eating dinner, instead of giving him a money, I bought a him a take-away noodle pack (for the glorious amount of 75 cents.) At least there’s a fair chance he’ll get to eat the food, and it won’t go to an alcoholic parent, which I’m told is what often happens when you give money to kids.
I just added a review of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s autobiography to one of my book review pages. She describes growing up Muslim in Ethiopia, rejecting Islam and becoming a refugee and eventually a member of parliament of Holland. She had to leave Holland after a film producer she worked with was killed. It’s a fascinating read. If anyone wants to understand the North African and second generation Muslim word in Europe, this book is a “must read.”
I’ve been wondering why this so-called rainy season hadn’t been so rainy, and why I’d only needed a rain coat two or three times. Tonight nature decided to teach me a lesson: never assume anything. I was teaching an English class at my university in Phnom Penn (I got a paying part-time job to support the volunteering.) and earlier in the night thought how much I’d saved by buying a $40 bicycle. At $4 a day in tuk tuk money, the bicycle had paid for itself in two weeks. Since it had really only rained for an hour or so each afternoon, and most of the rain occurred overnight, I hadn’t really been much affected by this so-called “rainy season”.
At about 6.30 I noticed it was raining early tonight, and shut barred windows on our seventh floor classroom. (Why do they need bars on the seventh floor? Who knows. And what happens when there’s a fire and people want to jump out the window? Who knows.) By the time class ended at 7, I went down to the basement to collect my bicycle, and when I emerged, I didn’t like what I saw. The drains weren’t coping and in places the water was up to mid calf height.
The streets of Phnom Penh are littered with uncollected trash. Most of these piles only grow to a couple of feet high, before the recycle scavengers or the municipal trash collection deals with them, but residents of some streets – not all, I stress – like to dump their stuff in side streets, near the edge an intersection with a bigger roadway, so that traffic sometimes has to drive around the rubbish mound when entering or leaving the side streets. This is fine if you’re in a car (maybe five precent of the vehicle population here) or a motorcycle (eighty to ninety per cent) but if you’re on a bicycle, you have a problem. Well, two problems, realy: one, you’re mid calf deep in water, and two, all that filth and trash and it’s associated E-coli is now part of the water you’re wading through, and three, you can’t see where the trash piles are.
If I’d had my wits about me I’d have taken off my shoes and socks, rolled up my trouser cuffs as far as a I could, and just accepted I was going to get wet feet and lower legs for the 20 minutes it takes me to get home. I instead I did the stupid thing and thought: “well it won’t be like this all the way home, will it?” A large part of it was. So it’s another trip to the cleaners for one pair of pants. . From now on I ‘m taking my leather sandals with me.