"The world is a book, & those who do not travel read only one page" St. Augustine

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page" St. Augustine

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


(Tuesday) When we got to the airport, we waited in a long line quite sometime. Finally, we reached the check-in counter just to be informed that we could not check into our flight yet. That gave us a good laugh. We went upstairs to the cafeteria split a beer and ordered some lunch. I would like to point out that I went to the airport wearing three different shades of green: dark green linen pants, bright green cotton shirt and neon green watch! Has my fashion sense diminished? Other things I've done in Southeast Asia that I would never do include wearing flip flops with socks and my hair in pigtails. I enjoyed every minute of these. The airport was so small in Krabi so we passed the time by using the Internet. I Skyped with Stephanie, and it was so nice to talk to her even if I was a bit out of it. I also talked to my friend from elementary school, Brian (this is your shout out). We caught up on our lives briefly. He is now living in LA which gives me one more reason to go visit this summer! He offered that I could make him dinner. How nice :) I'll take any opportunity to test out my knew cooking skills! I have longed to cook this entire trip.
We were finally able to check-in; as we were waiting for our flight, it began pouring rain. After a few minutes, the rain had faded and we were able to board. We flew from Krabi to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. A full circle was completed by the time we got stamped in, grabbed our luggage, check-in, got stamped out and then boarded. I am pretty sure we got onto the same plane. From KL we flew to Singapore.
I immediately fell in love with the city. Perhaps it was the Westernization, but it was beautiful. There were proper highways and English street signs. Driving up at night, I could see the Ferris wheel along the water and a gorgeous skyline. There were parks and shopping centers and a mix of old and new. I was in complete awe.
For the next few nights we'd be staying at the River City Inn. It was a new hostel that was very nice. They gave us a tour (it was only one floor) and pointed out the sink to brush our teeth. We were both hungry and tired after our day of traveling. I had been craving some spring rolls and Anastasia thought she remembered a place with good ones so we went there. Unfortunately, the food was terrible; at least it was cheap!
(Wednesday) Today we walked around China Town. It was filled with street vendors selling clothes, food, flowers, decorations, etc. It was a lively part of town. The architecture was old and rustic. It was so colorful and incredible. The buildings had a European flair to them as they were stacked one on top of the other. We ate at the outdoor cafeteria in the middle of China Town. In the center were picnic tables with a couple dozen windows selling food on the outskirts.
We knew that we were going to go to Altitude in the evening, and we were not allowed to wear flip flops. Therefore, we went to the mall to look for some wedges. I had no idea they were so difficult to find! Finally, we found some wedges, and I happened to buy a dress. We spent the rest of the evening getting ready. We did our hair and makeup. It felt so good to get ready, put on a beautiful dress and finish it off with wedges. I think I forgot how to wear heels. My foot slipped a couple of times.

We tried to catch a cab, but it was nearly impossible. The walk was only 10 minutes so we started to go to Altitude. When we got there, the rooftop was closed for a private party that would be ending soon. We opted for the sports bar just a couple floors below. There we ordered some wine and mushroom wedges. The harbor was in perfect view from our seats, and from the window we enjoyed the setting sun.

After our glass of wine, we made our way to the top. Altitude is the highest point in Singapore. We were able to catch the last of the sunset and enjoyed the skyline being lit up. We ordered some hummus, green curry dip and roasted eggplant and pumpkin dip. They were all incredible. When I went to order a glass of wine, this man approached me and asked if I was German. Never in my life have I been asked that. He invited us to drink with them. They ordered a couple bottles of wine, and we were able to enjoy the rest of the evening with our new friends. When we left it was only 10pm, but we were tired and lazy from the wine so we did not go out after!

(Thursday) I finally got to Skype with Vanessa today! I miss her so much. When I was done, I met back up with Anastasia, and we headed to the East Coast. It was a short cab ride. We rented some roller blades and cruised along the coast. I haven't worn roller bladed in ages, and I was shaky to start. I finally got my groove back. The sun was beautiful against the water as the smell of the ocean mixed with the gardens. It was a lovely afternoon. We ran into some guys from the navy who happened to like my dress. I would like to think it was because of the anchors that were on it. We skated along and saw a wake board park and watched some of the guys do tricks. I also hadn't eaten so we enjoyed some lunch and cool drinks while resting.
We stopped in Little India before returning to our hostel. The shops sold absolutely everything and anything. There was a market with beautiful clothes where I tried on different dress options for Imran's wedding! The clothing is so colorful and decorative. 

For dinner we went to an Irish Pub and then headed to Clarke Que which houses restaurants, bars and shops along the river. We stopped at The Elephant where a live band was playing. They were absolutely incredible. The band was a mix of different races, and the female vocalist was raw and raunchy. She could have easily done a Janis Joplin cover, but she did not want to fill my request. It was a great and mellow evening.
(Friday) We were planning on leaving for Malacca in the evening. I could not find a bus that had any availability still. I spent an hour trying to call various companies. Eventually, they opened more buses, and I was able to secure us two seats. Before then, I decided to walk around. I wanted to see some of the amazing architecture. It is so beautiful in Singapore. I love the old buildings mixed with the new. The contrast is so great. Singapore's architecture is so modern and advanced; I have never seen such creativity before.
I walked throughout the city center and saw some sculptures. There was one with red figures spiraling to create a pyramid. It represented the continuously evolving society of Singapore. Then I walked across the bridge to the War Memorial Park. I continued to Raffles Hotel. Orville had been talking about this hotel because he visited when he was in service. The hotel has been around since the late 1800s and is remarkably beautiful. I decided to have lunch in the garden. I ordered some dumplings and had to try the famous Singapore Sling.
I continued my journey to see some churches and then headed towards the Ferris wheel. I saw the outdoor venue and walked along the water. When I got to to the Marina Bay Sands hotel, I was in awe. There was a beautiful flower sculpture on the water. Then there was a huge mall with every designer imaginable. There was also an ice skating rink and a beautiful casino. I wanted to play some Blackjack, but the lowest table was S$25. My skills are not up to par for that yet! I continued onto the hotel and watched in amazement. It looks like there's a spaceship atop of the towers. On the roof is a pool, bar and garden. It's modern architecture at its finest!
I'm slightly obsessed with Singapore. The people are so friendly, and it is beautiful. There are some odd laws with big fines for things like chewing gum, peeing in a lift, not flushing the toilet and smoking on the street. Some broken laws can also lead to the death penalty by means of hanging. Although these laws seem a bit strict, the atmosphere is very relaxed. The city is extremely clean; trash cans are found everywhere with funny sings that read Feed Me, I'm Hungry or Lets Bin It! These are great steps that more cities should implement. The city is continuously growing and advancing. It has a small town feel and still manages to keep a traditional vibe. There is a great business district but not like one I've seen before. No one was rushing around checking their clocks or waiting for the Walk/Don't Walk sign. Instead, they were enjoying casual conversations and life. Pedestrians are good pedestrians and drivers are good drivers. They all stopped behind the lines and no one cut anyone off. There's probably a law against that too! The grad program I was looking at is half in New York and half in Singapore. I am that much more excited to apply :)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Ton Sai

(Friday) We all headed to the beach for a couple of group pictures. We did the famous Pacific Discovery jumping picture and a few others. We all tried to stack a pyramid and were pretty successful. We all hugged, laughed and cried one more time. It was a sad morning. I had to wave goodbye to seven of my friends as they boarded the longtail and headed back to Bangkok. The other half of us were extending our travels. We waited on the shore until the boat was out of site. The rest of us went back to the houses, made some lunch and packed our bags. We then got a boat to another beach just two minutes away called Ton Sai.
The beach was full of backpackers and rock climbers. The accommodations were cheaper which is why we switched beaches. We checked into a place that Hillary recommended. Although we went and saw the place yesterday, we were not comfortable. Isabel and I shared a room. There was a rotten display case with nothing on or in it. We moved it to the patio. The both of us knew that we could not sleep there comfortably. We decided to look at the place next door and upgrade. The first place was only 250 Baht while the other place was only 400 Baht. For reference, 300 Baht is $10. We thought the extra money was worth the move.
When the tide was low, we walked over to Railay so we could eat dinner at Mom's. We both knew what we wanted, and it happened to be the same thing. We decided to take a boat back to Ton Sai versus climbing over there in the dark.
(Saturday)We had agreed to meet at 9am at the end of the walkway to head over to Phra Nang. On our way, we were going to hike to the lookout and the lagoon. Isabel and I walked down at 9am and waited for Natalie and Anna. While we were waiting, Brent showed up and had to use an ATM which was on Railay so we told him we were heading in that direction shortly. Fifteen minutes passed and still no sign of the other girls. Isabel decided to go look for them, but shortly after she left, they came from the other side. It was after 9:30 before we started walking over. We climbed to Railay West. Brent decided he was going to join us but wanted to eat first.
We all sat down with him while he had breakfast. I went and found some coconut juice because I was feeling dehydrated. When it was time to pay, Brent had no small bills so he asked me to lend him some. All I had was a 100 so I gave that to him for his 60 Baht meal. He then put the change in his wallet without saying a word to me. (The next morning when I asked him for the 100 Baht he asked, "For what?" I told him with a bit of sternness, "For your breakfast yesterday?!") By the time we got to the lookout hike, it was nearly 11:15, and no one wanted to do it anymore. I hiked alone. It was steep and quite exhausting. I really enjoyed it though. I was proud of myself for doing it because of my last experience rock climbing in Chiang Mai. I saw the lagoon but decided not to climb all the way to it. It was more challenging, and I wanted to get back to the beach with my friends.
We all swam and played some beach ball. Anna and I were not so good at it. I think the highest we got was 19 and that was once! For lunch, we got Pad Thai from restaurant boats along the shore. Mine was okay. It would have been better if it wasn't overloaded with sprouts. I am not a huge fan of sprouts (NO BRUSSEL SPROUTS PLEASE! Inside joke w/ Erin and Vanessa as I tried to tell the guy at Jimmy John's I did not want brussel sprouts. They don't have brussel sprouts at Jimmy John's, but I was persistent). We met a Canadian living in Australia named Craig. Him and his friends were going to the full moon party later and invited us over for drinks first.
Some of us girls had dinner along the water at Ton Sai. I am not a fan of Ton Sai. It's a bunch of hippies and rock climbers neither of which I am. The whole beach constantly smelled like pot which I don't smoke either. Our waiter was really funny, and he spoke a bit of six or seven languages. He was also smoking a joint while taking our order. Interesting lifestyle. After dinner, we went over to Railay East and met up with Craig. There were nine or ten of us hanging out on the deck while some played the guitar and shared stories. Then we headed downstairs to The Last Bar (literally the last bar on the East side) and watched the fire show. These guys were incredible. Afterward, we danced our hearts out. It was such a fun evening. To top it off, we went swimming in the ocean. The tide was so low so the water was extremely shallow despite how far out we went.
(Sunday) Isabel had to wake me up this morning to go to breakfast. Anna and Natalie were leaving shortly after. We had breakfast along the beach, but my food never came. I didn't mind much considering I only ordered steamed rice. Then we walked them to the longtails and watched them leave. I don't like this. Why have I had to stand and wave goodbye to good friends? It's a shame. Isabel and I went back to nap since we didn't get in until the wee hours of the night (or morning). We decided to go eat and then try to get to the beach. We ate, and then it started pouring rain. The best way to spend the rest of the early evening was getting a massage. Hillary recommended this place that was only $10 for an hour body massage. Both of us decided on the coconut oil one and dozed off to the sound of the rain against the roof.
I felt much better after the massage. There was a bit of normalcy at that point. We met up with Anastasia and Luke for a drink and some Jenga. I hadn't played that game in ages. We were all exhausted so it was an early evening. Isabel and I had found a cockroach in our room earlier and knew we wouldn't sleep without checkout our room before bed. I moved every bit of furniture carefully. After about 20 minutes, the room was cleared. We tucked our mosquito nets tightly between the mattresses and went to sleep. I slept like a baby.
(Monday) The both of us were bored on Ton Sai. The beach was not that great in comparison. We were going to head back to Krabi today, but Anastasia could not get her money back for the last night so we decided to stay. I didn't mind because we wasted most of the morning. Wasted might be a bit harsh because we did do an hour and 45 minutes of yoga. It was really great, but it was nearly noon by the time it ended, and we had to check out by one. That would leave no time for anything else. The yoga was nice, but we thought it was free. The flyer had no price on it and no price was mentioned until the very end (naturally). We went to say thank you and she responded, "300 Baht." Right!
Isabel and I laid on the Ton Sai beach for a bit. It was mostly shells and rocks we laid on. The tide was too high to cross to the other side, and we were both feeling lazy. Then we decided to get another massage. It had began to rain again. After our hour, we went next door to eat. We both had green curry fried rice, mine without egg of course. Then we went back for another hour massage but just a back massage. After that, we met Anastasia for dinner. We all ordered the coconut curry. It was the perfect spiciness. It was the kind that makes your lips tingle with every bite. One bar was playing the second Bruno movie so we watched what was left of it. There were some humorous parts, but overall it's disgusting. Bed time!
(Tuesday) We woke up and ate breakfast. The last five of us headed back to Krabi. The longtail driver told us he couldn't go to the port we wanted because there were cops there. He told us this information after we paid. Another natural occurrence. When we got off the boat I had to say goodbye to one of my best friends. I didn't want to travel without her. I was so sad to leave Isabel, but it's comforting knowing I'll see her in June when I go to Nashville. Anastasia and I got into a cab and headed to the airport. Our next stop was Singapore!

Sunday, March 27, 2011


(Thursday) After waking up and eating breakfast, I decided to walk to a different beach. I went to Phra Nang which was voted National Geographic's Top 100 Beaches. While walking there, the tide was pretty low. I passed a place to hike that lead to a lookout point as well as a lagoon. With my big beach bag, there was no way I could do it, but I would try again another day. The beach was beautiful but crowded. Of course, it is a huge tourist destination. Boats came and dropped off loads of people for a given period of time. There were rock climbers, monkeys and a sanctuary in the rocks. The water was warm and deep enough to swim in almost immediately. There were also caves that I walked to and found a little cove. I stayed there for quite sometime. I passed the time reading Vonnegut's Timequake. It was a great book! I absolutely love his writing style. I found it funny that in his book he wrote his dislike of semicolons because I absolutely love them! I think they're a great alternative to commas and periods while he thinks they are useless.
A few weeks back, I read South of the Border, West of the Sun. I do not remember the author's name because I could not stand the book. It was so terrible and juvenile. I thought a fifth grader had written it. I also found it to be tasteless when talking about personal subjects such as sex.
In the late afternoon, I went back to the beach house, took a shower and then a nap. I opened a bottle of wine and relaxed. The wine was a gift from Luke as part of my Secret Buddha gift. It felt so nice to enjoy the taste of red wine on my lips. It had been a long time.
Tonight was our last night together. Hillary ordered dinner from none other than Mom's. We set up our kitchen in a buffet style, and we all ate together. One last group dinner after eight weeks of traveling together. It's amazing how many strong friendships have formed. We ate, lived, breathed, climbed, scuba dived, biked, swam, laughed, cried, built, learned and listened together 24/7 for the past two months. We started off by "hitting the ground running" and ended up with lasting memories and lifetime friends. I feel so blessed to have been in the company of these people. Each person has brought different strengths to the group and has helped us evolve. There are many people who have inspired me. Leaving them will be hard. Who will I share inside jokes with now? Who will say, "Love you Kha" when I go to bed?
We have all been there for each other so much. There were physical and mental obstacles that we each faced throughout this adventure. I faced many throughout the two months, and I would never have made it without the support system of these people who were once strangers. There was always encouragement, companionship and empathy for what we were each experiencing. It was incredible.
After our dinner, we played a trivia game. Hillary drew questions at random; the questions were about random facts we had learned along the trip. They included personal questions and facts. I was really happy when the question pulled was, "Who would you want to make you a birthday cake?" The answer was me :) I loved that! I love making my cakes too.
It was then time for Secret Buddha. At the beginning of our trip, we all drew names. The name we drew would be the person we bought or made a gift for. I happened to pick Isabel! You think shopping for someone who happened to be your closest friend on the trip and one you have a lot in common with would be easy, but it wasn't. I bought her first gift when we were in Luang Prabang. We had been at the night market, and she really liked this journal so I purchased it. She had been contemplating doing a meditation retreat post trip. However, she changed her mind. I had bought the journal for that purpose, but as I wrote in my letter plans change. She got accepted to go to Israel in June, so I wrote that she can use it for that trip. The cover may say Laos on it, but it's important to remember where you've been and where you're going. I also bought a wooden picture frame with silver elephants. Elephants are the symbol of Southeast Asia. I printed a picture of us together in Cambodia and placed it inside.
Luke was my Secret Buddha. Apparently, I am hard to shop for. I thought it was really cute that he asked the only other guy on the trip for help. He did well! The bottle of red wine was perfect for me. Everyone knows how much I love my red wine. I also received a beautiful scarf and some lanterns to hang in my new apartment. I haven't signed a lease yet, but I am looking!
After exchanging gifts, we went around sharing something about this trip. Isabel said she was hesitant to come at first. I went after her because I was so eager. Our actions getting on to the plane were exact opposite. I couldn't wait to get on and get out. I was running as I often do. If there's one thing I learned throughout this trip it's that there is no reason to run. I have so much to be thankful for. It made me appreciate everything I have back home especially my family and friends. I don't know what I was exactly ready to leave; perhaps it was the normalcy and repetition of everyday life. That eagerness to constantly be moving has faded. My passion for traveling has not. Lets not get confused here. I plan on continuing my travels in a less drastic measure. In 2010, I went on vacation an average of once a month. I couldn't sit still. In the past 12 months, I have been to 10 countries not including the 3 I'm about to go to. It's a bit excessive looking back on it now.
After many tears were shed (by myself included), we went to the beach. We partnered up and had paper lanterns. Isabel was my partner. After making a wish, we lit the wick at the bottom of the lantern and held on tight. Walking into the water, we grasped the lantern as the heat continued to grow. We released the lanterns and watched them rise into the dark sky. We danced and giggled with excitement. Seven lanterns went into the sky with 14 wishes made upon them. It was a beautiful moment and one I will always remember.
After this most of us went skinny dipping! We were alone on the beach, and it was dark. We cracked up at the mere thought of this. Who cares? We had spent everyday together for two months so why not enjoy a liberating moment?
I rinsed off and headed to the other house. Five of us sat in bed underneath a mosquito net with a bottle of Thailand rum and some white wine. Hillary, Sam, Madeleine, Isabel and I talked about life, love and everything in between. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day.

Friday, March 25, 2011


(Tuesday) We woke up early and headed to the airport. We flew from Bangkok to Krabi which is in Southern Thailand. To get to our final destination we took a couple of buses and then a longtail boat to Railay West. The beach was absolutely beautiful. There were limestone mountains surrounding us. When we got off the boat some guys tried to put our bags into a card and wheel them, but we all took our bags out because normally people try to scam you this way. Hillary let us know that they worked for the resort we were staying with, and they led the path to our beach houses.
We were split into two groups and two beautiful houses. I was in the house with seven other people and Madeleine was my roommate. I told her to go upstairs and get us a room. She grabbed the honeymoon suite :) The houses were stunning. Ours had four bedrooms and three bathrooms. There were two rooms downstairs and one bathroom. After washing our feet, we walked upstairs where a large deck connected the kitchen, a bathroom and bedroom. The deck had a bench along the entire edge with plenty of space. The kitchen was amazing. I wished I could have cook every meal! The kitchen led to a sitting area that was open and had a bench and pillows on the floor. This opened to the patio where a table and chairs were placed with fresh flowers. From the living area was a separate walkway that led to our room. There was a large bed, private bathroom and a private balcony. There was so much space. These vacation homes were relatively inexpensive to for accommodating eight guests. It was the perfect place to end a trip!
All of us had to get fitted for scuba diving tomorrow which took about 20 minutes. We went swimming and laid on the beach to watch the sunset. The tide went out, and we walked to Railay East for some dinner. Upon recommendation, we went to Mom's near the end of the walk. The path was dark to get there, but the food was worth it! I had tofu green curry. In fact, I ordered this from Mom's four times throughout our stay. Everyone was satisfied. After dinner, we made our way back to our houses and sat around chatting. Eventually we pulled our mosquito net over our bed and went to sleep.
(Wednesday)We woke up nice and early to enjoy some breakfast before getting on a boat. I had some hot tea and dipped my Nature Valley Roasted Almond Bar in it. Then we walked over to the scuba shop and filed into a couple of boats. The longtails took us to a big boat that we would enjoy the rest of the day on. There were a couple other small groups on the boat, but we were the majority.
My partner for the day was Noam! Yay! Since we weren't certified, we had one guide per two people. Our guide walked us through a flip book with rules and regulations. Naturally I had a million questions to ask him. He was patient with me :) I was very nervous but excited. I kept thinking, "What if I don't breathe?"Which isn't a logical question because why would I stop breathing? He just kept emphasizing the importance to continuously breathe while underwater to prevent lung damage. Note to self:Don't stop breathing. Check.
We ate a light breakfast on the boat and stocked up on electrolytes and water. Then we tested our gear. We had about an hour and a half to get to Phi Phi Islands. The boat ride was amazing. The limestone cliffs were so beautiful and enticing. I couldn't stop taking pictures. When we got to Phi Phi, the water was crystal clear. I was very happy. We went downstairs and put on our wetsuits (I swear mine was a kids size which made me feel like I was choking).
He put on our weight belts for us and helped us strap into our jackets. We practiced breathing in the oxygen and proceeded to put on our flippers and goggles. When we were ready to go he asked us to stand up in order to lift our tanks from their holders. All I could say was, "I am standing! I am standing!"My short little self could not get the oxygen tank out so he had to climb up and help me. Anyway, we took a couple of steps and jumped into the water.
We were required to do skills tests before diving. Once in the water, our guide took us down individually. We had to acclimate our bodies by plugging our noses and breathing every meter or so. Then we had to practice what to do if our mouthpieces fell. Another skill learned was how to clear our masks of water without having to swim out. I'm so glad I learned this for future snorkeling adventures!
Our dive was amazing. We swam around the beautiful coral. There were schools of fish everywhere. We saw giant turtles too! On our second dive, the guide told me to look behind and there was one within touching distance. It was a great feeling. The giant coral was so precious, and I was extra cautious not to knock my fins into anything. The idea of that happening scared me so I tended to swim a bit higher. Sometimes the guide would have to pull my fin and bring me back because I kept floating to the top.
On the second dive I felt extremely nauseous. I think it was from eating and then diving shortly after. I still did the entire dive. Both of them were 50 minute dives,and we went about 12 meters deep. It was crazy being able to glide across the water and swim with the fish. I absolutely loved scuba diving.
We had a great lunch in between dives and then delicious fruit after the second. Those of us that were on the boat ate almost all the pineapple and got extremely giddy with it. We came up with things to tell the others as to why there was no pineapple left. Then we spent our spare time just soaking up the sun and jumping in the water.
We got back to the beach houses around 5pm. After a shower and change of clothes, we watched the sunset. This one was beautiful. I was kind of grumpy and almost missed it because I was so hungry! The sky was different hues of pink against the limestone and ocean. We went to Mom's again for dinner and ordered the same thing. Then it was time for bed. I was exhausted!!!

Saturday, March 19, 2011


(Friday) Since I lost my phone yesterday, I had no clock. We were supposed to be ready by 5:30 in the morning today in order to catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat. When I got back last night (at 9:20pm) Brent was already sleeping. I assumed he had set an alarm and relied on that to wake me up. I hardly slept though. I tossed and turned until my stomach could no longer bare the pain and ended up throwing up five times. I spent most of my evening on the bathroom floor. I'm not sure what caused it; sometimes my malaria pills can make me nauseous which is why I take them with a full meal. I desperately wanted to be at home. I hated being alone and sick in the bathroom trying not to wake my roommate up. Eventually, I crawled back into bed and rolled into a ball.
At 5:30 in the morning, I woke up to a pounding at our door. Not only had we overslept, but no alarm was ever set. He didn't even know what time we were supposed to be ready! We rushed out of the room so fast that I left with only one contact in. I have contacts that I can wear 24/7 so I did not know one of them had fallen out in my sleep. It was interesting being half blind.
The sunrise was gorgeous. We sat by the pond watching the color of the sky transform. The reflection was also beautiful. We continued to walk through the temple before getting in our tuk tuks and going to Ta Prohm. This was my favorite temple! Part of Tomb Raider was filmed here. The temple has been overtaken by the jungle. It's absolutely breathtaking!! There are trees growing through the building. Some of it has been naturally destroyed, but the destruction is unique. The roots twist and turn through different windows and cracks. The stones are covered in moss and are enchanting.
We went back to our hotel and enjoyed some breakfast. The group went to the Angkor Hospital for Children, but I decided to stay behind. I was completely drained. I can hardly handle hospitals when I am healthy let alone when I have been up all night puking. I took a long nap before Natalie and I went back to the dock. She left a bag of laundry there, and I thought I would ask about my cell phone.
When we got to the dock our boat was still there. The driver said he did not find anything. I offered him money and also said he could keep the phone if I could have my Sim card. He said he didn't have it. The laundry was also not found. What can we do? The both of us laughed about the situation as our tuk tuk driver told us that if you leave something it is sure to be stolen. Of course, we were the ones who left them so it's our fault anyways. I wasn't that upset. In fact, I was more worried that I had borrowed Sam's headphones which were still attached to my phone. My cellphone is normally glued to my hand, so the next two months will be a learning experience. So far it is nice not having a phone. I find myself relying on it for comfort more often than not. I do find it funny that I lost my Blackberry and my father purchased an iPhone. He was happy we could Skype whenever we wanted because he has an iPhone now. Must be nice ;)
Anyways, in the late afternoon we went to more temples. We went to see Bayon, Baphuon and the Terrace of the Leper King. Bayon temple is covered in faces of the king. The elaborate temple is quite the shrine. I think you have to be quite self-centered to have your face carved on every single wall of the temple. We tried to take some kissing pictures by lining up our faces with the carvings I also tried to make it look like I was picking his nose. Why not?
While walking towards Baphuon, Isabel asked a girl to take a picture for us. I stared quite awkwardly as she approached us. Then I asked her if her name was Jill and indeed it was. Here, in Cambodia, at this very temple. The girl Isabel asked to take our picture just so happens to be a girl I used to work with at Vesta Dipping Grill in Denver. Imagine that! I truly appreciate the phrase, "It's a small world." You think?
The group headed over to Takeo to enjoy the sunset. We all climbed up the sketchy stairs. After the first set there was another. We sat on the temple together, staggered amongst the stairs. The sun was still hot. The sun set about an hour after we were there. We descended back to our tuk tuks. For dinner a few of us went to a street BBQ. I personally had steamed white rice. It was probably the best dinner thus far (please note the sarcasm).
(Saturday) We woke up even earlier today to catch another sunrise. We went to Banteay Srei temple. The morning air was brisk yet refreshing. The temple was small but elaborate. It was the most decorative temple we have visited. The sunrise was nothing spectacular, but the temple was worth the visit.
On our way back we stopped at a landmine museum. The museum is ran by a former Khmer Rouge child soldier. After planting landmines as a soldier, he decided to help demine the land. He goes throughout Cambodia clearing areas so they are safe. Today, an average of one person per day is injured from a landmine. This statistic seems high, but it is significantly low than the six or seven that it used to be. The landmines cause serious problems postwar. The museum displays different types of landmines as well as pictures. There were statistics and international relations for landmines. There was also a school behind the building for children who had been injured by landmines. I think it's amazing that he was able to recognize the need to clear areas in Cambodia in order to ensure a safe future.
When we left the museum I went to lay by the pool. It was a nice saltwater pool. I had a great tofu and mango salad for lunch followed by pistachio ice cream. I cheated on my fasting today by having ice cream. Hillary has been talking about this pistachio ice cream for six weeks now, and I LOVE pistachio ice cream!  Later, we went for pizza. We had a spanakopita pizza and some skordalia. Who would think you'd find Greek food in Cambodia? They were both delicious.
(Sunday) This morning we woke up and took a couple of vans back to Bangkok. There was some trouble getting started in the morning because Hillary has $1000 stolen the previous night. She had been dealing with the police and hotel, but it's hard to get much accomplished. We were finally able to hit the road. The border was packed. We waited in the hot sun for quite sometime before getting stamped back into Thailand. A couple more vans picked us up. The 14 of us headed back to a place of familiarity, Bangkok.
It's funny coming back to a place where our journey began. I no longer feel like a hopeless traveler. My wide eyes have eased  bit, and I feel more knowledgeable. I wasn't afraid to cross the street and Khao Son Road wasn't so intimidating. Instead, I craved the street food and bright lights. The music was just as terrible as the first time, but things were different. Different yet good. Madeleine, Anna and I decided to go to a bar and enjoy our evening drinking a tower of beer. Isabel joined us for a drink. The three of us respectively decided to go to a club, but it was empty. That led us to The Roof. It was a rooftop bar with acoustic Thai singers. They were really good and played some of our favorites. We met a few other travelers and sang our hearts out. Then we headed to The Club to get our dance on. We danced all night and Blair even joined us! When it was 1:30am we decided to make our way back to the guesthouse. That was the latest I voluntarily stayed up the entire trip. What a great night!
(Monday) Today was a rough morning for a few of us. I walked around and did a bit of shopping. I also did some last minute things for my Secret Buddha present. I spent the rest of the afternoon laying in bed and napping. In the evening, most of the group went to the Red Light District to see the darker side of Southeast Asia. Although I was interested in seeing it, I decided to stay back with Mads and relax. I do think it's important to see this side of Thailand, but I will do it when I come back if I'm in the mood. I will not go to a show though. It was an option for those who wanted to see it. I think that would be taking the issue a bit too far. By paying to see a show I'd be supporting the business whether it was for educational purposes or not. Do you need to pay to see a crack addict smoking crack in order to get the full experience? That's the way I looked at the situation. The atmosphere and people are enough inside information. Tomorrow we're off to Southern Thailand!

Thursday, March 17, 2011


(Tuesday) We woke up early and took a bus from Phnom Penh to Battambang. The ride went pretty fast even though it took about five hours. After lunch, we went to the countryside. The group rode on the bamboo train. It was a wooden platform on some tracks. There was nothing to hold on to and no sides. The train reminded me of an old wooden roller coaster like The American Eagle at Six Flags Great America. Although not required, I recommend keeping your hands and feet inside at all times. We rode on the train through the rice fields. At one point, we came across passengers riding in the opposite direction. They had to get off their cart, remove their platform and wheels, and wait for us to pass. I felt bad, and they were probably annoyed they had to do so for a bunch of travelers. The train took us to a brick factory. We saw the entire process of people making bricks. It was extremely tedious. They work all day for only a few dollars. After the train ride, we went to Smoking Pot for dinner. I had a delicious curry before heading to bed.

(Wednesday) Today was a great day. We started off with another motor tour. It was extremely interactive and fun. Our guide was absolutely hilarious. Our first stop included an old teak house. It was full of antiques and rustic charm. The old woman who lives there was so beautiful and welcoming. Our guide showed us old tools and important heirloom items. He also told us about a special happy soup that is common in Cambodia. It is made with marijuana and was actually on the menu at Smoking Pot last night, go figure. He said it is legal to grow plants for your family, but it is illegal to buy or sell the drug. It's an interesting concept. All ages smoke marijuana and enjoy happy chicken soup.
It was a cool day in the dusty town of Battambang. The roads were wet from evening rains and the sky was cloudy. We continued our motor tour to a rice paper factory. Just before we got there, Madeleine's motorbike had hit the ground. She was not badly injured and these accidents are quite common because people do not pay attention! The rice paper was also hard work that most people do as a second job. The work is repetitive and strenuous on the body.
On our way to the next stop, we detoured to a street vendor. Here we tried fried rats and Chinese frogs. The frogs were very small so we ate everything including the bones. The rat tasted like chicken. It was moist and pretty delicious. No; they were not like the street rats in Chicago (Rich).
We continued onward and saw rice noodles being made. Another hard job. The noodles are made fresh and only able to be sold within 24 hours. We were able to try some and watch the process. The mixture is placed into a jar and then strained into hot water. Then they scoop it all out and wash it through cold water. It was pretty interesting.
This led us to the snake farm. We were not able to try any snake because it's not the season. I was mildly disappointed since my pallet had been tested several times today already. At the farm, we were able to hold several types of snakes. After this we headed back to our hotel.
For dinner we all went to a chef's house. He is a friend of motor tour guide. He welcomed us into his home and set a table for all of us to eat. Him and his wife cooked us so much food. There was curry, amok, rice, vegetables, beef stir fries, etc. There was so much food that the table cloth was barely visible. We ate and then ate some more. He was so great and made us feel like part of the family. Before we had fresh fruit for dessert, some of us tried some rice wine. The first we tried was Cobra wine. This is made with the blood of the snake. It had quite the sting to it, but it was smooth. The next wine we tried was Tarantula wine. This is made with the poison. There were still tarantulas in the wine. We took some out to pass around, and since Isabel gets really queasy around spiders, she had to step outside. This wine burned more than the first. What an adventurous day for eating and drinking!
(Thursday)This morning we woke up and headed to the river. We took a boat from Battambang to Siem Reap. It took us just under eight hours to get there. I thought I would read a lot, but I had my headphones in the entire time. I couldn't help but look around and try to soak in everything I was seeing. It wasn't necessarily a pretty site. The houses were mostly shacks with old, soiled clothing for walls. Leading up the houses were plastic bags, waste, and other trash. There was so much trash I think every couple of houses could have filled a dumpster. I am curious about the waste disposal system here. I'm saddened by the idea of this trash washing into the river during rainy season. There are plenty of people bathing and washing clothes in the river. There are boys fishing and kids playing. We passed several floating villages including one with a floating MetaPhone store. Imagine that. A floating mobile store. I think I have seen it all!
The boat was fairly small, and we only had benches to sit on. The boat driver was hassling Hillary to use his tuk tuk drivers when we got to the port. She kept trying to tell him that we had our own transportation through the hotel. He ended up taking us to the wrong port on purpose and dropping us off about 30 minutes away from our destination. We waited in the sun for our transportation to arrive. There was hardly enough room for 14 people, 14 backpacks and 14 day packs. We crammed into one van and one tuk tuk. About 15 minutes into the ride another tuk tuk showed up. I noticed my cell phone was missing when we were close to Siem Reap. I only took my headphones out the last ten minutes of the boat ride so I could talk to Anna. She thought something was wrong because I had been so quiet all day. I was just zoned into my music and trying to pass the time. I left my cell phone on the boat on the first seat. We called the boat driver, but he said he did not find anything.
After we checked into our hotel, we all headed to Angkor Wat to watch the sunset. It was gorgeous. Angkor Wat is the largest religious temple in the world. The stone structures are across a moat that was handmade. I raced to get a good picture of the sunset. I was mesmerized by the artistic detail in the buildings. There were beautiful stone carvings, sculptures, columns, etc. The temple was crowded but the spacious layout was not overwhelming.
We headed back to the hotel after an hour or so. We went to Khmer Kitchen for dinner. I had a delicious coconut curry and white rice. Since lent has begun, I am on a vegan diet. That means no meat, no dairy and no fish. I can eat shellfish, but I've decided to go completely vegan. It's a bit hard in a country with such amazing food, but there are plenty of options to choose from still!

I have so many pictures, but they will have to wait to be posted because the internet connection is not that great on the island!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


(Sunday) Today was a great day! We woke up early and made our way to the orphanage. When we got there we were greeted by a couple dozen smiling faces. They were standing in lines and began singing. They did a little song and dance mostly saying, "Hello!" Then they broke into "If You're Happy and You Know It" which is usually the song we sing. Someone got a bright idea that we should sing back to them and suggested BINGO. It was a failed attempt that did not add up to much compared to the children. The orphanage was under construction, but we did get a little tour. Afterward, we teamed up with the kids and hopped in the tuk tuks.
The water park was nicer than I had anticipated. There were several slides, a wave pool and a floating river. The girls wore clothes while at the water park so we had to wear shorts and a shirt. Many of them were wearing jeans and sweaters! I could not imagine that was comfortable. The water in the floating river was green and the floor was extremely rough. Thankfully we didn't spend a lot of time in it.
There were four mini slides next to one another. We raced up the top and then down to the bottom. Sometimes we would hold hands and slide down together! Then there were two twirling slides. There was a guard at the top, but he was sleeping. Kids pushed and shoved to get to the front of the line. To be honest, there wasn't a line. There was no waiting and no order. Kids went whenever they wanted. We joined in and decided to be reckless as well. Sometimes we would get five or six of us linked together and go down the slide. Othertimes we would get stuck and someone would come crashing in from behind. Either way we were full of smiles, and we would race back up to the top to do it again. There was also a wide yellow slide. About eight of us would hold hands and slide down it. This also led to a few pileups. It was obnoxious and beautiful.
We ate lunch before returning to the water. I ordered a chicken sandwich but got tuna instead. Isabel was nice enough to trade half of her sandwich with me :) The wave pool was not on, but we sat in it anyways. After a while, they turned it on. The waves were fun. I started watching after a little boy who wasn't even in our group. He kept me on my toes though! The water park was such a blast. I haven't giggled that much in a long time. We were all giddy little kids for the afternoon. It was hard to leave and say goodbye. The rest of the evening was pretty mellow.
(Monday) Today was a free day. Although everyone in the group wanted to go to the Killing Fields, Isabel and I decided to go alone. They were going at 8am, and we wanted to sleep in. I woke up at 7am, but it was nice not to set an alarm. When we were ready we went to have breakfast by the river. I had Greek yogurt with honey and toasted cashews. I also had a coffee shake which was just as delicious. There was a man who hassled us for quite some time. At first, I was nice and answered his questions, but then he started telling me he wanted to marry me and that he loved me. He must have been on some very good drugs. He sat down next to us and continued to make pointless remarks. It was a bit annoying.
We decided to head to the Killing Fields around 11. The sun was hotter, but we were on our own schedule. Our tuk tuk driver was very nice, and he drove us to the site and waited. We wanted some coconut juice before we walked around. It was the biggest coconut I have ever had! It took us 10-15 minutes to finish drinking the juice! My belly swelled with the juice; it was a lot!
We had a guide take us around, and two other people joined us. I was completely taken back. First we saw the monument that housed skulls, bones and clothes found within the fields. There were so many. Seventeen shelves held the remains of Khmer people. For a moment, I lost my breath. We walked around and saw the mass graves. There were holes everywhere. Some sections held hundreds of bodies. There were babies and naked women found. Children were killed by being beaten against a tree. We saw the tree, and a sense of nausea overcame me. My mind could only think of one question, "How?" The graves seemed to go on forever.
There was a movie and a small museum. The museum had weapons, clothes and pictures of Khmer people and the Khmer Rouge soldiers. One important peson, Duck was displayed. His name was mentioned often at  Tuol Sleng for being responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, etc. At this museum, his note of apology was acknowledged. He admitted his crimes; however, there are still trials going on against the remaining Khmer Rouge leaders. Although many have passed away, including the leader Pol Pot, they were never sentenced. The movie did no justice for the nightmare that people were living in.
Isabel and I decided to go back to the Russian Market after the museum. We bought a few gifts and then went back to the city. We went to the Palace Museum and saw artifacts. The gardens were beautiful. There were some monks by the water, and they waved us over. We sat and talked with them for a while. However, they seemed to be hitting on us more than conversing. After some time we walked away and enjoyed the rest of the museum. It was so nice to see the stone carvings and sculptures. It's amazing how much detail is placed in each artifact. In the evening, we ate dinner at a street cafe. Then we met up with some of the group for cocktails on the roof. The cocktails were very good. We only had two before retiring for the evening. It was a long day even if it was a free day.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Phnom Penh

(Saturday) We woke up and packed our bags to head for Phnom Penh. I was sad to leave Mach and Siphen's. They are two incredible people with so many admirable qualities. I have felt like a part of their family while staying with them. We were all sad to go. On our way to the city we stopped at a silk shop. There are former sex trafficked girls that work here. They are taught how to weave beautiful materials and given a better life. It's amazing to see organizations like this. Not only are they helping to rescue these girls, but they are also helping to teach them life skills.
After checking into our guest house, a few of us decide to walk by the river for lunch. We then meet up with the group to go to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. The museum used to be a high school building. During the Khmer Rouge it was turned into the Security Prison 21 (S-21). The name translates to "Hill of the Poisonous Trees" and was used by the communist party from 1975-79 when more than 20% of the Khmer population was brutally tortured and killed. Walking up to the building is saddening. There are four separate buildings that display pictures, cells, facts and weapons. Several rooms have beds that were used and dried blood creates a carpet beneath them. Another floor of the building displays cells that were not wide enough for my shoulders to go through. There were endless amounts of cells, and I felt a chill as I walked from one room to the next. I went inside one of the wooden cells and immediately felt claustrophobic. My stomach became knotted.One building was completely covered in barbed wire in order to prevent suicides.
There were photographs of prisoners in one building. The black and white photographs display men, women and children. The Khmer Rouge killed entire families to prevent the children from seeking revenge. They also murdered doctors, politicians, teachers, etc. They forced people out of the cities and their homes into the country. Here they spent long hours working with no more than a spoonful of rice to eat. Those who were sent to S-21 faced the cruelest punishments and torture. They were beaten, stabbed, drowned, hanged, etc. until nearly dead and then interrogated again. Many of them met their fate at the Killing Fields just outside the city. My heart got angry as I went through the museum. I cannot comprehend how one human can do this to another. In this case, Khmer people were doing it to Khmer people. I highly recommended reading about the genocide if interested. I really enjoyed First They Killed My Father which is a memoir about a little girl growing up during the Khmer Rouge.

We only had about an hour to walk around the buildings, but I could have spent the whole day there. I wanted to read more stories and see more pictures. Even though I wanted to close my eyes I could not pretend the images were not real. I had a massive headache that got worse as I walked. Sometimes I had to stop, but I would not have missed the opportunity to learn more about S-21. Our group was leaving and then headed to the Russian Market.

I was a bit thrown off when we were given one hour at the Russian Market. Just before this we were given one hour for the genocide museum. I could not figure out how the two sites had been given the same amount of  importance. The museum deserved more than an hour of recognition. While it was easy to spend an hour at the Russian market, I just found it to be a bit offensive. Isabel and I walked around a bit. I got some black coffee to help with my headache. I did buy one thing at the market. There's real silver here, and I wanted to get my niece something for her baptism. Since I bought a handmade wooden jewelry box in Viet Nam, I thought I could fill it with a silver bracelet. I found a pretty silver bracelet with elephants. Their trunks were raised which is a sign of strength and something I will always wish for my niece. I hope she likes it :)
We left the market and went back to our guest house. The guest house is pretty, and Isabel and I have a perfect view of the palace from our window. When I reached into my bag to pull something out, a scorpion fell onto the floor. I sat on my bed staring at it for a while. I was scared, but I did not lose control. After staring at it for some time, we decided to get someone to come kill it. It was the only scorpion that made it into my bag. That was a bit too close for comfort.
For dinner we went to another NGO restaurant called FRIENDS. The food was incredible! I ordered a beat and goat cheese salad, honey glazed meatballs and springrolls with a garlic mayonaise. Everything melted in my mouth. The service was so friendly and attentive. Both back-of-house and front-of-house are operated by the students. It was a chatterful environment with a good vibe. Next door is a gift shop with handmade items that were made of recycled items. There was also a mini spa for manicures and pedicures. I am absolutely obsessed with this concept!


(Thursday) Last night was a rough night. I barely got four hours of sleep. My mind was burdening me with things of my recent past. It's funny that this time last year I thought I knew exactly what I wanted. I was so sure that I knew who I was and where I was going. The truth is, I hardly knew where to rest my feet. I did not know what I wanted besides a chance to get away. What was I running from? I'm not sure anymore, and I'm tired of running. I miss home.
This morning we had a beautiful breakfast before heading out to our volunteer site. The groups switched jobs today, and we worked on finishing the house. The other group said they were jealous of the day we were about to have, but I was jealous that they got to go to the toilet site where I felt the happiest. We departed for Kampot which took us about an hour to get to.

The house we were building was for a family that was practically living in their cow's shed. They have a boy who is mentally retarded. When we arrive at the site, he is completely naked and smiling from ear to ear. He cannot talk, but he laughs and smiles a lot. Yesterday, the group told us he was tied to a tree so he did not get hurt or get in the way. He is running around with great enthusiasm today. The people are uneducated on how to help the boy, and the neighbors do not like him. It's sad to see him being mistreated so I am grateful to have the opportunity to help build him a house. 
The house was nearly done, but we had to go around the walls with bamboo to keep the leaves from blowing away. It was a tedious job that required a great deal of communication. I was inside the house talking to others outside through the wall. They would stick a metal wire through the bamboo which would then be tied and secured. After pulling tight on so many wires my fingers get calluses. I added more bandages to my already blistered hands and kept working. The little boy was running around everywhere trying to grab cameras and what not. His laugh was contagious. I did get a bit flustered when I was trying to work in a corner where there was a hammock in which he insisted on swinging in and hitting me repeatedly. Anastasia stepped in and took the boy to play. She did an amazing job with him. None of us wanted him to get tied to a tree again so she preoccupied him. I give her major props for her patience and strength. I had neither today.
There's a part of me that is a bit annoyed. Yesterday's team could have very easily finished the house and us the toilet. With the time spent in Takeo, each group should  be building a house and a toilet. The cost is cheap and community members also help build. This house was only $300 to fund. Since there is just small work to finish, a kitchen has been planned. We spent the rest of the morning building a kitchen.

We all took turns with the building process. It was pretty difficult to hammer the nails into the bamboo. I slammed the hammer onto my thumb. I've been good at injuring myself today. After several hours, we decide to break for lunch. The van took us about 20 minutes away to a guesthouse backing into a saltwater river. We had some fried rice and then went swimming. The water was as warm as bath water. It was nice to relax and cool down before heading back to the site.

The work was finished soon after. We built the walls of the kitchen and continued with the ceiling. At one point they tied the boy to a post with a metal wire, but he was able to escape by pulling out the whole post. I was proud of him. Anastasia, again, took the role of playing with him. They danced and twirled; it was really beautiful. This was an extremely challenging site to work at, but I am happy and hopeful. The building has four walls and a door, and right now it is only a house. I hope the family can turn this house into a home.
We head back to the town center for dinner. We sit along the river and enjoy some great food. Afterward we go to the orphanage to watch some traditional Khmer dancing. Tonight there is a special performance. There were orphans from Qatar that flew in. They learned traditional dances and danced together. It was amazing. It was so great to see the cultural immersion. In the middle of the show, there was a break for coffee. Three people sat near right stage and had coffee while the crowd observed. It was interesting, but this is another cultural experience. The show continued with beautiful costumes and dances.

The kids were great. I was so exhausted by the end of the night, and when I got back to our homestay, I had a note on my door. Noam and Anna left me a note that they had tried to wait up for me but had decided to go to bed since it was after 10pm. I went to brush my teeth and heard a door open and close. I knew it was them so I knocked and went over. The note was so sweet; it made me smile. We talked about our days and went to bed. I slept all night :)
(Friday) Today we spent most of the day at Mach and Siphen's house. Since the basketball team won the other day, the final championship game was today. We went to watch them. They won! The other team started throwing things at them. This is how they handled defeat. Siphen took her girls off the court to get away from such poor sportsmanship.We went to the market and bought personal hygiene products for the family with the new toilet. I also bought the four girls a dress or shirt.
When we went to hand over the toilet to the family, we were all overwhelmed with emotions. I held back tears as I listened to the family members thank us. The man said he had never been giving anything in his 70 odd years. I was so inspired yet again. I was moved by their gratitude. I wanted to thank them for helping me grow and learn and have the opportunity to do this. We all took pictures and shared more smiles and laughs. When we were leaving one little girl, Rakata, was already putting on the dress I bought her. I felt my heart smiling. It's amazing how much of a difference a small amount of time and work can make. I wish only good things for this family. The people of Cambodia are continuously inspiring me.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


(Wednesday) Last night was another rough night sleeping, but I woke up refreshed and full of energy. Today our group is split into two. We are doing two separate building projects. My group has seven members including Madeleine, Sam, Luke, Natalie, Anastasia, Brent and myself. After breakfast we began the toilet project.
We walked through the rice fields from the house to the site. We built a toilet at a nearby house so it was not a far walk. The guys had the hardest job carrying three 250lb cement circles to the site. It was tied with a rope and then strung on bamboo wood to help distribute the weight. The temperature was hot, but the sun was forgiving. The morning had been somewhat cloudy.
There were several families at the site when we got there. There was an old man who was practically folded in half because there's a piece of a bomb lodged in his spine. They were so kind and welcoming. I immediately felt comfortable. They gave us their blessing and thanked us before we started working. The old man told us that the Buddhists believe people who help build toilets (or other personal hygiene items) are meant to have long, prosperous and healthy lives. He spoke with such compassion, and I was even more inspired to start digging.

We had to dig a whole about 3 meters deep. The cement circles would later be placed inside to become a compost.  The digging was hard and strenuous. The tools used were simplistic and ancient. Our shovel was a piece of bamboo and metal. We took the excess dirt and piled it into a woven basket to be taken out of the hole. Within minutes I was drenched in sweat. It was hot and humid as I hunched over trying to dig. I had a lot of fun while digging, but we rotated every so often. I then started stripping bamboo posts. For the first time, I was able to use a machete! I felt my hands getting hotter and hotter until I had a blister in the middle of my palm. It had only been a half hour yet  I already had a blister. I ran back to the house to get my first aid kit, cut a piece of mole's skin and patched myself up. Within minutes I was back to work.
While working there were kids and puppies running around. Each of them were equally beautiful. Cambodian's are extremely beautiful. I think we are slightly obsessed with their perfect features and tanned skin. The kids loved the attention as much as we did. There was one girl named Jan who had the cutest smile. She acted shy, but she wanted her picture taken. The kids were dressed in tattered clothes and were full of dirt. The children had rotting teeth and home cut bangs. 
When the sun got too hot, we all had time to relax. Our group went back to Mach and Siphen's house for lunch. Of course the food was incredible. We ate so much and then wasted time on the hammocks enjoying some shade. Several hours later we returned to work. It was time to lay bricks around the foundation of the bathroom. The men did this part because it was "a man's job" whatever that's supposed to mean.
Instead of fretting, we pulled out our phrase books and began to interact with the families. The kids and adults joined us in a fit of laughter and learning. We asked what everyone's names were and then began talking about animals and foods. Afterward, we went over the months and days of the week. It was so fun saying it in English and then learning it in Khmer. The locals learned the English words and laughed at our poor pronunciation of the Khmer words. I was so happy. We bonded with this family on a much deeper level. I did not feel like we were building a toilet for some stranger but for our friends. I was extremely grateful for their kindness and hospitality.
Madeleine and I helped with the concrete mixture by pumping water from the well and carrying it over. Others collected bricks. When we were done with the water, I decided to collect some bricks. As I was picking up my stack a little gecko poked its head out. I don't think he would have enjoyed being sealed in the bricks and concrete so I shook him out. When the foundation was laid, we had to wait for it to dry. The guys then carried the cement circles into the hole. I think the girls are pretty strong, so I suggested we give it a try. Everyone watched with great enthusiasm when we counted down to lift up the 250lb monster. We were able to lift the circle off the ground and with some help transport it to the hole. I think we all patted ourselves on the back for that one. So much for a "man's job." They must have missed the memo that they had some pretty tough girls on site! Again, more laughter and excitement.
When our work was done, we retreated back to the house. I was sad to leave. This day was the most memorable day. It felt so good to give this family something of substance. In a few days, we will donate more personal hygiene products. Many families are ignorant to personal hygiene. My heart broke when I saw the rotting teeth of the little girls. They all pick lice and fleas off one another and use a bush as a bathroom. I was so happy they let us into their homes and stood by our side the entire time. The personal interaction was unbelievable. We broke the language barrier with as many smiles as possible. Their faces will forever be engraved in my memory. Despite their lack of money, clothes, housing, etc. they were full of life and spirit. Their smiles masked any hardships. I feel fortunate and continuously count my blessings on this trip. I find myself growing and learning from each experience and hope I can continue to have a positive impact on others as they inspire me.
When we got back to the house, Madeleine and I went to teach English at Siphen's after school program. There was not time to shower beforehand so we went all hot and sweaty from a day's work. We mostly talked about universities and our families. The kids that were there spoke great English. Despite taking classes in school, they come to this program to further enhance their skills. They were so fun to talk to and interact with. Some of them were shy, but Mads is really good about bringing people out of their shells. She has an electric energy that can make anyone smile. We all laughed and joked around. Mads and I even made fun of one another and started doing karate in front of the board. Our hour went by so fast. Siphen told us to assign homework, but they kept saying it was too easy. Either way, they didn't do the assignment but who's counting anyways!
Dinner was decadent. It was a bit lonely with just the seven of us, but we had a great time. For dessert we had a banana and tapioca soup with gummy worms in them. The little kids in us may or may not have come out to play. We slurped and gulped and laughed some more. It was the perfect day. I could not have asked for better company and a better experience. I was finally able to shower/ My hair is so dry and damaged. I've been using Dr. Bronner's for the past six weeks. I should have known something that has 18 different uses must not be very hydrating. I flipped my head over the trash and grabbed my Swiss Arm knife and began cutting my ends. I tried to go to sleep; however, my mind became a burden and sleep was not about to come easily.