Today we got an early start for our first road trip together! We are headed for Battambang (sounds like bottom -bong, or can call it The Bong)
I'd told Dale on several occasions what my SE Asia roadtrips were like in 2007.Every time we stopped for happy room (toilet), it was time to buy junk food and water or soda. I thought that maybe this would be different because everyone on this trip is a foodie, but they like their junk too!
Kinal is great about making sure we get the opportunity to do local snack food and not just grab chips and biscuits (with Aussies and UK folks, no one says cookies).
First stop, I bought a pork/egg bun-too sweet for me, Dale seem to enjoy it. For the women there were two western toilets and one squatter. I took the squat "for the team" AND I passed out the tissues that no one else thought to bring. Who's the world traveler, I ask you?
Personalities are coming out on the bus. Linda's been feeling ill because some of the roads are pretty rough, and the improved roads are no picnic either. She moved to the jumpseat in the bus which prevents people from moving back and forth because it folds down right into the middle aisle. LInda finally started to feel better, when Arvin (sitting in the front) started to climb over her and then her get up on the moving bumpy bus. He wanted to get gum out of Kebiri's suitcase - all stacked at the back of the bus. He said she was nauseous. Linda sat down, he couldn't find it, came back up front, Linda had to get up, she then sat down. Then Kebiri and Arvin came back and made her get up and went to the back togeher for some time. Linda sat down, and yes had to get up agian. During this whole time Joey, the know-it-all Aussie is saying "No chewing gum! It wont' work." She grabs at Arvin as he passes, holds his arm and says firmly "It won't work! No chewing gum! It stimulates the saliva which will make her vomit. When Arvin ignored her to retrieve the gum Kebori was asking for, Joey grabbed his arm again and said "IT won't work!"
In the back of the bus, old Bill is hucking up a lung. He takes the meaning of Old Man Throat to a whole new level.
In the end, no one puked and that's what counts. We make frequent stops for Veronica, who is pregnant. She prefers a happy bush to a happy room (I do too, just cleaner), so the stops are easy and quick.
Kinal shared lots about Cambodia, Khmer people and culture. Some of this may have been mentioned in a previous post, but just in case:
If kids go to school, they go either 7a-11a or 1p - 5p 6X week. They have a shortage of schools so they run on different sessions.
By 9th grade (high school) a lot of kids stop school because they are needed to work at home. 80% of Cambodia income is through agriculture.
Cambodia is a countrly, but people who are from Cambodia are called Khmer, not Cambodians. Their language is Khmer, not Cambodian. Khmer people have a lot of children, and Kinal shared the reasons why:
1) They need help to work on the farm
2) The culture expects the children to care for their parents when they are older; the more kids, the better chance this will happen
3) Khmer people lack knowledge of birth control. People have been told bad things will happen to women who use birth control - get fat, get skinny, get spots on their face. So women are afraid to take any action. It's a shy culture when it comes to discussing sex, and women are not likely to discuss things like birth control even with their husbands. Kinal shared that a group came into town to educate the men about condoms. When they were showned how to put one on, a banana was used as an example. Months later, one of the men complained after his wife got pregnant saying the condom didn't work. He was asked how he used the condom, he described how he put it on a banana before sex.
Men and women don't discuss sex, even as partners - resulting in more ignorance about HIV and birth control.
HIV is high here - just made the news today that an unlicensed Battambang doctor (we are on the bus to B right now) has just been charged with murder forinfecting 201 people in a commune with HIV.
Road to B is referred to Massage Road - can't say you've been to Cambodia if you haven't been on massage road
Kinal has no local friends. She is also unusual because she travels out of the country and she travels as a single woman. She did travel to Vietnam with a Khmer friend, and the friends parents were against it but they went anyway. It's these types of actions that have left Kinal with a not so good reputation in her village, among her cultures - but she is completley supported by her family for her choices. very cool.
Let's talk about garbage. It's everywhere. Have never seen so much trash - scattered, blowing, in purposeful heaps - you name it its here. And that comes with incredible stench - not 100% of the time, just in waves, so that's something! On our first meeting, Kinal explained it - until 4-5 years ago, there was no use of trash bins.Just toss it whatever it is .
There really aren't any trash cans to speak of in Phnom Penh - maybe a few that are very far between, but that's it. The idea that you should have somewhere to collect it, then have somewhere to take it, and then find a way to have it break down is still not mainstream. SO at first glance you could look and say "lazy, dirty people" but that's not the truth. IF you are never taught or shown something, you just wouldn't know it. They have little to no understanding of what problems this leads to with their water, the environment, etc. We'v e never seen so many plastic bags. ON our first meeting, Kinal gave us each a Say No to Plastic shoulder bag to try to help this effort.
Meanwhile - this day we are trying to get to Battambang. The trip notes say it's 3 hours away, Kinal says 6-6.5 hours. And when the bus breaks down, add 2 to that! Luckily there was some place to take the bus, and a restaurant for us to walk to and hang out. Right before we left, a cricket lady just happened to stop by and the snacks were ON!