We've arrived! We're in Siem Reap, Cambodia! Excited at the prospect of 2 months of warm weather, good food, great people....and of course, the opportunity to make a difference here, no matter how small.
Somehow in the whirlwind of events leading up to our departure, I got my dates all screwed up! I honestly thought we were taking off on Dec 29th, when in fact we were booked for the 30th! (We left for Cambodia on Dec 29th last year, so that's probably where it came from.) Imagine my surprise when we arrived at the airport hotel on the 28th to check in and discovered we were a day early! (Thank heavens we weren't booked for the 28th, or we'd have been screwed!) So we turned my faux pas into an opportunity to get in a little extra shopping and relaxation...and you can bet your pennies that I'll be double- and triple-checking reservation dates from now on...
We had fantastic weather and good flights all the way, stopping in Chicago, Tokyo and Bangkok. We fly United to Bangkok because it's the best deal for us, but I have to admit the Bangkok Air has them beat by a mile. Imagine a 55 minute flight that begins with refreshing towels, followed by full meal service, including coffee or tea, plus distribution of a New Year's gift! Those flight attendants really fly!
We more or less missed New Years, since we rang in 2011 watching luggage go 'round the baggage carousel in Suvarnabhumi Airport (Bangkok). I looked at my watch about 3 minutes after twelve, wished Gordon a Happy New Year and gave him a kiss, but nobody else in the airport seemed to know or care about the dawning of this new year. No shouts, exclamations or even murmurs proclaiming the event.
The Miracle Hotel, where we stayed overnight in Bangkok last year, was fully booked for New Years Eve, so we spent the night (what was left of it) at the Convenient Grand Hotel in Bangkok. I often wonder how they come up with these names, since I wouldn't really rate this place as 'convenient' or 'grand', however it was clean, well-priced, and the hotel staff were amazingly attentive, which we have commonly found wherever we travel in South East Asia.
As our flight approached Siem Reap, I looked out the window, and had this strange yet wonderful feeling of 'coming home'. Nothing I can write could adequately describe it.
This year we are staying at Motherhome Guesthouse. We spent the day unpacking and made a list of items we need to buy to make our room feel more like a home rather than living out of suitcases...Little things like shelving, baskets, hangers, mugs, wineglasses, thermos. No cooking is allowed in the rooms here, and we presume that means no coffeemakers or kettles. The guesthouse has a round-the-clock supply of boiling water for tea or coffee in the main lobby, along with a supply of tiny tea cups and saucers. We both love big mugs of coffee or tea, so buying a thermos and big mugs will allow us to have our coffee when we like it, the way we like it, without having to get dressed up to go downstairs to get it. Worth every penny....
Not exactly sure yet what volunteer work we will be doing, but that will all fall into place within the next few days, so stay posted. We've already met up with Hahn, a young doctor who has returned to Siem Reap to volunteer for 7 weeks after spending 4 days vacationing here last year. This place seems to get to a lot of us, doesn't it? Hahn will be helping out at the Health Clinic at Savong's School, and I've offered to assist him in whatever capacity I can. Gordon is interested in the fish farm project they have going there, and has also offered his services as a builder/furnture maker. He's already had a request from another NGO to build some easels for a primary school.
This coming week, we also plan to go out to meet the founder of Honour Village Cambodia to offer our services. HVC is a newly founded NGO that has recently opened a safe house/orphanage for homeless, disadvantaged children. The need is so great here. There is no limitations to what we can do to help, either in teaching, building or passing on simple skills like sewing.
Right now, our biggest limitation is sleep deprivation. Jet lag does some strange things to the system, but nothing that a good night's sleep won't cure...