The nest of the bird

October 10, 2010

Since my last post I have been trying to rest, I’ve been spending time with friends who have been helping me to laugh more. This has helped me more than I could have ever imagined and has allowed me to dive back into my work.

On Thursday I met a new friend “SP” he is a tuc-tuc driver but also a Cambodia who wishes to help his people in some way. I told him what I was trying to do and he agreed to take me to a place referred to by the residents as “the nest of the bird” a small shanty town on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

SP told me, when the land in the city was sold for development the people who lived there had to be moved. The people where relocated to this area out of the way on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. Not many people knew about this place, even less people would want to come here. This was sounding more and more like the place I had to be.

As we travelled by tuc-tuc I passed a large housing development. These houses sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars to foreigners and the wealthy.

What I didn’t realise was this development would set a harsh contrast for the reality of life a mere 5 minutes away.

A local woman told us the only way in to the shanty town was to wade through the filthy water and sewage. She warned that it wouldn’t’ be good for us as the water causes skin problems, itching and illness. SP looked at me and asked what I wanted like to do. I kinda figured we had come this far, plus the residents here had no choice but to live like this every day, the least i could do is experience just a little of what they have to endure.

We rolled up our trousers and started to wade through the foul water. In places the water was up to my knees, however had it been raining it would easily have been waist high. I was thankful for the clear skies.

As we entered the shanty town we where greeted by residents who where clearly surprised to see this long haired tattooed white man making his way through the sewage. The people here where of the friendliest I have met, I was half expecting constant begging, but none of them did. SP said that the people in this town where very proud people and would do anything instead of beg for money. Many would make small recycled toys, or collect snails from the fields to sell. We where invited into homes to meet the families.

Every time we met people the story was the same, they had skin problems, rashes, hives, insect bites and worms. Illness was extremely common due to the filthy conditions and lack of sanitation. I could hear myself repeating the same thing over and over “this is not right”, “how can people live like this”.

The truth is, seeing people like this, these men, women and children. Seeing them forced to live in conditions you wouldn’t place an animals in, well it was very emotional to say the least. I wanted to cry, I wanted all of the feeling surging through my body to be out in the open. The problem was I could’t, I was unable too cry. I felt as though I was looking through someones else’s eyes, like it wasn’t quite real, if only that was true. I knew it was real, it was more real than anything I had seen before, I just couldn’t comprehend what I was seeing.

We continued through the town, stopping constantly and speaking to the people we met. The parents would show us the cuts and infections on their children, they would explain about the water levels and lack of sanitation, they explained about the illnesses and the fact that there weren’t any doctors or hospital nearby.

I dont think my photos will ever be able to truly show the unbelievable horror of the situation here. The smile’s and kindness of the people make you almost forget where you are. Here in this place is a community struggling simply to survive, any pre-conceptions I may have had where completely blown away.

In one home I met a woman feeding her infant child, they where approximately a foot from the contaminated water all around them. They had to sit on their beds as the water was constantly inside of their home.

I asked one of the men what they did when the water rose. He told me very casually that all of the family had to sleep in the bed that was the highest off the ground and pointed to a small bed an extra couple of feet higher.

As we continued wading through the town we came upon a sewage pipe than ran through with homes on either side. There was no sanitation here though as the pipe was open, and what ever used to flow through it was now a part of homes and play area’s of the children. The residents used the pipe to stay above the water level where possible.

The people here are truly in need of help. They where so happy to see me, they asked for nothing, except that I take lots of photos and show others. They simply want more people to visit their homes in the hope that it will bring about change.

I have decided to postpone my trip to the golden triangle so that I can spend some more time with the people here. I wish to find out what organisations are in the area and how they are helping. If any one reading this would like to donate then I will provide details of the NGO’s (none government organisations that try and support these people). I only wish there was more that I could do.

After being in this place I felt so much sadness, I knew I had pull myself away from these feeling otherwise my emotions could quite easily consume me. SP told me it is was Pchum Ben Festival in Cambodia and everyone in the city would be heading back to their villages to be with family. He said he was leaving tonight for the 2 hour bike trip to his small village and if I wanted I was welcome to come and stay with his family. Of course I agreed immediately, as I had instant trust and respect for SP and I know we will continue to be friends. (details of this trip will be in my next blog).

For now, wishing you all peace & love always,

dan


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16/08/2010 Update

August 16, 2010

Thought I had best update my blog, I went to the SOS hospital in Phnom Penh, its an excellent hospital with English speaking and Khmer speaking doctors. I found the hospital to be clean and professional looking, the staff to be friendly, offering me tea and coffee (which I declined) then making sure I had a bed to lay in while I awaited my results. My doctor was Dr Reid from Australia, she made sure I was comfortable and then asked me what had happened. I explained the drama that unfolded the previous night, she nodded a lot then asked my permission to poke and generally examine me. After taking a lot of test taking, I was directed back to my bed to relax while I awaited my results.

I admit I fell asleep again, I’ve been sleeping constantly lately, with no energy at all. It was maybe an hour later when I finally got my results, I was checked on constantly though throughout this time.

The results showed that I have an infection which was restricting my breathing and thus causing me pain. I was given the option of either another dip or I could orally take medication. I decided to take the tablets, I’d had enough needles in me for one week. I was promptly provided with all the medication I needed and went to the cashier desk to pay (you didn’t expect this too be free did you). I was surprised that my bill was only $150.

If your in PP and you do become ill then I highly recommend going to the SOS clinic rather than any of the other local ones. Im not saying they where bad or anything, I just found the SOS clinic to be more familiar, this helps a lot when you’re not feeling at your best.

Now i’m in my hotel room, I’ve haven’t left it at all, I’ve barricaded myself in and Im simply resting. I purchased a couple of films to watch and also some healthy food form the supermarket. I will rest one more day before riding back to SSF. I still get tired pretty quickly at the moment and its an hours ride to do in pretty busy traffic. Don’t really want to face that when I feel like this.

I am very grateful for the experience I’ve had here in PP and believe that its helped me to look at things in a new light. There are so many people out here who don’t have access to the doctors or medication. Women, children, young, old all of them with an equal right to be here yet unable to have the same benefits as most of us take for granted. Why is that? it’s so easy not to see or even consider as the media doesn’t really report it.

To me its very sad that a little bit of paper is the arbiter between the rich and the poor, it doesn’t discriminate at all yet it can take’s away our natural human instinct to help others. We are not different we’ve simply adapted to our environments thats all. With all of this technology and science we should be able to help, protect and grow as a species. Yet we destroy, kill and regress ourselves and the very environment that provides us with life. I have no doubt that we will adapt, but its what we’re going to have to adapt to.

I guess we need the balance though, we need to see what we’re doing to know thats its not right. Change starts from within, and when we realise that every one of us can do the most amazing things and feel good about it, then maybe things will start to change. Ok i’ve rambled on enough, I’ve been thinking out loud while typing again.

peace & love and smiles

dan


Im am writing todays blog on Sunday the 15/08/2010, it will soon become clear as to why.

I travelled to Phnom Penh on Friday, after immediately finishing my last class, I had to get my bike to the garage early and wanted to take some photos at a place called Lakeside, I was also meeting Tory, a friend I met on the site Travbuddy.

I Made it to Phnom Penh without incident, dropped the bike off at the garage, then checked onto my hotel (Fairlyland Guest house). Seconds later the heavens opened, feet of rain fell in moments. It was an impressive sight, I made the decision not to venture out.

Once the rain had stopped I got a Tuc-Tuc to lakeside where I was meeting Tory. I really didn’t like Lakeside at all, It was very westernised and I cringed at every bar I looked at. When Tory arrived I suggested that we leave and go to the river-front instead. We sat for a drink and chatted. (Tory was catching a bus to Vietnam that night so we only had a few hours), during our conversation I discovered Tory was a student of philosophy. Philosophy is something that I study and hold in high regard, as a tool to help me understand my journey and path. We got on so well that Tory agreed to get the bus to Vietnam the next day, allowing us to chat into the night.

I believe there is a reason for all things, you simply have to know it. Sometime you meet a complete stranger at a time that you really need it in your life, Tory was that stranger. We shared stories, life experiences and our own perception of the world. In doing so she helped me to re-attach to my core belief system and my reason for life. A truly amazing friend who I will keep in contact with.

The next day I called my friend Sovann to make arrangements to get Tory on her bus to Vietnam. Once done, my next mission was to find an aromatherapy shop, pickup some natural oils to assist in preventing insect bites. Now this is where things start to go a little funky!

I had just gone back to the hotel to quickly collect my camera, on my way down stairs I had a sudden pain in my abdomen and left side of my chest. It was agony but quickly subsided, I decided not to make a big deal of it and jumped in Sovann’s Tuc-Tuc and head to the shops (and of course take some photos). We had gone only a few streets when I got the same pain again, however it was getting worse. I immediately asked Sovann to take me back to the hotel so I could lie down, this was maybe about 14:00.

While in my room I started to get excruciation pain, It wasn’t a good sign, but I believe in fate and a reason for all things.

I woke constantly through the day and night in pain, finally at 22:00 it had become so bad the breathing was difficult and I was feeling dizzy. The truth is, the thought had gone through my head that this could be it, however I wasn’t afraid nor was I really worried, I was however in a lot of pain. I made the decision to contact Sovann again, he came straight over and too me to a local clinic.

As soon as I got to the clinic I explained the best i could what was wrong, it was difficult now as I was gasping for breath. They immediately put me on a drip, pushed needles in my arm, abdomen, groin, took blood, and pumped drugs into me. (this continued the entire night).

Things got a lot worse through-out the night. While rolling around in agony, I asked Sovann to pass me my camera. I decided that my blog was to be about my complete experience, this is something that I had to share. All of us have weaknesses because all of us are fragile humans, we try and project strength all the time and feel as though our weaknesses should be hidden (i refuse to believe this) this was my opportunity show another side of me, and to me this is the most important thing in my life.

I apologise in advance for the poor quality of photos taken.

I stayed at the clinic until about 15:00 today, i have now checked myself out. I am sill in pain but its not as intense, I am planing on heading to another hospital tonight, but its important for me to update my blog. It cost me approximately $350 at the clinic I was at. What about all these people who don’t have money?

To my friends I say don’t worry about me, you know I am responsible for my actions, I live my life free, without fear but with love and peace in my heart. I am truly thankful for the experiences I have i life.

dxx

Update as of 21:00
I will visit an english speaking doctor tomorrow, i must sleep now, i’m tired and ache.


04/08/2010 @21:45 (in Okay guest house)

(transcribed from my paper journal)
Well things where pretty bad for me today, Im currently writing in my journal, with the intent of placing these thoughts directly into my blog. Today I had such a low, I felt depressed, hopeless and irritable, I felt so bad that I couldn’t interact completely with the children. They where amazing though, their smiles and laughs really helped me get through the day. I let Vichetr know how I was feeling, he was very understanding, (I really didn’t want to let anyone down). He told me he had sent the children home to plant rice with their parents, and I could take time off until Monday. I didn’t realised i had not been sleeping very well, maybe a few hours each night, what I needed was to just get away and reconnect with my self again.

I immediately loaded up the bike and set off on the approximate 50km journey to Phnom Penh. It was a pretty uneventful ride apart from going off road a few times to get past slow moving trucks. PP on the other hand was chaos! The rules of the road in PP initially can be intimidating. I found that it’s sometimes better not to acknowledge the person you are about to cut up (cut in front of, steal their space etc, you get the idea). If you acknowledge them you instantly put yourself at a disadvantage. With your weakness exposed your feeble attempt at dominating any space is lost forever, a torrent of vehicle’s will surge into it in a single exquisite fluid movement, leaving you wondering where you went wrong, and how on earth they got 4 people, 2 gas cylinders and a sewing machine onto one scooter.


Once in PP I checked into a guest house, I stayed at:-

Okay Guest House
Long Nget,
Phnom Penh,
Cambodia
(0)12 300 804

GPS:
N11°33.588
E104°56.049

The guest house is very friendly and has great reviews from lots of travellers. My room cost me $7 with a fan and a TV. I requested a room on the top floor so I would have views over the city, and maybe a wee smoke before bed.

Once I had somewhere to sleep my next goal was to locate food. I didn’t really want to head out into PP, I was tired and it was getting close to 20:00 (I know not late, but remember I had not been sleeping that well) plus I wanted to get up early to pick-up supplies, and decide where on earth I was actually going to go. I made the easy decision to eat in the Okay restaurant. The food was good with a decent choice of options, both local food and western.

While in the restaurant I got chatting to a young guy from Switzerland. He lived in Cambodia and worked on a boat that took tourists to Vietnam. As we chatted it was clear that he was broken hearted, we chatted for just over an hour. During the conversation he mentioned a place called Rabbit island near to the town of Kep. He informed me that if it was seclusion and solitary that I was looking for, then I would find it on place called Rabbit island. As I expressed a keen interest he gave me the directions, he also said that if I took national road 3 then I would pass through the town of Kampot (a coastal town where his ex-girlfriends sister had a guest house and bar). As i was saying good night he kindly asked that if I did go through Kampot, then if I could pass on a message for him. I figured this was as good a reason as any to go there and asked him for the message. With that I retired to my room.


I showered, phoned my friends Ali and Dave in the UK, (just to let them know i was still alive), turned on the TV and laid on my bed to write my journal (which brings us to pretty much where we are now).

(Oh quick note, if your in cambodia then get to know a local who can get you a sim card for your mobile phone. It is so much cheaper to call overseas using a local card. I got a $5 card at the start of the month and still have $2.5 on it. I’ve made a few overseas calls and loads of local ones).

While writing I thought it would be a good idea to listen to a Khmer channel on the TV, just hearing the sounds seems to help me learn. Too my surprise Im finding it hard to locate a channel in Khmer. There are about 20 or so channels in all, and I’ve found about three in Khmer. There’s lots of english and Mandarin but thats about it. The three channels that are in Khmer are saturated with the mindless brain washing adverts for products that just aren’t needed. If you buy this you will be a better person, this will make your life better, look at these celebrates they are better than you, you can try and be like them if you buy this though. I find it atrocious that a country which has been physically destroyed is now in my opinion being socially destroyed as well. How many times has history shown countries and culture destroyed first through war and now through globalisation. Apologies rant is over….


Its probably time for me to sleep,

peace & love dx


So on Saturday I decided to travel to Phnom Penh again, its not that I really want to be in the city, but PP has something that little bit special. I wanted to try to feel the pulse of the city a bit, get under the skin of it, so to speak. As a bonus I was also meeting Hanna and Annie, a couple of volunteers at SSF who where leaving Cambodia and starting their journey back to the UK.

I set off early(ish) Saturday morning (0700) and headed to national road number 4 to try and flag down a taxi / mini bus. I didn’t have to wait long.

I climbed onto the front seat of the mini bus, sat back and simply absorbed the experience. As we got closer to PP we had to make more frequent stops, no we weren’t dropping passengers off, it was more to do with, what could only be classed as impromptu road taxation by waiting police. The driver would hand me notes of money, we would pull over where directed, and I would hand the said notes out of the window, miraculously they disappeared and we where suddenly on our way again.

After numerous more stops, I decided to alight the minibus at a market place… Too be honest I had absolutely no idea where I was, but decided it was as good a place as any to have a wander around. I was stopped numerous times by people who pointed at my tattoos, occasionally people would take my arm and run their fingers over the ink. This didn’t bother me at all as it was all done with a smile and with genuine interest. It also broke the ice and allowed me to just sit and chat with people for a while… (albeit in my god awful khmer) but I think they appreciated me trying at least.


After wandering around a bit I decided I should go and find Hanna and Annie. I asked a scooter rider if he knew where the Sunday guest house was. He nodded furiously and we negotiated $1 for the trip. After riding around for about 20mins it was clear he had no idea at all of where he was going. We asked directions approximately 5 times before we finally found the guest house. My driver, clearly delighted with his feat of navigational expertise, attempted to demand $2 for this impromptu sight seeing tour, I handed him $1 and thanked him politely for the journey.

I checked into Fairyland Guest house, which was next door to Sunday, (If i had trouble finding the Sunday guest house, then there was now way they would understand Fairy) it was probably one of the pricier places i’ve stayed, at $13 with an air conditioned room. But the rooms where lovely and had a TV as well. ( I found this useful as I could listen to Khmer on the TV). The view was also pretty nice. If your interested in this guest house then its on street 141.

After a shower to cool down I went to meet Hanna and Annie, we headed to the end of the street for a cold drink then off to the Russian market. (ok i need to confess, i absolutely love the iced coffees over here, try it with the sweet milk. dteuk gork gaa-fay, just incase your interested).

The Russian market, like most markets is covered, because of this its hot, now when I say hot I mean its really hot… its like a sauna in there… I love it… your hot, your wet, you have the hustle and bustle of the market, the smells the noise, the chaos, what better way to start to peel away the layers of a city and get to grips with it…


After spending about an hour walking around the market, we decided to go and grab something to eat. I was still on the lookout for apple pie (I have a thing for trying apple pie in every country I go to, it brings back good memories of my gran’s cooking). We eventually found a place that seemed to fit the bill, however just my luck it had sold out of apple pie 😦 instead I was offered a sorry looking apricot crumble. I mean who puts apricots in a crumble?

I sat there for a while poking disappointedly at my unappealing apricot crumble, I would occasionally gaze out of the window and down onto the street below. I could sense that that is was going to start raining. (the air cools a little, you can smell the moisture in the air, its pretty refreshing).

As the rain started to fall I started thinking, maybe I was looking at this all the wrong way, maybe just maybe I had been presented with an opportunity. An opportunity to continue my quest in search of the elusive cambodian apple pie. Of course I wanted to find it a good apple pie here, but would I ever really find an apple pie that was as good as my gran’s baking? would I even want too? Maybe the ultimate goal is irrelevant, it could just be something to aim at. Whats important is the journey, having a reason to move in a direction, any direction at all. With that thought, I moved towards the cake counter and ordered a large piece of cheese cake.

After stuffing my face with cake and iced coffee, we decided it was too hot too continue wandering about, so decided to head back to the guest house to play a few games of cards (Switch and Shit Head, some of you will know these games).

Later that evening Hanna, Anni and I grabbed a tuc-tuc to the riverside and ate dinner. It was nice spending time with the girls, they had both dedicated time out of their lives to help complete strangers on the other side of the world. If I was wearing a hat I would take it off too them. They where now heading back to their homes in the UK and back to uni to finish their studies.

Later that night, it was maybe about 0330 – 0430 in the morning (now back at my room of course), I was laid on my bed with the lights out and the windows open allowing me to hear the city outside. Initially I could hear voices in the street below, followed by a woman singing. I have no idea what she was singing but the sound echoed through the ally-way below. I got up from my bed and stood at the window for a while, watching the street and listening. It was a beautiful thing, it was one of those experiences that cost absolutely nothing at all, yet made me appreciate and accept everything within the universe at that single moment in time….simply perfect.

I woke pretty early on Sunday, ok I woke at 0800, it was early enough. I wanted to purchase a couple of things, first off i needed a hard-drive for a server I was building at the school, I also needed another Khmer phrase book, and maybe if I had time I could look at and maybe price a scooter. This was going to be a bit of a mission so I decided to call my good friend Sovann (he’s a tuc-tuc driver and knows every where). He arrived at Fairlyland within 10 mins of me calling. I have no idea how he does it.

We managed to get a hard drive and a phrase book within about 30 mins. Ok may as well look at a couple of scooters then. 3 hours later I was riding my new 250cc XL Honda Degree through the streets of PP. Sovann being the kind soul that he is, refused to let me ride back to Kompong Speu alone, just incase I had any problems. He jumped on the back and we started the 1 hour journey back. Actually with me riding this bike it didn’t take that long at all. Sovann seemed a little worried, when I say seemed a little worried i probably mean screamed. However the noise of the engine suppressed his vocal projection of fear from disturbing my carefully developed riding style.

So there we have it, another weekend in PP, and now I have wheels to go and explore anywhere I like, who know where Im going to end up 🙂

peace & love dx


On Saturday Ryan and I decided to take a trip to Phnom Penh. We travelled from the Kampong Speu province of Cambodia, via TucTuc mini-bus into the city of Phnom Penh. It took approximately 1 hour on the crowded hot bus.

Our first mission was simple, FOOD!
Having no idea what to order, and not knowing the local language (Khmer), Ryan resorted to pointing to peoples plates. I decided to take a more tactful approach, I only wanted a vegetarian dish so proceeded to point at all of the meat and shake my head, then point at the vegetables and gave a thumbs up (international communications was always my strong point :-S )

After lunch we headed off to locate the Royal Palace.

In a lot of places in Cambodia you’re expected to remove your shoes when entering certain buildings, we did this before entering the palace. On leaving the palace we discovered Ryans flip-flops had gone missing, a similar pair had been left though. We assumed someone had obviously taken the wrong ones so Ryan did the only thing he could and slipped on the pair that where left. I didn’t really think too much of this and quickly went back to taking photos. Ryan following with his eyes scanning every persons feet like a slightly demented person, he was rambling on about his flip-flops the entire time. His work did however pay dividends and he was finally reunited with his flip-flops. I think it was a pretty traumatic experience for him.

After visiting the Palace we decided to jump into a Tuctuc and head over to S.21 the Genocide Museum. For $18 we hired our driver for the entire day, he wouldn’t take payment until the end of the day. He was a great driver and spoke excellent english (which came in pretty handy when we went to eat). Our driver was called Sovann Vorn, we discovered that he was training to be a tour guide. If you want to hire him then he is contactable via facebook, or email: sovann_tour@yahoo.com

(Toul Sleng Genocide Museum, the former security office 21 in “Democratic Kampuchea” was created on orders of Pol Pot (Sa lut Sor), In April 17, 1975. Office 21 was called S-21 and designed for detention, interrogation, inhumane torture, and the killing after confession from the detainees were received and documented.)

About S-21 Genocide Museum

I found this place to be extremely sad, the amount of innocent lives that where lost here was just awful. I don’t think my photos could ever really show the feeling that are experienced when visiting this place.

These beds where used to torture and murder the detainees at S-21 in the most inhumane way imaginable. Being in these rooms just felt uncomfortable, I sat for a little while alone in this room to connect with my emotions. Outside I could here people laughing and joking, I just couldn’t understand how anyone could have any sort of humour in this place.

Below is a photo I took of a display that was set up. Each prisoner at S21 was photographed. There where rooms filled with so many of these displays, some with women, some with men, others just children. Every one of them had the same look in their eyes, a look of complete emptiness.

After S-21 we went over to the Killing fields. (The Killing Fields were a number of sites in Cambodia where large numbers of people were killed and buried by the Khmer Rouge regime, during its rule of the country from 1975 to 1979, immediately after the end of the Vietnam War.

While walking around the Killing fields there where young children begging for money, I couldn’t give them money but I did give them my water.

Phnom Penh is a beautiful city with a lot going on, however a lot of people are simply trying to survive here. When you scratch the surface you can see the struggle the people have to endure, however they are still some of the friendliest people I have ever met.

wishing you all peace & love

Dx