Tuesday, November 4, 2008

...And the winner is

Hello all! Well, It's currently 4:23pm on Tuesday November 4th here in Cambodia...That's right! ELECTION DAY!! and we're 11 hours ahead of the United States. Don't worry, I won't ruin the day for you by letting you know who won. How nice am I?

Things are still plugging along here in Kampuchea. Today I spent some time working on a grant proposal with a couple of Khmer teachers. It looks like I'll be able to a bit of the old job with them and help them out with project prioritizing and planning. Should be fun.

Last week there were two Khmer holidays, King Coronation day and the King's birthday. Since this meant that nobody would be in school for pretty much the whole week, a few volunteers took this opportunity to head up north to check out Siem Reap. This turned out to be a really good experience...and I didn't even go to Angkor Wat! Don't worry, coming to Kampuchea and not checking out Angkor would be like going all the way to the Grand Canyon and only staying for 15 minutes and I'd never do anything as effing stupid as that! This trip was more about decompressing with other PCVs from the pressures of settling into site.

Siem Reap at times resembles more of a spring break destination than Cambodia and a couple of the bars (on "bar" st.) even had a halloween party on the 31st. So, needless to say, there was fun to be had by all and it was nice to know that this spot was only about two hours away by bus, even though it was a little expensive.

Well, this is the week that i'm putting the rubber to the road finally. I will solidify relationships at one of my three schools and finally get down to business. That leaves the other two still to go...

Whew... this job is almost like work.

see you soon!


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Greetings from Big Snake Province!

Hello all from my new home of Kampong Thom. (previously called Kampong Thom"(big) Pooh(snake) as at some point in history, a really large snake was found here someplace.

Anyway...here is a prepared blog for ya with some pix... enjoy!

October 16, 2008

Hello everyone…or more specifically to the three or so people who are actually still reading my dementia. I’ve been in my permanent site of Kampong Thom for about a week and so far it’s been pretty good. I’ve made some friends locally as well as in Phnom Penh (which will be good for those times when I get to get away for a while)

For the last week I’ve been damn busy observing classes at the high school and teacher training college an generally running all over Kampong Thom town looking for things I need to keep me sane at home ( like a fan, an extension cord, a beach chair for reading etc.). Through it all there has been one constant: I’m getting ripped off on prices.

Now this isn’t as nefarious as it might seem at first. Most Khmer aren’t consciously trying to sell you a product for more than it’s worth, i.e. cheat you. They are simply using a localized economic model. Quite literally, there are two price structures in Kampuchea, which correspond to the two basic target markets for merchants: Khmer consumers and “Everyone else”. The average Khmer doesn’t make $4 a day, so obviously they cannot afford to pay much for goods and services. Generally foreigners here come in two flavors: those working for NGOs who typically have a healthy spending allowance (relative to locals) and tourists who for the most part have a good amount of money or they wouldn’t be able to visit Cambodia in the first place. In addition to having more money, these foreigners are used to items costing a great deal more in terms of their home currency (for example one really can’t eat a good breakfast for 75 cents in the UK but a meal for 3000 riel is common in Cambodia). Because of these two factors a two-tiered price structure has emerged. So yesterday when I was shopping for undershirts and shorts, I bought a pair of knock off nike tennis shorts, new, for $3. I felt pretty good about my purchase until I arrived home and my host sister (one year older than me and married to my host bro in law) asked me how much I paid. When I told her, she looked aghast and told me that those shorts should never cost more than 7000 riel, or about $1.75.

This pissed me off a bit at first, but then I stopped thinking of it as personal and started thinking about the economics and it all made sense. Quite literally, the price is determined by what the market will bear. In this case however, there are two distinct markets. For me, $3 seemed like a good price for new shorts and I was afraid to bargain lower. A Khmer would say I got a really bad deal. So it’s all a matter of perspective. Still, I’m a bit stuck between the two markets here. As a volunteer, I make about $4 a day, which puts me in the Khmer consumer group in terms of budget. Sadly, I’ll always have the appearance of a chalk white foreigner so the assumption will be that I have funds consistent with that consumer group (and I also come from a world that $3 shorts are a good deal). This may change as more shop owners and sellers at the market become familiar with me, but it is unlikely that I’ll ever get the true Khmer price from many sellers.

Just a little slice of life in Kampuchea-land!!

Here are some pix:

Pic 1- my training family. Three brothers, oldest sister and mother

Pic 2- a view of a floating village I visited. They had barbershops, electronics sellers, even a floating gas station.

Pic 3- Same day I visited the floating village we stopped at the Wat (temple) to pay respect to the monks. The wat is on sort of an island and must be accessed by boat. In the picture with me are Socheata to my right (my language teacher) and another PCV.

Pic 4- Photographic evidence reinforcing a previous blog point.

Pic 5- Riding in the back of a truck, on my way to another water village, Kampong Luong with Socheata on my birthday. Sometimes you have to get a ride with whomever is going that way. Spent my b-day getting pelted by passing boaters with balloons filled with colored water.

Pic 6- your basic Kampuchean water borne snack stand.

Pic 7- When Socheatas attack!! (on the way to the water village)

Pic 8- View of Kampong Chhnang from the top of the hotel where our swearing in was held. First time in a tie in over two and a half years.

Pic 9- Vanny and Socheata, two language instructors looking stunning in their Khmer formal wear after swearing in ceremony.

Pic 10- One of my favorite photos of Kampuchea life. My younger two host bros playing pool. Incidentally, all three of my host brothers are way better at pool than anyone else I’ve ever played against anywhere. They would rattle off successive complex combinations while talking to me all the time. Check out the sign above the pool table. “Please Welcome to this here.”

Friday, September 5, 2008

Hello all! Well, it's been a while since the last post. Big news!!! I've received my permanent site where I'll be for the next 2 years!!

I'll be going to Kampong Thom provincial town. It's located in the geographic center of Cambodia (in case you're checking the map). It's a popular stop over on the way to Siem Riep (Angkor Wat). I'm pretty excited as it's an up and coming town that just got it's first western food restaurant, an italian place owned by an ex-pat who is a former Peace Corps volunteer! Talk about a valuable resource in town!! Getting a western food place is the tell tale of a town making the turn towards the big time! Can a bar focusing on American Football be far behind??

In the next two days I'll be travelling to visit the site for the first time. I kinda got the hook up with my host family as I will have a whole floor to myself at the house as well as access to...gasp... ELECTRICITY!! More expensive but it sure will be easier to read with all that light!

what follows is some pre written stuff to catch everyone up on what it's been like here in Kampuchea!

I guess I should apologize for the brevity of my recent posts. I can only get on the internet while in Kampong Chhnang, the provincial town that is the hub site of our training. The only spare time we have is during lunch so I haven’t had much time to chat away about stuff. I’m typing this post ahead of time so that it can be cut and pasted quickly. Hopefully it will catch everyone up on some of my thoughts about Kampuchea.

Here are some random thoughts:

Cows- Cambodia may have the skinniest cows on the planet. We drove by some on the bus ride out of Phnom Penh and I remember thinking “man, I’ve never seen a cow with six pack abs before.”

Driving- Anyone who has ever mused that driving would be much better without all those pesky rules should spend a couple of weeks on the roads in Cambodia. Traveling the roadways here will change your opinion of what is safe and what isn’t. Seatbelts? We don’t need no stinkin’ seatbelts. I used to think that two lane roads were for only two cars at a time. Think of the most narrow two lane road you know and you will be able to get three cars and a motorcycle abreast of each other, no problem. Trust me, there’s room.

Text messaging- Cell phones have taken Cambodia by storm. This makes sense as the more remote areas can get service by just putting up a few towers. Khmer people text each other much more often than calling tho as it is much cheaper. This has had an unusual side affect. Text-speak has become pervasive in Khmer society. For example, one of the first things my language teacher did was to pull our leg regarding how hard the test was going to be. He smiled and said.. “Jk! Jk!” This type of thing happens everywhere with people of all ages. For most Khmer, the cell phone is the first exposure they get to English, so most people with phones will remark to you at some point “BFF” “JK, JK” or “LOL”. They also learn useful phrases such as “Missed call” and “one new number.”

Rice- Rice is in every meal. It’s so important that Khmer actually say “eat rice” (nyom bye) as another phrase for “having a meal” If someone they know passes by the house it’s polite for them to yell “Come eat rice”. Rice however has a dark side. If someone, say a new arrival to the country dives in headlong into a diet that is 85% rice you…may…NEVER…crap…again!! Luckily, an apple a day will not only keep the doctor away, it will help get things moving so that you don’t turn septic from impacted bowels. Sadly, apples are not readily available here, and the locals seem to know their value to us “barang” (foreigners) so they are expensive and nobody will budge on the price.

Money- Now that I’ve complained that apples can be expensive, here’s a tidbit on money. It’s silly cheap to live here. If one eats a super deluxe meal, has a couple of beers and coffee you could end up paying 24,000 riel. This sounds like a lot until you know that 4000 riel equals roughly $1 (that comes out to six bucks for you English majors out there). The average meal here is around 4000 riel, with breakfast inside the market rewarding the brave with a nice amount of food for only 1500 riel. There is a lady at a roadside stand that makes waffles for only 200 riel each! Yummy!!

Motos- A moto is basically what Khmer call a motorscooter (too small to be a motorcycle but larger than a moped). It is the preferred mode of motorized travel as cars are usually beyond the means of most Khmer families. The number of passengers that can be safely transported on a moto is limited only by the number of family members the mother has been able to chug out. So far, the record number that I have seen on a single moto, driving down the road at 35 mph or so is 5 humans and a chicken.

More numbers- Regarding cargo, there is no such thing as stacked too high. If the stack was too high, it would have fallen down. So furniture, chicken coops, etc can be seen driving down the road in stacks 3 or four times higher than the roof of the vehicle (or moto). Regarding taxis, there is no such thing as too full. The way you know it is full is that nobody else wants on. If someone else does, there is room. Regarding taxis again, If you ask the driver where the taxi is going, there will be only one answer “where you want to go” If you really want to know where a taxi is heading you have to check to see where the fifteen or so people already on the taxi are headed. If that’s your town, in you go.

Cojones- Bob Barker has never been to Cambodia. Testicles are everywhere. Pigs, Cows, drunk dudes and most of all, Dogs. What’s more, dogs seem to have some sort of ESP that alerts them if someone starts looking their way, at which time they instinctively start licking themselves. Nobody here even understands the concept of neutering dogs. Even the girl dogs here have testicles.

Gambling- Khmer love them some gambling. From cards to sports everyone seems to gamble. In my training village of Boribo, volleyball is the sport of choice and there is always money on the line. There is even action riding on a game involving kicking a flip flop that you can make a few thousand riel playing…provided you are under the age of 10. Everyone here gambles.

Danger- Danger is a relative term here (see Motos Numbers, and Driving above). Things we think are dangerous Khmer see as routine. Every once in a while, a Khmer will say “Care…Danger!”. If you hear this you better damn well steer clear of whatever activity they are referring to (riding on the street, swimming, drinking water) coz if they think it’s dangerous it’s probably something that would make Evel Knievel shit his pants.

Cows and farm livin- About a week ago I was finishing up lunch with my host family. Suddenly there was some sort of commotion behind the house which my host brother ran to investigate. It turns out that my a cow my brother was tending was having a baby! He asked me if I wanted to see it but I was late for class so I said I would check it out later. No more came of this until I was heading home the next morning after teaching a class. Several people including my host brother and host father were gathered around the well. As I approached, my brother said “Bonn Say-ha…the cow…she die.” (obviously he was concerned that this might be an issue for me). My host father looked up and was characteristically brief: He said one word-- “Chin-aing” (Delicious). Yep, the next day I ate me some baby cow. And father was right. It was yummy. That’s farm livin’ for ya!

Stay tuned for the next installment! I’ll be checking in with everyone soon!

C- Ya!!


Sunday, August 17, 2008

First Photos from Kampuchea!

Here are some random pix, from the trip over, a bike ride to the river, some classroom pix and some of my host family/home.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Hello from Kampon Chhnang, Cambodia!

Hello all!

Well, I'm finally here! It's raining here in Kampong Chhnang. It does that alot. But it's cool coz I'm already soaked through with sweat anyway. It's been an amazing experience so far! Our accomodations have been relatively posh (reminds me a bit of the ol Noble Hotel in Lander) but we will be moving out to host families in two days. The language training is going nicely and I'm learning quite a bit. I can order food, ask where the bathroom is, introduce myself and tell folks where I'm from and talk about my family. The food is one of the best parts here. I can eat like a king for 5000 riel...about $1.25. We got a bit of a tourist markup from one restaurant but when we considered that it amounted to around a quarter, it was hard to get upset. Only one bummer so far. I had my nice leatherman tool out to repair a fellow trainee's jacket zipper and left it on my table. This was an error in judgement as the next day after returning from class it was gone. Chalk it up to a learning experience!

Today we did a practice run to the market here in KC. I'll have to take some pictures of a market someplace because words won't do it proper justice. Try to picture Blade Runner without all the skyscrapers and flying cars and you'll get an idea.

Speaking of flying cars, the traffic here is something else. Most people get around on scooters called Motos and there are apparently only suggested rules for driving. While there are plenty of accidents to be had, mostly this chaotic ballet of busses, trucks cars, motos, Tuk Tuks (little motorcycle drawn carriages) and bicyclists is managed quite normally by everyone. This may be the only place I've ever been that the horn was used to simply announce that you were approaching instead of an attack on a fellow motorist.

I'll try to get my crap together and post some photos soon. Right now I'm still living out of a suitcase and have no room to set up the computer and what not. Besides, packing and unpacking things is a pain in the ass!

I'll get into some of the people stuff on my next couple of posts. There are some really fine people here with me ás well as those helping us to learn the languages and the customs.

All in all...like I said, it's a crazy, awesome overload of the senses!

When next you hear from me I'll have transitioned to my host family where I'll stay for the remainder of the training period.

Good times!!


Friday, July 18, 2008

11th hour and all's well...mostly

Hello all!

Well, this is it. Tomorrow I take off to San Francisco and begin my twenty seven month odyssey to southeast Asia.

The car is sold (got a good price too!)

The bags are packed (They are 1.3 lbs under the weight limit!)

I've tied up all the loose ends I could think of...I hope...

I got to see The Dark Knight today (you owe it to yourself to see one of the finest performances in a movie. Heath Ledger is disturbingly brilliant.)

I ate a great big ol steak at Outback with my Mom. (served to us by freaking Rain Man)

And now I lay comfortably chilling out in bed. The noisy barking dogs erasing any anxiety I may have had about the trip (Makes me look forward to being in Cambodia!)

I hope to keep on posting, hopefully with value added, entertaining posts.

Wish me luck!


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Five days to Go!

Hello all! Five days to go and I'm getting down to the final stages of packing. The only item of unfinished business seems to be selling the car. Who would've thought that it would be this tough to sell a car in Bristol. It has all the new technology like radial tires, FM radio, even that new fangled unleaded gas. Oh well, in a couple of days, if it still hasn't been sold, I'll be driving down to Carmax to turn it into some quick cash. Beyond that, it's all about trying to keep the bag weights down and making it easy for things to be shipped to me after the fact. Haven't been doing much language study in the past several weeks. I guess I'll be hitting the flashcards pretty hard on the plane!

Next post will be from San Francisco!

Chat at ya soon!


Quick Hit #5: Effing Cigars

If you've ever found yourself out in public, and you've thought "you know, I'm just not being enough of an A-hole." simply light up a cigar. Problem solved.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

From Fine Wine to the Firing Line...

Hello friends (especially any new friends from my Cambodia PC group)!

I have just returned from a whirlwind tour of Northern VA and Maryland. It was nice to get together with Rick and Jenny once more before I took off on the great adventure! This was a long weekend of great food, great wine (so they tell me), five round bursts and narrow escapes!

Everything started with a afternoon tour of the Maryland wine country. Both Rick and Jenny embrace wine as a hobby. Their near religious appreciation for the excellent vintages was offset nicely by my heathen ignorance as we sauntered from vineyard to vineyard bringing a little madness to the haute couture. As we tasted the grapes, some sour, some sweet, a disturbing pattern began to emerge. Apparently, young ladies that pour wine at tastings (R and J would know some nifty wine-person title for them) are especially susceptible to ill fortune. One poor girl told the story of the runaway fiance that left her with semi-fond memories and a nice ring. At a later stop, another known only as Sweet Katherine told us, in her super-hyper manner, that her fiance (I think the Maryland word for boyfriend) was interested only in her "benefits". Sweet K went on to say that she was available to come with me to Cambodia (R and J loved sharing my plans, especially to Sweek K) and that she could keep the shop open until 9 if we wanted to stay. R and J snickered and turned the knife by suggesting a group photo with Katherine. After, there were many comments along the lines of "Sweet Katherine wants to give you her benefits" which to be fair, seemed none too benevolent. One got the impression that while she was tending the shop, somewhere nearby three goats were crossing her bridge unmolested.

The other highlight of this awesome trip was a trip with R and J to their gun club. There I was introduced to the finer points of the Glock 19, the H&K .45 and 9mm. I really thought I was doing pretty well. Most of my shots were grouped in a nice little six inch circle at 25 feet. After about fifty rounds I stood back to appreciate my handiwork and quickly had my baloon deflated as I watched Jenny put round after round nearly on top of each other. Freaking Lethal Weapon man! Give this girl a few more months and she'll be on the damn Olympic team!

All in all, it was a great weekend. It really was great food, great drink (does PBR make a Merlot?) and especially great friends. Now, it's time for me to put the finishing touches on my packing and get accquainted with my new friends in Cambodia group #2!!

Till next time!


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Snake Mythology: Addendum


Per my previous post, I just spent five weeks in the desert, didn't see one snake.

I've been back in VA for 6 days. Yesterday while running around a lake I nearly stepped on a copperhead stalking me from the edge of the trail. Hilarious.

This just goes to prove two points:

1- Desert snakes are still a myth


2- VA snakes dig my blog!



Monday, June 23, 2008

Snake Mythology; T-minus 25 Days and Counting!

Hello faithful readers!

I'm back in Bristol, VA having left behind the lush er...damn hot desert landscape of Tucson. I really liked Tucson (If you ever find yourself in Southern Arizona, make sure to drop by the Cowpony bar. It kicks ass!) I could see myself settling down in Tucson someday, that is if I ever find myself settling down.

One thing left me feeling a little ripped off regarding my time in the desert. Five weeks in the middle of the rocky sandy, blistering nothing and I didn't see ONE...DAMN...SNAKE!! I don't want to hear any more about the desert teeming with Rattlers with a snake lurking behind every sagebrush. As far as I'm concerned, that's bull crap. What a gyp. All those scenes in the westerns where the cowboy is riding along on his horse when suddenly...EEEK! A RATTLESNAKE!! Yeah, right. Maybe if he was riding along in the middle of the night...making noises like a gopher...a sick gopher...with a wooden leg. Desert snakes are a myth!!

Anyway, absent vipers aside, when I got back to VA, my Peace Corps staging kit was waiting for me! The staging kit is the PC signal that the final countdown has started. Inside were updated packing guidelines, a final checklist of things to do/bring to staging, a schedule of training as well as my international flight itinerary. So...

On July 19 I'll be hopping a plane to San Francisco!! I'll be spending two and a half days at the Hotel Kubuki, a Japanese themed 4 star hotel! Woo Hoo!! Originally, I had thought I'd be flying straight into Phnom Penh but I guess that doesn't happen. My international flight itinerary reads like a list of all of the places that I've wanted to go. We leave San Francisco on July 21 at 2pm. We fly 11 hours to Japan (woo hoo!!). From Japan, we fly 6 hours to Bangkok Thailand (WOO HOO!) and from there it's a short 1 hr flight to Phnom Penh Cambodia. I know, I know, it's not like I'll be leaving the Airport or anything, and in actuality, it's probably going to be a pain in the neck passing through all these airports, but for now, it just sounds cool. REALLY COOL!!

So now I'm busy shopping up things like light blue short sleeve dress shirts (ugh!) voltage converters, flat blade razors, "dark" colored slacks all the while trying to learn enough Khmer so I don't sound like a complete jackass. I'm looking forward to finally stepping out the door and getting this next chapter underway. It's close now and I think I'm ready.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Quick Hit #5: "New Fix, Old Jones."

I checked out the new Indiana Jones movie a few days ago. The last Indiana Jones movie came out 19 years ago. Holy crap.

Don't get me wrong. I love the character and Harrison Ford is one of my favorites but the bit is so old at this point that the next movie, he'll be digging around in an old tomb or something and find... himself!

"Coming soon... Indiana Jones and the movie that should have been made ten years ago!"
"Coming soon... Indiana Jones and the Prostate of Fire"
"Coming soon... Indiana Jones and the Dark Incontinent"
"Coming soon... Indiana Jones: Raider of the Lost AARP"
"Coming soon.... Indiana Jones: I've fallen and I can't get up!"

Sometimes the new old is just old.


Sunday, May 25, 2008


Yes folks, the Phoenix lander has finally arrived, touching down on the surface of Mars, primed to start it's mission to find some signal, some small evidence of life on the red planet.

After the dust cleared, the first snapshot showed a mangled arm extending from beneath the lander, it's six-fingered hand holding a sign that read simply "Welcome."

Shit, hope he wasn't alone.


ps- I wonder how you say "Our bad" in Martian?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Gotta Love Tucson!!

Let me tell you about Tucson.

Two days ago, I got back from a run and checked the thermometer (as I felt like I was about to die). It was literally 105 in the shade (the thermometer is under the car port area).

This morning, I finally decided to stop waiting around and take a drive. After about 30 minutes of driving, I stopped the car, stepped to the side of the road, and made a snowball. No, I made two snowballs.

This afternoon, I went to the Home Depot to look for some stuff. I was sweatin it at over 80 degrees again.

My morning trip was to Mount Lemmon. It stands at over 9000 feet above sea level. The temperatures there can be up to 30 degrees lower than in Tucson less than 30 miles away! Freaking snow at the end of May! In ARIZONA!! The views are amazing. It seems as if you can see all of Arizona. Like a jackass I forgot to take my camera so no cool pix. I'll go again when the cuz comes down to visit from Phoenix.

Oh yeah. On the way to a place called Summerhaven (shocker) near the summit of Mt. Lemmon, I drove through a cloud.

Yeah, gotta love Tucson.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Quick Hit #4: "Child Care tips part 1"

There seems to be a lot of controversy over parents using a good old fashioned spanking to discipline their children. This used to be common (I can remember a few my Mom laid on me). Today however, if a child goes to school and shows any signs of this punishment, a nosey teacher calls Child Services and the kid is whisked away to foster care and the parent goes to J-A-I-L. Everyone loses. Is the only alternative to spare the rod and spoil the child? I think not! Just follow these simple steps and you will preserve the tradition of corporal punishment, avoiding any unwanted attention or consequences.

1- Yard Sales. Yes, yard sales. Head out to a few yard sales and buy yourself a used tricycle. Any color will do.

2- Remove the handlebars from the tricycle.

3- For those times when Jr. gets out of hand and an "attitude adjustment" is required, crack him a few times with the handlebars.

4-Send your freshly disciplined progeny to school worry free. If Junior's nosey teachers see any bruises it will look like he fell off his bike.

Voila! Happy family!


Quick Hit #3: "Robin...You smell something burning?"

Did you ever stop to think that if the Bat cave catches on fire the Dark Knight is screwed.

I mean, how the hell is the Fire department supposed to find it?

Your bats, your bats, your bats are on fire...


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Quick Hit #2 "One for the Ages"

When I think of my potential soul mate, I don't have any conditions regarding how old she has to be. I think the cliche of an older man seeking out a young nubile woman is ridiculous. Age is nothing but a number and I feel it' s foolhardy to set such parameters when it comes to the woman I will be with for the rest of my life. She will be as old or as young as she is. Our chemistry, our romance and how we enrich each other's lives is what counts.

I do however feel it's important that I be at least one year older than my father-in-law.


Soldiers on a Plane, Monsters are a Pain and Snakes on a Plain

Hello true believers!!

If I look a little frazzled, it's because I endured a marathon cross country voyage to get to my temporary west coast hacienda. I guess I didn't realize when I got on the plane in TN that I'd spend the next 13 hours heading west. Crap man... I could have taken a covered wagon and saved the folks at NOLS some money.

It took me three airplanes, two layovers of more than two hours (one of nearly four) to get me to my destination. During my time on the planes and the layovers, I made some observations:

1- Many of the soldiers we are sending to Iraq do not speak English. Joining me on my flight from Charlotte to Las Vegas (the middle leg of this idiot's triathlon) where a platoon (or more) of soldiers, all in U.S. Army BDUs. They were universally polite to everyone, and didn't make much of a fuss at all (especially if they were returning from overseas and heading to Vegas for some R and R). During the entire flight, I didn't hear a single one of them utter one word of English. This leads me to believe that our government has decided to employ one of my ideas from a former post. (to recap, the idea was to put a sign on the Mexico side of the border that reads in English "If you would like to volunteer for service in the U.S. Army, please climb over this fence to the other side" thus solving the problem of illegal immigration while bolstering our levies of fighting men and women. (Blogger's Note: For those reading this that might not know me very well, please be assured that these comments are in the vein of satire meant to expose the dangers of ignorance and have a little fun. I have learned a lot from those of other cultures and hope to continue my explorations for some time to come!)

2- Some Bees, called "Africanized" are aggressive and have been known to follow you and continue to make nuisances of themselves even as you attempt to disengage and remove to a safe distance (the staff of the SW branch had a run in with such a gang winged bad asses the day before my arrival. Many "ouches" and "dammits" were had by all. Maybe even a "friggin' bastard.")

3- Some redneck, loud, obnoxious and of course... fat... travelers are apparently "Africanized" as well. I ran into such a pair while a prisoner at the Las Vegas airport. While resting in the terminal, passing the time with some truly world class people watching, the husband and wife began their coordinated assault. Despite there being an entire row of empty seats to my left, they elected to sit directly adjacent to me. The mass of the wife easily defied the boundaries of her seat and I retreated to the farthest edge of mine to no avail. Her hip (I think) or dorsal fin (possibly) ...touched me (the horror!). Fearing further flesh-battery, I moved to another vantage point which I felt was a safe distance away. With one eye on the circling menace and the other on the clock, I lapsed into semi-consciousness, waiting for my flight to begin boarding.

Upon entering the plane, I learned to my relief that the flight was only half booked and there would be plenty of room to spread out. I was also encouraged to learn that my seat was in the back of the plane, nearly the last row. Ah...solitude.

Right. Not this trip.

Slowly, inexorably, they marched down the aisle, with John Williams' Jaws theme playing behind them, passing one empty row after another, crashing down into the two seats directly in front of me. At this point I looked out the window to make sure a wing wasn't missing. "What's next?" I thought. A Gremlin ripping up an engine? Would our pilot turn out to be JFK Jr... with John Denver as the co-pilot? Were there rugby players on board? I resigned myself to my fate and amidst loud guffaws, guttural noises and seat adjustments, I leaned back, shutting everything out, attaining a Zen state of relaxed calm and tranquility.

And then she farted.

I don't remember anything after that. When next I became aware, the plane was on the ground in Arizona. They continued on to terrorize Tokyo and I escaped into the balmy pre-dawn darkness of Tucson.

Before I show you some photos of the NOLS Southwest Headquarters, I'll share with you a brief anecdote that sums up living in the desert. I was preparing to leave for a run last night and asked one of the staff that's still here whether it was safe to run on the road at night or if I should wait until morning. He responded "do you mean safe from cars or from snakes?" "Tomorrow it is" I said.

The front gate of the Southwest branch

A wide angle view of the campus.

The climbing wall

The main house

The pool area

The "bunk house" area where I'm sleeping

The patio area with grill and fireplace

And so... as the sun sets in Tucson sky, I bid you a fond farewell! Until the next post amigos!!

- Mitch

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Heading to Tucson

Still in Bristol...
(a shining no-prize to anyone who knows this film reference)

You know there's not much going on when you are moving bricks for fun...and looking forward to it. Sadly, there's only a few more wagon loads to go...and I've already built a lattice work screen on the porch... and washed my car... and rearranged the lawn furniture...

Can insanity be far behind? Many of you out there would argue that insanity is already well entrenched above my shoulders but that is beside my point.

Just as desperate thoughts were setting in (just how much weight will that shower curtain rod hold?) I received a blessed bail out from my good friends at NOLS!! After a flurry of emails and a couple of phone calls I was confirmed as the caretaker of the NOLS Southwest HQ in Tucson for a portion of the summer! That's right! A five week suspended sentence just in the nick of time!

Breathing easier, I got down off the chair, loosened the belt from around my neck and started thinking about sunny days in the desert, chilling by the pool and getting to know Tucson.

Whew! That was close!

Now... what to do about June 20 thru July 20? Nothing like Bristol to make you look forward to Cambodia!


Friday, May 2, 2008

Is it May already? Dang...

Well, so far so good with the Khmer language training. Actually, I've been slacking a bit on the studying for the past week or so while I decide what the next two months will hold for me. More specifically, WHERE I'll be spending the next two months. It's a good problem to have, in some ways.

There is a chance I could be care-taking the NOLS South West HQ in Tucson. Not a bad place to hole up and learn a few things. I'm still waiting to hear the final decision on that one.

Last night was my last class teaching English at Gaither High School. I took some pictures of some of my students.

I like this picture. In one shot you have students from Peru, Iran, Vietnam, Korea, Colombia, Honduras, Brazil and Haiti. It was really cool to spend time with these students learning about their cultures. I'm going to miss these guys. I really enjoyed teaching them. Working with the teachers at Gaither gave me some great experience and excellent ideas that I'm going to put to good use in Cambodia. I know I'm going to have a great time!

The second picture are the "Charlie's Angels" of the Hillsborough county adult education ESL classes!

Well, in two days I'm outta Tampa for the next few years.

...and I still never made it to Key West. Damn.

I'll chat at ya soon!