Tag Archives: friends

Phnom Penh 3

….I think it’s 3?

Anyway, we’re in our last week of volunteering at the special needs orphanage. We’ve dusted the cobwebs off of our nursery rhymes and mastered all of the Khmer names and eating habits of each child. It’s a bit gutting to know we’re leaving so soon…but I am looking forward to properly travelling again.

We’re gathering our gifts for the orphanage which consist of formula, cereals and diapers…all essentials that the kids end up going without if volunteers and donors don’t provide contributions. In once sense I really don’t agree with how we’re expected to provide these essential commodities when we’re already donating our time (I don’t have spare cash…hence donating my time?), but at the same time if the kids need it 100 bucks is worth heaps more to them than to me, even in the dire circumstance of backpacking.

My legs are led at the moment due to the fact that we’re biking 15km a day as we traded in our turfed tuk tuk for push bikes saving on cash and contributing to the calorie burn….probably good considering I have an empty bag of soft baked dark chocolate cookie purchased tonight by my side…We’ve also been pretty dedicated to doing the workouts at Olympic Stadium, which are 25 cents for an hour of zumba/tae bo, and cater to every and any cambodian of any age, social standing, and/or attire…
our nurs
Otherwise the stadium is great, there’s stairs, track, soccer pitches, tae kwon do, tennis, and impromptu badminton.

We’ve also discovered some sweet restaurants this week including an Indian joint called Taste Budz on street 282, just off of Monivong and Sihanoukville. Pretty good indian….if I hadn’t been to Penang, great Indian. Relatively cheap….but we hear there are cheaper all-you-can eat places by the lake. We went in search the other night to find out it was ‘closed’. Must love Asia and it’s ‘yeah, it was grandpa’s birthday last month and now we got a new cat so I think we’ll take a day off to watch soaps’ holidays…

Friends is also amazing…pricier because it is an NGO cafe, but the food is great. I’m going to interject here and present my beef with Cambodia. Yes, it is very poor; Yes, it has seen complete turmoil I will never understand; and Yes, I might do the same if I were them…but the use and abuse their tragic history. Every cafe is run by street kids or teaches them to cook, every shop has things made by mothers in need, every traveller is a volunteer… So, all these shops charge extra because they cater to empathetic Westerners who are here volunteering their time…when really they are Massive cash cows for their western owners. All of the major NGO cafe/shops are owned and operated by westerners. Hence the English menus, tons of advertising, and all in one heart string teasers to get the biggest bang for the buck out of each visitor. You would honestly be better off buying from the super local cafes where nobody speaks English…betcha they need your cash more than the others. It’s funny, each of these NGO places always has air con, fresh paint, and recent renovations…Wonder if they hired street kids to install it?

I know that they are in fact poor, and that I couldn’t imagine what they’ve been through. However they definitely have taken their past and turned it into a pity story to scam westerners….not even the Khmer people, more sickening…its the westerners that come, use the story, and benefit off of other westerners. I feel a little sick every time I go to one of these places but it seems all my other ‘good hearted volunteer’ friends quite like it. What gives. Perhaps I’m a cynic…I like to think I’m smarter than ‘scambodia’ as I’ve called if from the minute I entered it. Eating local, buying local, and staying in our somewhat bug infested guest house makes me feel better than eating a ‘really good apple crumble’ recipe by nana in Georgia executed by a Khmer kid, whose brother comes to sell me DVDs during my dinner with begging hands…

Somehow in the next 10 days I am trying to get visas for India, Vietnam, and a 60 day for Thailand. Cambodia is the cheapest place in SE Asia to get all of them (moreso I need Vietnam to continue my journey), but the office hours are while I’m at volunteering…time will tell. Either way these three will cost me upwards of 200 combined…yeesh! good thing I found cheap flights to India, from there to Africa, and from cpt to Athens–Skyscanner I love you.

Lunch tomorrow is Tofu, cucumber, and Carrot…made possible by the knife I bought for 80 cents. Arguably my best purchase in Asia so far.

I’m also going to yoga at Yoga! Phnom Penh tomorrow for a ‘sweat and samadhi’ class. Not only do the instructors and classes seem sweet but they are also doing me a massive favor and helping me get my books for yoga training which would have costed upwards of 80 bucks to get shipped, for only 6 bucks each here in PP!

That being said, I’m doing a pretty good job of keeping fit, probably because we have one home and the laundry lady is AMAZING, so any excuse to get a fresh load washed, dried, and folded for a dollar is a gooder.

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The Upside to travelling with Friends

As I sit here ‘praying’, to whatever higher power you feel to be appropriate, that my photos aren’t actually gone forever …I’m actually not that fussed. Quite frankly, I took some SICK photos of the Coromandel, but if they don’t some how re-appear on my memory card, at least I was with my friend Sarah when I was there.

My friend Wes joined me for a couple nights in Wellington where we had one night of a self invented pub crawl where we went to –probably 8ish?- pubs trying different beers/ciders and listening to different bands. In that time we tried Ginger Beer, and alternated tastes deciding whether we loved or hated it…still unsure. We also followed a guy to his ‘friend’s secret club’…which took us into an alley and up a graffiti covered elevator. At that point we joked about it being a rape elevator…which was funny only because there were two of us and we walked out fine…but in that moment I realized I probably would have been tempted by my ‘saying yes’-ness to see the ‘secret club’ [which didn’t exist by the way] even if Wes hadn’t been there. At which point we would have had riding in elevators with boys, the sketchy sequel to riding in cars with boys…And I realized how much more fun travelling with friends can be. Fun in the moment as opposed to terrifying in the moment and funny next week…at least.

Anyway the next night we drank [not very much cider-embarassingly] at the pier while chatting about ‘life’. Like actual life, not “I’m Anika, from Canada –no, not the French part- I am travelling for a year, I was in Oz for 3 months….blahhhhh” life, but family, future and friends…the kind of stuff you can’t quite chat about with the guy that moved into the bunk over yours yesterday. Anyway…scrumpy…don’t do it. It is cider in a green bottle…it is lying to you from point of purchase and therefore fundamentally cannot be trusted…unless you want to trust a beverage to have you eating butter chicken off of the streets of wellington in 2 quick hours…then it’s your guy. Anyway, the early night was followed by a morning of intense egg separating…yes, you read correctly. Basically, Wes and I became friends in first year because we would go for daily runs (which were supposed to happen….but wine seems to win the battle every time)…There was a Jeep with RoadRunner written on it, so we assumed it would be a road race we might be able to run. Turns out it was an event by a culinary school where we had to go through heats of separating eggs, whisking a meringue, and poaching an egg. I obviously got WAYYY too into the competition, but that’s beyond the point. We joined [I got gyped from advancing], we cheered for a 14 year old named Manford with epic skills, and ran into my friends from Byron Bay…all while eating free cupcakes, mocktails, lollies (or sweets….not candy…britts, kiwis and aussies don’t know what ‘candy’ is…)and holding our free carton of eggs. Pretty sure my only photo of the day is of my perfectly separated eggs…but the shared memories require no photos.

I proceeded on to Napier to visit Wes at home where he is going to Wine Making school-Yep, it exists! Where I only really took photos of the kitten that was living with him because it was supposed to be put down and the landlord wanted it out, and I was utterly terrified for its life. I still am…I don’t even like cats…and the stupid thing would bite my toes like a needy child at 5am like clockwork nightly…yet still, a 10 photo album of kitten is all I have to show for my 5 days in Napier.

I went on to Taupo where a friendly Facebook update met me up with my friend Lucie who I’d met in Oz (in coolangatta where I busted my knee, then in Byron, then in Sydney), who scored me more malaria tablets, a south east asia lonely planet, and a partner for my walk along New Zealand’s largest lake. I’m pretty sure my photos of Taupo are the first of the lost bunch on my SD card…which I’ll get to. Anyway, I went from Taupo to Rotorua, had a quick look around (thankfully…smellllllllly), then headed to Hamilton to meet my friend Sarah.

Sarah and I went to the Food and Wine festival which Wes was working at on the Saturday then headed out to the House (AMAZING bar in Hamilton…Great live music, mostly outdoors, SO FUN-GO!!), Sarah’s favourite bar, then to her friend’s beachouse (Bach) on the Coromandel on Sunday. I might have been hungover, and about to puke on every turn of the windy road but I was potentially the world’s best drive by window photographer ever. I captured every sweet view of the Coromandel’s rolling hills into the bright blue Ocean in the Sunny 30 degree heat. We got settled into the gorgeous beachouse then went on a sunset walk on the beach…wannabe-travel-photographer’s dream day…until ‘let’s review the photos’….”There are no files on media card”…

Quick note on the food and wine festival…mostly wine…not so much food…but there was deep fried bread and mussel fritters that were amazing….and on a less exotic note “american brownies”…”what makes them american”….”I’m american and I baked them” says the vendor…good thing they were tasty…

The next day we had a beach day where I decided to swim in waves that probably didn’t want me swimming in them because I got dumped about 3 times in a row…losing my first pair of sunnies in 4 months…but also sending my camera into a further downfall…”this file does not contain image data” became it’s catch phrase (It’s waterproof/dustproof/shockproof).

I decided to start doubling on shots with my lovely 5.0mp blackberry camera…which has surprisingly sharp images considering its lack of color absorbancy…

The next day was a tourist jackpot with Hot Water Beach…which is hot springs led under the beach. So you go during low tide and dig a hole and its like instant hot tub! Then off to Cathedral cove. Anyway…I took a series of photos that sporadically stayed on the memory card, others said they were corrupted…I was okay with it. Then I got back and once again tried to upload photos only to read “Card needs to be Formatted” “format Card” –yes- “formatting card will delete all contents of card”-no-

SO we are hoping, and like I said…maybe even praying…that ALL the photos from taupo onward are on the card, but I can’t actually even review them on pc or camera until I sort out the formatting issue…which many people have given me tips for, so the next time I have full internet (probably when I post this post) I will give it a try.

Oddly I’m a bit chapped, but not full on gutted about the photo situation. The fact that every one of the photos was with friends almost makes me feel like I don’t need photos. Like I don’t need ‘evidence’ because I have a witness. And for the first time, as I head away to places where I know nobody all over again, I feel pretty blah about travelling alone. As much as I love the freedom, there’s something to be said for sharing moments with people. I think Nomadic Matt actually wrote it best in THIS post about his time in Africa. It’s made me really reconsider where I go and for how long… As much as I want to hit a list of places on this trip, it gets a little lonely…and in the case of lost/broken technology, it would be great to have a second ‘witness’ to reminisce with. And not the guy I got to add himself on facebook because I really didn’t know his name at all…

Plan update…Bay of Islands to Auckland to Bali to Singapore to Malaysia to Thailand to Cambodia will be the next 6 weeks. 😀

Lose the ego, this is Byron Bay <3

The energy in Byron is irreplaceable. It has created so many great revelations for me…not necessarily good ones, but ones that will only be repaired if they are faced head on. I’ll pre-warn you that this post may jump around, be spacey, make no sense at all, or make me look like a terrible person…but I know that there is a bit of learning in it for everyone if you’re willing to take a gander.

My introduction to Byron Bay went a little like this…

Arrived at 6pm Sunday, just missing the monthly markets, to be greeted by my friend Anna that I met in Noosa. We stocked up on flavored tuna and headed to the beach where there was to be a drum circle. Drum circle there wasn`t but new found friends there were. Frederic is the only name I remember. Upon meeting him he asked `what is your sport?’ Admittedly a bit put off by his insinuation that perhaps I was butch I asked why he would ask that when he replied ‘those are the legs of a strong woman, an athlete’. And I looked down and read the graffiti ‘lose the ego, this is Byron Bay’ and instantly I knew Byron would be a place of realizing some uncomfortable insecurities about myself. He told us there wouldn’t be a drum circle because they were tired from the market, but invited us to a party with their friends. Following suit with my ‘say ‘yes’ when you would normally say ‘no’’ mantra for my travels, we went. For some reason Frederic requested that Anna drive…initially he said it was because there was loads of cocaine in the back seat…we weren’t really sure if he was joking, but we took the risk anyway. We went to the hostel bar at the Arts Factory then headed to the northern part of Byron “the industrial” place. Where we entered a house that smelled of curry, chai, and a hint of B.O. which was showing independent films projected on one wall and through a door we saw dancing. We entered what looked like a room for spiritual dance and found that as well as a nude woman being painted, many adults in costumes dancing with eyes closed, and communal painting canvases. All of this being recorded attentively by several video cameras, one in particular a mother filming her 11 year old daughter as she interacted with the unique ‘live art party’. I will never know if my company that night was high on drugs or life, but either way the energy let my little worries float away for an evening.

A day, maybe two, later…I’ve really lost track…I had a conversation with Anna about friends that was enlightening in both good and not as good ways. I realized that travelling has brought me together with people I ordinarily wouldn’t associate with back home…not because they are a world away, but because I have become so judgemental that without realizing, I am very picky with who I associate myself with at home. I could argue this as a positive…I am after all a master at bullshit…but let’s be honest, those who I hold near and dear are those who know my crazy and love me more for it, so who am I to judge. Without realizing how problematic, even rude it is… The first questions I ask most people at home are “What do you do?” “How old are you/how long have you been doing that”…so I can instantly judge whether or not that person is successful enough to be ‘worth my time’…when clearly with that mentality I really wasn’t worth theirs. When I’ve been travelling, it’s taken me weeks to find out what some people do for work at home. It’s like we all have the commonality of not working at the moment because we prioritized travel, and for whatever reason we chose Australia, and that is a reason to be friends. I have spent nights becoming friends with 18-45 year olds, self-employed hippies to business men, book worms to bar stars…We often have very little in common…but that’s not our focus. And as people who have chosen to open our minds, to travel, to throw ourselves in uncomfortable situations with the hope of learning and coming out even a little better off in the end, we accept and learn from traits we don’t share. I look at the collection of people I’ve met…and to somewhat of a bittersweet realization see that I wouldn’t have given most of them a time of day had I met them while in the midst of the career grind I call home.

As I vented about my [actually irrelevant in the grand scheme of things] problems to my friends Anna and Danny whilst walking along Byron’s beach to the most easterly point in Australia to watch the sunset, Danny said, “Forget the plan and just be your crazy self”. Sometimes I really like the slight language barrier (he’s Italian) as it can hyper-simplify concepts. Quite an interesting piece of advice though, as so often in our social or romantic lives we create plans [maybe its just me] to make sure we fit into the status quo and act socially acceptable…or ‘not crazy’. Society has created a picture that women are crazy because they are over emotional and vulnerable creatures that act on our emotions. As a woman who has always been super career focused and determined to play on even playing ground with the men, I’ve found myself attempting to ‘act like a man’ in any emotional situation. I’ve grown up seeing crying as weak, making fun of over-clingy girls with my guy friends, and being on a mission to be the one that cares the least in the relationship. As a few [now realized to be] poor decisions would teach me…that’s not necessarily always a good thing. I may have been burned badly in the past for expressing feelings, but just as I don’t want to be generalized as the negative stigma of a girl, I suppose I can’t do the same generalizing about men. So all of that abstract out loud [in print] thinking to rationalize the oh so simple statement by my new found friend in Byron bay. Forget the plan, be your crazy self. Sooner or later it’s going to come out. Planning to keep it hidden is only wasting your own time impressing people who don’t [and may not like] know who you really are. And really…why is any given trait impressive…I am such an advocate for being opinionated, but I’ve come to realize half of my opinions [these beliefs I think make me strong, independent and unique] are opinions I’ve adopted to impress somebody…and tried to live out for so long that I almost genuinely believe they are true.

That can sound a bit depressing, but as I quoted Liz Gilbert in my blog prior to my departure, it is these [sometimes disturbing] realizations of self that lead us to the answers we want…and I will say, that I’m sure they aren’t answers we want…because once you let go and open your mind, you see that there were questions you didn’t even know needed to be posed. It goes with ‘say yes when you would normally say no’. If you plan a whole trip, if you only stick to what you know, you will only ever know what you do right now. I know not everyone’s heads are as busy as mine…but that’s a boring and terrifying thought to anyone. I would have never agreed to get in the car with Frederic and his friends…but my choice to say yes granted me the most unique experience to date in Australia.

On a sunnier note, I have also realized who my real friends are…who I can tell every embarrassing, perhaps shameful, or totally inexcusable things I’ve done, and who will make sure I still feel amazing. Those who know the crazy inside and out and love it anyway. The people that even met under the circumstance of judgmental pre-friend screening, are legitimately good people. For that I give myself some credit. So to those of you, you know who you are, thank you…for being one of my most prized accomplishments; because without you to share life with –and of course family—what does the job, house, and handbag mean anyway? I feel honoured to say that when asked who my best friend is I struggle to come up with a single name, as [although it’s only a handful] I have a good group of people that I would trust with my life…that I run to, to share my triumphs, tears, and biggest of dreams. I look at my post about the wedding theory…it still has merit…but I’d say I’ve moved on to the crazy theory. Whoever has seen it all, full blown Anika craziness….and is still around….they can come throw some rice in my perfectly coiffed hair and eat well-planned poorly executed catering…because they will be willing to listen to me complain about it later. …and there’s still a week left in Byron.