Sunday, September 9, 2007

Babes in the Jungle and Temples in the Rain

Well let’s see. Where did I leave off?

Friday I visited the school. I don’t think I mentioned that I first heard about it from the Cambodian American Community of Oregon, a really active and very involved group of folks who are doing wonderful things. Not just for Cambodian Americans, but for Cambodia as well. Check out their website at:

Yesterday morning (it’s Sunday night here now) I found a travel agency in town and booked Aki Ra’s ticket to the UK. $1,285. A little more than if I booked on-line, but it’s better that there is someone physical to talk to if plans change.

In the afternoon I met a most amazing man – the youngest British soldier to ever defuse a 1,000 pound unexploded bomb in the UK. Seems he joined the army at 17 and was trained in demolitions. There are still thousands of UXOs kicking around the UK from WWII. On one raid in Coventry the Germans dropped something like 170,000 bombs. 90% went off, leaving 17,000 laying around waiting for something to happen.

Well, my new friend, as a very young man (and anyone doing this type of work is a man, not a boy), received a whole lot of publicity. Seems the women of England didn’t care for “poor Johnny” defusing bombs at 17. So they raised the age to 18. And he is now, and forever will be, the youngest soldier to defuse a 1,000 pound bomb. His mates started in calling him “Babes”. And Babes he still is to this day. A “bit” older than 17; and still working with bombs, and landmines. (I’d better mention here that he’s actually a Scott, not English. It makes a difference.)

Babes went into Afghanistan right after the Soviets left in 1989 to help set up their mine action groups and he’s just kept going. When I first talked to him he was in Battambang province working in a minefield. He came into Siem Reap yesterday and he was gracious enough to give me a few minutes of his time. He’ll be involved in the certification inspection of the Museum next week and we’ll probably be leaning on his help pretty heavily in getting Aki Ra’s demining certificate. An amazing man. I could have talked to him for hours.

Today I took some time and went and saw the Temples of Angkor. This is my 4th or 5th trip here and I had never had the time to see everything. Of course I’ve seen Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom and I’ve walked through the root-covered complex at Ta Prohm. But I’ve always done it during high season. Oh my – what a difference in September. The last time we went to Angkor Wat it was shoulder-to-shoulder people once you got inside. Today I walked through the entrance into the center of the complex and there was no one to be seen. Not a soul. Eventually there were 6 other tourists wandering through. Quite nice. Quite.

I got up to the Banteay Srei complex finally. Now the Museum is IN Banteay Srei, so I knew I must have been close the other day when we went to the river to swim. Becky told me it was across the street from where we had our 2nd lunch. Well it was. Right across the street. The original name is Tribhuvanamahesvara" (Great Lord of the Threefold World).

They call it by its “place name”.

Really neat. Especially when the afternoon rains come. And they do come. And come. And come.

I needn’t have worried though. I bought a really good army surplus poncho that would work just fine. It was in my hotel room……so I let the water wash off the sweat that had accumulated for the last 4 hours.

The tuk tuks all have plastic curtains for the rain so it was an interesting ride back to town. I’m now sitting in the Blue Pumpkin drinking iced tea and eating an omelet. A little break from my ‘hectic pace’.

Tomorrow it’s back to work.

News at 11.


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