Thursday, March 13, 2008

Back on the Far Side

Well, as many of you know, I’ve headed back to Cambodia to work with Aki Ra for a while. My, oh my, what a change from January.

I’ve spent a little bit of time in saunas, I just didn’t think I’d be spending the next 4-8 weeks there. When I got off the plane in Phnom Penh on Sunday it was like walking into one. Temperature was in the hi 80s (that’s about 25C to anyone outside the USA) and the humidity was pushing 75%. But, hey, the sky was blue and the streets were clear. When I was here in January Aki Ra had to build a fire when we camped out in the jungle and we could see our breath in the morning.

But I do need to drop a few kilos, so I guess this isn’t all that bad. For those uninitiated, a kilo is 2.5 pounds, so that will give you all a nice little giggle. At my expense. But I am just too frickin’ old to worry about people laughing at me.

I had a bunch of meetings in Phnom Penh and they all went pretty well. As you know, Aki Ra is starting a new NGO (non-governmental organization) called Cambodian Self Help Demining (CSHD). I’ll be here working with him to secure his certification by the Cambodian Mine Action and Victims Assistance Authority (CMAA), who oversees all the demining in the country. This could take a while, so I am prepared to stay until the end of April to see it through. I’ll come back if need be.

Rather than spend the money and all the time at the airport to fly from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, I decided to take the bus for $7. It was only supposed to be 4.5 hour ride and the countryside is really pretty and I had a good book to keep me company.

Once again I learned the meaning of Khmer Time…..

About an hour and a half out of Phnom Penh, on the open and scenic highway, while whiling away the time in my book, I just about had a heart attack when an oncoming bus side-swiped us. We were each traveling about 60 mph so it certainly got our attention. We lost the drivers side mirror, got some really nice 'tattoos' on the chasis, and the bus did a neat little snake on the road. I actually though someone had taken a shot at us. That’s what is sounded like. We pulled over to the side and the driver set out inspecting the bus. Nothing else fell off so we resumed our little trek.

For about 25 yards when one of the side windows shattered and about 7 little girls went off like a roman candle. Hey, they got my attention.

So we stopped again, and the driver and his assistant (yep, we had an assistant… I guess for just this sort of situation) taped up the window with a big roll of clear duct tape. That took about 30 minutes (don’t even go there) and then we stated off again on our little trek.

For another 25 yards when the shattered window fell into the bus in about a gazillion pieces , and the girls hit octaves I had no idea the human voice could reach.

So we stopped again and the driver and his assistant knocked out the rest of the window, scraped up the pieces and off we went.

They did say that the bus was air conditioned, so I guess I got my moneys worth.

About 10 minutes later we made a ‘potty stop’. (If you even have to ask me why we made a potty stop I will slap you the next time we meet.) The girls were first in line.

Eventually we got to Siem Reap. We were due about 12pm. We arrived around 3pm. My friend Sao who operates Tuk Tuks for Peace (see links) had been waiting for me since noon. What a great guy. We grabbed my bags and headed for the Green Town Guest House ( It’s really nice. I have a corner room with 2 windows, cable TV, AC, a ceiling fan and hot water in my bath. And I pay $10 a day. Breakfast is not included. That costs me an extra $2.50. Pretty neat.

So today I had meetings with Aki Ra and we worked on details of (CSHD). We hope to have it registered and certified this month. The sooner the better.

I’ve heard from a few of you, and I really do appreciate the emails and phone calls. I’ve posted my mobile number here on the blog, so feel free to give me a call (12 hours ahead of PDT. If it’s noon in California, it’s 2am here.). If you Skype I have it open whenever I am on line.

I’ll post to the blog regularly and I’ll have some emails coming your way soon.

Thanks for all the support.

Babu in the Jungle

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