Living in Cambodia: The Watermelon Way

When I lived in the Cambodian jungle, there was no store. Not. one. single. one.

There was no “I have a craving for (insert junk food) and I think I will hop in my car and go get some.”

Once our maid departed for the day, any late night craving meant boiling water and eating ramen soup. So when a fruit season would hit, I was the first one at the source, scrounging.

I could independently feed myself with le fruit du jourĀ and imbibe all day long! This was exciting stuff. Breakfast, lunch, supper and snacks. Never got boring, ever.

On the odd day that we crossed the mighty Mekong River and went shopping, I would find more of the same fruit. Like lots more (see photograph above). Thankfully some Australian chocolate (which the mouse in my house would eat) and french fries could also be mustered up.

Fruit became my saving grace… all of it… except for one.

Papaya.

Just say no to papaya!

(Eating watermelon today reminded me how much it used to mean to me. And how cheap it used to cost! It also sparked a creative way to use watermelon leftovers on a hot day. Yes, this is he who is a goofball, of the best kind. However, I hope he refrains from such watermelon use in Cambodia when we go this year. He may feel cool, but he doesn’t look it!)

What food saved your day when you were travelling or living elsewhere? Is there any kind of fruit you dislike?

W is for Wary

What had the latest higher up in some office, far away from reality, dreamed up this time?

Wary, I took a look at the freshly arrived load off the boat from the Mekong.

Radios, used radios from God knows what era. As I sifted through them, I found one reminiscent from my teen years, a yellow banana shaped radio that you could carry on your wrist on the way to the beach. I had used it for a summer or two and then discarded it along the way. Still useful but no longer cool, it met its demise. Or so I had thought.

Where had the United Nations found all these old radios? Had they gone from thrift store to thrift store or put out some UN announcement that Cambodia was in desperate need for radios?

Wary, but not worried, I told the workers to store them in my house until we decided what we were going to do with them. Swamped with our work as we prepared the local population for the imminent election, we returned to our office. The radios, out of sight, out of mind, or so we mistakenly thought.

Later that evening, resting at home sweet home, I heard loud pounding at my door. No way to check who it was, I opened it up to find two men in military gear (very common in my Cambodian district – soldiers? police? renegades?) with AK-47s. Sensibly, I let them in. As an objective party in the midst of an election, this wasn’t too unusual. However, I was alone and unable to communicate with them. And then it began…

Whipping their guns around and yelling at me in Khmer, I went to get my cook who looked terrified. Through sign and gun language, I deciphered that they wanted the radios in my living room. Now the fun starts. In Khmer, I try to get my point across (please leave and come back later…much later) but they see this as a sign to start opening boxes and check out the radios. I call for back up on my radio and thankfully, one of my interpreters comes.

Deciding that correct protocol is not worth our lives, I cave and hand over 2 radios. Within minutes, I have a hoard of anxious radio protesters on our porch. Word is out and we are being bombarded. My interpreter tries to negotiate but fails. The porch frenzy quickly turns into a living room frenzy and officially, Radio Hell, has begun. Radios are flying as people push and shove to get into the boxes. More back up arrives, this time armed, and we finally succeed in quashing the thirst for radios… temporarily.

A quick solution is needed. In a Buddhist country such as Cambodia, monks are revered so off to the Wat we go. Radios in hand (well… actually under cover) we happily pass them over for them to decide their fate. Seeing the prized merchandise, the monks decide to keep all the radios for themselves. We then knew that the monks would be well-informed of the upcoming election and our district would, at least, have a good monk/voter turn out rate!

NO, it wasn’t the Khmer Rouge death threat letters, NO, it wasn’t malaria, it was those frigging old radios that almost killed me!

Cheryl from the Family C travelling from A to Z.

Have you ever felt fearful when you were living or travelling somewhere?

“No Cheryl No, You Said You Wouldn’t…”

When I arrived in Prek Presap, Cambodia, I took one look at our house located 30 seconds from the Mekong River.

Is that swimmable I wondered?

But then I saw the water buffalo come down to the river for their daily bath (have you ever seen how muddy and dirty those things are? ) and then I thought, NOPE, NOT GONNA HAPPEN.

Then, unfortunately, I saw a body or two float by (yes, this wonderful place can have a bit of the “wild west” element to it) and I thought, MOST DEFINITELY NOT GONNA HAPPEN.

Well then the hot season hit and the good ole shower (think bucket and a holding tank full of water) just wasn’t cutting it and yes, I CAVED! Everyone else was swimming (yes, peer pressure) so I ventured down in my full one piece swimming ensemble with sarong to take a little dip… just a little dip.. and just like any bad habit… that one little dip led to one more and before I knew it, I was swimming in that Mekong River every day. And you know what, it was the best bad habit I ever had!

My Favourite House Ever on the Mekong River

This is my house where I lived in Prek Presap, Kratie. Notice the truck out front; one of four that we owned. Why? I don’t know. How do two people really drive 4 trucks? The most cars I will ever “own” at one time. The house had an open concept living area (it was ahead of its time) where the local people would come at night to watch movies on our VCR/TV as we had a generator; a first for this district. So electricity was a big deal…and we were happy to share it.

This is my front yard which was an amazing sight as each and every morning the monks would walk by and receive alms.

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This is my backyard. A good reminder that my job was probably one of the easiest ones around the neighborhood.

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