Jet-lagged Memories of Cambodia

Back in stormy, cold, wet England with only memories of Cambodia filtering through the jet-lag. It's a wierd condition. You feel light-headed and slightly drunk. You lose all sense of time and your short term memory fails completely(never very good in my case!).

What are the things that have stayed with me? Dawn on the island. A boy on a polystyrene raft singing in the very early light.

A centipede on a monkey's skeleton in the rain forest.

Six people on a moto - yes, you can just see a bit of the head and one arm of the sixth person.

A boy asleep on a moto - you can do almost anything on a moto in Cambodia!

The 'Fast Food Massage Special' - do you eat it during, or have it smeared all over you?

Below - Cambodia's answer to the economic crisis!

The landscape - which is very distinctive, dotted with villages of stilt houses.

And the poverty. Not the starvation level, life-threatening poverty I've seen in Africa, but border-line subsistence poverty. Life on the edge of survival. We met several people who are involved in organisations hoping to alleviate this by putting long-term measures in place. On man was raising the money to send Khmer teenagers to university - another running a project for the street children. This is called 'Friends' and they work with about 2,000 children in Phnom Penh, training them to cook and to make things that they can sell. These children can help to support their families without begging, and they get schooling too.

There's a darker side to the children on the streets. China is building garment factories there now (we saw Debenham's name tabs) and employing a lot of young Khmer women (cheaper than the Phillipines). Many of the women have small children but no child care. So their children are either lent, or in some case rented out, to begging organisations during the day. This is becoming more of a problem but there are people who think it too incredible to believe. They've obviously never read Dickens.

Now I'm in a mad whirl to get to Brussels on Friday for a day-school I'm tutoring on Saturday and I have to pack up myself and the house because I'm joining Neil in Italy for three months. The suitcases have hardly had time to cool! And the editor's version of my Mansfield biography has just slithered down from the internet - 650 pages of alterations, queries and re-writes. It's enough to make any self-respecting author turn to drink! Except that I've got no time just now to even open the bottle. Suddenly, watching the sunset from a hammock on the beach is very appealing!


  1. The sunset photo is heavenly.

    I Had to laugh though. The family on the scooter, dad who is driving has his safety sorted out. He's wearing a helmet! Almost an oxymoron wearing a helmet while jamming 6 on a scooter.

    That is the trouble with coming back from a break, especially jet-lagged, it seems so daunting to catch up all that has been let lie in the interim.

  2. Welcome back kathleen, You are like a bird that perches lightly on the wires, ready to spring off again.

    I have loved your evocation of this unusual and haunting place.


  3. Thanks Wendy - I think even Italy is going to be a bit of an anticlimax now! There's a good poem about holidaying in Italy on the Writers Almanac today - made me smile.

  4. Absolutely right about the daunting bit Al! But waking up at 5am does mean that you have a lot of day to do the catching up in. (Fall flat on my face by 5pm though!)


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