Thursday, November 17, 2011

Siem Reap, Cambodia. The first week - thank Vishnu for the French!!

Thank God for the French, that's all I can say, or Vishnu, now I'm in Cambodia! While French efforts to colonise Asian countries, or any country for that matter, was never nearly as successful as the English, the French did do a few things well.  While implementing a stable government, infrastructure, sanitation, schooling and all other elements of society which made England powerful, but obviously boring, were implemented haphazardly by the French, they do seem to have focussed on the important things in life when it came to spreading their influence into far regions of the Orient - cheese, bread, milk and wine.   Go France!  

But before I scoffed too much about the method of implementation of colonisation, I had a think about Western life and diet, and if I took out all the dairy and bread I realised, pretty quickly, that while I may be able to survive a while, it isn't long before I want some crusty bread, or cheese and crackers... or milk in my tea or coffee... think about it.  I assume France thought these delicacies are what separated us from the animals, or the locals, or something, and they were probably right, except for the bit about the locals.  And do not even get me started about life without wine. Why would you even bother?

However, the history lesson into the poor treatment of Cambodians by pretty much, well, everyone (including themselves) aside (I will go into it later in another blog post), Cambodia is lov-er-ly.  The French must have got something right. 

I am quite happy to report that Cambodia, like Vietnam (also colonised by the French, by the way) have lovely fresh baguettes (at USD 30c) a reasonable supply of cheeses including camembert and brie, reasonable coffee, and milk is readily accessible, which actually really surprised me after living in Malaysia.  Either, things have improved greatly in 3 years in this region, or Cambodia is on top of it their game!  I assume the later!  Also, coincidence or not, you can eat frogs here. Not just the legs like in France, but the whole bloody thing!!  Stores here are lined with French (and other - including Australian) wines, and not just crappy 3 dollar a bottle wines either - e.g.  Moet, Verve, and Taittinger Champagne is all readily available and a wide varieties of wines at different prices are available at quiet reasonable prices - from about $5 into the hundreds of dollars. Actually, yesterday I googled a review of the Chateau Soutard Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, of Bordeaux, France, which was selling for USD $120 a bottle, and that was just at the local store.

So, I am quite happy to thank the French for making my stay in Siem Reap that much more pleasant and easier to adjust too.  Last night I was quite easily able to put together a wine a cheese platter for four people that would have been the envy of many, for about 20 bucks.  So, France, merci.  I wouldn't want to get sick and go to the no-hospital, but an evening with a lovely merlot with friends in balmy weather is to die for.

Aside, from thanking my lucky stars for the French, because of the French I find myself volunteering in local schools for the poor (free schooling supported by locals or NGO organisations).  Tash (my travelling partner while in Cambodia) and I made contact with a school called Jimmy's School, run by a local by the name of...wait for it.. Jimmy.  Tash and I will start there on Monday, I believe. So, I am looking forward to that.  We popped by last night while the children we in the middle of a lesson to see some very enthusiastic children learning English (see how that's done, France) and giving us lovely big smiles and hand waves. But more on that once I have started working there.

To end with, here's a lovely food story, since I think I am suppose to do something like that in this blog.  Tonight some friends I have met since arriving, who are leaving Siem Reap tomorrow, are having a banquet for street children. At 6:00 tonight we are all going to the local market to round up some little street urchins, and will take them to a local outdoor restaurant and let them order what they want.  Of course, by '"we" I mean "them". Though I will be there, they will be paying.  That's the best way really!! ;)  Remember, the best meals are those you share with others, whether old friends, new friends, or to be friends and I can't think of more deserving recipients.  To be honest, it really is heart breaking to see the poverty here.  Literally, you have children waiting at your table for you to finish your can of beer so they can collect the trash to sell for money.  So, I imagine, tonights dinner will be amazing!  These children are grateful for anything they receive and they also have some of the biggest smiles I have ever seen on any child!  They just need a bath - something neither the French or the English seem to get right!!


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