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Archive for May, 2011

Cambodia Bound…2011

Cambodia…the Land of Amazement…home to 14 million people most of whom are under thirty years of age..country whose people can expect to live 62 years and whose infant mortality rate is 5.5%.  Some other things you may not know about Cambodia? See answers at the end of this post…

  • How many monks are in Cambodia?
  • How many psychiatrists make their home in Cambodia?
  • How many bombs were dropped on Cambodia in the Vietnam War?

Today, with my friend Sian, I make another trek to this most interesting locale. It is hard to describe in words a place that is so different from what one is used to, however I will try. Last year I blogged about the Aogaah Foundation school and about Pol Pot and the Killing Fields. You may have read my stories about eating bugs (my friends did this, I did not) and about Angkor Wat and about a family in Phnom Pen that I adopted.

This year, some of the themes will continue and some will be new. With a traveling companion along like Dr. Proctor, you never know what kind of stories and images will emerge.

We will start in Phnom Penh then head west to the Cardamom Mountains and then to Thailand. From there we reenter Cambodia and head for Angkor Wat then back to Phnom Penh. Three weeks with a busy schedule will fly by and we have scheduled many adventures along the way.

Our bags are packed and they are huge. Mine weighs in at about 60 pounds and Sian’s at about 50. Filled to the rim with donated school supplies for Aogaah and gifts for the teachers and for my adopted family there, we are crossing our fingers that both bags arrive safely with all items in one piece.

Our travel itinerary is not bad. We fly out of LAX at 1 am tomorrow morning and make our way to Taipei, Taiwan. Our choice to upgrade to Business class will make this leg of the trip more enjoyable. From Taiwan, we fly directly to Phnom Penh, Cambodia and arrive on their Saturday around noon.

Answers to the questions above:

  • 60,000 monks
  • 26 psychiatrists (maybe because of all the monks?)
  • 539,000 tons (Funny…since we weren’t at war with Cambodia)

Stats gleaned from Lonely Planet Guide to Cambodia, 2010, pg. 12.

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Swimming 5+ miles, when one has not had a lifetime of training as a swimmer, is a major undertaking. Swimming 5+ miles in a lake the size and temperament of Lake Pend Oreille in North Idaho is another type of undertaking entirely. Yet, on Aug 2, 2011 making that trek across the lake with my friend Kate is what I propose to do. Kilroy Bay to Garfield Bay…right across the lake…one long, straight shot.

The swim is not part of a large, organized event. Rather, it is two swimmers with a plan. The plan emerged from years of Garfield Bay happy hours spent dreamily gazing across the lake at the faraway town of Kilroy. Conversations that started as “We should swim from here to Kilroy Bay” eventually evolved to “When should we swim from here to Kilroy Bay?” and then made the final transformation to, “THIS year we swim to Kilroy Bay.”

Although early planning focused on swimming FROM Garfield Bay TO Kilroy Bay, further discussion and thought resulted in altering the plan to swim from KILROY to GARFIELD. Given normal, daily wind and water conditions that vary from calm and placid to rough and swelling, the adjustment seemed like a good idea.  Normal winds blow into Garfield Bay and could help push us in at the end.

In addition to being a fitness challenge and certainly the most difficult thing I have ever taken on (even more difficult than 43 miles in one day in the Grand Canyon), the event is being used to spearhead fund raising for a foundation that supports schoolchildren in Cambodia.

Links for more information include:

Stay tuned to this blog for more information and updates as the event approaches.

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I grew up in Arkansas and, because I am a tomboy, spent a lot of my time outdoors. Torn pants and skinned knees were the order of the day in my household as I explored every nook and cranny of the woods and parks surrounding our home. As part of this upbringing, I was exposed to the entire range of local flora and fauna, including bugs. Ants, ladybugs, beetles, spiders, butterflies, caterpillars, ticks, and even the occasional snake were all creatures to be studied, admired, and respected.

Living the last twenty years in Arizona has provided opportunities for exposure to types of bugs that did not exist in my little Arkansas world. The desert is home to several types of poisonous spiders, the ever more populate killer bee, rattlesnakes of all shapes and sizes, and stinging, biting flies. None of these joyous creatures, however, compares to the worst, most disgusting, loathsome, and hideous inhabitant on the face of the planet: the SCORPION!

Scorpions are not small by bug standards, ranging in body size from less than an inch to more than 2 inches (not including the tail!). They have eight legs and a set of pinchers, all placed evenly along a body that can flatten down to the height of a piece of paper. Their long, skinny tail stays curled over their back with a stinger that is fully locked and loaded at all times. Ewwww. Even writing this creeps me out and sends chills down my spine. I really can’t think of anything in the world that I hate more than scorpions!

Desert mountains are prime scorpion habitat and we live right next to one. For years, we had problems and some years the word “infestation” came to mind. The stories are endless and the sightings numbered in the hundreds over the years. Soon after we moved into the house, I learned not to sit on the floor (imagine…sleepily enjoying a movie while resting on the floor…then seeing a creepy, crawly scorpion heading right for you!). I also learned not to ever walk barefoot and to seal every opening in the house including outlet covers and the sides of air vents. One year, it got so bad that I carried a rubber mallet with me and turned the light on to carefully scan each room’s walls and ceilings before entering. My husband and I have each only been stung once, on the foot, although he did have a close call with one that was hovering on the ceiling and dropped onto our bed one morning.

Greg and I had gone back and forth many times about calling an extermination service but we had heard that there was no spray for scorpions so we put it off. One day, a young man from an extermination service knocked on our door. He was going door-to-door to sign up new customers. I told him I would have to ask my husband, who was just walking by.

“Honey”, I called out to his retreating form. “Do we finally want to start that scorpion pest control we have been talking about for awhile?”

“No”, he said over his shoulder. “We’re fine”.

I shrugged my shoulders and apologized to the man. Not five minutes later I heard a shriek from the back yard. Well, ok, Greg doesn’t really shriek but he did make a very strange sound then came running in the house with something squished in a towel.

“Did that pest-control guy leave yet?” he said breathlessly.

“Yeah, he did. Why?”

“I just found a scorpion in my hair!”

I didn’t know whether to laugh, scream, or cry. I did open the door and run outside hoping to catch the young bug man but he was long gone. That very day, I made some calls to friends and families to see whom they used for service. We found out about Bulwark and they now spray every month outside our home. The employees are all very friendly and helpful and the stuff they use seems to do the trick. I even go barefoot in the house now at least during the day and I sleep much better at night.

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I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I HATE swimming. I just always feel better AFTER I do it than WHILE I am doing it. Well, most of the time the former statement is true. There are those moments, seconds really, when the breathing feels right, my suit, goggles, and cap feel right, and the water feels like my friend and not my foe. In those microseconds when all seems to be working as it should, then I feel like I can fly. As I take each stroke and turn my head to breath, I feel the wake of water indicating forward movement and I see the shapes on the shore move by.

You see…as a child I did not learn to swim. All I really learned was how not to drown…and I have been not drowning, every time I get in the water, for years.

My first real memorable experience with the water had to do with an ill-placed bet I made with my father at the tender age of about seven. I happened to be early for swim lessons the day before and, to my bewilderment, could stand in the pool and touch bottom right next to the sign that said 5’.  Now, I knew that I was not 5’ tall…not even close… but the overwhelming evidence to the contrary was right before my eyes! I could not put together the logic as to why I could stand at this depth and keep my head above the water nor could I deny that it was true.  Maybe some kind of miracle was involved? Maybe I had grown overnight? Whatever the reason I wasn’t too worried about it but I knew I had to tell someone. So, at dinner that night, I told my father.

“Dad”, I said almost breathless with excitement. “I stood up in 5’ of water today!”

I can remember the sequence of moments that followed as if they happened just yesterday.  My father, quiet and contemplative sitting on the other side of the table just letting the words sink in and, I am certain, running through the list of 1,000 possible replies. Then, with his response selected, leaning over the table with a gleam in his eyes and saying, “I bet you can’t stand up in 5 feet of water”.  Pausing, he then added, “in fact, if you can stand up in 5 feet of water, I will give you anything you want”.

If there was ever a moment in my life that I can define as the first, dumbest moment of my life, this would be it.  The overwhelming generosity of his offer coupled with the absolute certainty that I had the data to PROVE I could do it overrode the logic circuits of my brain and I blurted out, “A pony! I want a pony!” (Doesn’t every seven-year old want a pony?).

My mind went into pony overdrive! Where would we keep it? What would I name it? My friends were going to be so jealous. I just KNEW I had this one in the bag! Swimming lessons took place again the following day and my father agreed to take me. If I could stand with my head above water next to the 5’ sign, then that pony was mine. So confident was I that I all but asked if we could stop and buy a horse trailer on the way to the pool.

Next day dawned after an excited and sleepless night. We loaded into the car and headed down to the local pool. As we entered through the front gate and made our way to the kids’ area, I began to feel a gnawing sense of doubt. “Why did the water look higher than yesterday?” I said to myself.  But, armed with the vision of the single data point I had collected the day before, I headed into the pool next to the 5’ sign. As I tread water, I tried in vain to reach the tips of my toes to the bottom of the pool while keeping my mouth above the water line.  I reached and I stretched and I reached. I tried standing on my head upside down even though that was not part of the bet. Over and over again I tried to reconcile the new data I was collecting today with the information I knew was true from the day before.

Chagrined and slightly humiliated, I knew the pony was done. In fact, I should have known that the day before but had fallen victim to a really strong case of denial. I am not certain that the pony-pool incident kept me from getting into swimming more as a kid, but I sure do remember it like it was yesterday. I wonder if my father remembers it the same way that I do?

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