Thursday, April 26, 2007

a REAL NEW blog

Tuesday 24th April 2007

So this is my first new new blog since about January. I'm sure an awful lot has happened - some of it may even have been interesting- but I can't really remember what happened when right now. So I think I'll just give a basic outline of what's going on nowadays.

Some time- possibly back in march- I decamped from Mondulkiri to Phnom Penh. Mondulkiri was alright, but now I’m back in a city it’s hard to believe that I lived in a mud soaked and/or dust-strewn backwater. I have been basking in the delights of Indian food, Chinese food, bread, baked beans, and sometimes even draught beer and air conditioning!

At the moment I have 3 jobs- my main work is for a graphics shop ( where I sort of bugger about a bit with Photoshop. My 2nd job is flyering for Sunrise Guesthouse where I am living at the moment (I even have my own fan, toilet and shower!), and last but not least I do about one shift a week at The Magic Sponge which is a bar on the Lakeside, popular with ex-pats and backpackers alike- even a few locals come in to use the pool table.

I am sitting at the Chakra Visions shop as I type this- totally exhausted from working in the Magic Sponge last night. I don't have set hours because the sponge has no set opening hours (''6pm til bloody late") but Dan (the owner) said it'd be quiet and I should be able to close around midnight... I left at about 3:30am, only to be woken by some random phone call at 8am, that was it for slumber and I started work at 10 am. Tired...

SO what's happened? mmm It was New Year* here recently, which essentially means running water fights and talcum powder fights. And dancing in the streets around pot plants. Phnom Penh was deserted as everyone goes back top their hometown for new years and the majority of people in Phnom Penh have migrated from the provinces.
On the last official day of new years (it's officially 3 days long but parties started up a good 2 weeks in advance) I found myself sweating and exhausted in the guesthouse, I had worked til 5am in the sponge the night before but couldn't sleep cos it was too hot. So at about 11 I was talking to another guy at the guesthouse, he complained about the heat and I told him I knew of a place that had air-con and draught beer. After a quick shower each we hopped on a moto to The Pickled Parrot, which I forgot to mention also has a swanky pool table. After a few drink we decided we should fetch other people from the guesthouse to enjoy the aircon. On the way back we went past Watt Phnom where there were a few people hanging around, maybe a bit of water being flung about but nothing special. In the time it took to gather 4 people from the guesthouse and jump in a tuk-tuk Watt Phnom had exploded, hundreds or thousands of people were cramming the place, the streets were filled with motos and tuk-tuks. We decided to get some cold air, some cold beer, and some food before joining in the fun. An hour or so later we headed back to watt Phnom, stopping off at a shop to buy large bottles of water on the way. We each bought 2 litres and poked a whole through the lid so the bottles could be used a water pistols. Upon arriving at watt Phnom some people obviously thought we were bemused tourists and delighted in the opportunity to cover us with water and/or talcum powder, so as a united force we opened fire on everyone around us. ha harrrrrr
There were people at the watt selling talcum powder for 1000r (about 13p) so I bought some and lobbed it around a bit. People actually come up to you and rub it in your face- it's all in good humour. That was one of the most amazing things I've seen in Phnom Penh.

In the New Year I have taken to riding around the city on a push bike. I've been meaning to get one for ages. Using one makes the city seem much closer together- I can get from the lakeside to the riverside in a few minutes, pitsaa thmei is just up the roads as is the sorya centre (the western-style mall with a roller-skating rink at the top!). Also it means I get to know the streets a little better AND I get out in the sun. Until cycling I spent most of my time indoors, and travel was done on moto, which gets you there quicker so less exposure to the sun. Also, because the motodop needs paying you can’t just go down random streets and ride around for a while to see where you end up. This does happen sometimes but that's generally frustrating cos it means the motodop is lost.

Books: Urban Grimshaw and the shed crew.
Written by a self-important, big mouth bigot. It was an okay read about some kids born into a life of drink and drugs on rough housing estates in Leeds, but the guy who write it is a prick.

Mr. Nice - Howard Marks
Never read it before, it was more of less what you might expect from such a book-confusing in parts because of all the names and places and deals and whatnot. Howard marks also seems to feel the need to lie about his drug of choice saying that it is a ''beneficial herb with absolutely no negative side effects'.' The man has such a strong case for the decriminalisation of marijuana I've really no idea why he felt it necessary to tell porkis. We all know that smoking ANYTHING AT ALL is inherently bad for the user's health. And While Marijuana may appear demonstrably less addictive than nicotine, and may be provide relief for sufferers of chronic (no pun intended) arthritis, MS and other illnesses, as well as providing recreation for others, it IS dangerous to the user's health. Until the spokespeople in the pro-weed camp live in his real world they are not going to sound much more convincing than those who claim that decriminilisation/legalisation of marijuana will lead to the downfall of society.

''Remove head lice cheaply and easily by putting onion juice on your head. When the lice rub their eyes they will simply fall off!''

Started reading catch 22 but it doesn't seam so great.
Re-read The Subterraneans and Pic by Jack Kerouac, also bought a Keruoac Biography.
Read some trash called ''Idiots in the works'' nice idea about a man's theory about tin-foil, poorly executed though.

Also read a book by Jeremy Paxman about being English. I was surprised that he came out as less of a knob in the book that I've found him on TV. Some pretty spurious reasoning but on the whole more-or less acceptable.

*I've no idea why people continue to refer to it as ''Khmer New Year'' I find it sort of patronising: I understand Chinese New Year being called ''Chinese New Year'' When we're in Cambodia, and even ''International New Years day'' on 1st Jan. But I would never back home call it ''english/british/european/christian/business new year'' because that's the New Year I'm used to. I saw some people who run a kids education program get the kids to write happy New Year cards. They were in English which makes sense because that's part of the point of the program, to teach the kids English. But I don't understand why they told the kids to write ''happy Khmer new year'' like celebrating their traditional new year is odd in some way. I mean, apart from teaching the kids English - the profoundly imperialist language that is my first - and only- language, I think it's just too much to shape the kids minds in this way. It’s not Khmer New Year in Cambodia, its New Year!

Monday, April 23, 2007

a little delayed..

Phnom Penh - Koh Kong (Friday 5th January 2007)

So I'm in a taxi and the 1st thing I notice is that there is a VCD machine with an LCD display. Cambodia is a cheap country but even so that's a swanky piece of kit for a car. It's playing karaoke of course. One song features a group of men and a group of women dancing, and I suppose the main purpose if each group is singing to their counterpart. I have no idea as the only words I manage to decipher are "I"/"me" and "woman". Anyway, I find the dance the girls are doing charmingly attractive and even sexy, though it is not in the least sexual.

The next thing I notice as we head off is - I think at the time - a good thing. There are a total of 6 people in this taxi, a Toyota Camry comfortably, and advisedly accommodates 5 people, but it is common practice for 8 or 9 to fit. A bonus I think, there's the driver, and a father with his small child in the front, the kid is sitting on his lap so it's hardly an extra person at all. In the back there's me at one end, the guy at the other end has a mobile phone and everyone knows it. He annoys me 1st. Soon though, he is beaten by the guy in between us. I can only describe him as a "YOUTH." He has a flash mobile phone on which he was watching some god-awful Khmer pop videos - no doubt these were "cool" videos as people were shown that "looked like bands" though the music sounded very similar to other Khmer pop music, the videos to which invariably involve a boy, a girl, motos, and either a beach or a shopping centre. Oh, and someone crying.
[Pete Waterman says there are only 4 pop songs "I love you", "I hate you", "Go away", and "Come back"]

Anyway, he starts fannying around with his phone whilst the other guy is shouting down his mobile - as a Khmer is wont to do when using a mobile telecommunications device - the VCD is still playing (3 songs on repeat) and the kid in the front is playing with the little toy keyboard his dad bought off a street peddler before we got into the taxi, so it's something of a cacophony. Then the "YOUTH" starts singing along to one of his karaoke videos, whilst simultaneously taking up more space on my side of the back seat. This is about when he secures poll position in the annoyance league. Happily, at some point a radio is turned on (I think instead of the VCD) and although it does nothing at all to reduce the noise, the DJ announces a request "Mouse Likes Rice." This song was made (in)famous on an earlier taxi trip (Phnom Penh to Mondulkiri) when the taxi driver had the CD case but no CD. The title ("Mice Likes Rice" (sic)) and cover of the ripped market version our taxi driver had was enough for us to talk it into a classic. This request at least confirmed it's popularity. It's also when I find out it's a Khmer pop love song in English about a girl who loves a boy "as the mouse loves rice." So I'm happy for a while.

That is until the "YOUTH" falls asleep and insists on using me as a pillow. He turns out to be a noisy sleeper. All kinds of noisy emissions, though none that I have any words for. All very unpleasant when gushed into one's ear by a stranger whilst stuck to the door of a taxi, I can assure you.

Soon after this unpleasantness begins, I also notice that as well as my hearing and sense of touch being violated by this "YOUTH", another sense is being affronted. Yes, my olfactory appendage soon senses an affront to it's very existence, a mockery of it's intended purpose if you will (y'know breathing in fresh flowers after the rain, catching the smell of fresh bread from a country bakery in the morning, the scent of a beautiful girl's hair...) by way of the unnerving stench emanating from my taxi bunk companion. O f course, the smell causes me to take surreptitious looks at this "YOUTH" even though he is asleep, you never can be too careful, so I peek out of the corners of my eyes and only then is it that I realise he has the kind of acne that would be funny were it not so painfully and unbelievably true.

The state of the "YOUTH's" appearance, the smell he's sharing with me, as well as the moist warmth he forces upon me - in his changing sleeping positions his arm pit is pressed firmly against me "This "YOUTH" has it all!" I think when I've added hyperactive sweat glands to my mental list - causes me to make further sneaky peeks at the sensory fun park/disaster area/ghost train.. one, two, three... I don't know how many peeks I took but at some point I did notice something else - dandruff! The fairy on the xmas tree! The icing on the cake! The glitter on the card!(!!!) The "YOUTH" made me ITCH ALL OVER!!

So I suppose the ride is going okay, the time is ticking by without boredom setting in or even having chance to before I discover something awful and new about my friend.
Soon we stop, and Businessy McBusinessman gets out - the 2nd stop that seems to have been scheduled just for him - and then returns with 3 fucking cockerels! That's when I realise that some of the noises I have been hearing that I'd assumed were some sort of rattle somewhere on the car were in fact coming from one of the woven bags at the businessman's feet - 3 fucking fighting cocks! That's why there's no other passengers - Bastard McFuckCunt on his mobile phone must have bought up the extra space for his boys. Prick. So now there's 6 people and 6 fighting cocks. Great. At some point we stop again, there's some exchange and I lose count of how many birds are aboard, somewhere between 6 and 9 (at the end of the journey I think I saw 7 being unloaded). So I try to get my head around this. it's hard. I imagine asking a taxi driver in the UK "Er, yea, how much to take me, 4 people, half a dozen fighting cocks, and a bit of luggage to the border mate?"
Needless to say Arsehole McBusinessWank returns to top of the hatred pops.

At the 1st ferry we get to (there're a few bridges under construction on the route so we get 4 ferries across maybe 200-400m wide rivers) I get out to stretch my legs. I notice shortly after that a cockerel is standing on the driver's seat "Great," I think "that useless blood junky fuckface has somehow managed to let out of his "investments" get out of it's transport thingy. Fucking idiot!"
Later on I get back in to the taxi and it seems that I have got it all very wrong! No, no, no... the fighting cock did not escape, he let I tout, and 2 others. Y'know, just to hang out in the cab, with a small child present, 3 of them! Highly proud creatures, on a bumpy road, in a hot car, probably scared. Fuck's sake.
So basically I'm shitting myself the rest of the way, I'm sure one of those feathered fuckers has got his mean, beady eye on me. I have difficulty reading my book a) because I'm trying to keep an eye on 3 birds at the same time, and b) the angle I have chosen to read my book at was not chosen for it being the easiest position to read the book, rather the position that offers most facial protection should one or more of the cockerels attempt to savage me.
[Cockerel in Khmer is 'Mo-an']

This story continues... though I have run out of energy right now.... Tune in at a later date for more unbelievable tales of border crossings, taxi driver's dodgy deals, and the bonus taxi jack 'treated' me to as a reward for spending 4 days on the road......

Thursday(?) 12-01-2007

Today I saw 3 elephants and a snake. the snake was red and a bit black and it scared Sarim. She got all excited and kept pointing at it, I’m not entirely sure what she expected it to do, or me to do. I just stood around and watched it make it's way out of the garden. Sarim was convinced it was heading for the toilet, now I have never claimed to be an expert in all things snakey, but I'm reasonably sure few snake-like aminals (yea, I said 'aminals') are toilet trained.

How many snakes you seen today, huh? I bet NONE! and if you say you seen more than me I will call you a FILTHY ROTTEN LIAR!!

THOUGH: I think it is time to cut my beard off, a Finnish guy was in the bar yesterday and asked if I had any Ozric Tentacles stuff on my laptop.