Leaving Cambodia, Arriving Bangkok

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

All of the children and staff came to the airport to say goodbye to S. and I. The Phnon Phen International Airport is so different from the rest of the country: large and air-conditioned, hygienic and polished. The hospitality, despite the clinical atmosphere, is top-notch. I haven’t used toilet paper in about a month and all I can say is that it feels luxurious. Though it is easier to get used to a cold blast of water to the anus than I expected.

The goodbye wasn’t tearful for most. I had a sad evening two days ago when I realized that I had to say goodbye to everyone. I want to see them again, but I don’t know when. Maybe later this year I’ll make a trek back and actually try teaching a little more. Maybe I can raise some money and bring it back to cover some of the place’s expenses. It will be weird not being around children again. I realized at the orphanage that most of my adult life had been child-free. And I like being around children. They are so much more honest, innocent and receptive and joyful than many adults (myself included). With them I can be even more of a kid again, and they give me joy. So more than anything, this is one way my future has been influenced. The childlessness of my daily routine will be more noticeable. Having a child of my own isn’t the solution, at least now, but there are opportunities to be around kids more when I go home. It is scary to think about what will happen to all of those children in the future. Will they survive and thrive? Cambodia is hard enough even when you aren’t an orphan. But I think there situation is pretty hopeful. As long as the orphanage can stay afloat and the plans for the farm are followed through, they won’t be lacking in options for what they can do in the future. But they are all starting the race from a lot farther back.

S. and I are staying in Bangkok for less than 24 hours before heading up to Chiang Mai. Our ride from the airport into downtown took more than an hour and was in some fierce and often motionless traffic. Rain started to fall so we couldn’t get out and walk, even though once we got close to the guesthouse it would have been faster than driving. A scooter was trying to weave between traffic and he hit his brakes too fast and slid into the side of the taxi I was sitting on. There was a nice, hearty thud and he went on his way. The street the guesthouse was on ended up being one way the wrong way, so S. and I decided to get out and walk in the rain. But the driver didn? have change, so S. had to run into a store and get change while I waited. S. is traveling with what is literally a body-bag size black duffle. And since the ground was sludgy and crowded, the lugging of the bag required two hands. I was sweating a lot when we got to the guesthouse at the end of the street. The Bed and Breakfast Guesthouse would more aptly be called The Abandoned Insane Asylum Guesthouse as it deserted, with echoing narrow halls, skin-sickening fluorescent light and hospital green room doors. But the rooms are clean and air conditioned and quiet. And the toilet and shower are blue. Blue is a trustworthy color.

The guesthouse is on a narrow side street to the most vertical and gridlocked series of roads, tracks, pedestrian bridges and cluster of shopping centers I’ve ever seen. It is near the heart of an area of Bangkok called Siam Square. S. went to find a bookstore we had gone to last time in the city, since Chiang Mai doesn’t sell many new books. I went wandering around in the rain, checked my email, walked amongst the crowds some more, sat down at a covered outdoor food stall and got some noodle soup with chicken and a coffee for a buck, didn’t talk to the tall guy at the same table, went and bought some water and cookies, came back to room to cool off and dry my feet (and eat cookies).

Both S. and I have feet issues. Not only does a month of barefoot soccer games destroy your feet, but I have gotten a mad case of fungus pealing the skin of under a couple of my toes on both feet. I have been applying cream nightly. S. has two festering wounds on the tops of his toes that don’t want to heal. Combine that with the bacterial skin infection on my thumb, and what I think may be the start of conjunctivitis in my left eye, and you’ve got quite a fun situation. But at least I’m tan.

So far I have read Girl With The Curious Hair, The Cider House Rules, The Mezzanine, A Radical Approach to Child Rearing, various science books for children, Microsoft Access Bible, C Programming Beginner’s Guide, A horrible James Patterson book called First to Die (I read it in two days because it was so unbelievably bad AND set in San Francisco.), and I have started The Dubliners.

I also made this trip more expensive for myself, photo-wise, as when I plugged my battery charger into the wall, I forgot that it isn’t made for 220 volts. Spark, bam! The adapter blows and scares me half to death and leaves me with 6 now-useless rechargeable AA batteries. Oh well, at least me computer isn’t fried yet.

Some photos:
This kid is precious…my precious.
I think this is a cool family photo.

Here is the beginning of S. and I and the kid’s kick-butt brick castle. I didn’t take a photo of the finished complex.

Here I am with part of my informal soccer team.

More from Thailand soon.

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