“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” –Mark Jenkins

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

how lucky am I

Fishing in the Mekong River, Cambodia (file image)
looks like we could be lucky in getting to visit the Mekong Delta before it is completely dammed!

Sunday, 27 January 2013

3 weeks to go

Eric sent the final hotel bookings and a kit list this week and thankfully I already have everything he has suggested. I went through my camera gear and decided on taking two shorter zooms and a wide angle, leaving the long zoom and the macro at home. Eric is also saying we won't need a tripod but I'm still undecided as to whether I will take mine or not (sods law and all). Also checked all polarising filters and thankfully they fit so that's good news, - although whilst I was out  with Keith yesterday walking round the mill ponds, I discovered the "Reversal Film" settings on my camera which appear to do the same thing... turning dull mosses a gorgeous vivid green. So I will have to revisit the K7 manual again before we go, to check I'm not missing other settings which might be worth playing around with.
Bought travel insurance, dug out a second bag to fill with all the gifts and charity donations which I will leave there and I put together a small first aid kit. I am off to Barcelona tomorrow for work and starting my new book - "Survival in the Killing Fields" by Haing Ngor, which is cited as being "the greatest book on Cambodia that has ever been published". It's written by the supporting actor who played the Cambodian journalist, Dith Pran, in the film "The Killing Fields" and is his memoir of life in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. I know it sounds a bit morbid and not really a good way to get in the mood for a trip like this, but it fascinates me how countries that suffer these kinds of atrocities cope. It makes me think twice before complaining about certain things and reminds me to be content with what I have; which compared to many is immense. The sad thing is that much of it is either unnecessary or wasted.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

time to shop

I have suddenly realised just how much I have to do before we go and thought I'd start with a little online gift shopping. So after consulting the "cultural considerations guide" from the Plan charity, I settled on some small functional gifts for the adults and some more enjoyable, but still educational, gifts for the children. I started with 10 miniature zip-up sewing kits for the older girls, 3 tea towels that have the British isles and a union jack flag on, then 10 miniature first aid kits; apparently bandages and plasters are also in very short supply over there too, so if anyone fancies donating any it would be appreciated. For the children I bought 20 inflatable globes which can be used as playtime balls as well as teaching aids. It's something we desperately wished we had taken to the school in Uganda as they would have been so useful. Not sure yet what would be a good gift for the men of the village, but I'm sure something will come to me. My personal gift for Arafin arrived this week too - over the past few weeks I have been scanning in all the drawings and letters that Arafin has sent me over the years along with all the photos of him and his family. I then found various photos of me and my family, and some pictures to help explain our lives here (our campervan, our cat etc.) and using the online Blurb Bookify tool I turned them into a small paperback book for Arafin to keep. I know he can't read English, so I kept the explanations basic in the hope that his Plan community worker will be able to translate for him (my Khmer is non-existent too!).

I'm getting quite excited now to meet him and the other members of his community.
We also had some news from Eric the photographer who is asking if we would be happy sharing our trip with another amateur photographer from America. Apparently this guy attended one of Eric's courses last May and now wants to go again, which I guess is a good indicator of the venue and Eric's skill as a tutor. After some discussion, Mum and I decided it wouldn't change the trip too much and may even mean we hire a minivan instead of a car which would be easier, as well as making the tour slightly cheaper of course. Eric will also be sending us a kit list next week, but I am hoping my new lens will be sufficient. The question is whether or not I need to get new polarising filters, I haven't yet checked the diameter of my new lens to see if my old filter fit.

Friday, 18 January 2013

1 Month to go - and some decisions to make.

The-Mouse-Brain-in-Stereotaxic-Coordinates-9780125476409.jpg (530×400)
Went to the doctors this week to see the nurse about my vaccinations. Being someone who hates needles, I was thrilled to be told everything was up to date and I would need only anti-malaria tablets... perfect. However she then went on to confirm that Japanese Encephalitis was present in Cambodia and a nasty disease that can give you brain damage and render you disabled, but as suspected I would only be at risk if I was going to any rice paddies or anywhere where the locals farm pigs.  ...great, Arafin does both! She then went on to explain that it was £45 a shot and I would need 2 shots, one now and another in 28 days time which would be only a couple of days before the trip. I would not reach full immunity until 7 days after the second shot which is also not ideal as the visit to see Arafin is in the first 4 days, but the real turn off for me was when she told me the vaccine was actually made from mouse brains! The decision was made there and then... no needles, no potentially feeling sick a few days before the trip and definitely no mouse brain pumping round my body. I will simply have to smother myself in DEET and hope for the best.