We wanna wish you a Merrrrrry Christmas......(from the bottom of our hearts)!!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everybody!  Hope yours is a wonderful time with those that you cherish and, of course, lots of snow.  We will miss all the parties especially in Canada where they are almost non-stop and where Christmas is 'the' big holiday. For those of you in locales too warm for snow, well, that's just too bad since we won't be getting any either!  (joke, ha ha). Of course we will be thinking about all our friends in the USA and missing American Thanksgiving is really a shame as it is yum-fun-yum superb!  

Thanks to that 'great' thing known as globalization Christmas is even beginning to catch on in somewhat remote places like Cambodia.  The last thing we expected this year was to hear Christmas 'shopping mall' music.  The other day we sat down to lunch in a Siem Reap Khmer restaurant on cushions in a bamboo gazebo while we anticipated our visit to the ancient temples of Angkor Wat the next day.  After ordering tasty Khmer dishes we were abruptly introduced to the restaurant sound system and George Michael's "Last Christmas I gave you my heart but the very next day..." as well as other Christmas pop songs.  While these songs may be fun or nostalgic for some, it was a reminder for us that for better or worse the spread of pop culture to everywhere seems inevitable.  And I blame all George Michael fans like Julie! (sweetie!)

On November 20th our friends Chris and Dana arrived for their Cambodian visit.  Chris and Dana reserved their trip earlier in the year without knowledge that we would be here volunteering.  What luck!  Since we miss you all and want you to share our experiences, having visitors from home is a real treat.  With their sense of humor and adventure our friends kept us laughing and in good spirits.  A wonderful change from our ordeal with Andrew's dengue fever and chicken pox!  Expecting the cool season, our friends were greeted with a heat wave, heavy humidity and the chaotic, loud and dusty streets of Phnom Penh.  Nonetheless, they immediately set about visiting the sites of Phnom Penh with us and on their own.  We found that a number of places in this city offer great insight into the country's past - from the impressive ancient Khmer Empire to French Indochine to the Khmer Rouge/Pol Pot genocide to the present period of rapid change and mixed results. 

Chris and Dana brought with them more than just a desire to see grand ancient temples and the unique and enormous Tonle Sap Lake, mosey along beautiful beaches with sparkling ocean waters, eat delicious Siamese food, and see many smiling and laughing people.  They were determined to meet the Cambodian people and learn about life here: close-knit families, the Cambodian sense of humor, individual achievements, as well as personal stories of poverty, war and corruption.  We joined our friends for visits to the Royal Palace and National Museum to learn about the country's rich history and impressive architecture and sculpture and for small adventures around town to restaurants and markets.  Our friends also made it a point to visit the places which graphically illustrate the horrors of the 1970s Khmer Rouge/Pol Pot genocide including the Toul Sleng Prison museum and the Killing Fields.  Julie and I have avoided these places so far. As volunteers we see that the past regularly reaches into present day Cambodian life and we are exposed to some of this trauma.  So, Julie and I are trying to focus on the many positive and promising things we see today (We'll write more on this in a another blog to come). 

After visiting with us in Phnom Penh, Chris and Dana took a taxi cross country to the Sihanoukville beaches.  Little did they know that they would be riding with a 'rally driver'!  (Maybe Chris and Dana will tell you more about this).  Shortly after arriving, poor Dana came down with what we think was mild food poisoning.  Bungalow bound, they found a doctor who would visit them and after 2 days he began to feel better.  An unforgettable Cambodian beach adventure (poor Dana)!  Upon arriving back in Phnom Penh, Chris came down with the same (poor Chris)!  Our good guests took all of it in stride with humor, because, what else can one do!?  But hey, don't forget poor me stuck at home for several weekends in a row with Saturday Night Dengue Fever!! (laughter dubbing button please....).

Next, our adventurers set off on the fast boat across the great Ton Le Sap Lake for the town of Siem Reap and Angkor Wat.  They told of a wonderful time exploring this ancient sprawling site.  Hint: maybe they will write a comment about it on the blog!?  Yeah guys!  We miss our visitors and talking about their experiences from home and from here - the complete Cambodian adventure which of course must include incredible heat, mosquitos, rally cab drivers, bad stomachs, and nightly barking dogs!  Thanks for the memories Chris and Dana! 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

Andrew & Jules 


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