We are including a few photos from our wedding in Bali.  Enjoy!!

View from our bungalow

Balian beach, close to our wedding spot!!

Just about to tie the knot!!

Taking the final steps!!

The ceremony!!

The ceremony

Signing the documents

Its a done deal!!

Its final!!

Getting swamped by the waves!



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Wedding & Honeymoon in Bali Part II (2nd week)


The morning after arriving in Pumuteran we took a boat with a honeymooning Australian couple to the shore of Menjangan Island in Bali’s National Park.  (Yes, Bali is filled with honeymooners).  We anchored at two locations and saw amazing tropical reef marine life.  Talk about visual over-stimulation!  A huge range of fish species of different shapes, sizes, colours, and behaviours.  We found out that the Australian couple were University researchers in Oz– they were in heaven as they came in out of the water to identify in their marine guide the creatures they had seen.  We also saw spectacular corals and other vegetation.  Unfortunately, some of the reefs in the area have suffered damage –mostly from dynamite and cyanide fishing- but reef rehabilitation and reconstruction projects are underway and experiencing a measure of success.

After a few days around Pumuteran we jumped aboard a Bemo, an open-sided van which takes everybody and almost everything as it passes through the towns and villages.  It is fun to be sitting with the local people and their kids amongst coolers of fish, chickens and vegetables.  From Lovina, we hired a small private car up the winding road to the Lake Batur crater and semi-active volcano.  We spent the evening at the hot springs and hit the hay early for our hike up Mount Abang. 

Waking at 2:30am we downed our fried rice and coffee and started up the difficult winding trail with our flashlights led by our 2 guides.  We soon found that the trail was little used and narrow with a loose base.  Nearing the top (after a climb of over 1,000 m) we pushed aside long grasses and thorny bushes to finally reach the top and view the sunset over the neighboring island of Lombok and dormant Mount Rinjani (3726m).  Immediately to the west, we had the Batur crater with the bright blue lake and Batur volcano.  Fantastic!  The hike down provided sweeping views of the mountain villages, orchards, terraced fields, ocean and northeast coast.  We boated across the mountain lake to our hotel and soon after jumped into our taxi for Amed on the coast for more snorkeling and general relaxation.

In Amed we found our best deal on accommodation so far in Bali.  $17/night for our own chalet with loft, semi-outdoor garden bath, views of the ocean and free room service!  Excellent food and fresh fish to top it off.  Amed snorkeling was also fantastic.  Many of the tourist divers here go much further out and to view marine life, reefs and big old WWII Japanese and US wrecks. 

After 3 days in Amed we left for historical Ubud where we would see traditional dances including the famous Kecak dance (known to many as the tribal dance in the Baraka video).  Jecka jecka…jah jah!  Impressive and mysterious in the evening darkness; dancers chanting in harmony with punctuations by soloist chanters, dancers swaying and flailing their arms and hands upward and outward in unison, costumed characters entering into the center of the circle as the story is acted out, torches burning in the background.  Entrancing and fun!   In Ubud we also did a walk through the hills to visit the well known Neka Museum and various small galleries.  Ubud really is the centre of art and cultural performance in Bali.  It is also famous for furniture and wood and stone carvings as you may know.  See it some day if you can and soak it all up!  Ubud offers many classes for foreigners which makes us think we may just visit there again when we are retired many years from now. 

For our last day we headed to Seminyak near the airport for one last day on the beach.  We witnessed some big resort style weddings where tourists crowd around to watch in their often small bathing suits illustrating different levels of fitness.  Yikes - we are glad nobody came to watch our wedding in a speedo! 

Thank you all for your congratulatory emails and phone calls and best wishes.  We’re glad you liked the pixs Julie sent.  We will be wishing good things for you too for now and for the future. 

Missing you all.  Much love and hugs. 

Julie and Andrew                 

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Updated Photos

So sorry we havent updated our blog in a while, we have been totally swamped.  Here are some pixs from August 2007!! I will post our wedding photos soon!!!.

Wonderful bungalow we stayed at in Kep for Julie's birthday in August!!

Andrew enjoying our hike in Kep!!

Great views in Kep!!

Julie enjoying the hike in Kep!!

Restaurant at our bungalow, pretty cool eh!!

Monsoon hiking at Ream National Park near Sihanokville in August

Our Irish Pal Aran with his beautiful fiance Leakhana in Phnom Penh

Julie trying to learn Khmer cooking with our Khmer family

20th Birthday party for Rada (our Khmer family)

Rada (seated to the left) with his pals on his 20th birthday

Our Khmer family!!

Lots of yummy food from our Khmer family!!

VSO Cambodia Conference in Sihanokville, Cambodia, August 2007

Andrew in a comedy skit at the VSO Annual Conference

Fun at the beach at the conference!!!

Had a great time at the conference!!!

Julie and Rachel at the VSO Costume Party at the VSO Conference.  The theme was to dress up as something that starts with the letter P.  Julie went as her twin bro Philip.  Sorry Phil!!! You can guess what Rachel went as!!!

VSO Livelihoods Staff and Vols at VSO Conference

VSO Livelihoods Staff and Vols at VSO Conference

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Andrew & Julie’s Wedding and Honeymoon in Bali: Part I of II (First Week)

The Wedding!

After a lot of talk and planning we were finally able to put together a plan to get married on this side of the world.  We are very happy to know that we will are now officially joined and committed to each other to share the joys and challenges which life will bring.  On Sept 18th and for the remainder of out Bali trip, we thought about all of our family and friends.  We felt sad at moments to be so far away from home at this time but also happy to know there are so many people which we love and to whom we feel very close.    

On the logistical side of things, we are relieved that we were able to get the necessary legal paperwork together and get it emailed, mailed and hand-delivered through the correct channels in Indonesia including the Canadian Embassy in Djakarta, the Australian Consulate in Bali, the Civil Registry in Bali and the private wedding company in Bali which we hired. 

The running around did not end until the ceremony started at 5pm on the 18th.  On the 17th, we had photos done for the Civil Registry and went through the various levels of security at the Australian Consulate in Denpasar, Bali to pick up our authorization documents.  On the evening of the 18th we arrived at the beautiful Pondok Pisces Resort in SW Bali (www.pondokpiscesbali.com). We opted for this place because of its beautiful and quiet rural coastal setting, rustic individually styled chalets and colorful gardens. 

At 5pm Andrew stood in front of the minister and Julie beside our chalet. In attendance were Tom and Tati, the owners of the resort and Paola and Michael (an Australian couple we met the day before).  Tati (bless her!) went so far as to cut up her beautiful bedspread and cut fresh flowers to decorate the ceremony table.

So, a little after 5pm we started the ceremony.  All went well and we slowly began to relax.  After some photos in the beautiful gardens we ran down to the beautiful black sand beach where we felt an overwhelming sense of freedom.  We got it done - phew!  And it really began to sink in that we were married.  There was a beautiful sunset (no  music attachment here, though).  Now it was time to relax and enjoy our honeymoon together! 

Balian Beach and Mountain Drive to North Coast

We stayed another 2 days at the Pondok Pisces Resort and beautiful Balian Beach area.  We would visit several other very nice places in Bali before the end of our trip but none were as picturesque and peaceful as Balian Beach.  The day after our wedding we walked 8km or so along the beach past secluded coves and crashing 3m waves and saw one local resident and no tourists. 

After 4 days at Balian Beach, we headed by car up into the interior passing through old mountain villages filled with dramatic views of old volcanoes and the smell of drying cloves on mats along the side of the road as well as small coffee and cocoa plots.  Combined with the smell of the usual flowers and plants of Bali it was a unique aromatic experience!  The rich volcanic soil and 365 day growing season produce a garden of Eden in Bali including an array of savory fruits and vegetables. 

Our driver took us on a short detour to visit his parents’ village and house in the hills where we walked along the ridge overlooking terraced rice paddies resembling the classic Bali photos one remembers.  Many of the families in the village appeared to have their own intricately designed shrine, often occupying as much space as the house.  A lot of work has gone into the homes and shrines including carvings, statues, colorful gardens,  branches with blossoms arching over property walls, styled and adorned walls and roofs, etc.  Some of the poorer families with small homes still maintained modest shrines.  We guessed that they also visited and helped to maintain the larger community temples.

All of this seems to be maintained with great pride.  This type of architecture was repeated in the various villages we passed through that day and we would see it in most villages and towns throughout the island.  The foundation for this is traditional Hindu design and culture which shares many similarities with Cambodia’s Hindu period of construction (which is when most of the well-known Khmer temples were built including Angkor Wat).  By the end of the day we had descended to the north coast and drove west to Pumuteran to get ready for some superb snorkeling.

We were enjoying our time together so much, meeting wonderful Balian people and foreign travelers and seeing and feeling this paradisiacal setting.  We realized that we were so lucky to visit here!  Of course we missed you all a lot and often wished that you could have been there to experience Bali as well.       


Next Entry: Part II of II, Wedding and Honeymoon in Bali (Second Week)…..       

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End of July to mid-Sept 07. Hello Again!

Hello Everyone,

It’s been a few months but we’re back blogging for the first time since end of July when we returned from our vacation to North Vietnam.  This blog entry covers from end of July to mid-September when we left for Bali for to be married and have our honeymoon (yes we tied the knot!).  We will do another blog entry for Bali.      


VSO Annual Conference, mid-August 2007

In early August VSO volunteers and staff traveled to Sihanoukville/Kompong Som on the coast for the Annual VSO Conference.  In light of various recent disagreements within the organization between volunteers and the Cambodia Program Office and amongst volunteers as well, most of us approached the conference with a certain amount of apprehension.  The main problem was that many volunteers felt that their advice for the country program was being ignored and that needed changes were not being addressed.  However, the week unfolded very well with a superb program prepared by several hard-working organizing volunteers and which surpassed expectations.  Over the course of the week many lingering problems would be addressed (at least many of us think so) and many good times had.

The program included guest NGO speakers, professional development workshops, and collaborative sessions by sector to solve challenges within VSO and problems facing volunteers in certain projects including out project TSEMP.  We also had skits (often hilarious!), cultural performances, indoor and outdoor (beach) team-building activities (hard work and fun!), evening entertainment activities such as Khmer and country western dancing, international quiz, (funny) bingo, and regular dancing (also lots of fun, especially if you like retro).  We livelihoods volunteers did a pro-environment and anti-corruption skit with me (Andrew) as the corrupt land owner and Julie doing sound control.  She did a great job with melodrama/pantomime effects using music both ominous and joyful as well as boos, hisses and cheers.  Boo to bad corruption man!  Good job hunny!

Most volunteers and staff left the conference feeling that the organization was developing and maturing and that we had got to know each other better.  We used the paradigm of a tree growing, branching out and eventually blossoming and sprouting fruit.  Yeah we know, it is feel goody NGO stuff but it was a good analogy we thought.  We were particularly pleased to see increased emphasis by VSO Cambodia on volunteer input.  This is the direct result of new Program Office leadership responding to demands from vols re. the lack of this and also the result of the reaction and advice from VSO HQ in London (UK).  It is now apparent to most of the volunteers that we must donate time, effort and ideas to the organization in order for it to develop, and secondly, that the Program Office must work with us as well as listen. 

A positive development - in the opinion of many volunteers - is that VSO will likely stop placing volunteers in large government ministries and aim to create placements within NGOs which will build bonds with local communities and town councils, with government, and with other NGOs and development organizations.  Julie and I feel that we have built productive relationships with many of our government co-workers and other local and foreign people associated with the TSEMP project.  We feel we have made a bit of difference in this country.  However, we feel that had we been placed in a reputable NGO we would have been able to direct more project time, money and resources to the poor villages on the great lake.  So much of the time and money in projects which are implemented by government and driven by big international donors gets gobbled up by office work and administration, expensive foreign consultants and lengthy programming and compliance report writing, expensive vehicles and equipment, local and international study tours which sometimes turn into Karaoke bar tours or other forms of recreation, corrupt practices (around the world, not just in Cambodia), politically driven but ineffective activities, and absentee government staff.         


Aran’s visit and Lekana (!)

Our good friend and (previous) ‘super volunteer’ Aran returned for the month of August to visit his former co-vols, former Cambodian co-workers and Lekana (!)  Lekana and Aran had dated some before March when he returned to Ireland with the news of his father’s cancer.  With his father recovering, he decided it was time to sort out what would become of the fledgling romance with this young and charming Cambodian woman.  What happened was an adventure for Aran and, mostly vicariously, for us as well.

For the first two weeks of his visit Aran would sleep at our house while spending the days with Lekana’s family.  The introductions very quickly took the shape of semi-formal interviews with Aran sitting surrounded by several family members for hours at a time in Phnom Penh and in her parents’ village while scrambling to remember his Khmer language and provide the correct answers.  Despite his growing affection for Lekana (and vice versa), the first few weeks left him feeling somewhat shell-shocked (many questions!) and wondering what he had got himself into.  When he brought Lekana over to our house for dinner after the first week we joked that we had 101 questions for her and that she would be evaluated on each one.  She thought we were partly serious so we quickly turned it into a joke which would run for the rest of the evening.  Its fun to put people on the spot!

After the first two weeks, things relaxed a bit for the two of them and they began to enjoy their time together and with family more even though they were fairly closely chaperoned the whole time.  Somewhat to their and everyone’s’ surprise, things became quickly serious and before the end of August they had secured a visa for Lekana to travel with Aran to Ireland and stay with his family for September.  A bright and determined young lady, Lekana overcame her initial homesickness and culture shock and got to know Aran’s Irish family while staying at his parents’ house.  Before the end of Sept the news came to everybody in Cambodia that they were engaged and would be married end of Dec this year in Cambodia.  Their plan is too live in Ireland for 3 yrs before returning to Cambodia for the following 3 yrs.  They are sincere and very good people, committed to each other and very much in love. 

So how ‘bout that for a volunteer (Aran’s) cultural adventure!?  And what a life change for Lekana too!?  It appears that Julie and I will not be able to attend their Dec wedding as we will be traveling for 5 wks before returning to Canada and then to the US.  We are sad for that but will probably visit the happily married couple in Europe next year.   Congratulations A & L and we wish you happiness and success in your shared international adventures together!      


Other stuff

Our jobs are pretty much the same with weekly small surprises.  We think we are absorbing a lot in Cambodia and even a little streetwise at time.  However, things frequently happen to remind the foreigner that he/she often has little understanding about what is actually happening – there is much below the surface.  A senior consultant from a large international organization advises “when you think you really understand what it is going on then it’s probably time to go home, because the odds are that you don’t!”  So yes, cultural misunderstandings are also common for overseas development workers.  This reminds me of another one of our consultant’s other favorite sayings “Life is a series of misunderstandings.  The best we can hope for is that none of them are fatal.”  Perhaps these should be memorized in pre-departure training!?  At least we can say we have been a positive influence in our workplaces by avoiding gossip and politics (usually) and corrupt practices.  We have helped provide encouragement and initiative and have shared ideas.  Also, our co-workers have been able to improve their English speaking and writing ability.

Julie and I plan to finish our placement in early Dec, travel for several weeks and arrive in Toronto mid-January.  We’ll visit family and friends in Ontario to get caught up and show up in New Mexico at the end of January/early February to say “HELLO, we’re back!!!!”   


Next blog entry: Our Wedding and Honeymoon in Bali!






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