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Report 6 The weekend

The weekend—there’s a little bit of panic to arrange weekend activities. It can start to look like two long days. But then, just like at home, it all seems to fall into place.

To catch you up a bit, March 9 was a holiday in Cambodia and most of the world—International Women’s Day. I was congratulated. I think this is a great holiday. I’m very fond of being a women and I quite like being an International woman. Congratulations to all of you who are women, love a woman or were born of woman. (Some of you will fit into all three categories. Extra party points. Take it on St. Pats)

Last weekend was full of travel: a bit east of town to Kampong Speu Province, an agricultural eco-tourism area. (My project proposal warned about the field visits, “no toilet and food not delicious.” I’m happy to report that food WAS delicious and plentiful.) Then I went off for two days and a night to Kep, a small town on the Gulf of Thailand that is known for crab and other seafood, and Kampot—on the way. I found Kep very charming. I had scored a fantastic bargain on a lovely hotel on Booking.com, so not only did I have the welcome refreshing breezes from the bay along with everyone else in Kep, I got to use the Vanna Hill’s gorgeous hotel pool at least 3 times in my 22 hours there. A swim, a nap, a walk down to the crab market, delicious early dinner, ok sunset, good conversation with 2 other solo female travelers, and a brisk walk home in time for a velvet-sky-and low-hanging-star swim.

So this weekend was a stay-at-home one. Saturday started with no plans other than a good am walk. It ended with a long stay in the AC at Browns with an iced latte, a lovely Nicoise and an interesting article on the news of the death of the 2d defendant who was being tried for war crimes in the Int’l tribunal here for the horrors of the Khmer Rouge genocide between 1975 and 1979. Prying myself away from this regular haunt, I did a little shopping at the oh-so-peculiar all-things market that shares the building. Apart from being a place filled with incredibly tacky merchandise as well as fine French cologne, reasonable packaged goods and tired veggies, the music they played finally got to me and and I had to escape. (1000 strings-type renditions of pop songs of the 60s with a little Khmer percussion thrown in. My problem is I know all the songs, so I can’t block it out.) Back home and after my first shower of the day, I decided to go to the royal palace. I was a little underwhelmed—they don’t let you in any of the palace buildings. But once we were on the grounds of the Silver Pagoda there was more to see. I wound up getting together with a friend for dinner (and running into the woman I was going to explore with on Sunday, as she was stepping out of the restaurant we were all eating in to give me a call—more Portland than Portland.)

Today Julia and I took her tuk-tuk driver and went off to an island known for silk weaving. I’m a sucker for ferries and this little shot across the Mekong was fine. Walking off the ferry (we met our tuk-tuk again as he got to the top of the exit ramp) we were immediately accosted by Maria and we wound up going to her home to see her weaving and to buy some things—that would be me doing the buying. I’m rather clumsy about these pressurized purchase things, but I was willing to buy fabric. It was interesting to try the loom and the spinning. (They spin the silk thread using a bicycle wheel. ) I’m semi-competent at the bargaining but have to get used to how it’s done each time and each place. So now I know. And I’m done for awhile.

We took a slow tuk-tuk ride up the 10 km island to a beach area in the Mekong, where we rented a lttle cabana and I went for a swim. The river is sandy and shallow. It reverberates in my head with movie drama and horrific war associations. But in front of me, it’s just a slow muddy river with a bunch of boys playing in inner-tubes. It was refreshing. So was my new secret weapon—carrying a frozen scarf for around my neck when the heat is getting to me. (Now my freezer is not just for vodka and English-type cookies.) Lying around under the cabana’s thatch in wet clothes was fine—delightful in fact. But the short wait for the ferry was hot.

After a little writing and fiddling with pictures I sent out to look for dinner and finally ventured into one of the Khmer places in the next block. Squid and Tiger (the last is beer, of course.) This was a lovely day, and getting out of Phnom Penh is both doable and very pleasant. Next weekend work will take me to Sihanoukville, a biggish city on the Gulf—with maybe a little beachy time.