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First off, I’m sorry I haven’t written any new posts in so very long. As most of you know, I’ve been recuperating from a fractured kneecap and, while you would think all that time spent doing pretty much nothing else would have made it an ideal time to write, I just haven’t been able to muster the will to do so. I’ve been pretty down, actually. Not being able to walk around and explore the few places I’ve managed to get myself to has really been a drag. But I am on the mend, and am now walking—still with a bit of a limp, but not hobbling like before—without my half-cast-thingy (called a backslap), which I wore for over six weeks after the original cast was taken off (about a week after my fall).

Now I’m in Bali and still doing pretty much nothing, but I’ve seen some pretty amazing things and have finally gotten around to editing photos and posting the albums online.

I’ve also been doing a very small volunteer project for a great organization called Bumi Sehat, which is a birthing clinic that also provides general medical services to poor folks here in Bali. They run completely on donations from individuals (and fees from those who can afford to pay), so if you’re feeling generous, do check out their website, where you can donate via Paypal. What I’ve been working on for them is a proposal to raise money to send four young women to midwifery school, a project that has its own website where, if you prefer, you can donate so that the funds go directly toward these scholarships.

The need for a pay-as-you-can clinic in a poor country is, of course, quite obvious, but what I also learned in talking to the clinic’s director, an American named Robin Lim who’s lived in Bali for decades, is that the hospitals here, as well as many village midwives, will actually keep the baby until the family comes back with the money to pay for the birth. She told me of one horrific case where twins were born and the parents couldn’t pay the full fee so the midwife kept one of the twins and then sold it. (Robin got human rights lawyers involved in that one and they eventually got their baby back, but in most cases like this the families would probably have ended up with someone else’s baby. Because this was an identical twin they were able to know it was truly their child.)

I know, too awful to even wrap your head around. I’ve been to the clinic when births were happening and it is truly a wonderful, comforting place where the women are getting very good—and compassionate—care. I of course am hesitant to ask anyone I know to donate (as I told the clinic’s volunteer coordinator from the outset, I hate fundraising), but, since a very small amount of money goes a very long way in a place like Bali, I’m just putting the information here in case you feel so moved.

On a lighter note, I’ve had some very funny experiences here thus far, so I thought I’d share a few anecdotes with you. (And don’t forget to catch up on the photos of the day, as there are some good laughs there as well.)

My friend Rob and I met an American guy who studied here back in college and comes back to visit every few years. He invited us to a dinner the family he stays with was giving in his honor. After dinner, some of the kids were playing and one boy said to another, ‘You’re fat and you have no teeth.’

The other boy didn’t react at all. Apparently, here things that we would take as insults are just really statements of fact that no one gets too fussed about. Like when Brad (the American) arrived at his family’s house this year. They greeted him and said, ‘You got fatter.’

Rob and I were at a bar seeing some live music when two street dogs came in. (This itself is not so unusual. Street dogs are everywhere in Bali and are mostly ignored.) They were playing, biting each other’s faces and rolling around, and ended up right between our table and the next. Suddenly, one of them started mounting the other, which caused a big laugh among the patrons, one of whom was a young English guy who said, ‘I didn’t think this was that kind of bar!’

I was hobbling home one night (wearing my backslap, which kept my knee from bending) and passed some men sitting on the sidewalk. (There are always men sitting on the sidewalk. Sometimes they are there to call out ‘Transport?’ to you. Sometimes they are just sitting and chatting.). As I walked past, one of them said, ‘I think you are a little bit sick.’ (Sick seems to be a catch-all word here, since most people’s English is limited, so I guess it covers being hurt, injured, etc. That or he had some other kind of insight without even talking to me…)


This one is actually hearsay only: My friend Rob went to another island, Flores, where he met a really interesting man who took him on a tour of some local villages. The people in this area are Catholic but also retain a lot of their animistic traditions and rituals, including animal sacrifice (you can see Rob’s photos here). They got to talking and this man told Rob that he’d seen God several times, and started describing what he looked like: a sandal, a foot. The foot, he said, was white. And had hair on it. “Like a tourist,” he said. Which was followed by: ‘Jesus was white, right? Like the old Jews.’

I’ll leave you with that—and the photo albums, which you can check out on the photos page or use the links below where, to make things a bit easier, I’ve listed which ones are newly-posted (some of them are actually, chronologically, quite old). In the Ubud album there are a number of videos as well. And, as always, the stories are told in the captions to make up for all I’ve not been writing. Hope you enjoy!

July 2009
Ubud (includes Kecak Fire Dance)

June and July 2009
Pehrentian Islands

Cameron Highlands


The Accident

April and May 2009
Last Phnom Penh Snapshots

After four months in Cambodia, most of it spent in Phnom Penh, I’m getting set to move on. I’ve booked a ticket to Kuala Lumpur and leave in less than two weeks. My plan is to explore Malaysia and then Indonesia (and that is literally the extent of my plan as it currently exists). The other day I was thinking that the only thing I’m really sad about is leaving here ‘my girls,’ as I have come to think of them. As I have mentioned, though I suppose only in passing, I have been teaching English to teenage girls who are in an aftercare program run by an NGO here. They were all victims of child sex trafficking, and live with foster families here in Phnom Penh because it is unsafe for them to return to live with their families (some of whom, sorry to say, actually sold their young daughters into sexual slavery).

So I was thinking about my girls and remembered that I had never posted the links to some videos about them on here as I’d meant to do. And so I am remedying that now. Read the rest of this entry »

For the last few weeks (possibly even a month) I have had on my to-do list a notation to go up to Street 172 here in Phnom Penh to take photos. ‘Street 172 pics’—I was constantly rewriting it at the bottom of each new scrap of paper. Almost as soon as I’d written it down the first time, however, I’d already forgotten what it was I’d seen there. But I knew it involved more than one prime photo (of the day) opportunity. And so I reminded myself to go back.

Well, I finally went last weekend and was I ever rewarded. As I walked down the street, greeted with one amusing sign after another, all I could think was, ‘Wow…the street that keeps on giving!’ It gave so much, in fact, that I decided to post the photos as an album instead of separate photos of the day.

You can view the album here, and here’s hoping you enjoy this little journey of discovery as much as I did!

First of all, thanks to those who gave me such positive feedback on ‘Dear motodup driver,’ and for sharing their own absurb Asian transport tales with me. I was especially gratified by these responses because, frankly, I had hesitated to post that piece, as I was concerned I came off sounding mean and/or condescending. The other thing these exchanges did was remind me of some things I should have included in the original post. Therefore, and herewith, an addendum: Read the rest of this entry »

Thanks to strong and convenient internet connections (thank you, Vietnam) and time ‘off’ (thank you, Khmer New Year), I’ve put some more albums online:

Ban Lung, Ratanakiri Province, where I did a three-day jungle trek;

some more Phnom Penh fun;

and, yes, rice mysteriously laid out to dry on the street.

A full listing of photo albums can be found by clicking here or on the ‘Photos’ link above.

Also, if you look at the menu above, you’ll see I’ve added a new page I’m calling ‘Post archive for the lazy.’ There you’ll find links to all past posts.

I may not have seen any sites in Dalat yet, but at least I’ve improved the blog!

Menu, Guitar D'amour Restaurant, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Menu, Guitar D'amour Restaurant, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Fried crap with curry, anyone? It’s actually quite expensive by Cambodian standards! And, come to think of it, it’s kind of boldly honest of them, given that at some places whatever you order ends up being crap anyway.

A bit of background for you:

Motodups are motorbike taxis, and they are everywhere in Phnom Penh—and I mean everywhere. Except when you actually need one. Only then will they not materialize out of thin air before you’ve even closed your front door. Only then will they appear to disappear from the face of the earth. Only then will you actually have to stand in the street looking for one to flag down.

My plan was to write ‘Ode to a Motodup’ to explain to the uninitiated the intricacies of how this system works. But I’ve opted instead for the simple, direct, time-tested epistolary form, which I think will convey all you really need to know.

Read the rest of this entry »

OK, OK, you caught me. I haven’t been writing. I’ve been relaxing—at the riverside, the seaside, the countryside…

But I have recently returned to Phnom Penh, so at the very least I now have loads of new photos for you. Many are actually old photos, I should say—just newly uploaded. I also reorganized the photo album page in a way that I hope makes it more user-friendly.

So you can now both backtrack to my missing month (Laos) and see where I was last week (Kep), and a few things in between.

Just a few, however. The album listing is by no means complete, as there is still more of Laos to show you and, of course, Angkor Wat. Those photos still await me having an even bigger chunk of free time (I know, ‘free time,’ sorry!) in which to edit and upload them, as there are so very many! And the internet service here is so slow…

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these and they will tide you over for now.

Two caveats, one of which I’ve mentioned on the photo page. There is one album from my visit to Tuol Sleng, which is now a museum and which used to be Pol Pot’s secret prison/torture chamber. The photos are not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach, but I really do suggest you force yourself to look.

The second is much less of a caveat than an explanation. If you click on the Kep album you will notice that the entire first I’m-not-even-going-to-go-back-and-check-how-many are of a sunset. Which is a beautiful sunset, but, I know, come on, Mia. Well, there is a story that goes with them, so you might want to click each one anyway, if only to read the little sunset-seeking adventure tale that goes with them. (And come on, a little extra gorgeous sunset never hurt anybody. Though actually, I’m lucky that in the end going to see it didn’t hurt me…)

OK, that’s it for now. I may very well be headed to the jungle soon, so if you don’t see any photos of the day after about a week or so (that is as far as I have scheduled them), you’ll know why.

You can view all of the albums, new and old, by clicking on ‘Photos’ above or by clicking here. And of course, don’t forget you can also catch up here on all the photos of the day you might have missed along the way!