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Catching Up

April 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Hey All,

Got about a months worth of updating to do, so before I start, this one will probably be a long one.

Jason came to visit me in Cambodia about a month ago. Him and I had a ton of fun, and most of it was pretty absurd. I will mostly let his opinion of his experience do the talking, but also let you guys see the pictures from his trip. We hit up Battambang for a few days, went down to where I live in Takeo for a few more, and then rounded everything off with a few days in the capital city, Phnom Penh. Here is a link to the pictures.

Shortly thereafter, I had to take my girls basketball to Svay Rieng Province. To begin with, I was thinking that we would leave a few days earlier than we did. We are talking Tuesday and we wound up leaving early Friday morning. I was OK with that. I have had a lot of experience with basketball tournaments in my life, but I cannot say that I was all that prepared to deal with a tournament in Cambodia. Lets throw some facts out, its gets really hot in Cambodia towards the end of March and the beginning of April, for some reason, this is also a prime time for a national sports tournament? anyways, that’s when it was to go down. That was really one of the biggest problems. So in order to work around the heat, the teams only play four times a day, and we are talking both boys and girls, with teams from around the country. Thats a lot of teams, and no so much time a day. So I wound up spending like 6 days out in that province, after thinking the whole thing would take only a day or two. Wrong was I. I was supposed to help Peace Corps out to develop this thing during that time, and I also wound up having to leave my girls early because I had tickets to Sumatra that I had no chance at exchanging. So I apologized to my girls, bought them a snack, and told my assistant coach what was going on, then coached them one last time and left.

So, off to Sumatra. Our flight went through Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and it was great because I got to have McDonalds, Starbucks, and Dunkin Donuts, for the first time in a long time. Almost 9 months! I dont even eat at those places in the states, but did it matter? no. Anyway, we arrived at the capital of Sumatra, Medan, very late in the night and moved along to our hotel. The place wasn’t bad, neither was the capital city, but we were ready to head out the next morning. First stop on the trip was Bukit Lawang, home to a National Forest, Palm Oil farms, and the destruction of the natural habitat of Orangutans in the wild. Jungle trekked for most of a day, hung out for another in the sweet little town, and then moved on yet again. Here is the link to the pictures.

Next stop was Berastagi, home of two active volcanoes. Being lazy, we decided to only climb one. And it was the smaller of the two, because apparently people have gotten lost and died trying to climb the tougher one. Not really my thing. Anyway, starting out, the hike all the way up and back is about, 12km, which isnt too far, until you consider thats going uphill and down, on a path that may or may not be there… easy right? sure, lets do it. It was nice and easy, there was actually a paved road, until a certain point… then there is nothing. So looking around, we decided to go back. Wrong move. We went the right way, but all of a sudden, the path goes completely natural and you have to climb a limestone formation to get to the top from then on. How was this eventually figured out? Made friends with some students and a teacher who were also climbing the volcano. Nothing like getting to the top and smelling the expulsion of sulfur… Yummy. So we got to the top, figure out the right path back down, and wound up getting absolutely destroyed in the process because the “stairway” down, had actually turned into a slippery mess and became a manmade path for water to run down the mountain. Thankfully, at the end of that journey, there are some hot springs to bathe all the mud I had accumulated off. Here are the pics from this part of the trip.

Before we set off the next morning, the earthquake happened. The bed shook for almost a minute, and we made it out of the room in some sort of time, but eventually it never really slowed our trip down. Later we found out that it occurred near the northern part of the island, and we were mostly messing around close to the middle of it. The type of place Sumatra is, perched perilously where two tectonic plates, makes it possible to have crazy alterations to the island frequently, and has been an active place for quite some time. Anyway, we headed off to the worlds largest crater lake, Danua Toba, to kayak it, with our guide Georg aka Halim.

We started off fairly well, got the kayaks into the water after taking a stop at the waterfalls of Sipiso-Piso. Our journey began at Tongingg, just a small little town at the northern-most point of the lake. The lake was formed a long time ago by a giant eruption, an eruption that displaced ten times more rock than Mount Saint Helens. We got into the water maybe at one, and then followed that up with 4 hours of paddling, and roughly 20km of it, to the next town on our trip, Haranggoal. Stayed there for the night, got started early the next morning and paddle roughly another 4 hours and again close to 20km to the island in the middle of the crater, to a town called Simanindo. Here, we had a delicious dinner of Mi Gomak, which I have no clue what it is, but its basically Indo-Spaghetti, and really spicy, right up my alley. Next day, we paddled all the way to our final stop, TukTuk, which again was about 4 hours of paddling and the same distance. Once we arrived, it was time to slow down and actually get some rest and relaxation in. Sometime that was not done much on the trip, but it was still good. Here are the pics from that part of the trip, probably the most beautiful ones.

Lastly, went back to the capital of Sumatra, Medan, did some shopping in what was very close to an American mall, and then flew back the next day. Got back to Angtasom, my home, and proceeded to celebrate Khmer New Year. Got very drunk, had a lot of fun, did some Khmer dancing, mango-eating contest, and wound up exhausted. All in all, everything

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Categories: peace corps

Earthquake Survival

April 10, 2010 Leave a comment

Hey All,

First off, I am in Sumatra right now but obviously I am alive here and survived the earthquake that happened three days ago. It occurred on the North part of the island, and we felt the shake but nothing other than that. At the time of the Shake, we were sleeping near a volcano in the town of Berastagi. I will give a much more extensive update once I am not paying for internet by the hour and have much more time to give everyone the update of my journey here… but it has been fun. Orangutans, Volcanos, and Crater Lakes.. thats the gist of it all.

My friend Jason, who some of you may or may not know, visited me in Cambodia recently, and I have asked him to write an outsiders perspective of what I have gotten myself into in Cambodia. Here is what he had to say:

Recently I had the opportunity to spend 8 days in Cambodia with Ryan, who asked me to share my thoughts and experiences of my visit. As an avid food lover, I had great expectations coming into this trip especially given the highly esteemed cuisine of the French Indochina region. Gladly, I was not let down. Some of my favorites included bobor, a rice porridge with fish and various condiments like chiles and lime; curry soups eaten with rice noodles and fresh herbs; grilled river fish with various sauces; and the ubiquitous French-style baguette. Cambodia’s oven-like temperature makes eating feel like a chore at times, but the determined appetite in me set aside all hesitation.

While the food was remarkable, the beer was not; however, after drinking 6+, any beer seems to be good beer. Ryan and I lived by this philosophy in our daily beer drinking regimen. Perhaps the weirdest experience of my whole journey though was learning to drink beer over ice. In fact, traditional practice at the bars is roaming waitresses with ice buckets, ready to refill your melted ice. By the end of my trip, ice + beer became not only tolerable but preferable given the hellish temperatures and non-refrigerated (hot) beer.

As for sights and sounds, nothing really exceeded expectation. Endless rice fields in the countryside and endless motorbike traffic in the city—all mainstays of Southeast Asia. More interesting were the cultural learnings, especially that of the Khmer peoples’ obsession with light skin color. Most Khmer people could be seen—especially during the middle of the day—wearing long sleeved shirts, jackets, long pants, and face/head coverings. Although this fits in with the highly conservative nature of Cambodian society, the underlying motive is to retain light skin, which is considered more beautiful. The funny thing about this was that I had browner skin than some (ugly?) and could care less about being covered up or not; in fact, much of the time I ended up going shirtless because of the heat, which is unheard of among Khmers. Along with my brown skin was the ongoing joke/confusion that I looked like a Khmer guy except that I couldn’t speak Khmer. As I quickly learned, the fact that I was from America but looked like Khmers was an unattainable concept. To make the situation even odder for local spectators, traveling with Ryan and Eddie and having them speak Khmer on my behalf really would really screw with minds—i.e. how can the white tourists speak Khmer but the Khmer guy can’t? Even after somewhat explaining to them my ethnic heritage, I don’t think most Khmers we encountered quite understood that people other than whites live in America. They probably thought I was just an anomaly in my own country as I was in theirs.

All in all, Cambodia was a blast (no landmine joke intended). The Khmer people were extremely nice and the food was outstanding. Getting to see Ryan on his home turf was interesting as well. While there is definitely ruggedness in his third world lifestyle, it is certainly not the popularly conjured Peace Corps experience of sleeping in dirt, eating crickets, and teaching natives how to brush their teeth. Ryan has an awesome support system there that watches out for him and, more importantly, he’s adapted well to his settings. And, in Cambodia or not, he can still throw a few beers back. – Jason Borja

Pictures from both my trip to Sumatra and Jasons trip to Cambodia will be posted shortly. For now this is all I have to say and all of the money I feel like spending on the internet. Hope everyone is well, because I am. Take care people.

– Ryan

Categories: Uncategorized

Sumatra

April 1, 2010 Leave a comment

Heading to Sumatra today, thought I would leave everyone with something dumb to remember me by.

Categories: Uncategorized