Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Real Work Begins

March 19, 2013

We woke up early this morning to get our laundry over to the nearest restaurant with a "laundry" sign out front.  We had read online that you can bring your laundry to any place with a sign and they would clean it, fold it and return it to you the next day.  We read online that it was really important to get a receipt for your clothes and also count them and recheck them when you receive them back.

We found the closest place that looked the most legit, and barged in on some locals having breakfast.  We smiled at them and then asked the young woman who looked like she worked there if we could drop off our laundry.  She explained the pricing and then took our bag and told us to come back the next morning.  She went to the back of the cafe and through a door and disappeared with our clothes.  She seemed nice enough, so we left with plans to come back the next morning.  Worst case, we do our last two sets of clothes in the sink each night.  We're sick of our clothes now anyway after so many re-wears.

We walked out and saw a picture of a piping hot cup of coffee and were drawn to an outdoor cafe slash convenient store.  The man told us to sit, and we ordered up two cups of coffee without cream, and waited out on a couch.  The tuk tuk drivers heckled us a little bit, but we nicely turned them down, so they sat down for some coffee, too.

Out came two iced, black coffees, which we cringed at because of the ice.  The man stood watching us, so we decided we would just drink them quickly.  They were sweet and concentrated, and we realized that they're probably designed to be watered down by the ice.  We were finally recovering from our bout with Indian food, and decided to still chug them down.

We went back in to the hotel for a quick Skype with Matt's parents.  It's been fun to have a chance to Skype with our friends and family again.  It's been far too long!  We miss you all!!

After Skyping, we headed off to replace Matt's screwdrivers and plier kit that was confiscated back in Cochin's airport.  Our gear needed a little bit of tweaking, so we decided replacing it would be the best bet.  We looked online to find a hardware store and found a place with tools that was about a 15-minute walk from the hotel.  We took off for the store and found it full of power tools.  We walked around a bit and found a smaller tool booth with a young woman running the store.  We found some second-hand tools and cracked boxes of tiny screwdrivers, but it was exactly what we were looking for.

We chose some needle-nose pliers, some short pliers with wire cutters, a set of tiny screwdrivers with a tweezer and a reversible American flag-handled screwdriver.  The woman added it all up and the grand total came to $7.50.  You can pay in American dollars here, but they don't have any coins for change.  They just use their money for change on the dollar at 4,000 riels per dollar.  It's customary to pay with dollars and riels and also receive change that way.  We happily took our tools and felt like we stole them for how cheap they were, and realized we would have this patriotic screwdriver forever and always be able to tell this story.  So good.

On our way back we found a bakery with a delicious display out front.  We were drawn inside and found a white, stamped pastry-looking thing that had red ink on it that said Bayon Bakery.  We weren't sure what was tucked inside the pastry disc, but it felt dense, so we decided to test it out and call it our lunch.  We purchased the mystery item there and then got some juice on the way back to our hotel from a street vendor.  We decided to eat our lunch in the comfort of the air conditioning since it was soooo darn hot outside.

The pastry was soft and flaky on the outside and thick and gooey and a yellow on the inside.  It was a familiar taste from the pastries that we had tasted when we were in Japan.  The inside was sweetened sweet potatoes made into a thick jelly goo.  It was very sweet and dense, and splitting it fixed our sweet tooth for the day.  Not the most nutritious lunch, but very filling.

I started on the edit for the India episode that we're going to cut using what we shot while we were in Auroville with Mouhsine and the Prakti team.  Matt went around the conference picking up our establishing shots and some video of the Prakti booth.  After that, it was time to head back out into the heat and get our b-roll of Phnom Penh.  We planned to go out later in the day because of the heat, and 4:00pm was still a little hot, but gave us a couple hours of sunlight.

Our goal was to get enough footage to get a feel for Phnom Penh, so we decided to head over to the night market which led us to Wot Phnom, or the hill temple. We made it a couple blocks and found a festive fruit stand. We asked if we could take some photos, and the woman said it would be okay, so Matt shot some video of her and her piles of fruit. With our DSLR, it's usually easier to ask for photos and not explain the fact that we're shooting video.

Down the street were four little kids playing soccer on the corner. Three boys with no shoes and one little girl in nothing but a pair of white, plastic underpants. We said hello to them and walked through their makeshift field, and one of the boys hit another boy with the ball. I reacted, which got a rise out of them, so the boy threw the ball at me. I stopped it with my feet and kicked it back to them. We all started to play soccer together, and Matt started filming. They were so cute and so sweet.

The little girl noticed Matt and went to check out the camera. When she saw the boys on the screen, she squeezed with delight. We called them all over to watch themselves on the "TV" (a word they understood), and they laughed and laughed. They headed out to perform some more, then came back to watch again. We were the best thing to happen to their soccer game.

Matt and I moved on and found the temple. It was a neat place, but we found the little kids who were feeding the cages birds to be more fascinating. There were so many little kids exploring the world. It didn't seem like there were any parents around, but all the adults seemed to be watching out for them.

We went to the front of the temple and I bought some postcards from a man with one leg. He was very kind, and not pushy. I appreciated that, and I did want some postcards. He then pointed out a tree across the street. He asked if I saw the black fruit. There were huge black pods hanging down from the branches really high up in the tree. He said they were black fruit bats, and laughed at his joke. Just then, one of them spread their wings and took off. They were massive! I then noticed that the tree was full of hundreds of them. Matt turned his long lens on the tree, and as we stared, a young woman, about my age joined us.

"What's so interesting about that tree?" She said in a German accent. I pointed out the bats, and she was impressed. She introduced herself as Inga, and said that she was traveling through Asia for her three week university break. I was impressed that she was traveling alone. She said she had only been scared once in Thailand when she was robbed by a man with a knife. "He only got $30, but I was pretty shaken after that." She said flippantly. I told her we were going to the night market, and she asked if she could join in. We saw nothing wrong with that, so our duo became a temporary trio.

We made our way to the night market and found a giant concrete block with abandoned tents and a few pieces of trash. There was a big sign that said Phnom Penh night market. It was only 6pm, so we thought it was a little early for the night market to be over. It was a tad confusing, but we decided to look it up later. We figured it only ran on weekends.

Inga saw some beverage vendors and went to a cart to buy a coke. They had glass bottles, so she pointed out the one she wanted and the man pulled out a plastic bag, popped the top,of the bottle and poured the Coke into the bag. He tied it o and stuck a straw into it, then handed it to Inga. We all had a pretty good laugh at the sight of her bagged Coke. We figured that maybe they get money for recycling the bottles, and it behooves them to keep them and it's cheaper to buy bags than cups. There's a lot of figuring to be done with Inga.

She wandered off and Matt and I got distracted by some men playing a game. They had a small springed object like a badminton birdie, and they would kick it to one another by allowing it to fall behind their backs, then kicking it back over their heads with the bottom of their foot. It was very impressive. A dad and his son came over and gestured to us to come play. I knew I'd hurt myself, so we declined, and his little son was interested in the camera, so we showed him. He went out to do a little zombie performance, egged on by his dad, then came back to watch it. Highly enjoyable. All the people were so pleasant and so nice. It's a very soft culture here. Smiling and politeness without submission. Just my style.

Matt and I said goodbye to Inga, and she headed off to find the palace. We went over to the Tonle Sap river to get some shots of the action by the water. We found some giant concrete steps that led down to tall, green grass. The steps were scattered with people exercising, talking and relaxing. Two young boys came over for a visit, and hung out for a bit, then headed on their way.

We spotted an older man going down to the river with a stick over his shoulders that had two dangling watering cans to his sides. He was collecting river water and then taking it back up the hill to his garden. It was the perfect thing to shoot. Matt jogged over to him, and I helped him down the concrete wall to the very neglected portion of steps that the farmer had his garden under.

I waited up top while Matt shot to his heart's content. A thin, Indian-looking man sat down next to me. He was small and gentle, and he smiled as he sat. I smiled back and we started a light conversation about what we were both doing in Cambodia. He had an import/export business based out of Nepal, so he was here on business seeing if Cambodia would be a goof partner. He'll be here for five weeks. I told him about our trip, and he liked the idea of it.

Matt came and joined us, looking a little protective at first, but the man reached out his hand and helped Matt up the wall. Matt sat between us, and we continued our conversation. I had said how busy both of our lives are with all the travel, and he shared his philosophy on life. He said that there were only three days in life: yesterday, today and tomorrow. Yesterday is gone, and tomorrow will be what it will be, you can't control either, so you need to just live in the 24 hours that is today. Matt and I liked his way of saying, "live in the moment."

He got quiet and looked off into the sunset and over the river. His smile faded, and he started on a new topic. "Sometimes I can't believe in God," he said out of nowhere. "I mean I do believe in God. I do," he said a little defensively, and went on to say that when he looks at the world he sees the rich, then he sees the poor who don't even have a meal for the day. "How can there be both?" he asked the sunset. We both sat for a moment thinking about his comment when a small lizard dropped onto my lap. I ruined our contemplative moment with a scream, and almost fell off the wall. Both Matt and the man caught me, and we all had a pretty good laugh at the situation.

He checked his watch, and realized he needed to meet a friend, so he shook both of our hands firmly and said he was glad to meet us, the walked off down the street into the dark city. Matt and I decided it was time for us to get dinner, too, so we headed down a street to see what was around. We found a lit up street that was buzzing with action and came upon the local street market where women and men had veggies and meats that they were selling to locals. There were also places to buy plastic home accoutrements and street vendors barbecuing ducks and fish. We hung out for a while gathering some great footage, then went off to find some dinner.

We found the best restaurant we could find. Dinner came with a free massage! We went in and had fish and chips, then went back out front to cash in our free massage. We took off our shoes, sat down next to the tank and stuck our feet in for the fish to nibble away at. We were sharing the tank with a couple of Aussies that had been in for a while. The feeling of the fish nibbles created two Schultzy giggle boxes. Neither Matt nor I could stop giggling at the feeling. It was quite the experience.

I got out the camera and shot some tights of the fishing eating Matt's feet, and I can't wait to get the footage where people can see it. It's crazy!

We dried off our feet, caught our breath, then caught a tuk-tuk back to our hotel. It was a late night, but a fun night and we gave our feet a good, soapy wash and went to bed.