September 27, 2009

Notes from a Small Kingdom .. and a larger one

Hi Folks,

Its been another long gap between missives .. after I was weakened by Dengue and by the drug that finally killed my pet tapeworm, a couple of other infections moved in and I ended up getting shipped off to Bangkok where the hospitals are shiny and the service 5 star.  After antibiotics most of what I needed was rest, and I got plenty of that. A happy side effect is that I lost 14kg, most of which came from Darwin's pubs and clubs; its great to be without it but can anyone tell me why I still have a gut?  Now I need to keep it off, more difficult as the weather gets cooler.

It would be hard for me to see two more varied years of weather;  last year the monsoon started (very late) in September, while this year it kicked off in May, and has been fairly constant since - the annual rainfall is about 2.2 metres and most of it falls July - Oct.  My house was wanted for family so I have moved to a small apartment-like place in the grounds of a hotel near the middle of town.  The small dwelling is exactly right, a bed-sit plus kitchen, bath and utility, but unfortunately its not very well built, a bit dingy and tends to get water inside.

I bought myself a nice new fridge in Phnom Penh and sent it up on a pickup, once again the envy of the neighbourhood .. will these ridiculous luxuries never cease?  My new landlady is trying to extract a promise to sell it to no-one but her when I leave. I'm not too sure about the quality of these Thai built fridges, but they seem to work well in the tropical conditions (and a frost free upside-down Panasonic 155 litre for $300 seems good value when you've spent $400 repairing an old fridge in Australia). Both my places have had one of the common 26" 'Sony' tvs, sold here for $50; they come from China and the buttons tend to change function over time, but with a remote they mostly work OK.

A couple of nights back I was ready for bed when a decent storm front hit. This stage of the monsoon there are less thunderstorms and more broad wet cloud systems, so the storm didn't seem that dramatic until the water began splashing off the bed and my luggage.  I dashed about rescuing stuff and putting it up high in dry spots, dragged the new fridge out from under a cascade, then spent the night in one of the hotel rooms.

This week I am off to to the neighbouring mountain province of Mondulkiri, to write a funding proposal for the Indigenous Peoples' Health Rights projects in both places.  The tropical storm which drowned the Philippines yesterday is threatening to become a typhoon and is heading this way, so I may come back to another deluge. Initially I planned to drive but the boss decided to send a driver to share the wheel, not a bad thing as it is 10 - 12 hours of mostly hard slog down to the lowlands, south a couple of hundred clicks then back into the mountains.


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