Traveling Home: The Cambodia Saga

This is the last post of The Cambodia Saga

We arrived back in Phnom Penh and did a temporary camp out in Green Pastures Inn. It was only a few hours until the Hamilton’s flight but it was adequate to make another trip to the Russian Market. On the way we stopped at Alma Cafe for lunch. Alma is Mexican fare and the tortilla soup I had was spicy good.

The Russian market was cooler this day. What were people looking for? An odd assortment of aged cow bells, cassava flour, cashews, peppercorns, T-shirts, and a Go Pro selfie stick were just a few of the items. Every trip I learn a bunch of new things. This time I got educated on durian, which you’ve already heard about, and peppercorns. Both are major crops in the province we visited and I was curious to have some of the pepper. I guess I also learned about the selfie stick (which I might never want to have, yeah, probably never). We walked back to the guest house and I had fun taking pictures of Street 450 where we stayed.

And to think that I saw it on 450 Street...
And to think that I saw it on 450 Street… (notice the wiring)
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and the protected construction site, complete with signage…
Behind each gate a private world exists...
Behind each gate a private world exists…
for those wealthy enough to have a  house and a car...
for those wealthy enough to have a house and a car…
Make it beautiful if you can...
Make it beautiful if you can…
but don't worry about it if you can't.
but don’t worry about it if you can’t.
throw in a cell tower once in a while...
throw in a cell tower once in a while…
Supposedly, the more privileged live as high above the street as they can get.
Supposedly, the more privileged live as high above the street as they can get.
Our walk ends here...
Our walk ends here…
On our last evening we finally get a look at this one who has been making a lot of noise.
On our last evening we finally get a look at this one who has been making a lot of noise.

After Hamiltons left we still had hours before our flight at 11:00 pm so we tuk tukked to Sorya Mall to tour a grocery store and look for the selfie stick again. Julie had curiosity about the grocery store and how it compared to stores in the U.S. The Lucky Grocery in the mall is not where the average Cambodian shops for food but it was pretty busy this time. Other years the prices have been wickedly high and there have been empty shelves, but this time it was quite well stocked, clean, and attractive. The prices were noticeably lower than other years and lower than at home.

After getting back from shopping we had time to take a quick shower and say goodbyes to a group of the dorm students who stopped by. Some of them followed us to the airport to say goodbye again. Goodbye is a pretty big ritual in these trips. Many of the kids and houseparents from PE 4 and PE 5 were there to see us off and there was much hugging and picture taking, and a fair amount of tears. It takes place outside the main entryway from the parking lot. Although this is a very dear time for us, we have often thought it might be easier for all concerned if it were shorter. It is always a late departure time and some always come by tuk tuk and moto – we worry about them. It is also exhausting and emotional. That can’t be helped. We were somewhat relieved to find out that everyone left when we entered the building instead of waiting another half hour to watch us go up the elevator to the departure level. Good move.

A literal layover in Seoul, Incheon airport.
A literal layover in Seoul, Incheon airport.
St. Johns River and Jacksonville's harbor in sight as we circled, and circled, and circled...
St. Johns River and Jacksonville’s harbor in sight as we circled, and circled, and circled…

The flight home was pretty much a backward replay of the flight over. The long section was only 13 hours instead of 14 because of a different trajectory across the Atlantic. We slept, we ate, we slept and ate again. We walked what seemed like miles to get to Customs in Atlanta. Our last flight to Jacksonville kept us in the air longer than expected due to a storm over the airport. We finally landed after doing circles over the ocean for half an hour. How good it is to be back in this country. In some ways I can understand the things people say about Americans, because there are differences in the people that give a different flavor to our country. Not all of that flavor is good, but most of it is. There is a craziness and a casual acceptance of unusual behavior that is fun to watch. Glad to be here.

Tuesday Travels? Wednesday Travels? I’m confused…

As we three travelers finished our journey to Cambodia, it was hard to keep track of what day it was.  It was actually early on Thursday that I finished this, or so I’m told. You will probably also be confused by the time you finish reading.    

Our flight to Phnom Penh is only six hours long and I am on it now, as I write. FT is 9 am Wednesday but over here when we land it will be exactly 12 hours later. I can tell my body thinks I should be awake, although I am confused enough that I will be able to go to sleep when we get to the guest house. It is always good to have that rest at the end of a long time of being in a non-restful position.

I have been studying the pictures of the children in PE 4 and PE 5, hoping to learn the boys names and review the girls. Even though I have seen them for three visits now it is still hard to remember the names that are very similar, especially when I have not done anything specific with them. I would like to call them all by name but it is unlikely…

We are in a fairly large plane and it is full. We have been given the only meal we will have on this leg of the journey. We were given papers to fill out to apply for our visas. The price of a visa has gone up from $25 to $37 and we will get ours at the airport when we land. So far the trip has been uneventful but I am almost afraid to say that.

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FT 12:45 pm Wednesday but in PP (Phnom Penh) it is 12:45 am on Thursday. At about 10:30 pm we had a rather rough landing and disembarked. Some of this detail is going to be boring to many but I’m hoping it will give daughter Julia an idea of where to go and what to do when she travels here alone on Saturday. I have never had to do it unaccompanied, thankfully. Everyone getting off the plane does pretty much the same thing so following the crowd is a good way to go. This airport is older, has a few holes in the walls, and a lot of strange additions to it – not at all like Korean airports. We are directed into a large room where lines are forming along the left wall. There is a counter with a lot of uniformed men, some women, behind it. They take our passports and $2 for a picture, then we stand in a group at the right of the long counter. Our passports are passed along the officials and end up at the last man who tries to pronounce our names in a way that we will recognize. Good luck there. He also holds it up so the picture can be seen. We pay $30 for the visa and get our passport handed to us again.

One more checkpoint as we move through the large room. There are several stations with an agent waiting to take another look at the passport, stamp it three or four times and give it back. We are now official tourists and the next stop is right in front of us – the baggage carousel. And by this time the bags are there and circling. Everything arrived undamaged and on time. There are carts to help us move it all. As we get near the door the waiting crowd spills through and starts the greeting and hugging. A lot of the kids have come, some of the dorm students, and a number of adults from Asia’s Hope. It is a royal welcome.

We are driven to the Green Pasture Inn, which is the guest house we have always stayed in, but now it has new management and some changes. Still it is familiar and feels like “home, sweet home” as Mike says. I have my double room, since Julie will be joining me in a few days. The “air con” gets turned on and, as usual, the password for the wifi doesn’t work. We’ll have to figure that one out in the morning. So for now, goodnight.

"home, sweet home" for the next two weeks
“home, sweet home” for the next two weeks