18 November 2011

why we delayed our flights, pt. 1

In less than nine hours, our motley band of orphan kids will again take to the stage, after having used the Night Market stage as their only dress rehearsal. This time, it will be in front of the world authority on Khmer dance: The Princess. As in, Her Royal Highness Samdech Reach Botrei Preah Ream Norodom Buppha Devi.

Heaven help us.


15 November 2011

for real

At one point, our flights home were set for 19 October. And then 15 November, to leave in seven hours, no joke. Three hours ago, we jetted over to the downtown office of Korean Air to fix that and finalize delaying our departure until mid-December.

I stole some squares of their pink toilet paper out of rebellion.

Oh, and a magazine; one about corruption.

Also, I'm holding off on posting more photos of us so that you can forget what we look like, and then be horrified when we return and our faces remind you that you are not, in fact, friends with or related to exotic world travelers who delight in experiencing the bizarre, but are, instead, friends with or related to the same old, same old Todd and Amy, who live in a cupboard in Springville.

...who use commas like they were burning holes in their pockets.

Yeah, that pair.

[Who locked into their engagement one solid year ago, I might add.]

[Sheesh, stop talking, Amy.]


08 November 2011


We were supposed to board an airplane in 7 days. That's not going to happen anymore, but it'll probably be in about a month.
I can't wait to spend time with my families, my people; I want to spend time with my families. And my people.

Hug each other for me since you're all so much closer to each other than I am.
I love you all.


P.S. Look at the snake I caught in a cave. [I almost wrote cake there.] It was gentle and beautiful, but I didn't touch it because the shape of the head and pupil hinted that it might kill me.

13 October 2011


I have a dream cat.


08 September 2011

at the zoo! pt. 2

Continuing with the topic of the previous post, this blip will inform the audience of other wonders seen at the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre. And without further ado, to the sun bears!

It was lovely to see so many different bears, but I was so enrapt with all of them that I didn't photograph very many. This was one that looked me dead in the eyes and then winked. I swear. But I'm not going to tell you what message was transmitted telepathically; you're going to have to look your own sun bear in the eyes someday. Anyway, there was a really dopey looking one that got scolded by another, but for the most part, they were all relaxing in the shade.

After the adventure with all the bears, we walked past some Southern Serow (Capricornis sumatraensis maritimus). Fierce. I would share a photo here, but you would be too terrified of all the terror in the male Serow's eyes that you would crawl under your seat. He was not pleased with having so many people checking out his lady. He huffed and puffed, and I quietly walked away.

This python was as thick as my torso. There were five of them. The kids were all kinds of fascinated and terrified and placed bets on who the snakes would go after first. This was the exhibit that garnered the most reverent children, staring at the creatures for much longer than all the other look-and-walk exhibits.

There was a huge spider on the sign for the pythons, and I was immediately called over to photograph it. The kids learn quickly, so they all know that I like insects and spiders. Throughout the day, the two phrases I heard the most were "Amy! Spider!" and "Amy! Walk!" This is how I know I am a Nelson. Thank you, Riley. [Todd and I easily could have spent several more hours, if not days, at this zoo. We will be going back frequently enough that if you make the voyage to these parts, we'll gladly take you too.]

This is Todd. He's drinking a Bird's Nest. What's that, you ask? According to the rest of the English on the can, it's flavor is "White Fungus". This is what curiosity does. It compels you to drink sugary, mushroom liquid. It wasn't too pleasant, really.

Gratuitous baby monkey. This one goes out to my mom.

One of my favorite creatures was a minorly ignored one: the Civets. This is an unflattering photo of one, but my, my, would I love to cuddle with one. It uses that wobbly little nose to sniff the devil out of anything and everything, including one's fingers and face and whathaveyou. It looked like a mix between a raccoon and a cat. Naturally, I pet it.

That was the main place I heard "Amy! Walk!"

Next up, this little beauty.

She was missing her right leg, but was still a million times more agile than any of us.
I liked seeing how some of the animals that were missing a limb or eye had adapted to their surroundings. There was a sun bear that was missing his left paw, and didn't seem to think anything of it. The baby elephant had a prosthetic front left leg. Easy, no problem.

We ate lunch as a mass, and slept as a mass. After their rests, Rothana, Chamroeun II, and Pheaktra came over to discuss the finer points of life. They asked all sorts of questions regarding American politics, religion, and war. They wanted to know more about what we thought of the Khmer/Thai border debate. They asked about Libya (Libye) and the Middle East and Bin Laden (Beenlada). It took us awhile to figure out what "Badaobama" was.

Srey Meas kicking back in a hammock.

Paly and his sister Seang Mai striking a pose. Do you understand why we thought we had landed on a different planet? Most of the kids looked like they were straight from Back to the Future, but the part when they actually go to the future, and it looks... awesome. I love these kids.

After lunch and nap time, more beasts.

Until then, goodnight!


Editor's Note: Todd reminded me that I left out the most critical and time-consuming topic of discussion from our sit down with Chamroeun and Rothana. Chamroeun seemingly asked about "grandfarmers". Even with Todd trying to understand in Khmer, we could not figure out what grandfarmers were. According to Chamroeun, it's a movie about robots from space that fight with each other on Earth. Ah. Transformers. Once that clicked, Todd spent the next ten minutes trying to convince the boys that Transformers are not real. They genuinely insisted that they actually exist. This led to an in-depth explanation of animation and movie magic. At the end, Rothana said in Khmer, "ooh, America is so good at fooling people!"

07 September 2011

at the zoo! pt. 1

Today we went to the zoo! Actually, it's officially called the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre, and it's gorgeous. It's a seemingly limitless piece of land that gives many of the animals ample room to wander and explore. This also means that 28+ kids and half as many adults got to tromp around just as much!

Long story short, it was wonderful.

We woke up early and scurried to get ready. Outside our windows, we could hear the busy little sounds of all the kids getting ready too. We could tell they were excited, just by sound... and then... we left our room. We were greeted by aliens. Or so it seemed. Todd and I were surprised to see all the kids dressed to the nines, street clothes and spiky hair, fancy sundresses with hipster belts tight at the waist. It felt like we were already in a different world. A 17-and-under world of fashion. Half the girls had pigtails like me. They were far more adorable. We loaded up the bus and were on our way.

The bus ride was filled with Khmer karaoke, and the kids sang along to most of the songs. Super cute.

We arrived and sorted out what lunch would be in a few hours, and then hopped to it! These were the first set of eyes that met mine:

Ketupa zeylonensis
. Brown fish owl. There were over a dozen of them. Beautiful birds, and amply appropriate. We saw so. many. birds! I didn't even get the names of all of them, I'm sorry Andrea! But some of the others were Greater Spotted Eagles (Aquila clanga) and Black Kites (Milvus migrans), Orange-breasted Green Pigeon (Treron bicincta), White-vented Myna (Acridotheres javanicus), Grey-headed Fish Eagles (Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus), which would yelp loudly! They startled me!

And housed with all the other birds...

The placard said the following:
Large Flying-fox Pteropus vampyrus
Habitat: Tall trees
Diet: Ripe fruit
Reproduction: 1 young born in March of April
Interesting Facts: Migrates to breed during cold season, and returns to roost on the same tree branch. Helps to pollinate fruit trees. Contrary to misconception, the flying fox is a mammal, not a bird. Threatened by restaurant trade.

I love bats.

Oh, but there were so many more birds! So many! I can't even load all the photos! But look at these gorgeous little littles:

First one to tell me what those puppies are wins a prize!

And then there was yelling. And yelping. And screeching. And whooping. [Emphasis on the whooping.] Because...

...and about nine other kinds of monkeys were being ridiculous. There were peach ones, black ones, black ones with white tufts, white ones with black bellies, native wild ones, monkeys with mohawks, monkeys with monk crowns, and more. One was naughty and yanked on Todd's shirt through the fence really hard. We were all up in each others' grills.

Yes, we touched some of our primate cousins. That's Darynhel shaking hands/feet with one lovely girl who then FREAKED OUT and made the most terrifying sounds... kind of like those aliens on Sesame Street, but 10x fast. That made her baby came over and they cuddled while she continued to sing her banshee song. That's when I noticed her cataract. She was amazing.

And thus ends the first installment at the zoo. Next up: Lions. Tigers. And Sun Bears.

Oh my!


02 September 2011

sweethearts, twerps, and hellions

Meet my friends:

These are my little twerps. Mind if I introduce them?

Seang Mai: She is a spunky, lovey 16 year old. Paly and Kuma are her younger brothers. She's often singing while she does her chores. She tells me she loves me and blows kisses at me at least 15 times a day. She's kind of a mother-figure to the other kids, and sets them straight when they're being naughty.
Kunithea: She's 15 years old, and is very funny, but tends be to quieter. She writes elaborate stories, and illustrates them. She drew the picture of us found in the 18 August 2011 post here. Her little brother is Jame.
Srey Meas: Total sweetheart. She's 15 and has the sweetest smile. She is really affectionate and if I'm anywhere near her, gives me subtle Khmer kisses on the shoulder. [These are with the nose: you nuzzle someone and sniff in slightly. Adorable.]
Srey Vouch: She's one sharp little girl. She wants to be a doctor, and studies very hard. She is 13 years old. Her little brother is Line.
Srey Leak: 11 years old. She's loud and silly. She's a momma's girl, and is really optimistic about life. She smiles a lot, and is over-the-top goofy. She's best friends with Srey Vouch.
Ra: He's 17 years old. He doesn't waste words. He tries really hard in English and pays close attention. He laughs easily.
Rothana: Golden boy. He's 14, and is a phenomenal singer. He is usually featured, front and center, in the performances because he's really smart and learns very quickly. Sometimes the pressure of being a performer gets to him, since he's such a perfectionist. Off stage, he cracks jokes in English and Khmer, and is very happy.
Paly: Sweetheart. When we first got here, he didn't talk to me much, and I figured he was just a punk teenager [he's 13] and was too cool to talk to me. Wrong. He's one of my closest buddies now, and one of our inside jokes is pointing at something, [a light post, a person, a bike, the dog...] and then nonchalantly calling it "gangster". It gets me every time.
Vantha: He's 14 years old. He's more reserved, but when he talks, it counts. He recently asked if Smiit and I have gotten married yet, because he thought we were just boyfriend and girlfriend. He didn't believe us until we showed him pictures.
Butha: 15 years old. Funny kid, and a great actor. Some of his performances are the most hilarious.
Chamroeun I: This kid is ... rad. He's 11, and a bit shy, but only at first. I often see him drawing dresses off in a corner. His little sister is Soknan. He was riding a bike around the yard the other day in just a large T-shirt. I asked him where his pants were, and he just laughed at me and said that his shirt was long enough, "no problem."
Chamroeun II: Ringleader. 16 years old. He's one of the two real leaders of the boys [the other one being Rothana]. He's an amazing dancer, and while performing, some of the other kids can be caught looking to him for direction. He's very strong, but is hilarious too.
Chanda: 11 years old. He is really funny, but a naughty kind of funny. He's mischievous, but really affectionate too. He can be a real twerp.
Seng: Oh, man. This kid is one of my favorites. He is such a geek. He is a master of faces, and can look very serious one second and burst out laughing the next. He always checks in on me by saying my name through the window. He's really curious, and asks me questions about everything, and always wants extra help learning English. He always puts an arm around me and says awesome things.
Darynhel: [It's pronounced Daniel.] He's 10 years old. Definitely one of the cutest smiles around here. He's tender, and when I had a kidney infection, he'd scold the others if they weren't being soft enough with me [Seng did this too.] He loves the cat, and brings him to me frequently.
Kuma: Ultimate twerp. Sassy little 10 year old. He's funny, but sometimes he's naughty too, but all in good fun. He's Seang Mai and Paly's little brother.
Line: He's buddies with Kuma and acts accordingly. He's fun, but mischievous too. He's Srey Vouch's little brother, and is 9 years old.
Pheaktra: 13 years old. He was my little buddy the first couple weeks we were here, and would teach me Khmer and help me understand things. He has since gotten more shy, but is still a friendly boy. He's a bit awkward, which is probably why we get along so well.
Jonathan: [Also goes by Davin]. He's Darynhel's little brother, but is much more of a hellion. He's 8 years old and runs around with the other hellions. He can be pretty cute too.
Chham: Rad kid. He's 9 years old, and is friends with the hellions, but he's not one of them. He's prone to break out into acrobatics whenever, wherever. Out of nowhere, he'll just do a back flip. He's a total comedian, too.
Chantha: SASSY. 11 years old and has an attitude with some of the others, but she's always sweet to me. Sometimes when the other kids are being punks, she'll act like "Oh no you di-in't", with her hand on her hip. She's very tender sometimes, too.
Soknan: ...hellion. She can be a cutie, but is most often trying to be a bratty queen-bee. She's 9 and is Chamroeun I's little sister. She used to be my shadow. She often punches my kidneys, which was a major problem when I was sick. [Which is why a couple of the others stepped up to the plate and told her off for being rough. After she learned I was sick, she'd very sweetly touch my side and ask "hurt?" and then touch my tummy and ask "sick?" and then would be very gentle with me.]
Sarim: Darling little girl. She is incredibly quiet and affectionate. Very soft spoken. She looks like she is about 8 or 9 years old, but I learned today that she's 13. That blew my mind. She smiles when she sees me, and gives me tight little hugs, and tucks her head under my arm.
Lyny: Littlest little little. She is a very proper little 7 year old. She's polite, but cracks sneaky little jokes. I never understand the punchline because she melts into a tiny puddle of giggles.
Sokny: 10 years old. Space. Cadet. She is not on this planet. Sometimes she's really cute, and the next second her eyes will dreamily glaze over. She says the most bizarre things, mostly in Khmer, but sometimes in English.
David: He's 8 years old, and runs with the hellions, but when he's on his own, he's quiet, caring, and a bit reserved. He's tight with Hellion Numero Uno [Jame], but plays by himself too.
Jame: Hellion Numero Uno. You can tell he needs attention, but he's got waaaay too much energy. He can be happy and friendly, but mostly NAUGHTY. He's a funny little twerp though.
Samneng: Cutest little button. He is 7 years old, and he and Lyny are tied for being the smallest little urchins. He also runs with the other hellions, but he's never really naughty. He pays close attention in English, even if it's just to copy down letters and numbers at random.

...and that rounds off the list of my buddies on this side of the globe.

Over and out.


in the meantime

Please enjoy: Yvonne, the Runaway

30 July 2011


I haz one. I thought my shower was just loud, but no, this is the first torrential downpour. Todd went jogging before it started. He'll be soaked. No biggie; everyone's buzzing around as if life is normal.


first day in Cambodia

Cambodia. I'm stuck trying to figure out words for this place. It's lovely. The sky has been a pillowy gray so far since it's the start of the monsoon season. I was warned of torrential downpours but haven't seen any yet. I did see an elephant though. I was surprised because I was actually looking out for monkeys in a park, but then, bam. Elephant.

We got here late Thursday night and tried to dock at the orphanage where we're staying, but everyone was already asleep so we stayed at a little place called Golden Gate Hotel. It was one of the nicest little hotel rooms I've stayed in for less than $20. If you come visit us, you might want to stay here.

We hopped out of bed at 6 AM, mostly because Adam came banging on our door to see if we were awake, but that's the general time to wake up in these parts. It feels good to wake up without alarms and you're up with the sun. We loaded up all the equipment and luggage and set out in search of breakfast. Our friend Peakadae [sounds like Pe-ack-a-day. Haven't seen him smoke yet] drove us to this faaaaancy little place where we were seated under large canvas umbrellas, which were set up to protect us from all of the gently falling jasmine flowers. The restaurant was really elegant like that. We ate nom min chok [I think] which is a pile of rice with thin cuts of seasoned pork, and some herbs on the side. Probably some limes too. For dessert, they brought out a plate of fruit: papaya, pineapple, dragon fruit, watermelon, and a flower. Very pretty.

Then to the orphanage! We got there and rang the bell at the gate and had a cloud of excited kids run let us in and greet us. They are all so great. So so great. Adorable, sharp, disciplined, silly, hilarious, and confident. Many hugs and arms and faces smashed into us. Many of the kids were at school, so this was just a small clutch of them. We got all of our stuff put into our rooms and had fun meeting all the kids. Throughout the day, another wave of them would come home, wearing their little school uniforms. Everyone greets each other with "Chhom riep souh" and hands pressed together. Most of the kids speak cute little snippets of English when they meet you, and my favorite thing to hear is "fine, thank you" They're all very polite, and affectionate! Adorable. When the girls got home from school, they all pulled in close around me, and inspected my manicure, asked me all sorts of questions in english and khmer. They scurried off to their next class [they have a very structured schedule around here, and all the kids are obedient] and we went to run some errands.

We set out for central Phnom Penh to pick up odds and ends, get some money, and get all our ducks in a row. This included getting SIM cards, shampoo, checking out transportation options, setting up a bank account, and other little things. We got lunch at Boat Noodle [there are two Boat Noodles in the city, and they're competitors. They each have a sign in their restaurant claiming that they're the original, and better of the two. We went to the Boat Noodle that is actually the better one.] It was delicious and we got way too much food.

More later. Everyone is starting to wake up. xoxo

22 July 2011


Thus begins the Great Cambodian Excursion.

If this is the first you've heard of this, you're only barely behind the times.
If this site is your number one source for news, it's a pity; you will always be the last to know.

That's the way it is.

Now all I need is Tupac.

10 June 2011


I will commence this yearly post with a sound byte, captured a few nights ago. Todd had fallen asleep around 9:30 PM, and as hard as I tried, I couldn't do the same. I stayed up for a few more hours and a few times during the night, Todd spoke. He made a whirring or buzzing sound for about 45 seconds, and then started talking.

This was the tail-end of his ramblings: