Saturday, 19 February 2011

I-to-I day one

Saturday 19th February 2011

MP3 track of the day: We've got to get out of this place - The Animals

Weather: Hot and sticky

For the first time, since arriving in Phnom Penh, the drilling had stopped; probably due to it being the weekend. I got up and enjoyed my last hot shower (apparently the I-to-I guesthouse doesn't have hot water) before getting changed and checking out. After breakfast I boarded a tuk-tuk and crossed the city. My tuk-tuk driver had previously worked at the guesthouse I was staying at (Narin 2 Guesthouse) and so he knew where to go; however traffic police and a wedding added traveling time (and South East Asian road users don't like to stop for anything).

Once I had arrived at my guesthouse my tuk-tuk driver lifted my bag out of the vehicle only for me to hear some fabric rip; I checked my bag to find some fabric was missing from one of the hip straps; the padding, behind said fabric, was in full view. That annoyed me. I reluctantly paid the driver and checked in. The receptionist didn't have a key for my room but said that it was in the rooms door; my room was '306' on the third floor. Of course, when I had climbed three flights of steps, no key could be found and so, after locking all of my stuff up, I went downstairs to relay the information. Apparently the cleaner had my key and would bring it to me shortly.

I also inquired into a package arriving for me from the UK; without looking the receptionist said that nothing had arrived. I didn't trust him. I-to-I had told me that most of my group would be turning up early in the afternoon; as it was 10am I sat down, got out my computer, and surfed the web trying to kill time. At 11:30am I had read all the news I could take (the Bahrain GP could be canceled … not really that bothered as it's not the most exciting GP on the race calendar) and so I finished reading about Caesar fighting in Gaul and Briton.

I took my book and headed out into the city, stopping first for lunch. I found a second-hand book store and to my relief they had another 'Emperor' book that I hadn't read. I traded in my book for $1.50, and spend a further $2.50 to purchase 'Emperor – The Death of Kings'. I know it sounds crazy but I was worried about staying within Phnom Penh without being able to escape from it. I know that I couldn't do it in body, but for me it was enough to escape Phnom Penh in mind (as you can tell, Phnom Penh isn't my most favorite of places); it's amazing the power of a good book.

The book shop owner was lovely and if I finish another book, within my stay here, I will go back to her book store. The only problem with 'D's books' was that there selection of 'Cambodian history' was pretty limited (when I mean limited, they had one book) and so the lady kindly pointed me to another book store near my old guesthouse. As I past through familiar streets I sighed; over here I had found a good restaurant and a good sandwich place, neither of which I had found in my new area.

I found the book store I was directed to and purchased a book called 'The Pol Pot Regime' by Ben Kiernan. For $5 I had quite a weighty book about Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge and started to read it as soon as I got back to my guesthouse. Whilst reading I met some people who had been volunteering for the previous two weeks. They let me into some truths, firstly it seems that, apart from breakfast, food wasn't included (which made we wonder where all the money I paid was going … this voluntary work wasn't cheap you know!) however, the most worrying fact was that I might not be 'teaching English to Orphan Children' at all; instead I could be helping to build a school. Building within this heat is something that I am NOT looking forward too. Just like a lot of people I know my limitations and I was not designed to build. I awaited the arrival of my I-to-I leader with worry.

I waited and I waited; 6:00pm had passed and not a sign. At this point I was starting to question I-to-I's organisational skills. I sat and I read about Vietnam (not sure if it was a good idea to read about the next country I'm visiting. My guidebook suggest that I'll get my bag snatched the moment I set foot in the country) to pass the time wondering whether I should order dinner or await for other possible arrivals.

Eventually a young, blond, American woman came in; she inquired if I was on the 'I-to-I' volunteering programme to which I replied 'yes'. Unlike me she had met our mysterious leader and found out that tomorrow, at 9:30am, there would be an 'introduction' meeting where we would be given our assignments. After that I think there might be a tour of the city (great, like I haven't done THAT before). She also told me that our work times were 9am – 11am and then 1pm – 3pm Monday to Friday. With the amount of free time I was glad that I had purchased some new reading material. In reply I told her about not all assignments being teaching English, which was news to her.

We chatted and we got on really well. She has just started her traveling and so was quizzing me about the places I had been. I, in reply, was asking her where she wanted to go. Eventually we met a young couple from London, who were also very pleasant. We chatted late into the evening; I started to feel relaxed about the 'social side' of the programme however still feared manual labor over teaching (I had brought a load of pens and pencils for the children … what was I going to do, give them to the builders for doing a good job?). I went to bed, wondering what tomorrow had in store and just how good were Cambodians 'Health and Safety' laws for construction.

Toodle Pip!

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