monsoon winds

Just last week it was hot. REALLY hot. All of the first year teachers, including myself, were lamenting the promise of cool weather in November. We are lamenting no more. It seemed literally over night that the monsoon winds changed their course, and we're now getting the cold winds from Siberia that make life here all the more pleasant. Nights are cool, days are cool. Even this morning I was wanting a sweater on my morning commute.

The time is much like Harmattan was in Benin - cold, and dry. It is, however (and thankfully) not as dusty. And, just like Harmattan it won't last too long. They say that things remain relatively cool until late January. But then the heat starts up again, culminating in April/May. Not so terrible, perhaps, as the chaleur of Benin, but humidity has never been my favorite.

learning Khmer

I love learning languages, so it's been a point of frustration that I haven't been able to devote myself more fully to the study of the language here. Things have gotten better in the past month. I know study for 2 hours every Saturday with a tutor, which has helped a lot. The school also has lessons the Khmer teachers give twice a week after school, but I find I'm often engaged after school... so I haven't had much time to go.

Right now I'm learning the alphabet, which is quite fun. It's nice that it's phonetic, but annoying that there are so many sounds! Mindy claims that she chose Cambodia because it's the only language in SE Asia that isn't tonal. But it may as well be! Khmer has 23 written vowels. You'd think that would be enough, but you'd be wrong. Almost all of the 23 written vowels has 2 pronunciations! It's fun, but it can be a hard language to hear. (English has between 11 and 20 vowels, depending on your accent)

But it's fun! I'm not totally blowing myself away with the progress that I've made, but if I remain constant I'll get it all eventually! I hope...

Oh yeah, blogging!

So perhaps my final statement in my last blog post was a bit overstated. Maybe I'm not really back.

I've been finding that I spend so much time with computers, that in my free time I'd just as soon not be with them. (that is unless it's lounging in front of them watching TV, but that's hardly the same) It doesn't help, of course, that I don't have Internet at my house. Connections are available, and I could probably get one without too much trouble. But it's another cost, and I really am not home that often. Plus, the cheap connection is $9 a month with a 400MB cap. Unlimited plans exist, but most range around $50 a month - which is something to shake a stick at when that's half what you pay for rent.

These past months have been quite busy. I've traveled a bit around Cambodia, and at the height of beauty. Rainy season makes the country green and marvelous. There isn't anything quite like green rice fields stretching out forever. Cambodia is a very beautiful place.

Mindy and I have also been, weekend freedom permitting, exploring the various tourist destinations in Phnom Penh. We've still yet to head out to the Killing Fields, but have done well in going to Wat Phnom, the National Museum and other places. We've also been exploring restaurants.

There really are some great places here to eat. Our normal fare is street food, or cheap restaurant food, but Saturdays are date night and we do quite well. We've had sushi, tacos, fine french cuisine (at fine french prices) and so much more. I'd say that my favorite find so far is either USA Donuts or 'the Vegetarian restaurant'.

USA Donuts, unsurprisingly, sells donuts. Oh, but so much more. It's a tiny store near the art deco Central Market that is like a mini USA. They have tex-mex, big burgers, American style breakfast, and everything else the ex-pat stomach might want and reasonable prices. They also have a little boutique with import goods. After finishing a plate of tacos and eating the best donut I've eaten in Cambodia I wandered over to the fridge. I'd been looking for Dr. Pepper but without luck, but there it was right in front of me. I gasped, jumped and recalled the day that Doritos came to Parakou. (Oh delicious day)

The Vegetarian Restaurant probably has another name, but that's what we call it. It's awesome. First because it's delicious. Second because it's cheap. Third because it's got a great atmosphere! They have swings hanging from everywhere to sit in. It's got an upper level (currently closed) with a suspension bridge. It's got a fountain. Oh yeah, and good food. I like the "Spicy Taste Burger". The patty is made from mushrooms, and it has the most delicious pepper sauce. Oh, it's making me hungry just thinking about it.

I've also been exploring routes to work. The traffic here is pretty terrible, especially on the main roads during rush hour. It really makes me want to die a lot of the time, so I've been figuring out the optimal routes from point to point. I think I've decided today that I only really have two options for my daily commute to work. One is shorter, but the traffic is always horrible. One is longer, but the traffic is lighter. It will probably, from now until the school moves, depend largely on what battle I want to fight: getting up early or traffic stress.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention our recent trip to Singapore. We went to visit our friends Ailin and Louis, and had a great time. We were often and generously taken out, treated to delicious food. (one night we had seafood... and I liked it! No one was more surprised than me) We also had a fair mix of local and familiar food. Carls Jr, Chili's, Quiznos, Starbucks and more all exist and differ hardly at all from their American cousins. I could have closed my eyes and ordered at Carls Jr.

We did more than eat of course. We hob-nobbed with the elite of the Singapore literary circles. We went to not one, but two poetry readings, as well as a satirical debate about the state of the merlion's good name. We went to the zoo, learned about Chinese hell and morality and Haw Par Pavilion and lots more.

Things are still busy at work and in life, but are going well. I'm spending less and less time fixing things, and am getting to spend more and more time writing curriculum and sprucing up our infrastructure and policies. It's fun, and feels less tiring than when I first got here.

Pictures do exist, and I'm still trying to figure out the best way to share. I imagine I may just push them on Facebook and share links here. We'll see, one more consideration. Plus, bandwidth is hard to come by...