Thursday, January 04, 2007

Visitors from San Francisco

Dale is here to visit Riverkids and her friend, Karen and her 13-year-old stepson, Alex, have come along, visiting Cambodia for the first time. Karen and Alex are from San Francisco and Alex had major culture shock when he first arrived. It is the traffic and the smell of pee when he first got out the airport. The traffic can be intimidating and even traumatic, motocycles everywhere, fighting for space on the roads, together with SUVs (I’ve seen two Hummers in the last month), sedans, cyclos, tuktuks and people. Alan and I took Alex and our two dogs to Hun Sen Park for a run yesterday, afterwhich we walked to our favourite pub, the Happy Phnom Penh Pizza, which has one-for-one draft beer for USD1 during happy hour, half the price of the FCC. Alex was getting stressed by the traffic and was glad to reach the riverside. It was about 6pm, peak hour, and it was not pleasant to cross the main streets at all.

Alex and Karen spent two months in Singapore, living with Jimmy and Dale and their four adopted Cambodian children. They like Singapore (Alex notes Singapore is among the top five wealthiest nations in the world and believes Suntec City to be the world’s largest shopping mall, while Karen admires how clean and well-run the country is). Singapore *is* unlike the rest of Southeast Asia, but some travellers dislike it for precisely that reason, complaining it is bland, like any other city in the world. One guy has described it as “Disneyland with the death penalty”. Singapore is clean and green and I do miss the clean streets where I don’t come across a sanitary towel now and again. It has a convenient public transport system which I miss. I also miss the aircon and tree-lined streets. Alan often remarks how beautiful Phnom Penh could be, just by doing little things, like not allowing cars to park everywhere on the pavements.

Alex is a really sweet kid who spent all morning of his first day in Cambodia taking photos of Riverkids which he will upload on a new blog about his travels. He also has a big heart and went with Dale and Karen to a baby orphanage and plans to return when he is 15 to volunteer at Riverkids for a couple of months.

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