Saturday, June 19, 2010
Final Thoughts On The Whole Thing
I think we have been home for almost 48 hours and I'm still unsure what day it is. The jet lag feels like the first six weeks of my sons' lives when I slept in fits and starts for no longer than two hours and to top it all off: I have very stubborn bug bites (thankfully nothing more exotic or persistant than sand fleas from the beach)so I'm a bit of an itchy sleep deprived mess. But a happy sleep deprived itchy mess because I got the best news while I was away: the candidate they originally picked for the job I wanted did not respond to their offer and after a week they decided to give it to me! w00t! With a touch of a raise, too! Our last day (Wednesday? Tuesday? wha-?) was especially celebratory.
When The Girl announced she made the executive decision we were staying in a five star hotel versus a three star guest house part of me was a little: OMG just how much is this going to cost and the other part of me was "phew! luxury after the big long bus ride!" Luxury beats economy when you are a Pretty Pretty Princess. Luxury beats economy in the third world when you have saved money for almost a year for a really big holiday. I've never stayed in such a beautiful place, either. I'm a princess but I'm cheap and the idea of going to a spa style hotel and spending four figures on a hotel and pampering treatments makes my stomach and head hurt simultaneously, I like my creature comforts but I have also become a sensible princess. But really who could resist this.
Added to these beautiful surroundings was an amazing restaurant that did everything right at $-$$. Not to mention, TG had worked her negotiating magic and had procured us some extra deals. The big down size is I'm now ruined for any other hotel experience. The only disappointing thing about this experience was the FCC was never a Foreign Correspondents Club like the one in PP. So instead of rubbing elbows with grizzled, road worn journalists, content to tip back their tumblers of scotch as they mulled over the scene they witnessed in Bangkok; tapping out stories on laptops or trading stories about coups covered back in the '80's. Nah, the only people we rubbed elbows with were other "holiday makers." The "FCC" thing was all for show. And showy it was.
Part of me feels "white" guilt over staying in luxurious places on our vacation. Yesterday morning as we made our way across town in the triple digit heat to finish buying trinkets and such for friends and family, we walked past the Angkor Children's Hospital and I peaked inside the gate and witnessed the day long wait. Women and children sitting outside in the Big Heat on concrete chairs waiting to be seen by practitioners. It's the only place in the region which offers immunizations. My source told me people travel as far as Battenbang (about 100km) to see a pediatrician. We were told the hospital receives enough vaccine to immunize 100 children a day and people come before dawn to be seen hoping to be seen. The very idea of sitting in the heat after riding on a bus all night long with a toddler and a baby exhausted me. The heat exhausted me as it was and all I was doing was messing around buying scarves and spices and had a swimming pool and a cold beer waiting for me.
It was easy for me to sit on that hotel balcony and ruminate over what could be done to help the people in the country deal with their horrendous trash problems, water problems, public health issues. Sure, they burned the paper trash but their ditches were filled with plastic products, most of which appeared to be empty beverage bottles. Thankfully they weren't burning the plastic bottles. But why haven't large waste management companies started working with the government to organize recycling services in the provinces? This would eliminate the trash filled ditches, not to mention the jobs and the materials the recycled plastic could provide. So easy for me to sit back and fix it; my ethnocentricism really started to show. It's also easy to forget this country's democracy is only fifteen years old. That last night as we checked in with security, the guard was a bit bored and it wasn't very busy so he was chatting with us. He asked us what we thought of the Khmer people, did they smile, were they helpful and friendly? We gave him a hearty yes to all his questions. I think a traveler in the US would fall over dead if a TSA agent asked such questions. Our national assumption is we are the best brightest, bravest, richest and strongest country on the planet so we don't feel like we have to work a little longer and try a little harder. It's the sort of arrogance I'm hoping I no longer suffer after this eye opening vacation.
(to add to my "guilt" I just met a young nurse from Tennessee who just spent ten days in remote villages teaching hygene and the like...yeah, I need to come back and give back)