Yup, skipped a day on the blog. The 8th was a day of driving, sitting, waiting, blank staring, delayed planes, canceled flights, rebooked flights, some more driving and then some passing out. So not much else to say about that.
But the 9th, oh wow.
After a day of disappointing travel and interesting conversations we arrived at Siem Reap, just outside the Angkor Wat complex. In the effort to get here there was A LOT of time for talking and listening. Among many thing that were discussed of particular interest was my dad recalling his time in the area nearly 50 years ago. I did not know much of it as he never really talked about it much. Some of the biggies I never knew: He was a volunteer tunnel rat, did you read that…Volunteer…. He was shot in the neck during a recon mission. While being patched up and put on a helicopter stretcher he was hot in the shoulder. All on, get this, July 4th. That’s not all, all on the day before he was to be sent home. Some more on that later…….
In our infinite wisdom, at 10 pmish we all decided it wold be a good idea to get up to see Angkor Wat at sunrise. Sounds majestic, right? Well, 4 AM comes very fast when you pass out at about midnight. I will say this, when do you get the chance to see sunrise over the Angkor Wat temple? So I can give up a few hours sleep. There were plenty of other people that had the same idea but the sunrise was so very cool. Granted, we were already sweating before the first rays of light came up but at least it was not 1200 degrees yet.
The rest of the morning was punctuated with some of the coolest sights ever. Each one building on the last. Some of the most iconic images ever. Oh, and monkeys. Don’t forget the monkeys. The last of the morning temple run was by far the most bestest coolest and anticipatedest of all. Ta Prohm temple, or better known to the rest of us as the Tomb Raider temple from the movie of the same name. (Sad how our geography and history tend to come from Hollywood). Anyway, this is the most interesting place I have been in a while. The trees have started to take the land back from the builders of the temple and slowly tear it apart. The temple still stands in opposition but will eventually be defeated by the jungle. In ever doorway and root structure someone had to mention Tomb Raider. I think we all subconsciously thought if we say it enough Angelina Joli might pop out of one of the shadowy corners. She didn’t. Sorry.
After a sweaty morning of Tomb Raiding…..we paused for lunch and a quick nap and a shower. Maybe not in that order. The evening was put to a vote and we concluded a relaxing boat ride to view the “Floating Village” and catch the sunset was the way to go. OK, first the “boat ride”. This was a boat only in the basic definition. It was on water, it did float. Beyond that it may be more like a boat in the “see what my kid built” sense. After determining who weighed what we distributed the weight accordingly, you know, so we didn’t tip over. The river channel is so shallow this time of year the propulsion consisted of a outboard motor, tilled very far up and a 7 or 8 foot extension added to the propeller so the propeller actually ran along the water about 6 inches or so below. Makes for an interesting spray of very muddy water behind us. But on we go. After a few miles of riding the wake of the other boats like a surfboard, we were broadsided by pirates. Yes, a boat quickly came along side and a boy jumped on board and demanded money. OK, to be fair he was selling cans of beer, but he still demanded money for them. And at the exorbitant price of $2! So yeah, pirates. Needless to say we obeyed his orders to save our lives and bought his $2 beer. After the terrifying beer pirates we made it out to the floating village. Those words do not do it justice. I found the real Water World! No not the terrible movie but the real Water World. There or hundreds and hundreds of floating huts and hand built homes all moored together int he middle of the huge lake. They even have a school, a church and a few stores. Yes a school. For 300+ kids. In the middle of the lake. OK, if this is not the perfect home for a Mobile Educational Technology Lab I do not know what is. We could make a whole movie about deploying a kit to this school. Oh yeah, that’s gotta happen.
We paused at a “restaurant” that had some, well interesting attractions to it. First off there is a 3rd level on it so catching the sunset here was perfect. Before we venture up the planks to get up there and pray the whole thing does not just list to the side and toss us all off…..You gotta stop and see the snakes and #themostintrestingmissionaiesintheworld alligators. You heard me. You can hold a huge Boa around your neck and then even feed a fish to the dozens of gators. Not sure there is a regulator that inspects this stuff here….ok, yeah I am, there is not…. The sunset was incredible. From out here you can not see the shore line and the lake is massive. The few clouds gave an incredible sunset. The beer made you not care the boat was moving like a drunken sailor. It also helped you forget if you fall over the wrong side, you fall in the gator pit.
On nearly every trip I take with a team we try to put some “fun time” or down time in the mix. For a few reasons. One is you travel so far sometimes, its nice to see some of the local stuff. See the world as it were. The other reason is to decompress a little. When you are in the middle of some of the poorest and remote areas it is easy to get overwhelmed with it all. It can be hard to digest sometimes. I always try to tell people and remind myself that we see things everyday that we can not “fix”. It is in our nature to try to make things better when we see issues. When you feel like everywhere you look there is something you can “make better” it can get discouraging to know you won’t and can’t. The key is knowing and remembering just like those bricks we placed, one by one in the new kitchen walls, you can help build and start a process to slowly bring change. You might not see the wall finished but you can know you placed a brick. If everyone places one more brick, eventually things get better. Things change. I feel the same way with the METL kits. Every pair of eyes that see the content and learn from it is a potential for the person that could cure cancer, fly to mars, solve world hunger or any other of the million of possibilities. I may never see them do that but knowing I was a part of giving that opportunity, that’s pretty cool.
So the next day is again a day of traveling. We start our paths home in a day or so. The next post will likely be the last about this trip. Maybe one more but who knows, when you have nearly 30 hours of airplane time ahead one may get time to type stuff…..