Happy New Year to one and all. I have had a nice quiet Christmas and santa kindly left me a guide book to Cambodia which I have already read cover to cover. Some important tips in it, but I have no idea how I am going to remember it all. The cultural difference is huge and since this will be my first major visit to South East Asia, it's not something I have had to do before. The main problem is me being left handed and the left hand being classed as unclean by Cambodians. The book includes a massive list of complete no-nos, but the following are the top 5 that I know I'm going to struggle with...
1) Pointing with finger (the left hand is worse - apparently the thumb of the right hand is acceptable)
2) Beckoning with palm up (worse if done with the left hand)
3) Serving or eating from cutlery held in your left hand
4) Passing items to another person with your left hand
5) Sitting on the floor with your feet out in front of you. Even worse if they face your host.
So I am sat here on the sofa, feet out in front, ankles crossed (another no-no), contemplating the 7 weeks I have left to practice using my right hand (and of course 7 weeks of Ant finding it hilarious to refer to me as a "filthy leftie").
I also fear it's time to visit the doc again and get yet more jabs. You'd think with the places I've already been I would be fully loaded with vaccinations - but sadly no, there are still plenty of nasties out there that I could be exposed to in the Kingdom of Cambodia (to give it it's official name). The first is Japanese B Encephalitis: a mosquito-borne infection of the brain that occurs in rural rice-growing areas. I wouldn't normally bother with such a low risk disease, but because both the photography trip and the visit to Arafin's village will take us into the rice paddies (not to mention the mossies adoration for my blood) I think it best to at least find out how much the vaccine is. There is a risk of coming into contact with a few of the different Hepatitis strains too, along with the usual malaria and typhoid. The book also suggests that outside of the main towns, the medical facilties are likely to be worse than Africa, simply because of the destruction of the country and it's infrastructure under the Khmer Rouge in the late 70's. Pol Pot slaughtered anyone with any kind of education and burnt entire libraries of books before banning academic education. Meaning that there are very few medical professionals left with any great experience. Thankfully the country is still working hard to fill these generation gaps and get back on its' feet.
“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” –Mark Jenkins