“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

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Merrily Up the Mekong!

Hurrah it's happening again, the feet are itching and the working traveller is planning another trip!
Destination : Cambodia - There are a number of reasons for this, the first of which came 6 years ago after reading a number of books about the atrocities that occurred there under Pol Pot's regime,  which systematically ordered the murder of 3 million Cambodians. The books  I read were true stories written by survivors, mainly orphaned children, which totally captured me and painted vivid images of the country both before and after the events of the Khmer Rouge and their "killing fields".  So when my fostering period came to an end in Senegal, and I was faced with the agonising task of choosing a new child, Cambodia came immediately to mind. Fostering through Plan International allows me to give something to entire communities at the same time as building a relationship with an individual child, so it seemed the perfect choice.
The second reason for going is that the child I was given back then was a nine year old boy named Arafin, pictured with his sister, who is now reaching an age where he will be working full time and therefore no longer part of the Plan programme. Which means there is a good chance I will be moving on to choose a new child very soon and I want to visit him before this happens.  He lives in a village in the Kampong Cham district which is a couple of hours by boat from the capital, Phnom Penh.
Another fantastic reason is that my camera would absolutely love it out there. The lush jungle, the brightly coloured birds, the Mekong River, the temples and of course the people, make it the ideal place to go on an image-hunting adventure with my new lens.
So that’s the “why” out the way, now for the “when?"...
Cambodia is a country with a monsoon season, during which roads become impassable, camera equipment difficult to use and wildlife harder to spot. So reading through various travel and tourism websites, I have settled on February 2013. Which does not leave me much time to plan – only 130 days in fact!
I started by contacting Plan to understand if a visit to Arafin could be arranged for February. They were delighted and immediately sent me a pack detailing the area, the actions I need to take, the forms I need to fill in and any costs I have to pay to make it happen. The most pressing task is to arrange for a CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) check to be carried out by the Home Office. The check can take anything up to 2 months to complete, and is only valid for 6 months. So I called them up and asked them to send me the relevant application forms which are on their way.
This time I will be travelling with Mum – we have been talking about going somewhere for a while now and since she is also a fellow photographer, we have agreed to do the trip together (there aren’t that many people I know who are willing to get up at stupid o’clock while on holiday just to stand around in mosquito-infested fields and swamps waiting for the perfect shot of a sunrise!).
We have found a trip leaving from Phnom Penh on the 21st February for 10 days which sounds perfect, they have even confirmed that they can arrange for us to arrive a couple of days early to allow us to visit Arafin before we set off. We are currently waiting for final costs and a proposal, as well as confirmation from Plan that the visit can go ahead.

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