29 May 2010

Farrago, in Latin, means Mixed Cattle Fodder--

And that's a pretty appropriate name for this post--

First off, how about our last days in Cambodia?

We left your intrepid heroes in a small village named Kratie after a disastrously unsuccessful attempt at homestay; they were just settling in for a miserable night of vague illness and poor sleep. Craig had a horrible fever and could barely sleep because of a nasty headache. I had the expected digestive rumblings that strike so many down. We weren't looking forward to the next day's 7 hour bus ride to Phnom Penh.

At 4.30am the next morning, we are feeling our worst. It's been hours of darkness, we're aching and trying to keep ourselves from waking each other. Suddenly, a loudspeaker begins singing Buddhist prayer from a nearby temple. Over an hour into the chanting, Craig says, "I thought Buddhists were supposed to be compassionate."

I convince the guesthouse keeper's son to give me a ride to the market. I pick up some Malarine, because if Craig's symptoms get worse, it's got to be malaria. I get some Imodium, because a 7 hour bus ride ain't gonna work no other way.

After a sickly breakfast of baguette and apple juice, I wake Craig and help him get ready. We're both sick, but he's definitely worse off. He was nearly delirious the night before, but his fever broke. Now he just needs sleep, but the bus is here.

The bus ride is, of course, horrible. And not only because we were sick. Two pregnant women puked on the bus and had to get off mid-ride. An old woman across the aisle from us was eating fish and rice out of a plastic bag, and when she was done, she started chewing tobacco. She kept spitting the tobacco juice into a clear plastic bag and hanging it off the back of the seat in front of her. By the end of the ride, a nearly-full bag of blackish red goo was swinging precariously from the seat. People were blowing their noses and wiping their snot on the seats. We just barely managed to win our battle against nausea.

The bus driver decides to take a break for lunch, so we get off the bus for half an hour and loiter around a market where women are selling fried crickets and barely-dead spiders for snacks. All the fruit smells rancid, in that tropical fruit way, but finally, finally-- Phnom Penh.

Off the bus and we make our way to Paul's apartment, where Paul bestows the greatest gift upon us: understanding. We go out to an Indian place for dinner. Protein! Not just white rice and overcooked vegetables! Hooray! We went to the National Museum, a beautiful building, with a gorgeous courtyard and plenty of intriguing art.

We decided against seeing Phnom Penh's dark side. I didn't want to see Tuol Sleng. I didn't want to see the killing fields. I don't want to see instruments of torture and hell, human skulls and evidence of a broken country. Cambodia is just barely getting over its civil war. I wasn't up to it. Paul understood.

We spend our last few days with him and his housemates, enjoying his company like we always do. As a city, Phnom Penh is polluted, dirty, the smell of open sewers hangs over corner cafes and mud congeals on the footpaths. It doesn't seem to have much green space, apart from the Mekong, which flows right through the city. But the NGO district, where Paul lives, is nicer than most parts of town, and Paul lives on the top floor, with an enormous balcony. We went to some of Phnom Penh's loveliest restaurants and bars. He let us go to bed early. He conducted wonderful conversation at the Phnom Penh Foreign Correspondents Club.

Paul told us to imagine sitting here on this roof in 1979 and watching the Vietnamese take the city on this street below.

He's such a fine friend; I am truly grateful to have found him again. On our last night, we went to Romdeng, an NGO restaurant that helps street kids and brings the fancy to Cambodian food. Amok is a traditional Cambodian fish curry that everyone says you have to try while in Cambodia. But, of course, being primarily made of fish, I couldn't eat it. At Romdeng, they offer a vegetarian version, made of pumpkin. It was delicious and amazing, and we only wished all the food we'd eaten in Cambodia could have been so good.

On our last day, we had a nice breakfast with Paul and flew to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We had a day-long layover there before our flight to Sydney and figured any good tourist would at least see the Petronas Towers. Here's proof.

It was a rainy day, but we found a cafeteria-style restaurant that served us all manner of Malaysian and Thai food. And that night... we flew back to Sydney, ready for familiar streets again.

Let's see, what have we been up to lately? Other than moving, that is?

Back in April, we went with some Alfalfa folks to a farm in the near Sydney basin, at Catherine Fields. Field to Feast Farm is one of our localest suppliers of fruit and veg. Hapi (pronounced "Happy") is Tongan and uses traditional Tongan farming techniques. His farm is beautiful, especially when the sky behaves dramatically, as it often does in Sydney.

His greens is the best. He even grows the collards. He has beautiful plants, and we got to help planting some bok choy!

My hair was so long then, it was always getting in my eyes. A month later, it's even longer now, but it stays tucked away better now.

And two weeks ago, we visited Katoomba one last time. A day away from the city and a quiet bushwalk. It's been difficult thinking I may not get to see this stuff again... for a very long time. Beautiful little flowers. I wish I had a macro lens.

If you look close, there's a red rozelle in this tree. I really wish I had a zoom lens.

Autumn brings a spectacle of colour even to Sydney's gum-filled bush. It's just a really little spectacle.

I believe this is a yellow banksia tree-- but I heard a description of the Sandra Gordon Grevillea the other day that makes me think maybe this is a Grevillea, not a banksia after all...

And now, the finale-- some pictures of Craig's new place, yes? Let's start with the front; this is Craig's building from the street. Craig is waving from his kitchen window.

And here is the view he has from said kitchen window. Cheerful historic Glebe houses and tall palm trees. It's like a mash up of Florida and Victorian England.

A tiny kitchen.

But, luckily, there's a massive loungeroom, so a lot of Craig's kitchen stuff spills out into the lounge. In fact, they've decided to keep two fridges in the place, because neither fridge is really big enough for three people's food and Craig cooks a lot. I like how all the doors in his flat have little windows above them.

The loungeroom even has a little breakfast nook, which is super-useful as a clothes-drying room. See that bookshelf? That is almost entirely books we've collected since we've been here. Some might classify this as hoarding. I'm not interested in hearing from those people.

Craig's guitar lives by the boarded-up fireplace.

Here's the bathroom-- a little narrow. Don't put much weight on, Craig, or you won't be able to sit on the terlet!

The long corridor from the lounge at the front of the house, to Craig's room at the back.

And Craig's little room. It's big enough for him, but for both of us, it's a squeeze.

Craig stands with his diploma by the window...

When I go, Craig will probably trade in the giant bed for a single one, giving his room a bit more space. As you can see, Dinky still gets the best spot in the house.

And last but not least, the garden. The landlady lives on the ground floor and keeps plants, too, so she welcomed Craig's additions. Here's a view of the back--

And here are most of Craig's plants-- I couldn't find the Albury's Red in the picture, but I think it's just hiding under the telephone booth. Oh, yeah. They have a wicked old telephone booth in the back. The landlady keeps her gardening stuff in there, but it'll also serve as a perfect place for Craig to change into his Boy Wonder costume. Little Flopsley, pictured months ago in this post, is still battling on, bigger than he's ever been, but he's behind the phone booth, too.

Sadly, I sold my lovely orange bike today, to a member of the co-op. I think she'll take good care of dear Ellenoura, but because it's been raining all week, I never got a last ride to say goodbye. Luckily, Craig's planned a party for me tomorrow-- that'll keep my spirits up!


  1. I love this flyer, despite its slightly sad celebration. Something about it says "Craig, to a tee."

  2. Hey Lem--I know, the flyer is just right, isn't it? The party was last night, and though I'm still recovering, I can report that it was a wonderful time.

  3. In that picture taken from the balcony of the FCC wayyyy up there, yes, that IS an elephant walking down the street.