Joy in Cambodia: Celtic Canadian in Asia – postcard #1

Joy Singbeil is a Gung Haggis dragon boat team member.  She is in Cambodia for 2 years on teaching assignment.  this is her first travel report.


Joy Singbeil wearing her Weslsh dragon hat in Vancouver – photo Marion Hoy 

Postcard #2
by Joy Singbeil
special to

Hi Everyone.
This hopefully will reach you all.  I have sat down numerous times to
write a long missive, only to have the power fail and the internet to
go down all is lost !!   So maybe I will have a better chance to hit
all of you in one lucky go.
So what to say so far…  Today is the 3 week anniversary of my arrival. 
I feel as if every day is weeks long.  There is so much to do and see
and as soon as my eyes and ears light on one thing another takes its
place and I am truly “gobsmacked”
This week's highlights. My first week of school is over.  The school
setting is idyllic.  A green oasis with shrubs and flowers and cool
buildings.  All open air or open to the rains I should say which fall
regularly in varying degrees of deluge quantity every afternoon.  There
is a swimming pool and a “club” beside it.  Yes I could have a beer
between classes.  Northbridge is a real estate chunk for want of a
better word and the school belongs to it rather than the other way
around.  So it is a business and the fees are about 10-15 grand a
year.  Classes are small and I have a drama class of about 15 who are
delighted to do other things than academic.  I had ten to start with
and then word got out and I have all the Gr 12 bar 2  now.  This week
we learned how to do dramatic sword fights as we are doing a brief play
on Romeo and Juliet.  My English Classes Gr 9 and Gr 9/10 are about
22.  My Ap Lit class has 11.  For some reason they forgot to schedule
my fifth class.  Oh Darn!!………So I am enjoying my work life.  I
have plans for a music production and also I am starting up a student
The new staff are great and we have bonded quite a bit as we are all
thrown in together.  So much entertainment is done together and seems
to revolve around eating and drinking.  We had a party at the Penthouse
on Friday.  I along with 2 other girls have managed to score a
wonderful place to live 8 stories up overlooking the city.  We have a
security guard downstairs and the place is lovely with a wide balcony
overlooking all.  From there I can see several “wats” (temples) and the
river in the distance.  Traffic is unbelievable.  I could write a novel
on the kinds of things I have seen transported around the city on the
back of a motor bike.  Every step into the street has an adventure. 
The simplest shopping trips take hours and involve all kinds of

Finding a phone took forever.  If you have a calling
card you might be able to reach me. 
Wireless/internet/electricity here has a life of it's own and sometimes
is on and sometimes off.  For a phone you need to show a contract that
you actually live here and a passport to prove who you are.  Then you
get a sim card and after that you can buy time.  I have tried to Skype
but it drops pretty often.  I think I'm going to stick to Internet
Cafe.  Last time I used one I had to stop as it was raining so hard it
was so noisy I couldn't hear myself or the other person.
Yesterday I went on the Hash House Harriers Run out into the country. 
It deluged and deluged and deluged so much it hurt my eyes.  Needless
to say we were all soaked.  It's not so much a run as a balancing act
as you thread your way through the rice paddies on the top(hopefully)
of the dikes holding back the water.  There are 5 paddy fields of
differing heights of water (which is pretty warm when you slip into
it).   There are villages and people everywhere.  All fascinated by
these strange people running through.  Yesterday they were taking
showers outside and he children ran after us.  We arrive in two cattle
trucks and there is quite a commotion.  We form a circle at the end and
then follows some very old British Public School /Rugby shenanigans
involving quantities of beer and rude songs.  Needless to say they
villagers all crowd around an gawp at the entertainment.  After the breezy ride home we end up in a restaurant and
eat.  The food here is great and amazingly cheap $5 will buy you all
kinds of good food and beer.
Saturday I went to an orphanage.  Well not really an orphanage but a
place where they rescue kids from the dump.  We wound our way down
numerous streets in a tuk tuk. When they opened some metal doors,  inside
there were 93 kids.  They rushed over and grabbed us (gently) what
affection and love.  They made me cry.  They proudly showed us around. 
Bunk beds and 6 to a room.  all very shabby but spotless.  They are
really keen on education as the whole point is to make sure they don't
end up back on the dump.  I have volunteered to go and teach some of
them this Tuesday and then perhaps for a lot longer. 
People here are so forgiving and serene and they just get along!  Even
when your tuk tuk veers into the oncoming traffic(standard practice) 
everyone just moves out of the way.  I havn't seen one incidence of road
rage yet!!
Shopping is amazing and cheap.  It is tiring as it is so hot and
humid.  I have put away two thirds of my clothes as being too hot and
the rest you use up pretty quickly as you get so hot in them.  The guys
at school are having dress pants made for $14 and shirts made for$10 and
shoes are made for $18.  I'm waiting for payday to get some silk things
made up.  Rent is our only really big expense.  This is probably the
only time in my life I will live in a Penthouse.  We call ourselves the
Princesses in the Penthouse (soon to be Paupers in the Penthouse)
The sounds from my apartment will remain with me forever.  Last night I
got home and I went out on the deck.  It was so noisy.  I called the
others and we went out.  It was crickets!!  Last week they came and
took the dead grass away from the flowerbeds and laid in fresh
grass(really different from ours more like ground cover) Then I guess
with all the rain the eggs hatched and there we were 8 stories up and
listening to crickets!!  It even drowns out the squeals from the
piglets as they are hauled out of the truck and literally thrown into
the butcher beside us.  One piglet escaped last week and ran off down the
road and hid under a car.
I'll write more next week  ……….Love to all Joy

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