Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Getting by with the help of our friends...

We have had some unbelievable opportunities to get beyond the temples and primary tourist sites during our time in Siem Reap. (Not that the temples aren't well worth the trip here as Brian's temple entry will attest to). Most of these opportunities came because we had the good fortune to meet up with the Rev. John Dennis and his group.

While we have very much enjoyed travelling on our own, it's also really nice sometime to feel a part of a group (and to have somebody else to talk to!) And when they are folks as interesting and nice as our group it's even better. To whit, included in our group was a professional clown who performs in hospitals etc, a retired Seagate executive who is making life better for kids in several Asian countries, the mom of a soldier killed in Iraq (and her two cool siblings) who has made it one of her life missions now to fight the scourge of landmines, a young cancer survivor, a peripetetic minister who has been assisting land-mine victims in Cambodia for years, and my former third grade crush who has worked with the World Monuments Fund restoring Preah Khan (one of the Angkorian era temples) on and off over the last 10 years and so is not only fluent in Khmer, but knows his way around a temple or two.

With this group we alternated touring temples led by super guide Andrew with visiting children at schools, orphanages and hospitals and watching Albert do his magic. We also were able to do several landmine-related activities (yet another blog entry).

All in all, being with this group and participating in their activities brought so much more to our Siem Reap and Angkor Wat experiences. We give thanks to serendipity, and to John and Andrew Dennis for their gracious invitation to join them.


Other notes:

-- Despite our enjoyment of being part of a group for a couple of days, this experience also confirmed our decision to go it alone in China instead of with a tour group. (China was the one place we had been considering getting some help travelling). After 8 months on the road we have definitely developed our own rhythm, and it was difficult to adjust to the schedule and speeds of others. It's no problem for a couple of days, but there's no way we would have survived 4 weeks of it in China without some sort of major incident.

-- Check out the info on the Angkor Children's Hospital. They're doing yeoman's work with little resources and are always scrambling to cover their needs. If you happen to have a new pediatric respirator to donate, John Morgan's your guy. And if you are looking for a bday present for the person who has everything, they are considering offering a hospital for a day. For four thousand dollars you will have a plaque up on the wall honoring you for the day and will be responsible for medical care being delivered to (they will send you the exact stats for the particular day) approximately 250-400 children on an out-patient basis and approximately 50 inpatients. Not a bad way to make a difference on your day.

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