Flying! And RUPP (Part II)!

chandra-dave-with-ultralight.jpgDespite the promise of an extremely exciting day, it was very difficult to get up at 5:30am.  I got up first and got ready, then managed to wake up Dave and we were downstairs pretty much ontime (6am).  There, Eddie and Lee were waiting for us (although Lee had gone upstairs to wake us up and had knocked on the wrong door, whoops!).  Like I said yesterday, Eddie is from virginia, but I actually didn’t hate him 😛  We headed out of the city in the start of rush hour, which is very early by US standards.  We stopped at a gas station with a ‘normal’ market attached and got some orange juice juice boxes (do you have to say ‘juice’ twice there?), as well as some Milano cookies and a kit kat.  We drove out of the city (same road that the university is on), past the airport, through a ‘toll’ booth, and into the country.  Soon, we veered off onto a dirt road and drove for maybe a mile to the ‘hanger.’  They pay a local family $40/month to rent the hanger and keep everything safe, which is such a ridiculously small amount of money.  We got there and it was nothing but rice paddies, a few cows, palm trees, and a few shacks.  The sky was perfectly blue with very few white, fluffy clouds along the horizon.  The temperature was beautiful too – which it should be seeing how it was before 8am!  Lee and Eddie got the ultralights ready and I was so excited to look on – they were a lot larger and more impressive than I imagined.  I’m not sure why, but I really wasn’t scared at all, ever, about this whole thing.  Maybe I just didn’t think about it too much, who knows, but either way I wasn’t scared even when I noticed the extremely narrow, dirt runway.  It’s all good, I was pretty sure nothing could happen and even if the engine died we would just glide back down to earth and peacefully land in a rice paddy.  It was going to be beautiful.  We put on our helmets and it was decided that I would be flying with Lee, although it actually didn’t matter to me at that point as I liked them both.  Dave’s aircraft was a bit cooler though because there would be a camera strapped to the end of one of the wings!  Oh well, I could take pics of myself just fine! 🙂  There was some issue with the radios, so the aircrafts couldn’t talk to each other, but I could at least talk with Lee so all was good.  Dave took off first, after one of the cambodians ‘cleared the runway’ by chasing away the cow!  It was so cool and Lee and I took off moments later.  I was not expecting it, but these things went really fast!  I love going fast!  But soon enough we were off the ground and gaining altitude very quickly.  It was so amazing, I just can’t describe it.  We flew over a wat and I took lots of pictures and eventually caught up to Dave and Eddie.  Their aircraft was a bit faster than ours, but we took a few pictures of each other and then Lee and I headed off in a different direction.  Mostly I was quiet, just looking at how amazing everything looked from up there, and I was taking pics and videos.  I was mostly asking about the aircraft.  How do you steer it?  Can I steer it?  Yes!  He let me do it and it was really cool.  Push to the side to straighten out, but other than that it wasn’t really that difficult and he said that I did a great job.  He talked about flying all the way up to Siem Reap and landing on the water, etc.  I was getting interested in all the gauges and wanted to know if we could go even higher – like up to the clouds.  To my amazement, we could!  We got up to about 1300 ft and I took a great video of me going through a cloud.  It was just the coolest feeling – just a little misty but it mostly it disappeared around us with wisps of white flying by…wow.  We had lost the others by this point and had almost been up for half an hour.  We headed back and I got a bumpy video of us landing.  Whew!  That was amazing!  Lee helped me get out of all of the safety belts and the helmet and I went over to the runway to take a video of Dave landing.  After we were both safe on the ground, Lee and Eddie quickly put the aircrafts away.  By this point there was a group of locals gathered around the hanger just watching everything happen.  Cute children were running around and people were going about their day, washing clothes and such.  It was 8:30 at that time, so we would be just on time for my 9am lecture.  The ride to the university wasn’t that long, as it’s pretty outside the city, but we did stop at a ‘gas station’ on the way back.  I had been seeing these little stands with 1L glass pepsi bottles containing some yellow liquid, like, all over the city but now I found out what they were.  A boy who couldn’t have been more than 12 years old took Eddie’s money (<4000 riels) and emptied one of the pepsi bottles into the tank — how odd!  After ‘refueling’ we continued to the university and ended up there with 10 minutes to spare, which was good because I needed to change my clothes.  They promised us they would send along the pics taken from the ultralight and we paid them and were off.

chandra-guest-lecturing-wednesday-4.jpgThe university was bustling with students as we headed up to the 3rd (really 4th) floor to the psych department.  Hema was there to great us and introduced me to the department head who would serve as my translator during the lecture.  I asked about a place to change, but Hema insisted that I was dressed fine.  I felt a little odd though because the students here mainly wear long skirts and button down shirts (well, the girls – the guys wear pants, hah), but I guess it was ok.  I walked into a classroom around the corner and 66 Cambodians stood to great me. woah!  We went to the front of the classroom and set up the laptop and the projector.  I think the power isn’t very reliable because occasionally the projector would go off and on, but it was ok.  So Gracie (I’m actually not sure if thats her name!) introduced me and I started the presentation.  This presentation would pretty much blow in English, but with the added challenge of translating each slide, it was more than enough.  I felt even more comfortable than yesterday and honestly had a great time up there.  After about 40 minutes, I finished and we moved on to questions.  Like yesterday, the questions were very intelligent and I loved answering them.  It was very obvious, however, that we were in Cambodia.  They were very concerned with the logistics of the study, such as how we were able to move the questionnaires through the mail and how we were able to contact people over the telephone.  This is really something that we take for granted.  We take for granted that when we drop a letter in a mailbox, it will get there.  When we call someone, the phone lines won’t be down and we won’t be cut off.  This is just not the case in Cambodia, After all questions had been asked, which was about 40 minutes, it was picture time!  Hema gave Dave and me some presents and also 4 wrapped gifts for Pat’s lab.  How sweet!  We moved to the front lawn of the university and took some pics of me with all of the students and basically every combination of people that could be.  I met one girl who even volunteered to translate the BTACT into Khmer, and Hema pretty much offered me a job, so I think I did well.  It was really just a great experience and I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity.

Outside the university, we got a tuk tuk and headed back to the hotel to cool off as it was probably about 90 degrees already with maybe 90% humidity.  Spectacular.  I knew that we were going to have a really long day ahead of us because we had to go Wat Phnom, the Killing Fields, and the Russian Market.  Whoops, maybe we should have done more yesterday, but it’s ok.  So we cooled off for a bit, booked the bus up to Siem Reap tomorrow, and decided to walk to Wat Phnom from the hotel and get something to eat in that area.  We walked pretty much along the river and it was REALLY hot.  Soon we came to the area and we stepped over the chain to get in, which I guess was wrong?  So some woman called to us and we paid the $1 each admission fee (which was free, mind you, for Cambodians – how do they know we aren’t Cambodian?).  OH! This reminds me of something that kept happening in vietnam! People would constantly tell us that they knew we were American because of our big round eyes!  Can you imagine if I said something about eyes to an Asian person in the US?  Ok, ok, anyways.  We walked around the wat to the other side and saw the US embassy.  The thing was huge! It was the size of a county jail, at least.  I have no idea what could be going on there, so I won’t even speculate, but we didn’t have our passports so we couldn’t go for a visit.  Although maybe they would have let us in with our MA & NY licenses and our big, round, bulging eyes.  Not sure.  So there was a hotel just across the street that looked o so air conditioned and probably even had a place to eat.  I was SO hungry and the restaurant had a buffet.  I had some soup, potatoes, a chicken dish, an incredibly spicy noodle dish (kem chee?! idk), and plenty of deserts and fruits.  Some of the stuff was pretty good although I may have accidentally made Dave eat tofu, thinking it was chicken.  I don’t know, it tastes the same to me.  After that, back to the wat!  We started by climbed up to the top of the hill and went into the temple.  There was a band sitting in the back just playing the coolest music, it just set the mood perfectly.  I lit some incense and said a little prayer and took a cool video of the atmosphere.  It was filled with beautiful yellow candles, incense, and flowers and offerings to Buddha everywhere.  We sat on the mats for a bit, just absorbing how cool it all was, and then returned to the heat to retrieve our shoes and head back down the hill. Monkeys!!  Here were the monkeys!!  Finally, a reason for this trip!  We bought a bunch of bananas from a little girl and went up the hill a ways, off the path, where the monkeys were hanging out on the hill.  They were just so cool and we took turns handing them bananas and taking photos.  They were pretty chill most of the time, but at one point I had like 4 monkeys surrounding me while I had the whole bunch of bananas in my hand, so I just handed off the bananas and they stopped intimidating me.  Soon after, the bananas were gone and it was time to look for a tuk tuk to get to the killing fields.  We passed by the Wat elephant that we had seen yesterday walking the streets, I guess he works here during the day giving rides to people.  What a cute guy.

Across the street there were tuk tuks lined up and all we had to do was pick one to take us to the killing fields….hmmm.  We looked and chose the one with the footrest.  On the way, we broke down on the side of the street and the driver got out and attempted to fix it.  Another tuk tuk pulled over, waiting for us to get out, but just as we did, our driver got the moto running again.  We headed our of the city and onto a country-type road lined with stalls and some scenery.  Dave fell asleep but I was awake for the horrible pollution that was coming from the trucks that kept pulling out in front of us, it was gross.  My two favourite items that I brought on this trip, charmin and purell, came in handy once again and i basically washed myself in purell once we got closer to the fields and away from the trucks.  Pulling into the fields, the air just felt very heavy with sadness…  There was a huge tower, maybe 50 feet tall, that was just filled with nothing but human skulls.  We took off our shoes and and stood outside the glass, which I thought we were supposed to do, but a man opened a door and indicated that we were supposed to go inside.  It was so terrifying.  Overwhelming doesn’t do it justice, it just nearly made me sick.  After stopping there, we walked around and read a cluster of signs that detailed how these fields were used.  People were brought here daily and just killed and left in mass graves.  All around the fields, there would be signs indicating how many bodies were found there.  It was incomprehensible.  Here we were in a lush paradise and these fields were forever tarnished with the memory of mass murder.  After walking around for a while and reading all the signs, it started to rain and it was time to go.  The tuk tuk driver had put down the ‘windows’ and we left.  About half way through the 30 minute drive back, the tuk tuk broke down again.  Luckily we were right in front of a moto shop, so I figured we’d be ok.  Worse. Moto. Repair. Shop. Ever.  I’m not sure how long we sat there, but they all looked like they had no clue what they were doing.  It was about 4pm then, and the Russian Market closed at 5 so we were more annoyed than usual I think.  Oh! This one girl at the shop had on the most vulgar English t-shirt!  I dont’ remember what it said, but it was something with a banana….you get the idea.  We weren’t really in the city at this point so no other tuk tuks were going by…except for one finally!  Dave flagged him down and we jumped out of the busted ass tuk tuk and headed for the new one.  They worked out the money between themselves, with the old driver getting the $10 and giving the new driver some riel.  In no time we were off to the russian market.  It was really raining, the weather here is just like FL, and the market was ‘covered’ I guess but a little leaky and there were somehow puddles on the floor.  I bought souvineers for some people, like scarves and Buddha statues, as well as some bracelets and an elephant figure for me.  I wanted to get a silver bracelet but for some reason silver is really expensive, which I just don’t understand.  Dave got a wooden tissue box which he liked, a lot, and a statue and a hammock.  Oh how I wish I could have a hammock instead of a couch.  Oh well.  The market was closing up and it looked like luggage and stuff was much cheaper in vietnam, so we left and took a tuk tuk back to the hotel in Phnom Penh rush hour.  I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to shower more in my life so I did that as soon as we got back to the hotel, during which Dave fell asleep.  I tried my best and was eventually able to wake him up.

We decided to go next door to get some food…perhaps not the best idea.  The food wasn’t really that good and we didn’t eat much.  To make us feel better about ourselves, I suggested another foot massage.  I just can’t get enough of these things.  The women were really nice and spoke pretty good English.  She asked about all the bruises on my legs.  For some reason, every morning when I wake up I have like 2 new, terrible looking bruises.  The joke is that Dave beats me in my sleep.  So I told her that and she fake-pinched him and kept pretending to hit him.  It was all in good fun, I promise.  I asked the women where they got their skirts, but that wouldn’t translate so now I’m on the hunt for a long green, Cambodian-looking skirt.  I think I can pull it off with a black wrap shirt that I have, not sure though.  So after the massages, complete with neck rubs and hot tea, we went back to the internet cafe and checked email.  I talked to my mom for a bit, and she told me about Mimi.  Something is going on, and I’m sure there’s lots of drama, but I just wanted to know if she was ok, which she is.  I’ll deal with that when I get home.  It even sounds like they might fly up, so that would be nice to see them.  After that, we returned to the hotel.  Dave went upstairs to drop off his laptop and I started chatting with this guy dave who had just moved to Cambodia from Hawaii last week.  We talked about travel in general, like cheap flights and cool things to check out in Siem Reap.  He told us that the food was good in the hotel, so we ordered a Cambodian fish dish that was actually really, really good and had some cheap drinks.  I had 3 drinks which may have been 1 too many, but they were so cheap it was too good to pass up.  After finishing the meal, we headed upstairs, a little bit drunk, and got our stuff together for the trip up to Siem Reap in the morning.  After packing and stuff, we finally went to bed with the alarm set for 6:30.  Ugh.

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