Being the water baby that I am, I was very excited at the prospect of learning how to Scuba Dive by doing the 5 day PADI Open Water Certificate. Whilst Greg was looking for a more humanitarian style adventure, so he went deep into the Cambodian countryside to do a homestay with a family and teach english to the locals.
Why he didn't want to spend 5 days, swimming, diving, and enjoying the sunny sands of Sihanoukville was totally beyond me, but, absence makes the heart grow fonder they say and rather than strangle eachother, we thought a short week apart might be good for us ; )
This seems like a lot but with the amount of paperwork, exams, 2 pool dives, and 2 days out in the ocean diving twice a day, it really felt like a blitz!
Each day I drummed more information into my head; remembering to check my air gauge, learning the hand signals, remembering safety, checking depth gauge and air, and revising more at night - by which time, I was exhausted.
I have my awesome instructor Vero to thank for helping me through it all - it was definately not an easy thing to do in such a short amount of time.
Below is a short video of my first open water dives - you'll have to forgive them for being a bit shaky as my buoyancy wasn't that great.
I had decided to opt out of yet another idyllic beachside retreat so that I could spend Cambodian New Year with a real life Cambodian family. Based on excellent reviews, I booked 2 nights the Meas (www.cambodianhomestay.com). This was quickly extended to 5 nights, partly because of Siphen's incredible cooking, but also in expectation of Mach's karaoke performance at their upcoming New Years party.
The Meas live a complicated life on a large property surrounded by fields in a semi-rural part of Cambodia. Not only do both of them teach at the local high school (Mach is also the principal), but Siphen runs an NGO which provides materials, equipment, and space for impoverished women to work for themselves weaving scarves, which are then sold by the NGO to retailers overseas. On top of this, she also teaches English classes to a regiment of die-hard teenagers who are desperate to live the American dream upon graduation.
While Jade was in Sihanoukville plumbing the depths of the ocean, I was 40 minutes from Phnom Penh plumbing the depths of cultural immersion and transcontinental companionship in the village of Ang Tasom.
Also resident at the family home is Paul, an Indian-Canadian, ex-Brit, and ex-corporate marketing jock who has burnt his suits & ties in favour for a quieter and more satisfying life managing the NGO.
And last but not least, Mach & Siphen's son Savdar who is preparing for his impending exchange to New Zealand by learning Bruno Mars songs.
Most of the days were spent chatting, reading, sleeping, relaxing in the hammock, playing scrabble, and above all, eating. That was all to change on New Years eve...
Our New Year party began a few days before as the extended family migrated to Ang Tasom and began preparations, spending many hours cooking and planning for the event. The day itself started ordinarily, but as the stage was assembled and sound engineers arrived it became clear that it would not be an ordinary night. I spent my time concocting a barrel full of sangria, as well as helping Siphen to prepare the food. As the evening came closer friends and family started to arrive, and the students from Siphen's english class milled around. By the time food was served there were 70 people waiting hungrily, excitedly anticipating the evenings events.
The evening really began when the games started. Firstly tug-o-war, then musical chairs, and a pinyada full of talcum powder; then a game in which participants sat in a circle while one person chased another around with a rope, brutally whipping them until they gave up. All in good fun, Cambodian style.
After the games we ate and the music started. The band consisted of a keyboardist and two singers, only one of whom could sing, as well as four of the most bored-looking backup dancers ever to grace the stage. If you had told me they were robots, I would have believed you. Other than the fact that one of them kept blowing her nose during the performance. All of this against a glittering multi-pink-coloured backdrop made for quite an entertaining night. Of course the night was stolen by Mach who, with minimal persuasion, jumped up to take the mic and entertained us all.
Needless to say we drank all the sangria, and spent much of the latter part of the night by the pond talking, drinking, and listening to music. It was a wonderful experience and I was extremely happy to have been able to share it with the Meas.
The Japanese won't know what's coming!
Till next time you have been watching & reading 'Jade & Greg go around the world!'
(music fade out) (Sponsor credits roll)
For more information or if you have any comments, please visit our webpage www.jadeandgreg.weebly.com to post your thoughts.
You have been watching a Jade & Greg show. All rights reserved. LJ Productions 2015.