LIVING LIFE AS AN EXPAT.- UPDATE 14

So how do things look different: Year 2 in Phnom Penh

  • We no longer take running water and electricity for granted. The Prime Minister has just announced daily power cuts for at least the next three months. Selfishly we are not so concerned if they happen during the day while we’re at work (where we have a generator) but imagine the plethora of small businesses whose livelihood will be compromised. The plan is 6 – 12 on day one and 12 – 6 on day 2, on rotation. Overnight it is not so great. Last night power was off (for unknown reasons) – not part of the scheduled cuts.
  • About 70% of our staff have no running water in their houses, and haven’t had now for more than a month. A drought year and poor infrastructure have combined for the ‘perfect storm’ (no pun intended) to ensure that without a household pump you may have water to your front yard, but not into the house. Fortunately for us the situation in our Borey at present is OK. No great pressure, but we can still shower and flush inside!
  • We don’t talk about the weather much. There is an element of wondering when the rain will come, but otherwise each day is simply ‘hot’ so there is little point commenting on the temperature otherwise. Temperatures didn’t go below 32 degrees in the December/January cool season!

From the Phnom Penh Post.                                                                      ‘The statement, which cited a government directive on water preservation from last Thursday, said Cambodian weather is set to be heavily influenced by the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, a weather event involving a cycle of warm and cold temperatures impacting the tropics and subtropics.                                                                                                  During El Niño, temperatures can rise to highs of 42 degrees Celsius, with very little rain. This will result in the government issuing a cautionary statement on Thursday which raised concerns about the possibility of a drought in the Kingdom in April and May’.        

                                                                                                                          This of course has significant implications for the many rice and other agricultural producers here in Cambodia.

  • We are enjoying improved access to some local facilities. There is now an Aeon 2 Mall (named after the original which is located  in city central) within 15 minutes’ ride of us. This brings all the trappings of a western style mall with an Asian flavour. There is a supermarket, many small stores; from designer to the equivalent of ‘cheap as chips’ (here called the 7900 riel store i.e $1.90); a cinema where we were fortunate to see ‘the Green Book’ recently; and numerous coffee and eating options. In addition ‘Global House’ has opened and is something like Bunnings and Home Hardware with some Myer and David Jones thrown in for good measure.                                          Who would have thought that wandering in a mall could become a chosen pastime…… but the air-conditioning is a drawcard!
  • Work continues to bring new and interesting opportunities. David has continued to make further facilities improvements: netball court marked and posts made; new preschool play area built, fenced and equipped; cladding around the external courts…. and new role as ‘art assistant’ while the Middle schoolers recently worked on a wooden toy project in Art.          I am working with our staff to finalise our transition to a more effective reporting system, upskill people in working with students with various learning needs and facilitating sessions to look at more progressive pedagogical approaches.

Our biggest work stress point is a lack of staff applicants for the new school year starting in August: we are still seeking a Primary Principal: a Principal for Siem Reap: three primary teachers: a Business teacher: middle school maths/science/English/SOSE – two positions: Music: drama: English Language Learner coordinator and teacher and a Learning Support coordinator…. and two maternity leave replacements in Art and for our Librarian. Oh, and our IT Manager is leaving!                                                                                    If anyone has any interested contacts, please share or pass on my email ……..principal.sec@hope.edu.au                                                         otherwise life may be a little busy for any blog updates for next year.

         

Cheryl Flight                Secondary School Principal                                                         HOPE School                 principal.sec@hope.edu.kh Continue reading

ROAD TRIP FROM BRISBANE TO SYDNEY

DAY FOUR

Another day on TAMBORINE MOUNTAIN – this place of beauty and tranquility is 550m above sea level, 30kms from Gold Coast and 70kms from Brisbane, Australia. At every turn there is breathtaking scenery, abundant wildlife and clean mountain air. There is a strong cottage industry including many local arts and crafts, a host of natural and man-made attractions, award winning wineries and top-class restaurants, country markets and festivals and a host of accommodation choices. The day started early for me as I drank a coffee while sitting on the little balcony adjoining my room. I once again enjoyed the magnificent views over the hilltops and valley.

At 8 o’clock the girls arrived and we went back to Witches Falls Cottage to enjoy the array of goodies from the breakfast basket that had been delivered to the room. A bush walk was planned for the morning so we were on our way at 10 o’clock into Tamborine National Park. The Park protects large areas of rainforest. At first the path was clear and level but not for long. We were soon making our way through branches across the path left from the storm of the previous evening and could hear chainsaws in the distance as other tracks were being cleared and we were going down, down, down into the valley. It was very humid and it was on my mind that what goes down has to come back up again, certainly not a place to fall, so take care Shirley!! This was a beautiful place . We came to a viewing platform where we could take in the magnificence of distant hills. After a short rest it was time for the uphill climb, this time aided by a strong stick.

 

Another walk in the afternoon was at Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk, probably the best, and easiest, way to get one’s head around just how beautiful Mount Tamborine is. The setting is 30 acres of privately-owned rainforest beside the crystal clear rock-pools of Cedar Creek. We wandered among the treetops over steel bridges and followed the 1.5km path that gradually descends to the lower canopy past the rock pools to the cantilever bridge that stands 30 metres above the valley and offers views for miles.The walk takes about an hour, including a stop at the Rainforest Eco Gallery which explores some of Mount Tamborine’s local and indigenous history. We, of course, stopped at the Birdwing Cafe for refreshment as we took in the view of the treetops from the balcony.

Erika and I had a late afternoon walk and thankfully were on our way back and not far from the cottage when the sky darkened and the thunder began to rumble getting closer by the minute. We were back under cover when the storm came to the mountain. It was quite spectacular with gutters overflowing and the day still warm. It was a unanimous decision to stay in for dinner as we had enough leftovers in the refrigerator and were checking out in the morning. We enjoyed  our picnic in the outdoor room experiencing the sight and sounds of the storm.

ROAD TRIP FROM BRISBANE TO SYDNEY

DAY THREE

BRISBANE – MOUNT TAMBORINE

After an extended time at the Hertz office we loaded our luggage into a Toyota RAV4 and were on our way out of Brisbane with the assistance of the GPS, heading for Mount Tamborine. First stop was at Springwood Conservation Park, a former quarry site which was saved from development by the community and Logan City Council and is now natural parkland in the middle of suburbia. This area is great for walks along the Stringybark Lookout track or longer Gorge Discovery Circuit through open eucalypt forest, passing interesting rock formations and criss-crossing the gorge via wooden bridges. The day was hot and so were we after our walk so it was back into the car and a short drive to a cafe for morning tea.

Next stop was at the Daisy Hill Koala Centre. Built by the Queensland Government, 25 km south of Brisbane as a dedicated koala education facility, the centre was opened to the public in 1995, extensively refurbished in 2009 and most recently in 2018. Nestled amongst eucalypt trees and featuring a large outdoor koala enclosure and many interactive displays, the Centre is a unique place to learn about koalas and their conservation. There are films in the Woodland Theatre and Wildlife Officers give presentations to groups of visitors at allotted times of the day. Time was spent watching the koalas – namely Molly, Janice, Aretha and Kyra.

Tamborine Mountain is a plateau (8km long by 4 km wide) and is located in the Scenic Rim, the name given to a group of mountains in South East Queensland. The name is of Aboriginal origin and has nothing to do with the musical instrument. It is considered part of the Gold Coast hinterland and has a strong tourist industry. Settlement on the plateau is centred on three villages with approximately 5,000 residents. There is no reticulated water supply or sewerage system. Many residents commute to work in Brisbane or Gold Coast.

The girls had booked their accommodation through a Travel Agent in Switzerland and I booked mine from Australia so, although each night we were in the same town, we were in different places. This meant that I was picked up in the mornings and taken back in the evenings, but it was never far. Here I was at Mt. Tamborine Motel and they were at Witches Falls Cottages (much more upmarket than mine) but I had the most amazing view from my bed. A breakfast basket was delivered to their room each morning. Hence they came for me prior to breakfast as there was more than enough for the three of us.  (Photos below are views from my balcony or room)

Tamborine Mountain Botanic Gardens combine a colourful and diverse range of exotic and native flora. The gardens include a lake as the centrepiece, a tranquil Japanese garden, a tropical rainforest walk and are open during daylight hours. Erika and I spent the remaining hours of light wandering in this beautiful garden. The gardens are maintained and administered by volunteers and members of the Tamborine Mountain Garden Club who instigated its development in 1983. The 11 hectare plot of land was formerly a weed-covered swamp.

Dinner was at Hickory, a small Mount Tamborine Restaurant, full of character – what a treat!      Quote from the Menu……                  “Enjoy our amazing full plate dry rubbed whole rack of ribs, succulent maple chilli chicken wings, our new Seafood Shovel!   Rosemary real potatoes. Decadent desserts. VEGE’SAURUS Trencher (my choice) – House made felafel, roasted pumpkin, quinoa and beets + red onion, feta and toasted macadamia nut salad served with blistered truss tomatoes, our rosemary potatoes + warmed flatbreads, pumpkin hummus and beetroot hummus”……….

 

ROAD TRIP FROM BRISBANE TO SYDNEY

DAY TWO

Our second day in Brisbane started with a leisurely breakfast at a cafe situated near the hotel. Erika had booked a walking tour with Brisbane Greeters Free Tours where enthusiastic local volunteers with bucket loads of historical information are excited about showing their city to both locals and visitors. The three of us joined three other tourists at 10:30 and with our guide set out on a very hot, humid morning. At each point of interest we stopped, often in full sun, while information was given. At one of these stops I asked a question and immediately knew that I must not do that again as I proved that the information did come in bucket loads – actually the bucket was overflowing! Very interesting, BUT … After 2 hours there were just three of the group left. Nadine had gone to the shops and an Asian couple departed leaving a gentleman from Holland and the two of us. We continued but indicated that we would have to leave soon and it still took another half hour before we felt it appropriate to make the break. Places of Interest –

Brisbane City Hall is truly one of the symbols of the city. The original building, designed in the Classical style, was built between 1920 and 1930. After closing for extensive renovation (worth $215 million) in 2010 Brisbane’s grand old dame re-opened for business in 2013 in all her restored glory. King George Square is Brisbane’s premier public square located in front of City Hall. The Clock Tower has been in operation since the opening of City Hall in 1930 and is 87.47 meters high.

Albert Street Uniting Church at the corner of Albert and Ann Streets is heritage listed. It was built from 1888 to 1889. In 1907 the church became known as the Central Methodist Mission in recognition of its wider responsibilities as the main Methodist church in the city. St. John’s Cathedral of Neo-Gothic ‘grand design’ is in the Anglican diocese of Brisbane. The Cathedral itself is a renowned Brisbane landmark where diverse people gather to worship, celebrate, seek solace, converse and learn. With Christmas only a few days away the church was dressed with an amazing Nativity scene which was totally constructed using cardboard.

Hoyts Regent Building – Regent Theatre was a heritage listed cinema at 167 Queen Street (on Queen Street Mall). The Regent Theatre was constructed as the first and only American-style picture palace to be built in Queensland. It reflects the opulence and grandeur of the great Hollywood era and was one of many operated by Hoyts in Australia. It has been restored and now houses the Visitor Information Centre. Brisbane Arcade is a heritage listed shopping Arcade at 160 Queen Street through to Adelaide Street. It was built in 1923 on the site of notorious confessed murderer Patrick Mayne’s butcher shop. It is a splendid Edwardian baroque alley of shops.

After making contact with Nadine and enjoying a late lunch we were on our way to Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mount Coot-tha, Queensland’s premier subtropical botanic gardens. The 52 hectare gardens, located at Toowong are open every day of the year and entry is free. We decided that an Uber would be our transport to the gardens as we wanted to make the most of the time we had there. We both love to be in a garden and this was certainly a beautiful, tranquil place.

Another Uber ride and we were at Mt. Coot-tha Lookout and Kiosk which was listed on the Queensland Heritage Register in l995. It was built from 1918-c.1950. It is also known as One-Tree-Hill. Panoramic views over the CBD stretch as far as Moreton Bay. We sat, relaxed and took in the view back over the city as we had our evening meal.Sunset saw us calling another Uber to take us back to our accommodation in central Brisbane.

A most informative, enjoyable day – DAY THREE will follow

 

ROAD TRIP FROM BRISBANE TO SYDNEY

DAY ONE

On 19 December 2018 I flew from Adelaide to Brisbane to meet friends who were holidaying in Australia from Switzerland. Erika and Nadine flew from Melbourne to Brisbane and both flights arrived soon after mid-day. Erika booked an Uber that would cope with the 3 of us and all of the luggage for transport to the Hotel in the centre of Brisbane where we would stay for two nights. Check in was quick and easy with 2 rooms on the same floor and we were soon on our way to explore the city.

Brisbane’s recorded History dates from 1799, when Matthew Flinders explored Moreton Bay on an expedition from Port Jackson, although the region had long been occupied by the Jagera and Turrbal aboriginal tribes. The town was conceived initially as a penal colony for British convicts sent from Sydney….. Wikipedia

Brisbane is the capital city of Queensland -Australia’s second largest State by area. In addition to being the third most populous city in Australia, Brisbane is the largest of Australia’s six capital cities by geographic area and the third largest in the world. It is a green city with a subtropical climate. A river curving and curling its way around the landscape makes Brisbane one of the most unique capital cities in Australia.

The Brisbane River was named after the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Thomas Brisbane. The river is 344 km long and there are 15 major bridges. Traffic on the Brisbane River isn’t all about the modern City Cats. The city can be enjoyed from the river on Brisbane’s quaint old-style ferries. The Ferries Criss-cross the river upstream and downstream between Sydney Street and North Quay. This was our choice of transport on our first afternoon in Brisbane as we went to explore the South Bank precinct.                                      The  Story Bridge is the longest steel cantilever bridge in Australia. Its construction began in 1935 and it opened, initially as a toll bridge in 1940. The bridge connects Fortitude Valley to Kangaroo Point.

South Bank is Brisbane’s premier lifestyle and cultural destination. Located on the southern banks of the Brisbane River, the 17 hectares  of lush parklands with world-class eateries, beautiful gardens, stunning river views and events all year round bring locals and visitors to explore, unwind and relax. After strolling through the area where families were enjoying activities in and out of the water and a Christmas Market was in full swing Erika and I enjoyed a tasty meal outdoors in a great setting. The city was bedecked with coloured lights in celebration of the Christmas season.

More about Brisbane in DAY TWO post ……..

LIVING LIFE AS AN EXPAT. – UPDATE 13

Keeping it ‘Riel’ (currency of Cambodia 4,000 riel = $US1)

So, we are one year on and as David and I reflected over Brunch this morning we thought it was important to be real in terms of what living in Cambodia means for us.

What is hardest?

Not being with our family and friends. It is challenging to be distant as people at home continue ‘doing life’ and we miss being part of it. The incidental conversations, time to ‘be’ in one another’s space, sharing in the highlights and lowlights, just journeying together. We have lovely people to live and journey with here……but it is not quite the same as those who know you so well that you don’t have to share conversation to be on the same page.

What is easiest?

Not much to be honest, but it is ‘easy’ in that we know that we are in a place and space where we can contribute in a real and useful manner. Having said that, things are only not ‘easy’ because many things are just a bit different from home. In reality we have a comfortable place to live; a fantastic workplace; access to good food; transport; a lively church community, opportunities to get out and about, a skilled hairdresser; someone who comes to clean our house; someone who will not only cook for us, but deliver the meals hot to our door for a fair price; and we are surrounded by caring co-workers and school families.

Highlights of the past year

  • Hosting family and friends to introduce them to our school community and our home town of Phnom Penh. Seeing our kids at Christmas was a particular highlight!
  • Seeing some good progress in various areas at work. David has made some amazing progress in different areas of the facilities,  building on (pardon the pun) the work of those who have gone before him. I have had the chance to refine various areas of our schooling approach, and I am pleased to see a stronger consistent focus on good teaching and learning. Student voice in the school is growing and care for the health and wellbeing of students and staff is at the forefront of decision making.
  • Travel opportunities:  we have had the opportunity to spend extended time in Thailand, Vietnam and Sri Lanka this year. For the first time in our working lives our holidays align. I have also attended professional training in Singapore and Malaysia. It is wonderful to expand our understanding of this part of the world.
  • Working with students, families and staff from around the globe.We are so much richer for the multicultural community we are in; we have learned new education language – task, cover, set… and the fact that I inevitably use Australian colloquialisms that draw blank looks; new food – river snails were not a highlight, new cultural traditions – Water Festival, Pchum Benh; new expectations and new things to laugh at!

And finally, keeping it ‘riel’ we continue to live a relatively wealthy existence. While we work at a mission school and receive a living allowance rather than salary, when I checked on the Care Global Rich List calculator this morning, our combined income continues to put us in the top 4% of income earners globally. We know that we are living far more comfortably than many of those in our immediate community as our life includes so many elements that are still inaccessible to many here in Cambodia:  we have electricity (and air con.), running water, a home which does not flood, access to health care without needing to pay before receiving service, access to three meals a day, and enough income to take holidays, eat at restaurants and pay for recreation.  We are indeed fortunate!

 

 

Cheryl Flight

Secondary School Principal

HOPE School.               principal.sec@hope.edu.

LIVING LIFE AS AN EXPAT. – UPDATE 12

Why we like living and working in the ‘Kingdom of Wonder’.

Without the breadth of choice, which could be viewed as a frustration, there also comes a sense of contentment and satisfaction.

Circumstances force us to live simply and prioritise those things that are most important to us.

Cambodians are caring and friendly people. While I still have to use the phrase ‘mun jul dtee’(I don’t understand) all too often, locals will patiently push on, using their little English, and lots of gesturing and body language to work to a solution.

Our work is very rewarding. Sadly, at home, many young people take their education for granted. Although working with expat children, they understand that their parents have made a significant sacrifice to provide them with an education and middle and high school students don’t need to look too far to see that they have access to something that many local children do not. This means that they express gratitude.Their parents do also. Only this morning one of the dads stopped and just said ‘thank you for what you do’. Staff also share a common calling and fully support the vision of the school. They are not here for a job, but to offer a service that supports expat workers to do their good work here in Cambodia.

Community is core. We enjoy a diverse range of connections and friendships. As I looked around at church, westerners are clearly in the minority. Our social life is much more diverse as we spend time with people from many nations and age groups and I am sure we are much richer for it. We get to share in the lives of Cambodian people as we work alongside them.

We are presented with new challenges. We work with limited resources to provide an excellent education for the young people here. In life we daily navigate chaotic traffic, new foods, draining weather conditions, challenges to the senses and ‘tales of the unexpected’. Challenges build creativity, tenacity, resilience, persistence and a ‘get up, dress up, and show up’ can do approach, something we may not have always had to draw on in the comfort of Adelaide.

Our communication with friends and loved ones becomes very intentional. Having your nearest and dearest close by is wonderful (and much missed), but may lead us to become complacent in our contact. We now need to think of time differences and plan when we can speak. While we miss all that ‘by the by’ communication, we treasure hearing updates from home.

We only need a wardrobe for one season. While there are temperature variations, most of the year has ranged from 26 degrees upwards and daytime temps are low 30’s upwards – mostly upwards. Therefore, for us, it’s a summer wardrobe all year around.  Side note: we are heading into cool season here which is a lovely respite. Amazing when 30 degrees and a small breeze becomes such a blessing.

Mostly it is because we have a clear sense that we are making a contribution and can offer skills that are needed by the school. So for now, Cambodia will continue to be our home.

Cheryl Flight

Secondary School Principal – HOPE School

principal.sec@hope.edu.kh