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Welcome to Cambodia

Note:  I have no pictures from this part of our travels.  For some reason I wasn’t thinking about the camera.

Four weary adults and three kids flew from Bangkok to Phnom Penh. 

The immigration process was hilarious.  What seemed like thirty men in khaki uniform stood behind a counter.  The energy was high.  The communication was sketchy.  When my turn came, the stern fellow asked for a certain amount of cash, Visa pictures, and my passports.  I handed them over.  My passports were passed along the line of men.  I stood among the crowd of anxious tourists trying to keep my girls from running away and keeping tabs on my passports.  Suddenly, a khaki uniform tapped me from behind and said, “Are these your children?” showing me their passports.  I said yes and he handed me the girls passports.  I continued to wait for mine.  A man who could barely pronounce “john doe” held up a passport and butchered yelled the name to the crowd.  That lucky traveller stepped forward to claim the prize.  We all pressed forward.  Finally, my name was called and passport in hand, I reunited with my parents and Noelle.

The last time I visited, I forgot to have a Visa picture and the only other westerner on the plane gave me one of hers.  She was at least 30 years older than me with salt-and-pepper hair, glasses, and a huge nose.  The passport police never noticed.

Noelle secured two taxis.  My parents rode in one and we were in the other.  Noelle was careful to explain to both drivers that my parents did not know where we were going and that taxi should follow our taxi. 

It was rush hour.  Cars and tuk-tuks so close we could count the teeth of the person beside us.  Bicycles and motos slinking between the tiny passages between cars.  It was madness. 

Once Noelle’s teammate was on her bicycle when a car stopped on her foot!  She tapped the glass and asked the driver to please move forward.  Yikes. 

Transportation is one of the biggest challenges my sister faces.  She lives on a nameless dead-end dirt road.  She has no address.  She can only point and give instruction as the driver drives.  Imagine when she tries to have pizza delivered! 

At dark, we pulled down the bumpy ally and came to the dead end.  And noticed the other taxi was gone.  The driver said, “What?  They don’t know where to go??”  Noelle told him to call the other driver and give him instructions on how to get there.  He said he was lost and couldn’t do it.  So. 

I am left standing in the dark with my two girls and everyone’s luggage.  Noelle and Asher have gone with Mr. Taxi Driver to find my parents and lead them home.  Before she left, Noelle gave me keys to the padlock (!) on her third floor apartment.  A helpful man moves the luggage to the foot of the exterior stairs.  Does he live here?  Will he steal the luggage?  I don’t know.  I see some scrawny chickens, a sleeping dog, and dark houses.  I have no idea where I am. 

We venture up the bazillion stairs.  I assume I’m at the right place but I can’t get the padlock open.  Maybe I need to go up one floor.  The next floor up is dark.  Norah takes off running along the balcony and I hear “PING.”  Norah drops flat on the tile.  A piece of metal scaffold protrudes from the window and across the balcony.  Just at 6-year old nose level. 

Visions of flying back to Bangkok for medical care cross my mind.

But, after much crying (perhaps by both of us), we went back down a floor and managed to get the padlock open.  We were sweaty and thirsty.  I left the girls and went to drag one piece of luggage up.  The apartment was HOT!  After finding fans and lightswitches (and warm homemade pizza and banana bread left by Noelle’s househelper), we felt better. 

Better still when Noelle arrived with my parents!

Wecome to Cambodia.

ETA:  Here is some daytime footage of the bumpy road to Noelle’s apartment. This guy is one of Noelle’s usual drivers so he knew the way.