Full Steam(y) Ahead
Today we reached the two month mark in our volunteer program and also the hottest time of year in Cambodia. It’s sweltering by early morning, the heat radiates off the streets and the city becomes a giant oven. The weather forecast always calls for a high of 91 degrees, but when you check the current temperature mid-day, it’s always 98 degrees. Huh?
In America when the heat rises, we take off layers and wear sleeveless dresses, tops and skirts. In Cambodia though, the women are always covered up no matter the temperature – today I was riding next to a woman on a moto who was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and gloves. I was completely sweating through my cotton dress and it didn’t look like she was sweating at all. Simply amazing.
It’s bittersweet to think we only have four weeks left with our new Cambodian friends and only four weeks to finish all the work we’ve promised we would do. My work has continued to grow and evolve and I’m elbow deep in fundraising, social business and communication plans. A fellow AJWS volunteer and I are collaborating on a social business model (income-generating business) for our NGOs, and as part of our fact-finding we had an opportunity to meet with an officer at the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh. It was a fascinating discussion on the future of American investment in Cambodia and I left the meeting feeling pretty proud to be an American here. It was also just plain cool to be in an Embassy building and has me wondering how I can get a job in the Foreign Service…
As we are starting to wrap up our time in Cambodia, we have also been frantically planning for what’s ahead.
We’re in for a Shanghai surprise after we leave Phnom Penh. We are taking advantage of the 72-hour, visa-free program in Shanghai as we head to Japan. It will be a huge culture shock to be in an Asian city with skyscrapers, but at least we’ll be used to chaos and congestion. We do know we’re not supposed to drink the water there after more than 16,000 dead pigs were found in the Huangpu river.
We arrive in Japan during Golden Week, which is a major holiday week in the country. Our trip has us starting in Tokyo to see a good friend from high school (hi Jeff!) before we finally give our lungs a break and head for fresh air in the mountains. We hope to spend a couple of days around Mt. Fuji, walk part of the Nakasendo Way between ancient post towns, go sake tasting in Takayama and hit the trails in the Japanese Alps. We’re also going to try to make it to baseball game and a sumo wrestling tournament while in Tokyo.
New Zealand has been on our travel wish list for years so we are stoked to be spending time there. We’ll spend three weeks in a camper van criss-crossing the South Island and another couple of weeks exploring the North Island. Throw in an oyster festival and more wineries than we’ll probably be able to handle and we are EXCITED! Dave couldn’t settle for any normal camper van though, take a look at the gallery of van choices we may have.
After New Zealand, we’re heading to Australia for five weeks to explore more wine areas, reunite with our love of craft beer and hopefully see a few kangaroos. We won’t see nearly all of Australia in the time we’ve allotted and would go broke if we tried. We’re planning to focus our time starting in Melbourne and heading west from there.
Norway via England
In early August, we’ll head to London to meet two groups of Dave’s family. We’ll spend a week touring London (Big Ben, Parliament!) with our brother, sister and nieces and then join Dave’s parents for a cruise through the Fjords in Norway. I can’t think of a better way to start our time in Europe.
Our fall and winter plans are still in progress, but we know we’ll spend a few months playing around Europe before heading to Africa. We’re hoping to find another volunteer program in Africa to round out our year.
Lots of great things ahead and we’re eternally grateful we get to have these experiences!