Friday, February 12, 2016

Cambodia: The iPhone Story

From my journal:
Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016, 1:30 AM
Riverwalk, Rm 222

I can't believe it. Someone stole my passport and IPhone tonight. Behind each of these words, except perhaps and, is a story. So settle in. I was making my way to the Night Market, but had started around six planning to sample a few of the stalls or patio refreshment stops along the way. I had grilled frogs at a nearby place called Julie99, then marched around the food area that's a couple blocks away. Heading east I found the next watering hole, an Irish pub called something like The Irish Pub.

I was soon in conversation with a Scots called Alan, my bag sitting just a few inches off my right side, on the pavement. There was a fence on the right, which makes the bag safer than on the left in this case, because that's the aisle.

At some point, the barkeep John came out and mentioned I should look after my belongings. I sinched it an inch closer, despite feeling my precautions, like looping the shoulder strap into the chair, were pretty good. Soon enough, I head off, this time for the actual night market. A block away, I make sure to pat myself down, as it were, as I do--remember, I had only had five or so small beers--mostly every single time. A check of wallet and phone, and if carrying one, bag.

This particular bag has a full width front flap which opens up into a compartment for your camera, tablet, and a few odds and ends. This compartment has it's own second zippered closure made from or part of the same canvas material. That front flap closes it down and contains two small pockets, large enough for, say, a passport or an iPhone. The pockets have a secure Velcro closure. I remember patting both pockets on occasion while doing all that walking. This is a feature of what may be CDOP, a setting or something in my brain that strives for a certain order or consistency in things. What things? Don't ask. But it results in double-checking the door is locked, so it can't be all bad.

When I noticed they were missing from the left-side pocket, I immediately about-faced and went back to the pub. A search was mounted, and a couple of Pat's trusted locals took me on a wild tuk-tuk chase to find the thief. It was theorized that the culprit was this minute Cambodian dude who somehow sneakily under the fence, reached his arm across, un-Velcro'd this pocket on the bag at my feet in a way that I did not hear it, slid the items out leaving behind the hotel direction card, then closed it again.

As incredible as that sounds, that almost has to be what happened. Even more amazing, I remember looking down several times, usually it being cats, and seeing nothing amiss. That he could use the cats as a distraction seems far-fetched. However, I have found my weakness, though I'm not sure how much I feel "to blame" for it, since as you know we most prefer attaching blame when it's to someone else.

Going back to the CDOP, I always find I think the front of a bag or suitcase should face out, that is, away from you. Even though my bag was a bit skewed, due to switching round to talk at Alan's table, it meant, still, that the pockets faced more or less out--which was, I have to say, at a pretty solid fence.

Anyway, this guy apparently got away with my stuff. A tuk-tuk driver and his henchmen took me on an exciting race around downtown Phnom Penh at 9:30 at night. But not like just streets, like scary-ass back alleys, where they pause and stare into a cavernous urban junk heap Yell the guy's name, apparently Klang. Then, hear some response from somewhere, to say he's not here. Or go away, wer're trying to sleep. Sometimes there's no response.

Periodically, we pause to chat with other tuk-tuks, who have a kind of networking system. Hither and yon, to the park where Klang, let's call him, usually stays. Up some very bumpy and tight side roads, who knows what on either side, but usually trash in the middle of the road. Places that won't be in the brochure. We stop to fill up, I front the cash.

Eventually, the other hangers-on in the tuk-tuk have left on forays, and we meet up with another driver. It's a wel-lit but quiet area. My guy, Ron, let's call him, tells me this guy knows where the passport is, but the "stoler" who has it wants three hundred dollars. I explain how ridiculous that is, it's worth nothing to anyone here but me, I can get a new one on Monday at the Consulate. Embassy, whatever you got cha.

Besides which, I point out, don't have three hundred dollars. I don't carry that kind of money, which isn't exactly true. But I told him that I could only give him the money in my wallet, knowing that it was around twenty bucks--twenty-two it turned out. Maybe too high a price, but I felt it was a convincing amount one might have.

Suddenly this guy, seeing that I had extracted the money I had in my wallet, pulls out the passport--the phone I fear is long-gone. I inspected it and turned over the money. We rode away, back to the pub. We stopped along the way, where Ron, let's call him, told me what happened. It was the little baldish guy, but he ditched my passport in the rubbish around the pub area. This one driver had found it, but instead of turning it in to the bar, extorted $22 from me.

But Ron, let's call him, together with with this guy, was going to tell the first guy it was only twelve dollars, and that was what I was supposed to say.

For the record, it was twenty-two. And as for the phone, I'm pretty sure it's gone. Sad mostly about the pictures. But I'm not sure what to do about the phone. How do I get the service to it cut off from Cambodia? There are messages on the phone, in the SMS system, that have banking details, lots of **** in the numbers though. And it's all in Hangeul. So I doubt my data is in peril, but an online help-desk at olleh might be available to shut it down. At the same time, could that effect my cards, as they always send an SMS when used? So there's the story. I have my passport, dumber than I thought but wiser than I was. Phoneless. Don't call me. Or SMS me. Or KakaoTalk me. Or What's App or Twitter or ICQ me.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Cambodia: Kampot Sunsets

Kampot is a very chill little town on the river, resulting in some great sunsets. The one above is from my balcony at the Mad Monkey (hostel chain with several locations in Cambodia).

The town is mainly a string of bars (I recommend Madi Bar), guesthouses and souvenir shops along the river. I eschewed photos of the standard: Durian and Salt-workers Roundabouts, for a few more atmospheric shots:

I didn't do much besides chill. On the last night, I took a riverboat cruise.

After sunset, I got a couple of good shots of the dusk.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Cambodia: Tuttle and Tanner ...

... and Nancy for New Years!

I spent New Years (that's the solar one) in Phnom Penh where I got to spend a couple of days with Tanner, and his better half Nancy. The first evening, starting at 11:45 PM, Tanner and I went out on the town where we soon found Nick's Bar (that's Nick).

Then we found a place called the Red Fox.

Eventually we found 4 AM, or it found us.

The next day, we went on a great tour of Kingdom Brewery, which eagle-eyed visitors to the Seoul Patch might note I previously identified as perhaps my favorite Cambodian beer. Tour leader was the actual brewmeister, a Brit named Ian.

From there, we went to the FCC (Foreign Correspondents Club), a legendary Phnom Penh watering hole.

For the remainder of the evening, we meandered through downtown roof-top spots waiting for the fireworks. We ended up at Nick's again. At one point, TB and I had a chopstick skills competition which ended in a draw--two peanuts each.

I don't see how we could have had a better time. Sadly, the next morning it became necessary for T & N to jet back to Beijing, and then I checked in at another hotel (nothing against the Mad Monkey...) It was called Riverwalk Guesthouse. "Tuk-tuk driver had no idea where this place is," I wrote in my journal, "even though we went, "You know?" "I know!" at each other. He got directions 4 times. I know we went west and south for a time, when we needed to go north and east. But that's all smoke out of the exhaust pipe now."

I knew I had the right place when the door to the balcony looked like this:

This was no idle boast, as I found when I had dinner at a restaurant on the corner at the end of the next block over:

Speaking of restaurants, here's a pic of two dinners: first, the grilled frog at the monkey-sighting restaurant; below it, my choice at FCC, a dish called Crying Tiger, which was strips of beef rump steak with a spicy chillie sauce and an amazing Kampot pepper sauce.

I mentioned above tuk-tuks, and they have them here as they do in Thailand--in Thailand, they are almost always one piece, but in Cambodia they are a motorcycle with a wagon hitched on. Unlike most motorcycles, they are usually water-cooled, and drivers stop more frequently for water refills than they do for petrol. Anyway, here are some pics (that last one is a family of six):

My thanks to Tanner and Nancy for some of the pics (the better ones, pretty much). Two more posts and then off to Koh Phangan before school starts up again on March 2.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

School Graduation

It's February 2016, and the 2015 school year is officially over, in the case of Yangmyung Elementary School being denoted by the sixth grade graduation ceremony.

It always begins with some entertainment by underclassmen, usually some choral group or a pianist or two. This year I arrived (10 minutes early) to be treated to a play about, as far as I could tell, events in the future lives of this year's graduates.

There is a bit of speechifying, then the awarding of diplomas:

I caught a couple of pics of the happy grads:

The top scholars and leaders of the class get special recognition.

The last thing before that final, sad, dreary song they always do, is a slideshow with pictures of sixth graders over the years:

Congratulations to the sixth grade class of 2015! I'll look forward to seeing some you on Teachers' Day next year when you drop by to see old Tuttle. Until then, Have A Good Time!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

School Electioms

The US Presidential election season is underway, with the Iowa caucuses just finished and New Hampshire primaries coming up fast. Yangmyung Elementary was a hotbed of political activity this week, as well, as students chose their student government officers for next year.

A few mornings this week I arrived at school to find canvassing underway, with chants and signs supporting about 10 candidates for the four offices (class reps are chosen later). So I took a few pics:

Om Wednesday morning, the candidates gave their speeches over the closed circuit TV system, then the students went to the polls, one located on each floor--this one outside my classroom, where the third graders exercised the franchise:

The results are in, but I don't think I'm supposed to say. Anyway, congratulations to the winners, and condolences to the losers (or is that the differently winning?)

I have previously blogged about the high school elections at my old school: start here.