Sunday, June 5, 2011

Enemy, Thy Name is Mosquito

So I know the last post left many of you wondering what, exactly, I ended up doing about the scary cankles situation.

Right before falling asleep for my 12-hr nap on the first day, I got online and googled swollen legs after flight". You know what comes back? Lots of "get to a doctor right away" and "you will die" websites. Back home, my friends have had to monitor my exposure to WebMD because each time I read it, some variation of the following conversation tends to happen:

Me: Well, it looks like I have, now don't freak out, but I think I have some form of the plague.
Patient Friend: You don't have the plague.
Me: But my eyes are scratchy. I think they're bleeding.
Patient Friend: That's an eyelash. Stop it.

But here, no one was around to hold me back. I scanned through page after page showing scary swollen pictures of what  legs look like when someone develops deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Each site detailed how blood clots were forming in my legs from sitting still too long, and how a clot could break off and cause a heart attack or stroke.

So there I sat, alone with my DVT Wikipedia page (always my most trusted doctor), wondering what to do.  I saw that it was typically treated with anticoags, so I made a deal with myself to take some aspirin, sleep for the night, and if they still looked bad the next day I would go to the clinic. Luckily, when I got up for breakfast in the morning everything was back to normal. Crisis #1 averted. Well done, body. 

All of this, by the way, was happening at midnight Phnom Penh time. There's an 11-hr difference between here and home, and I did not handle it well at all. I woke up ravenous, and snacked on some protein bars while I watched the sun come up, inch by inch. At 6:30 a.m., I bolted downstairs for the hotel complimentary breakfast. 

Many of you have been asking what the guesthouse is like. I'm staying at the Frangipani Villa 60's, which is a villa that was built in the 1960's and has since been converted into a guesthouse with 7 rooms. Like most of the hotels and guesthouses in the downtown area, the villa is separated from the road by a wall and gate. The roads can be dusty, load, and crowded with motorcycles and cars, which is why its so startling each time I walk through the gate and see a quiet garden that acts as our dining room. They've planted trees and flowers everywhere, so that when I look up all I see are leaves and sunshine. They have a small open-air bar to the right of the gate, and 5 tables. There isn't a traditional front desk, as they've used all the building space as rooms, so we check in and out, leave our laundry or keys, and get tourist information at the bar. 

Here are a couple of pics of my room:

There's a really helpful guidebook in my room. It has recommendations of stuff to do in the city, as well as an explanation of the history of the guesthouse. It's completely Khmer-run, and hires from local neighborhoods. There's a lot of students who work here, so they give time off to let staff members study for exams. There's a big emphasis on conservation at the guesthouse; lights and AC need to be turned off when not in use, shampoo bottles are refilled instead of replaced, etc. The breakfast food is bought locally, but it's a western breakfast of eggs and toast with cooked tomatoes on the side and always, always a fresh fruit platter that, to my delight, has pieces cut into different shapes :). I eat outside, and always early, because by 8:00 a.m. it's already hot and muggy. The first day I made the mistake of going to breakfast without bug spray, and within minutes had 7 bug bites. As soon as I noticed them, I ran, arms flailing, up to my room to drench myself in Deet and choke down my anti-malarial. I can already tell that my 3 bottles of bug spray won't last, especially when I start traveling out to more rural areas with the legal aid foundation and I'll be outside for more hours. 

I started my first day in the city with a tour of the Royal Palace, where King Norodom Sihamoni lives. His private chambers are closed to the public, but the majority of the buildings are open to tourists. When we got inside the gate, there was a huge Khmer Riang Phnom tree, which is a sacred tree in Cambodia because it's believed that Buddha was born under one. It has beautiful flowers that only bloom for a day. Pregnant women drink water with the blossoms because it's believed to bring good health to the baby. 

Next we walked through the throne hall, where I was able to see where the coronation ceremonies take place. The outside of the building is made up of 4 main colors: white and yellow, representing the two major religions in Cambodia (Hinduism and Buddhism, respectively); green, symbolizing the color of the forests in the countryside; and blue, the official color of the royal family. Inside the building, there are life-sized statues of every king and queen to ever rule. I got to see the throne, on which the king on sits one time, during his coronation. After that, he moves to a chair right in front of the throne. 

We then walked next door to the Silver Pagoda, which functions as the royal temple. It has marble pillars  surrounding it that were given as a gift from Italy, and it gets its name from the flooring, which is made up of over 5,000 silver tiles. Inside, there are hundreds of Buddha statues, including an emerald Buddha and a life-sized gold Buddha with over 9,000 diamonds, including one that's 25 karats. Many of the smaller statues (rows upon rows of them, many of which are about the size of a paperweight) are gifts from the people to the king or queen, usually on their birthdays. There were people praying inside, and it's still an active wat (Buddhist temple). 

Some other pictures from the Royal Palace:

Court servants wear color-coded uniforms, based on the days of the week. Sunday starts with red, Saturday finishes with deep purple.

 Water lilies

 Funeral tower for the cremated remains of a king. Each king gets his own, so there are several towers around the grounds.

After the Royal Palace, I went up the road about 3 blocks to visit the National Museum. There's a beautiful garden in the center of the museum, which can be seen from any part of the museum (there's no AC, so they keep the windows and doors leading to the garden open at all times). The museum mostly has statues of Buddha, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. The most impressive was a partially reconstructed statue of Vishnu sleeping; it was hundreds (maybe thousands...I can't remember the date) years old, and was found by a farmer who had a dream that Buddha came to him and asked to be released from the soil. He went out to his field and started digging, but instead of finding Buddha he found the Vishnu statue. They have the head, upper torso, and arm displayed in the front hall, and it towered over me. Note to lawyers and law students reading this: it was embedded! Ratione soli!

National Museum: 

I wrapped up the day at a French Khmer fusion restaurant called Le Wok next to the museum. I can't even describe how much I loved the food there. I had a penne chicken and spinach dish with feta (REAL FETA, Katerina, not the crumbled stuff :) ). I followed up with honey and strawberry homemade ice cream. Oh...and a Coke. They've got real Coke here, with real sugar instead of HFCS, so I'm ordering it all over the place. I was the only American in the place; every other table had French tourists and expats. I tried to listen in to see if I could pick up anything from my 2 years of classes in undergrad, but apparently I've got the conversational level of a fern. And not even a fern that lives in a French house. I'm the fern that lives in an American house with Muzzy commercials on loop. 

1 comment:

  1. i got dry eye this spring from the nasty nyc sewer air. i was convinced that i had a brain tumor.