Heading to Siem Reap

On our way to Siem Reap, our driver stopped at a little market in a place called Skun.


There, they have for sale deep fried bugs.

Gross.

But my brave boys wanted to try: spiders and scorpions. Impressive! We got some good photos and videos of it:

Josh and Zandra held a live one:

We continued on our way and then stopped in a little town for lunch. We pretty much all ordered the same noodle dish (except for adventurous Rob) and Josh was mortified again at the amount of vegetables with the noodles. Poor guy. Good thing he had had fried rice for breakfast!


We continued on and stopped at an area called Sambor prei kuk, where we saw some pretty incredibly old temples in the middle of nature. After the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh, the silence in the woods was great — (except for when then cicadas started, but they are pretty cool sounding!)


The journey continued on …. forever. We could have flown into Siem Reap, but the agent had said it’s only a 5 hour drive, and it sounded fun to see the country side, and it was…. But after a while we were all a little restless from driving bumpy roads in a van with partial air conditioning working….flying might have been worth it.

We saw two LDS chapels (one posted further down)

We loved this little girl on her giant bike!


We were happy to arrive. And we’re even happier with our hotel the Tara Angor Wat.

After settling into our rooms (which this time were side by side, and across the hall), we tried to decide on dinner. We ended up going to a place recommended by the hotel as we had looked on our own and frankly were just too tired to do the due diligence of reading reviews, and didn’t feel like wandering the busy streets in the dark with the kids find a place.
We took two tuk tuk rides – which were pretty wild and the kids were mixed with exhilaration and fear! We ended up going to relatively fancy place called Chanrey Tree. It was actually quite delicious! The boys and I had variations of Khmer steak and beef skewers wrapped with porc belly, while Rob had their fish amok and Zandra went for curry again. It definitely was pricier than any meal we’ve had (but nothing compared to home), and the little guys were asleep at the table by the time we left, but it was a nice way to end such a long travel day!


A crazy tuk tuk ride back and we were dead by 9pm!

What an adventure!

Privilege

I awoke super early yesterday morning and was able to get some pics organized and write a blog post. Benefits of still having jet lag! By the time we got the kids up, I was all packed up for our next part of the journey.

 
We had a great breakfast again, this time I tried the noodles for breakfast- which were awesome, and a few kids opted for pancakes.

 

We packed up and bid farewell to the King Grand Suites hotel, as well as smoggy Phnom Penh. Zach had commented last night that the city has a certain smell to it. All the time. Sort of like pollution?!

 
We drove through the city and snapped some pics.

I had a little doze and woke up to our driver saying he had to stop for a minute to see his mom, who was at a little stall/shop at the side of the highway. We were about an hour outside the city. I watched him give her a bag of things, and then count out money for her and give it to her. Two little kids were there too and started waving and blowing kisses to us. So cute!

 
I was overcome by this feeling of privilege. Here we are, being driven to Siem Reap. On this incredible trip. Bellies full from a great breakfast. After a good night sleep in air conditioned rooms. My kids playing on their own iPhones in the back of the van. Heading to experience and explore an area that most will only dream about.

 
Why me? Why them? Why were we born in such different surroundings? We talked a lot yesterday with the kids about how if you were born in poverty in this country, there’s really very little way out of it (our guide has been sharing a lot about the poverty in the country). Why do some of us live in extreme privilege and others in extreme poverty?

 
I don’t know the answer.

 
I just know that this privilege brings me to my knees in gratitude for what I have. And for no other reason that I was born in a different land, to different parents. No more deserving of it than anyone else.

 
It also brings me an overwhelming sense of responsibility to raise my kids – highly privileged kids – to have a social conscience. To be kind and compassionate humans. To use travel as a way of expanding and educating their minds. And to serve serve serve. And then serve. Expressing gratitude along the way. Always.

 

I know it doesn’t change much. Poverty still exists. Privilege still exists. But small acts all together can make a difference. I hope.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

We had heard that there was not much to see in Phnom Penh, but knew we needed a couple of nights to adjust to the time difference. So, for the day we were there, we wanted to make the most of it and booked a guide. We don’t always book guides, as sometimes it’s enough to follow a guide book, but I figured this was the kind of place that required one!

We were awake pretty early and headed down to the reception area for our included breakfast. It was a la carte and you could order a western breakfast, or an asian breakfast. We almost all opted on asian – after all, it’s part of the adventure. Then we all opted for the most familiar item on the menu: fried rice. Fried rice for breakfast? Yup. And it was absolutely delicious. We enjoyed it with our mini shot glasses of pineapple and mango juice (we have noted that even on the flights when you asked for a drink, you got this tiny glass!)

We then headed out with our guide, Lee – who not only showed us around, but shared with us about his own life, the Cambodian lifestyle, economics, politics etc. Although he was hard to understand with his thick accent (super hard for me with my hearing challenges), he was great!

We first went to the Royal Palace. (warning, I’m gonna be posting a lot of pictures!)

On the same grounds is the Silver Pagoda (temple with silver flooring – very cool looking – and costly, although a lot of it is covered by a rug.)

It’s a shame that you can’t take pictures of the inside (completely understandable, of course), but it was beautiful and impressive looking. We wandered around the area and learned about the other temples and buildings on site:

After spending time on the Palace grounds, we headed to the National Museum of Khmer Arts. I can’t say that the kids were exceptionally excited about this museum. It is partially outdoor, so there was no rest from the heat. There were many neat Buddha statues and sculptures, but we didn’t spend too much time there.

We then headed to Wat Phnom Hill – which is another site of a Buddhist temple that is very active and a mix between the old and new. We learned about the food offerings of eggs, raw meats etc. which was very different to see. It was very interesting temple.

We saw a tree with tons of bats (all those little black things hanging! Ugh!)

We then went to the local market. We first wandered around the souvenir area and picked up some small souvenirs. We then found ourselves in the clothing/shoe area, which we really didn’t have much interest in the knockoffs. We stumbled into the food area, and that was an experience. The smells! Raw meat and fish were abundant! It was an experience in itself walking through it. Gabe would have died!

Our guide then took us to a restaurant for lunch. The downfall of some guides is they take you to a place where they clearly get some kick backs. We had a mediocre lunch at best. Living in Toronto, you can pretty much get good, authentic food anywhere, so it’s very disappointing to eat somewhere with such mediocre food, clearly catered to you because you are a tourist. We had a good chuckle though that Rob’s dish had so much shaved ginger in it that he thought they were noodles. And Josh was overwhelmed with all the vegetables that came on top of a very few noodles.

After lunch we headed outside the centre of the city, where we got to really experience the busyness, the traffic, the craziness as we drove!

We also got to hear more history about our next stop, Choeung Ek Killing Fields.

Before we left, each one of the kids had to do some research on the sites/history of different places we were going to. Zach had shared with us the background of the Killing Fields; such a devastating part of Cambodian History.

Our guide talked with us as we drove, giving us more historical and political background about Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, and Choeung Ek, which is the site of a former orchard and mass grave of victims. He took us around the site and shared with us the stories and significance of different areas within site. Sobering.

Its’ a beautiful memorial, and such a tragic story for the millions that lost their lives. We met a woman on the plane who was coming back to visit Cambodia; she had told us her entire family was killed under Pol Pot. Such tragedy.

We were completely zonked by the end of the afternoon. The heat, combined with the jet lag kicking in! We headed back, and continued to hear more about the Cambodian people, and experiencing the city. It’s truly sobering for our kids to see the extreme poverty of some, and to learn about life here. A teacher is paid the equivalent of $200 US per month! That fact put things in perspective to our kids – especially when you consider the kind of trip we are on…

More to absorb:

After a snooze, we decided we would head out and explore the area around our hotel by foot. Except, that Phnom Penh is NOT a pedestrian city!! Let’s just say that we had a lot of laughs and were able to cross the street a few times only!

Street food:

Gasoline, anyone?

We found a little peaceful spot:

There was one area we were trying to get to, but it is the equivalent of crossing outside the Arc de Triomphe in Paris! Rob braved it as he wanted to get a picture on the other side, and we took pleasure in cheering him on and recording him! I suggested we all try — and I loved how Josh and Sam put their complete faith in me and said they would cross if I guided them…. Just too hard for 5 people to cross all together, so we enjoyed watching the game of Frogger Rob was playing!

Rob’s adventures:

We rested again (the kids really wanted to use some wifi, because it’s hard to snapchat back home because of the time difference and so our dinner time is perfectly lined up with before school time back home! LOL)

Rob found us an awesome little place for dinner – Mok Mony, which we got to take a Tuk Tuk to (even though it was literally a 2 min ride!)

The owner was fantastic and suggested some great specialty dishes which were awesome! Beef rolled up in a kind of leaf we had tried earlier in the day (can’t remember the name), curry, and fish with mangos. The boys also tried some frog – which they really liked the legs – but when Zach hit the chest and ribs, he became repulsed!  (I think Zach got a few pics which I will add later) We were all completely zonked and certainly hit a wall. We were all a bit snappy at each other and got annoyed that our Tuk Tuk driver got lost even though we are 2 min away! Ah well, part of the adventure!

Next stop: driving to Siem Reap with some stops along the way!

Cambodia and Vietnam – here we come! 

And we’re off! 

We set out early to head to the airport for this next grand adventure. 

Must admit it felt a little weird having only 6 of us. Even at the airport, Zach pretended to put his arm around “phantom Gabe” – who is with us in spirit – in the “Vietnam wing” (seriously!!) of his residence at BYUI.

Because Gabe’s not with us, I might end up posting a lot more random pics – as I keep texting him pics so he can follow closely along our journey. So forgive the shots that you wonder, “why would someone take those??” I am as passionate about documenting as I am about travel! 

So many people asked us, “why in the world Cambodia and Vietnam?” 

I’ve always had a huge desire to go (since high school I remember talking about it), and Southeast Asia was top of the list of a couple of my travel addicted kids. We decided it would be our next “big” destination on our last big March break trip to South Africa in 2015. 

But I have to admit, it’s a long way to come! We also know we are truly in for an adventure of a lifetime!

We started out pretty early, saying goodbye to a sad Reggie who I think recognizes our suitcases….and headed to the airport 


We checked in (and I was annoyed that 1 of us was sitting apart. Really? How does that happen? Can’t they just seat people who are on the same reservation together??? It wasn’t even a full flight! Luckily, a nice man switched with Rob (the designated loner) so he could sit with us). 

I love getting the walking pics as I’ve taken them over the years when they had their little matching backpacks and the suitcases were too big for them! Not anymore!



The kids got some homework done at the airport and also “won” some free soft drinks (an iPad game which I’m pretty sure is gambling).


We got all settled in for our 14 hour flight to Seoul.


Rob was on a conference call while we boarded…

The movies weren’t the best by the kid’s standards; but we all managed to watch a few, catch some shut eye and take some cool pics flying over  Russia:



We had a 4 hour layover in Seoul, where the wifi was appreciated, and more homework was done (poor Josh is really the only  one who had it,so wanted to get it over with! They are missing 5 days of school altogether)


We then boarded the 5.5 hour flight to Phnom Penh, where everyone was zonked, but I still saw a  beautiful sunset  (as did Zach who was sitting across the way — I often use Zach’s photos so I will just give him photo creds across the board now!) 


We finally arrived. You need Visas for Cambodia so had to fill all that paperwork  out (which we knew ahead of time and had all the required photos). The whole process was smooth, and we met our driver outside (I used a travel agent in Vietnan to help with all the drivers, hotels, guides etc.)

I took a few pics for Gabe to see as I texted him as soon as we landed:


And we finally arrived at our hotel – a full 24 hours later! I was a bit frustrated as they had rooms on different floors instead of all together. However, 1 room had enough beds for all the kids to sleep in (just across from us). They said only 2 people per room though, so we are left with an empty bedroom, but happy kids all together.

Our hotel: King Grand Suites Hotel (we arrived at 11:30pm their time) : 



Looking forward to exploring Phnom Penh tomorrow! 

Quote of the Week 

Bonhoeffer has a very special place in my heart as my grandfather studied under him.

I especially loved this quote as so often I feel like we praise silence.

We are taught to be peacekeepers. To strive to limit conflict in our lives. To be easygoing and agreeable.

And we should be those things. Often. 

But we also have the ability to discern right from wrong. We have the ability to make choices, evaluate what is out in front of us, and be led by inspiration, gut feelings, or whatever you want to call it. 

Keeping peace to avoid conflict; staying silent to not make waves; catering to the lowest common denominator because “it’s easier”; these are things that allow evil to continue. 

We need to take a stand. We need to find our voice and use it for the good. Only then will we truly find peace. 

Quote of the week 

The more you seek the uncomfortable, the more comfortable you will become.

I was at a parent meeting the other day for Josh’s soccer team and the coach was telling us that this is a quote he always tells the boys. 

Josh’s coach is a real pusher. He’s super intense, which can be really annoying from a “mom’s got other priorities too” point of view, but at the same time it’s great for discipline and passion. And it’s great for teaching the kids that you have to take risks too – smart risks – but risks nonetheless. 
It reminds me of what I’m often telling my clients: you can’t wait to feel better before you do something; you often have to do something, and then you will feel better. It can be scary, or intimidating to get out of your comfort zone. Or you may be feeling lazy, or unmotivated. You may even wonder what the point is? But if you push yourself out of it, you develop new skills that become second nature to you and you grow and expand who you are.

Easier said than done if course, but worth trying to do a little pushing. 

Monthly Snaps of Life 

Busy months as usual. Here are a few snaps: (sometimes when I upload, the order of photos gets messed up, so the timeline jumps around a bit!)

Reggie likes squeezing into cuddly corners:

Playing a new game called Cashflow:

Rob was booted out of bed one night!: 

School semi formal:

Thai date with Sam (with brand new braces!):


Our traditional Valentine’s date and overnight  (at the King Edward hotel this year): 

Celebrating Larissa’s bday: 


Valentine’s gifts (albums):

Traditional Valentine’s  dinner: 

Heart attack:

Gabe was making Kraft dinner one night when we Facetimed him; the next night everyone wanted it too! : 

This is just how we roll:

Writing reports ; he wants to be with me, under my desk!:

Sunday – working on some goals: 

Have to capture this!:

Love the church photos:

Church dance: (with friends! Josh’s first one too!) 

Got the chance to see Blue Rodeo with my friend Carole! So cool that Gord Downie joined in the last song: 

YM Tuesday night activities:


Love our Reggie: 

As per tradition, Rob took the boys to the annual auto show :

They all missed Gabe though; Josh went around collecting all the pamphlets for him as he wanted to send them in a care package to him!: 


Reggie dressed up: 

Josh was interviewed on the news! We didn’t see it, but others did and got a screen shot of him: 

Josh’s bday dinner at the Mandarin: 


Truth: 


This cracked me up; one of Zach’s meme accounts is Edgymormon: 


That’s it for now! 

Family Day Weekend Skiing

We haven’t had the chance to ski much the past couple of years, so decided to sneak away for 1 night and a full day skiing on family day weekend. 

It wasn’t our weekend, but Sam was able to go with us as he loves to ski.

We drove up and stayed overnight at a hotel, where we played some cards, chilled, and they all watched a bit of basketball, while I “rested my eyes”.


Zach trying to prove he can “not be on his phone” for a pic^^^

We had a nice little view of the sunset:



The next day we headed out pretty early and enjoyed the gorgeous “spring skiing”!






Of course skiing always includes poutine and beaver tails:


It was a great day, but we missed our two older guys!

Happy 14th Josh 

It’s hard to believe that 14 years ago this little guy entered into the world.

He quickly grew into this:


And then this: 


I guess he’s not so little anymore! 

He went to his first regional dance the other night with his brother and friends:


I think he’d still rather play soccer than go to a dance!

I love that he is still in the “in between” stage where he would rather play soccer than hang out with girls:) But I can tell it’s all changing  pretty quick….

So much to love about Josh:

1)  His single minded soccer brain.

2)His need to sleep and ability to just get up in the middle of whatever to say he’s heading to bed. He knows himself well. 

3)His big brother training to Sam. He feels a responsibility to “train” him hard! 

4) His little brother stubbornness; not going to let the big brothers push him around.

5) His laugh; when he gets completely ridiculous and laughs and laughs. 

6) His love of sweets and desserts (and puddings cups that we find…when he can’t control himself). 

7) How he introduces himself and shakes the person’s hand. 

8) How he still gives great hugs (when you force him). 

9) When that sensitive side comes out… 

10) His hard work and commitment to what he wants. 

11) His ability to play any sport and his passion for them all.

12) His  love of watching the same shows over and over. I also love watching him sing along to his fave songs! 

13) His  own sense of style; he loves his ties and housecoat and wears what he wants to wear (and looks good!) 

14) His strong sense of self. He’s confident, and he is the same wherever he goes. 

He is growing into being a great man. He makes us all laugh and there’s always a funny story that he’s involved in. He keeps us on our toes, keeps us all honest, and is a strong advocate of justice. He’s the first to share his blankets and pillow with me, will always help me bake, loves a good challenge and competition, and is comfortable doing things with others or alone. 

Here’s how we celebrated:


Then headed out for his traditional dinner at Mandarin:


Then a cake on the weekend:


^^^ and he was done… 

He will forever be my baby barbaloot.


Love you more and always

Mom