Seeing Hands: This week both Liz and I were massaged by a blind masseuse, another unique experience in Cambodia! The ‘Seeing Hands’ massage is quite a popular concept in Cambodia, and provides a good source of income to the blind community. After a one hour massage I understand why this is such a popular pastime here. The massage is not done with oils and circular movements as in the west. Rather it focuses on massaging the pressure points of your body which includes a few contortions of your legs.
First you are given loose fitting cotton pyjamas to change into (much more conservative attire than in the west) but then the massage room itself may consist of a number of other clients both male and female! Space is at a premium here.
While the lady who massaged me could only speak a bit of English, it was enough to communicate what was needed. Would you like 1 hour or 2? Would you like a rough or medium massage? She had a talking clock that spoke to her at 15 minute intervals, so she could pace herself. Quite ingenious.
Even as the massage was in progress I could feel the tension leave my body and there were a few moments where I had to keep from giggling..like when she started flicking my fingernails..one by one! We left with quite a euphoric feeling, our body devoid of all tension and tiredness and an amazing feeling of ……absolute happiness! We vowed that if we ever came back this would be a weekly occurrence! Absolutely amazing.
Empty Hands: Phnom Penh is a city of NGOs and concerned citizens from the west all of who are engaged in making sure the poor, exploited and sick are taken care of. In all of my travels, I have never bumped into more volunteers and NGOs in any other city. Perhaps it is partly because this is not the tourist season and most westerners we bumped into are those that ‘live’ or volunteer here. Hans, was one such incredible individual. A citizen from Holland he has devoted part of his life to ensuring people with HIV have a shot at a better life. A male nurse, he has dedicated his ‘hands’ to the cause, setting up an organisation called Empty Hands! Part of his work includes massaging HIV patients in hospitals! If you wish, check out his website for pictures and more info. http://legehandenvoorcambodja.nl/
The Academic: I would never have imagined that the man who brought us the menu at Mama’s Restaurant had a Phd in Archaeology! We have met the most interesting people in Cambodia and it has partly been due to our eagerness to strike up conversations wherever we went. Chatting to the man whose wife ran this restaurant we learnt that an academic career in Cambodia does not reward you financially for the hard slog required to get there. It was interesting to hear about some of the digs he had been involved in and the projects that were yet to be realised due to lack of funding. Money or the lack of it has denied many people here a chance to realise their true potential and the ability to realise their dreams.
The Bracelet Girl: I’ve been surprised at the standard of English across this country from those involved in any form of trade! When we were at Siem Riep, I was accosted by a little girl who knew more facts about Australia than most Australians I know! The moment she found out I was from Sydney, she let off a string of facts ranging from our Capital City, our population, the main cities & their states to lesser know facts such as who our ex and current Prime Ministers were! Here was one kid who could pass that English test for citizens with her eyes closed! Her tactic worked..because I eventually relented and parted with some cash for bracelets!
Breathe, breathe in the air, don't be afraid to care; leave but don't leave me. Look around and choose your own ground, for long you live and high you fly, and smiles you'll give and tears you'll cry. And all you touch and all you see, is all your life will ever be.
Roger Waters & David Glimour