A Fine Feeding Frenzy

There are many activities in Thailand/South East Asia that struck me as slightly bizarre when we still lived in Canada, but now seem quite normal. These include the habit of using a spoon and fork (but no knife) with meals, Thai women’s general disdain for the act of leg-shaving, and the widespread popularity of flesh eating fish in massage parlours. This last one is what I want to focus on today.

I remember reading an article in National Geographic before we left home. It featured de-mining efforts in Cambodia, and for some reason, one of the featured photographs was of two tourists indulging in a fish massage as they were serenaded by a war amputee. A strange mental image. While the article detailed Cambodia’s de-mining efforts with great pathos, I was riveted by the fish suckled to tourist flesh. After arriving here, however, I’ve discovered that it is a common tourist activity. Furthermore, I knew it was only a matter of time before Todd caved in and tried it. Fish massage has T-bone written all over it, because:

A) He loves eating strange things. In this case, it’s the fish that are eating “strange things,” but that’s good enough for him.

B) For some inexplicable reason, he actually enjoys the eerie feeling of ants crawling on his arms. From here it is a short skip and a hop to enjoying fish mowing down on his legs.

We visited Asiatique – a hot spot for upscale market items, eateries, and lady-boy cabaret shows – one evening, and when he saw the feisty fish frolicking there, he dove right in. He tried to convince me to join him, but I prefer to keep my epidermis where it belongs, thank-you-very-much.

The process began with a gentle scrub – probably to loosen the skin so the fish could get a better latch.*

 

He started off with a quick wash:

“How much should I scrub off?” “2 or 3 layers should do it.”

Prepping the main course…

Because maybe you needed a closer view…

And then it was off to the races!

 

 

So pumped.

“Hi little guys! You are just like birds of the sea!”

The armada amasses and then latches on.

So much food. So little time.

Totally blissed out. Todd loves feeding the hungry.

And one last close up. Check out the fish between his toes.

Turns out that National Geographic didn’t exaggerate – it was a totally riveting process. I’m still a little icked out, but T-bone is dreaming of his fish friends’ next meal…

* I might be making this up.

Trailing Spouses Do Cambodia Part 1.

I have been called many things in my life, including Wench, Granola Girl, Redneck, and Condom Hander-Outer, but Todd’s school still managed to surprise me with their name for people in my position: Trailing Spouse. I come from a land of oil production, and so this automatically makes me think of Tailing Ponds. In the school’s eyes, however, the term simply means that I followed my spouse to Thailand. It also means that I get to jump through some fun hoops before I can work at the school. The biggest of these hoops was a visa run that I embarked on this past week with the other members of the Trailing Spouses club.

CTP Beth and Kevdeep, plus the random Tailing Pond in the middle

The whole operation got off to a bad start – we were originally planning to simply catch a bus to the Cambodian border. After an extensive series of miscommunication that I will not describe here because it makes me weep even to recall it, it became clear that we needed to actually go to Phnom Penh, the capital. We were told by someone* at the school that getting a visa in Phnom Penh would be a painless, 2 day process. Submit your documents on the morning of the first day, pick up your visa on the afternoon of the second day. We booked our flights accordingly. The fun times started off at Bangkok’s newly reopened secondary airport.

Because nothing says “reopening” like Power Ranger cheerleading teams

The flight itself was straightforward, as was the process of obtaining our Cambodian tourist visas. When we were met at the Phnom Penh airport by the happiest Tuk-Tuk driver in Asia, we started to wonder if the whole trip was too smooth to be true.

Yim was BEYOND happy to hang out with our sad crew of Trailing Spouses

He proceeded, between grins and guffaws, to drive us to the cutest, most feel-good guest house in Phnom Penh. You Khin House is beautifully decorated and is filled with the paintings of the owner’s deceased husband. All the proceeds from the guest house are used to support the NGO Montessori school for children located next door.

I almost died from cuteness

The whole thing seemed like a beautiful dream. It wasn’t until the next morning at the Thai embassy that we woke up. Rather than the 2-day processing time we had been promised, the clerk informed me that it would take a minimum of 4 days. This meant that we would miss our flights home, and that Kevdeep would potentially miss his flight to Vietnam on the following weekend. So we made a decision that I can’t say I’m proud of, but that I would probably make again. We gave our money and our passports to the Corrupt Clown sitting outside the embassy who promised us a quicker turnaround.

So happy to help us!

And then we waited. While you could do worse than getting stuck in Phnom Penh for a few days, it wasn’t the most enjoyable experience. We had no idea when our visas would actually be ready, so we didn’t want to plan anything big, in case we had to rush to the airport to catch our flight. Fortunately, Yim, our uber-happy Tuk-Tuk driver became our new favourite friend, and showed us the city.

We dig Yim.

He also took us out to eat at legitimate Cambodian places. I can’t say that my gut was 100% happy about this, but it warmed the cockles of my heart.

Ahh. Just looking at this picture rewarms the cockles.

Something on this table hated me, but I’m not sure what it was.

In the midst of this, we had many, many conversations with our Corrupt Clown at the embassy. “You can have it to us when? That’s too late! Can you make it any earlier? What!? You’re going to charge us MORE?!” We were all in a state of perma-meltdown.

In the meantime, we decided to visit the Killing Fields. It was a deeply moving, deeply depressing trip. I’ll go into it in more detail in a Ruminations post, but to sum it up, it simultaneously put our petty visa problems into perspective, and gave us a heavy dose of depression to go along with our stress.

The memorial tower at the Killing Fields site (Cheong Eok). The tower is full of skulls and bones.

As we sat at our guesthouse, trying to process our trip to the Killings Fields, our Corrupt Clown phoned: our visas were ready, and he would personally deliver them to us. He arrived exactly 30 minutes too late for us to catch our flight, and seemed surprised when our thanks was less than effusive as we handed him his outrageous payment.

The next day, we weren’t in the mood for taking chances, so we arrived at the airport 4 hours early for our new flight.

Stress and a DQ sugar bomb somehow led me to cradle my bag like a small child.

We finally arrived in Bangkok, much poorer, and hopefully wiser when it comes to dealing with Asian bureaucracy. One more step completed in our journey from Tailing Pond to Teacher.

* In the timeless words of Beyonce, “I’m not gonna diss you on the internet. Cuz my mama taught me bettah than that.”

Stranded in Cambodia

Well, my blog-world friends, today my post is short’n’sweet, because I am typing it with my phone. I am stranded in Phnom Penh on a visa run gone wrong. Let’s just say I received some misinformation about the amount of time it would take to secure a work visa. After paying a crook more money than I should have, I have my visa, but I missed my flight back to Bangkok. Fortunately, I have these two fine friends by my side:

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(Cute Texas Patriotic (CTP) Beth and Kevdeep. AKA, the other members of the “Trailing Spouses” Club)

Together, we are swimming in a torrid sea of frustration (bad information re: visa planning), depression ( field trip to the killing fields), guilt’n’disgust (paying a crook to work a corrupt system), and disbelief (is there anything else that could possibly go wrong with this process?). Stay tuned, because you’re gonna get an eyeful when I get back to my computer.