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A Bumpy Start

Our Vietnam guide training got off to a bumpy start this year. As Brandon pointed out, the positive side was we got to check out the response to an accident at the Siem Reap airport and we got to try out the SOS clinic in Hanoi, the negative side was why we got to try these out.

We arrived at the Siem Reap airport nice and early for our big trip. We loaded up the luggage carts and I checked us in while Narla and Brandon got ice cream with the kids. As I was paying the departure tax Callie came running up, singing her “we’re going to Vietnam” song. She grabbed the back of our luggage cart and swung. With all the luggage now out of it and only hand luggage on the top basket it was top heavy and crashed down on top of her. I was there first and pulled the cart off her, only to see blood everywhere. My heart literally stopped. I grabbed her and immediately put pressure on her eye where most of the blood seemed to be coming from. Narla, was right behind me and had a small towel in his fanny pack which he gave me. I was able to push this on the cut and slow the bleeding, but I had seen how deep the cut was, just above her left eye. In the meantime Callie was screaming, I mean really screaming, she has my low pain tolerance and that, coupled with the blood everywhere, was just too much for her. I sat down in the middle of the airport with her on my lap and held her as tight as I could. Even Brandon, who is always calm in situations like this, looked scared. We started to discuss who was going to stay and who would go, but neither of us wanted to be the one that left her. Meanwhile the airport had called their EMT crew and Narla had gone to get me some ice. The EMT crew was fantastic. They helped stop the bleeding and then put a cleaning solution on the cut (they will forever be known as the mean men with the spicy stuff). Callie had calmed down slightly and the bleeding had stopped so we were able to get a gauze bandage over the cut and Brandon and I decided that a clinic in Siem Reap and one in Hanoi were going to be about the same so we might as well just get on the plane. We were escorted through security and then taken to a private medical room while Narla (on his first trip out of Cambodia) got all our passports through immigration. Poor Callie was still pretty upset, but was pulling herself together. We were able to get on the plane and she seemed to forget about her boo boo for a while.

In Hanoi we were met by Van and Loan, our Vietnam directors and despite it being 8pm they kindly went with us to the SOS clinic. In my years here I have recommended this clinic to a couple of guests who got sick in Vietnam so this time I got to really inspect it! The doctor was great and all the nurses were really kind. They couldn’t give her stitches because the cut was too close to the eye so they said they wanted to glue it. They said she would have to hold still for 2 minutes while they held the cut closed and the glue dried. I tried to explain that under the best of circumstances Callie didn’t hold still for two minutes and that pain actually would make it the worst of circumstances. I asked if there was anything they could give her and they agreed they could give her some valium anally (forever knows as the tickly in my booty). The valium took a while to kick in, but finally she was asleep on the table. They bundled her in a sheet and the doctor leaned over to put the glue on. That first drop hit and Callie was up. It took three nurses and Brandon to hold her down and still the doctor couldn’t hold it for the full 2 minutes. At the end of it the doctor just shook his head and said, “you right, she an active one”. He told me not to get it wet or let her run around…I asked if I could take a tub of valium to go, he didn’t get it.

We went back to our hotel and Callie was like a little drunk person, trying to walk and falling down. She was having so much fun on the valium I finally had to just hold her on my knee, turn all the lights off and not let her go until she was asleep. Inevitably the glue came out, I couldn’t stop her from bouncing and it’s Asia, we all sweat, so it ended up getting wet too. The scar isn’t too bad and as everyone keeps pointing out, at least she’ll have a good story. We went to pick someone up at the airport the other day and she kept her distance from the luggage carts! All in all it was a horrendous experience, but from the EMTs in Cambodia, to SOS in Hanoi we couldn’t have asked for better help so at least I can go on with my recommendations feeling secure that I don’t just know ‘of’ the clinic, I know it well!

A different kind of Valentine's

People often seem to think that I am making up some of the stories I tell about Brandon. I am always talking about how he started the non profit and how he is now teaching at the local university and how we have more staff than we know what to do with because he likes hiring people. When you meet Brandon it is actually pretty easy to miss his sensitive side. He makes fun of people, he is highly opinionated and as we all agree, just a bit weird. I thought Brandon’s Valentine’s Day present to me shows the kind of person he is beneath the grumpy guy who hates being woken up and whose favorite hobby is getting kicked in the head. This is what Brandon values:

Hello my little valentines,

So what do you get the girl that has it all, what’s the one thing all women want…how about a bike repair business that supports a family of 9!!!! Yay!!!!

If you count the number in the photo you will see its only 8 because number 9 is on the way. And No, the girl in the front is not huge, she just is standing closer to the camera and on something higher than the rest. I am a bad photographer but I told them I needed photos because my wife was supporting them. They are very happy and just in the short time I was there did good business. For now the only round object I have for you doesn’t go around fingers, it goes around wheels. The man told me he tried to get everyone to loan him money but no one would give him a fair shot. His older kids go to school and help him when they finish classes. He told me that he thinks if he does well enough he will send his kids to learn English near his house. So there is the fact that a whole family is thankful that you are such a good wife and let me spend the money you work so hard to earn in crazy ways and….

The profits from your new business can all go to buying a huge ring. This gift truly is the gift that can keep on giving!!!!

Thanks for being such a fun wife and helping me sort out my crazy ideas and my ADD view of the world. Love you tons and wish you were here.

Love you,


So yes, for Valentine’s Day he gave me a bicycle repair shop that he has invested in. The owner needed more than our microfinance project allows so Brandon decided to make it his own personal project. He has a big heart and isn’t that what Valentines Day is all about? That and chocolate, but I can buy that for myself! Here is a photo of me with my repair shop partner…



It’s all fun and games until the gecko eats the baby!

Living in Cambodia you get to love geckos: they eat mosquitoes, they are pretty cute and they make a cool sound that reminds you that your life is different. In fact, in our bedroom we have an accidental terrarium that I love. When they house was built at the top of each wall they built vents, areas for air to move in and out. When we took over the house we glassed these in so we could use the AC. The glass still lets out the light so at night bugs gather here and so do the geckos. It’s essentially an all you can eat buffet for geckos and we get some large gatherings sometimes. There are love affairs, fights, naps, in fact I often find myself ignoring the TV and instead watching the Gecko Soap Opera. Anyway, we had heard one particular gecko on our back balcony for a long time; he often made his chuck, chuck, chuck, ge-cko, ge-cko, sound while we were having drinks with guests. I had commented that he sounded big, but Brandon had laughed at me, saying it was just a gecko! Then one night, when Callie was about 3 months old I went in to check on her before bed. As I glanced around the room I saw a huge shape on the floor. Grabbing Callie I ran screaming from the room and into ours. Bursting in I screamed at Brandon that there was a crocodile in Callie’s room!

Brandon leapt out of bed and ran to see what I was talking about. His reaction might surprise you, most husbands would probably say I was imagining things and roll over, but you see the possibility of a crocodile in our house wasn’t as far fetched as it sounds because we lived next door to a crocodile farm. They raise them for meat and the skin in Cambodia, we actually have our own farm…but that’s another story). Anyway, though unlikely, it was not as improbable as in some of our past homes. Brandon rushed into Callie’s room and spotted the culprit, not a crocodile as it turns out, but rather our extremely large back balcony gecko. Turns out I had been right and it was big, huge in fact, the Godzilla of geckos! Brandon closed the door and headed off to fin reinforcements. My dad, who was visiting, was quickly drafted, and Brandon also rounded up our two nighttime security guards, Puan, a Cambodian kick boxer and tough guy and Samboon, who we affectionately referred to as Jungle Boy and could have weighed more than a buck ten with his clothes on. All four men (you are always a man when dealing with reptile or rodent issues) headed upstairs and opened the door to peek inside. The gecko still lay in the middle of the floor staring back at them. With a scream Puan turned and ran. Not just out of the room, but out of the room, down the stairs and out the front door, only stopping when he reached the end of our driveway and the main street. Having just lost his biggest “man” Brandon once again closes the door and goes to figure out why. Turns out Puan was deathly afraid of geckos and not even Brandon threatening his job could get him back into the house. Puan had thought he was being called upstairs for one of my regular spider or mouse requests, both of which he was happy to oblige, but a giant gecko was a whole other story. Down to three my dad, Samboon and Brandon went back in and cornered the beast before throwing a blanket over it before carrying it outside to freedom. I like to think that it was a bit Crocodile Hunteresque with Brandon holding the head down, my dad straddling the body and Samboon being whipped back and forth by a giant tail. They assure me that it was nothing like this, but I think they’re just being humble. The gecko was released in the back yard and we all went back to bed, but every now and then I still think I hear him and I keep the kids close!

Writers Note: Even gigantic geckos are not dangerous and no B&B guest has ever been harmed by one, we look forward to having you to stay =)


I have always wished that I could have a job that involved shopping. I have taken it as far as applying to be one of those mystery shoppers, I know nothing about it, but it sounds so cool and you get to shop, but not lose money! This week my dream came to reality, no, I didn’t get to go to Target and buy detergent, I didn’t even have to keep the fact I was a buyer a secret! Nikaya, our new craft project sent me on a shopping spree! Alex, our Nikaya director, had made contact with a variety of different fair trade companies in Phnom Penh and I flew down Wednesday morning to start shopping. We went to many different stores seeing all the different things being made here in Cambodia. There is so much and a lot of it is incredibly beautiful. Many of the products aren’t just made here, but are being designed by Cambodian designers so they have a new and unique style to them. We looked at purses and jewelry and home décor, enough to make your head spin (with delight!). Alex has designed some beautiful scarves, table runners and pillow cases that are going into production this week so we got to sit down with the designs and pick the silk for each. It’s incredibly scary…what if no one lies what we make!?!? But also incredibly exciting to be taking advantage of the beautiful fabric and talented craftsmen we have here. I am now in the airport on my way home, carrying a couple of bags worth of samples we picked up. Though it will be a few months for everything to come to fruition we have definitely made a big step and I could get used to this professional shopper gig!

Here are some photos of my favorite finds, though you’ll have to wait until August to have them for yourself at www.nikayahandcrafted.com.

The Circus Comes to Town

Last weekend (sorry, I wrote this awhile ago and have had trouble with uploading, it is more like last month…) we visited Koh Ker, a rural area about 3 hours from Siem Reap were we proudly own 22 hectares of farmland. Brandon wanted to go out to check on his land so I thought he would enjoy having the kids and I tag along and have an adventure. My cousin Tom and his cousin Iona were also visiting so we all loaded up and headed out. Koh Ker is starting to become a tourist attraction because of the pre-Angkorian temples there. I love visiting these temples because they are always empty of tourists and because my magic man is there. The magic man is a legend in Cambodia. Covered in tattoos the story is that he has been blessed and can now repel bullets and mines. He will show you the scars where bullets have burned him, but then bounced off and he will tell you in his own words how he has stepped on land mines twice, both times with those around him dying and him walking away without a scratch. He attributes this to the magic tattoos he has all over his body that protect him. I love seeing him and hearing his stories. Now the head of police in Koh Ker you can usually find him in a hammock outside the main temple where his wife runs a noodle soup shop.

After visiting him and the temples we headed into town. Imagine if Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, David Beckham and Mr. Ed showed up in your town, together. That’s what it’s like showing up in Koh Ker. We took some rooms at the local guesthouse where we were briefed on the 6 to 9 electricity rule. They have electricity from 6 at night to 9 at night, most nights. I took the kids for a walk and let the locals get an eyeful. Most of the kids ran away when they saw us coming, but a few paused on their bikes to watch…they looked ready to pedal like hell if we made any sudden moves. My kids take it all in stride, even lunch and dinner at the town’s “best” restaurant, where the choices were rice or noodles didn’t seem to phase them.

We had a fun night four-across in the bed. We kept the windows opened so when the fan stopped at 9 we had some fresh air, but at about 4 in the morning when the rooster started crowing I actually opened my eyes to make sure he wasn’t in the bed with us! Even Callie rolled over and muttered something about Old McDonald. In the morning we drove out to visit our land and meet the nice family squatting on it. My kids commandeered their kids toys while the Cambodian kids hid. That night we got back to Siem Reap and celebrated with a little AC and our own beds!