All This and a Bag of Chips

November 24, 2008

I just realized it has been twelve days since my last post. I didn’t realize I had gotten so far behind. If you are following any of the pictures, you will see that we are making some pretty good progress out at the beach bar. We are in the process of experimenting with the counter-top using this cement and coloring. Each day I am figuring out how to do it better and better.

I’ve been asked many times about the puppy. He is doing great. Full recovery and is running amok around the hotel causing trouble. He did get name…which is Bart. When he gets a little older and the construction is done out at Otres he will be joining me out there. He seems ultra happy and plays alot with Alan’s dog, Nigel.

Things are pretty routine here. I am usually so tired that I fall asleep around ten-thirty and wake up around six every morning. I am eating many different foods and have been trying the staff meals, which are traditional Khmer, nearly every meal. They have some very good dishes which are mostly comprised of rice and vegetables. A few things to note on the food because so many people told me not to eat the local food, especially the beef and chicken. The beef is very good…about 95% of the time, the beef you have for dinner was slaughtered that very day. So its a little tougher than what I am used too, but some places here have a very good aging process and do some amazing things with it. The food is the freshest I have ever seen/tasted. They also don’t use fertlizers or pesticides because they are all grown on small farms and brought to the market every morning. I actually have been feeling great since I have been here and don’t miss fast food at all. Though I am desperate for a QuikTrip. Mmmmhhmm…Deli Fresh QuikTrip Sandwich.

I am getting very good driving a motorcyle. Every time I go out, I nearly die…its kind of a sink or swim situation, I suppose. This is great learning though…as if I can drive here, I can drive a motorcyle nearly anywhere in the West.

All in all, things are going very good here. I am loving every moment and have experienced more in the past month here than I have anywhere else. For those thinking of doing something…anything. Just do it. I know its daunting and I know it can be challenging. But trust me, you need to find a way. Don’t let fear stop you from growing and learning. Don’t settle for anything. Always know there is more to learn.


Bar Fights, Ambush and Karaoke Girls

November 14, 2008

I haven’t been able to post anything the past few days because the Internet at Alan’s hotel has been down. The ISP has 24/7 tech support, however, this week is the Water Festival and apparently the Khmers don’t do a thing all week. Alan had no builders on his hotel and we couldn’t even get bricks delivered from the hardware store. A dozen calls a day for three days yielded nothing from the ISP’s support department. I took the opportunity to go without the Internet for a few days and see how I would hold up. I’m proud to say I did fairly well. There were a few sleepless nights, occasional cold sweats and some mood swings, but I went nearly three days without Internet!

I don’t think I can recap everything that has happened this week…I’ll try to get the few highlights though.

First, we had a huge argument with our “neighbors” at Otres Beach. There is alot of history, but the cliff notes is we tore down a building and were rebuilding it out of brick along the same footprint. The neighbors complained because the building was on their side of this access way…which is true, however, the neighbors had a prior agreement to allow that building to be there, which causes us to lose one room (out of 4). The problem with arguing with Khmers is it is very much like arguing with a child, they simply do not use logic. Well, Alan got so fed up because the reason they are doing this is because they don’t want the competition next to them and we spent an evening completely redesigning the layout of the buildings. We can now fit in 4 individual bungalows in a really really sweet design and have extended our bar seating area. As we layout the foundations this next week, I’ll be sure to post pictures of the progress.

Speaking of progress, we have cast the bar top yesterday and it looks AMAZING. We have started forming up the inside counter tops today and a few other small things. Check out the construction pics for the past few days. We are shooting for a December 1st opening and I think I can make it in time. I have a good crew of very smart young Khmers and they seem very interested and challenged by this project.

The puppy got attacked by a pack of stray dogs several days ago. I kinda adopted him after I found him out at the beach. He is very young and I don’t believe he is even weened. I brought him to the hotel during night and he explored and slept around at the construction site during the day. A few days ago, I had to borrow some tools from someone a few plots down and walked along the beach to their bar…the puppy took off after me and I, nor the crew, noticed. The pack of dogs that hangs out in the lot next to us rushed him. I had to beat the dogs away from him and carried him back to our site. The puppy was bleeding very badly and I thought it was coming from his stomach, I was sure they gashed him open. I managed cut up part of my t-shirt and made a bandage to stop the bleeding and then went back to Alan’s hotel. The town vet was out of the area on vacation (This damn Water Festival) and so I ended up cleaning him up at the hotel. He was very sore and was yelping alot. He is doing just fine and has been running around the hotel wagging his tail and getting a ton of attention from the guests. I need to wait until hes a bit older before I can take him back out to Otres. But he is gonna make a great beach bar dog.

Last night I went out to my first Khmer karaoke experience. I went out at the prodding of Wendy and Ra (long story about him, but he works for me right now). We walk into this local place that has music blaring and a number of tables full of Khmers laughing, drinking and singing. We get served by whats called a “Karaoke Girl”…basically a cocktail waitress, but with a twist. She brings out a tray of beers and small cups with ice. After filling these small cups with ice and beer, she pulls up a chair and sits with us. Oh yeah, before they drink they always raise their glasses and say “cheers”…this was an event that happened more times than I can count. Now, keep in mind that Wendy and I are the only Westerners in this place so we have quite the attention. The Karaoke girls all were constantly throwing glances or coming by where the girl we had would fight them off. It was quite the experience. Toward the end, Wendy leaned in and whispered to me that I could have the girl for $5. However, as Wendy put it, what I would catch from her would cost me much much more. We ended up going to two other local places, including a Khmer dancing club called “Blue Storm”. Everybody dances, boys with boys, girls with girls, groups of boys together, it doesn’t matter. They all have fun. There isn’t this stigma attached to being close physically to the same sex like it is in the West.

Things here are still going great. The weather has been stunning, literally perfect. We are making alot of progress out at the beach and I think I can get this place opened before the 1st. Keep your fingers crossed.

Sunday at the Beach

November 9, 2008

Today was one of those absolute perfect days. It started off normally enough, working out at Otres beach this morning. Made some good progress at the beach bar…got the bar foundation built and the small hut torn down. At lunch time, we headed back and then Alan, Wendy (one of his friends/guests who is here on business), and I went out to Ying Yang for the afternoon.

There was a nice breeze, a hammock, good music, On the Road and beer involved on my part. In between sleeping and swimming I managed to eat a damn good chicken sandwich and put away a healthy number of beers and Johnny Walkers. Rich was very busy today and in the late afternoon all of the girls made a spread for BBQ. A couple guys did the cooking and the smell of weed and BBQ filled the air. Perfect way to recharge batteries, if you ask me.

I’m now back at the hotel, sitting at the bar with a cold Anchor beer in front of me. Dinner is just around the corner and tonight looks like it will be a really nice night. Another nice day in paradise…

Construction at the Beach

November 4, 2008

The past two days I have been working out at Otres beach getting that project going. Alan has been busy in town with his hotel and so he gave me four boys to get things done out there.

Cambodian construction is…very different than what you would be accustomed to seeing in the States. Everybody is in shorts and flip flops (or shoe less). Problems are done very simply (at most major construction sites, the first day of work is spent building all the tools they will use). They work very hard and there is much manual labor. All this time, they keep very good attitudes and its not uncommon to hear singing or laughter rising along with the block walls.

The whole time I am out there, I am less than 40 feet from the ocean at any given time. There is always a cool breeze blowing in your face. Out in the ocean there are a few fishing boats going about their morning fishing with most of them heading back toward town in the afternoon. There is a unique simplicity about it all that is just impossible to be beat.

When the boys take lunch (served by one of the beach bars), I take the opportunity to forage up my own food. Today it was a short walk along the beach to Yin Yang, a beach bar run by an Australian named Rich). As I was waiting for my hamburger, I laid back in a hammock with my cold beer and watched the waves break against the shore. I thought about the countless times I had to sneak out of the office just to take a 15 minute lunch break. I thought about waiting in a crowded drive thru for a greasy hamburger. I thought about when I felt guilty to take a full hour lunch break. I realized I was truly insane to have done that for as long as I did…

As the clouds drifted past, the waves broke on the white sandy shore and the breeze gently poured over my skin…I realized my only problem. My beer was empty…I turned my head and nodded at Rich while holding up my empty beer can. A few moments later my empty can was gone, a new beer appeared and my life was in perfect harmony again.

Lunch hour? Make that more like lunch hourish. I still need my nap.

Beer, Frisbee and the Beach

November 2, 2008

Today was a very clear day, all day. No rain…light breeze, low 70s…in short…amazing. This past week has been very stressful and busy with many things going wrong with construction and the builders. Today I went out to Otres and worked for a few hours before Alan brought his staff out and we spent the afternoon relaxing and enjoying ourselves. Some of you will appreciate that I actually played some frisbee…and some of you won’t appreciate that I was drinking most of the day. Oh well…I had a very great day. I’m now back at Alan’s hotel sipping on a cold Dr. Pepper (yes, I found a grocery store here who stocks it! I bought them out yesterday just to make sure I would have enough) and a Snickers bar. We are in the process of getting new builders, hopefully they start tomorrow or Tuesday. Alan has a number of reservations after next week and we are planning a day or two getaway to Kep before all this starts. We also have to go to Phnom Penh, so we’ll see what happens.

Happy Halloween!

November 1, 2008

The past two days have been days of many firsts…I apologize for not being in touch with alot of you, but yesterday was an extremely hectic day and today I spent most of the day working out at the Otres Beach Bar.

For starters, yesterday…wow. Everything that could go wrong…did. The builders weren’t happy and threatened not to come back after lunch, Alan’s staff were restless because the bar has been closed to work on the new room above the bar and a few of them don’t like doing “construction” type stuff. None of the shop owners were being reasonable (I am going to write a whole blog on Cambodian businesses…they are very interesting). Progress on the second story at the hotel has slowed in the past few days (part of it is due to the labor dispute). Good news though, we finally got a truck to get materials out to Otres and did that yesterday. Alan and I ate at Angelos ( a local Greek BBQ style place) and took a nice motorcycle ride around. That seems to help with the stress. 🙂

Today was alot better. Though, it did start off raining. Everyone here is very confused about the weather because of how unusual it is. I spent the afternoon working out at Otres getting a foundation ready for the bar floor and cutting down a tree. Hopefully we can start laying the concrete floor on Saturday and I think Alan wants one more tree out. After dinner, I went for a nice motorcycle ride out into the country a bit. The stars were amazing…so crisp and clear. There was a lightning storm off in the distance, but not a single cloud in the sky…Every day I am realizing how beautiful and special this country is.