There is so much to say about Phnom Penh, so I have a feeling I will have to write blogs at least every other day! Where to start…
I was picked up at Phnom Penh airport last Sunday, 2nd October, by the Projects Abroad staff. Little did I realise that this will probably be the last time I ride in a car for at least several months, as the primary modes of transport here is motorcycles and tuk tuks. It had just started to rain as we reached the hired car, and as we began to weave through heavy traffic, it really began to chuck it down. And when I say HEAVY RAIN, I mean some seriously crazy rain. This is Southeast Asia in the Wet Season. Unless you have visited or lived in the Tropics, you would have never seen rain like this. It was so torrential that within minutes the roads became mini-rivers, and the moto drivers had to pull over to shelter under petrol station roof because it was too difficult to see with the pounding rain.
The cleansing rain was a good omen I felt, and pretty much a good introduction to life in Phnom Penh during the Wet Season. The weather in Phnom Penh has two seasons, either hot and wet, or hot and dry– this means it is approximately 32C during the day and about 28C at night most of the year, and the only difference in the seasons is how much rain you get on a daily basis. It seems to rain about 4pm every day for a few hours, or if it’s a ‘dry day’ it starts raining at 7 or 8pm. You get so used to the rain that you don’t even worry about using an umbrella, you just walk in the rain unless it’s a really heavy downpour. You don’t mind it anyway, because it’s so cooling! You average at least 2 showers a day here, so if it rains, you may be able to opt out of one of your showers!
Speaking of water, I drink at least 12 liters of water a day. I probably average about a liter an hour, and if I don’t have a bottle of water nearby at all times, I really notice it. It must be due to the constant heat, but rarely am I so hot that it is unbearable (that has only happened in the narrow walkways in some of the markets). Our apartments have well stocked fridges full of lovely cold purified water bottles –the empties are left in the kitchen sink for our ‘house mom’ (the Cambodian woman who lives in our apartment and is our cook/cleaner) to wash and refill from the water purifier in every kitchen. I have a ritual of grabbing at least 3 bottles from the house fridge and “DEET up” with copious amounts of mosquito spray containing at least 50% DEET before I head out!
The mosquitos here aren’t too bad, they are everywhere but I have a ritual of coating myself in DEET several times a day to cope with the little bastards and I’ve probably had only 10 bites in the last week, which is really good for me! I’m usually the one that informs everyone that there are mosquitos present, as I will have received three itchy bites within seconds of mosquito contact. Considering this, I think Cambodia has less mosquitos than North Carolina – or at least I must be more obsessive about DEET wearing than I was there….
I am very aware that there would be not only mosquitos bites to worry about, but also malaria and dengue fever that are possible consequences of mosquito bites here. Malaria is not very common here in Phnom Penh, so I’m currently not taking any anti-malarials. However, dengue fever is still a risk, so I’m pretty keen to avoid that. Dengue fever is like a REALLY BAD case of the flu, there are no vaccinations available, and you’re pretty weak for a month or so. I had brought some impressive DEET supplies with me, ranging from 50% DEET roll-on, 25% DEET wipes, and then a small bottle spray of DEET MAX 100. My uncle had given me the wipes and the DEET MAX 100, so I hadn’t really taken a look at them until last week. I suddenly realized the reason it is called DEET MAX 100 is that it is 100% DEET! Jeez. If you’ve ever used DEET, you’ll know that this is serious stuff – it melts plastic and god knows what serious chemicals are in it! I’ve never used anything higher than 50% before…and that it some really potent stuff! So I’ve held off using the DEET MAX 100 until I get into the jungle in high risk malarial regions…no point in getting cancer to avoid malaria!
Signing off now, gotta get ready to teach my students!