Long time, no talk. I know. But before you go declaring my procrastination, you should know I’ve been keeping very busy here in Cambodia. In fact, just last week we left for a two week trip around the countryside of Cambodia, which I am midway through right now. Currently, we are staying at Indigenous Peoples Lodge in Senmonorom, which is a small town in Eastern Cambodia.
I’ve had an incredible last few weeks and could probably blabber a few thousand words at you about some of the amazing experiences I’ve had, but instead I’ll give you an overview of our travels and focus on one moment that was particularly special (and funny).
We started our travels last Tuesday from Siem Reap heading towards a small ecotourism project in Northern Cambodia called BeTreed. It was so remote that at one point we had to get off our giant buses and ride these wacky mechanical cow tractor thingamajigs! We rode these tractors for about an hour through the dusty countryside to the camp, which was really scenic (and unfortunately really brutal on my butt bones).
After two nights exploring the fires ecology and learning about camera trapping at BeTreed, we headed out for the city of Kratie, which is a city on the famous Mekong River. Kratie is also famous for its proximity to a pool of Irrawaddy Dolphins. For those of you who aren’t too informed on endangered species in Cambodia, the Irrawaddy Dolphin is critically endangered with an estimated population of 85 individuals left. We had the wonderful opportunity to see some of these dolphins, as well as meet with WWF officials who fund a lot of the conservation efforts to save the dolphin while we were there.
After a few jam-packed days in Kratie, we set out in two different groups to Mondulkiri Province (where we are now). Our group spent the night here at IPL (Indigenous Peoples Lodge) and the other group spent the night at the nearby Jahoo Gibbon Camp. After spending one night here, we set out to the Elephant Valley Project (EVP) to spend the day with semi-captive wild elephants 🐘 ! To say that was an awesome experience would be an understatement. These animals are truly amazing and stunning to watch. Also, they eat for about 18 hours of the day which is kind of awesome.
After a day with elephants, we drove on over to the Jahoo Gibbon Camp to spend a night in hopes of hearing and seeing gibbons. We woke up at the bright and early hour of 4:30 AM to begin our trek into the forest listening for these elusive creatures. I should stop at this point and tell you that the sound of a Gibbon calling to its fellow Gibbon buddies is like nothing else I have experienced. They sound like these crazy songbird/robot combos, so you know you’ve heard them once they start. They called for a while and then when the sun rose, we actually had the opportunity to watch a group of six of them swing energetically from branch to branch. Again, quite an unwritable experience, especially in 100 words, so please use your creative wits to imagine the sounds and experience.
And that adventure leads me to where I am now, sitting on the porch of my indigenous hut at IPL with my roommate, frantically typing this post in the twenty minute period between our language class and our ethics & development course. We are spending two more nights here interviewing indigenous communities and learning about highland farming techniques before zooming off to Phnom Penh for a few days to learn about some more of the recent history of Cambodia. After that, we will head back to Siem Reap and lead the country’s first organized World Wildlife Day event with local university students.
At this point you’re probably wondering where the inspiration for this blog post’s title came from. The story begins this morning, February 28, at 5:30 AM. Here I am, laying peacefully in bed when I get startled awake by my roommate’s concern over our new bathroom guests– two giant tree frogs.
She yelped somewhat worriedly “There are frogs in our bathroom” followed by “Oh well, I’m going pee anyway.”
I think to myself ‘Alright cool, problem solved, no biggy’, but before I can even respond to her, I hear “Holy crap they’re coming for me”, followed by “They’re on the toilet seat” and finally, “They’re in the toilet, Help!”
At this point, my curiosity got the better of my comfortable sleeping position, so I slumbered into the bathroom. What do I find but the hilarious sight of my roommate frantically freaking out and a pair of frogs, one clambering around the rim of the toilet seat and one hiding inside of the toilet bowl. As you can probably imagine, the situation got funnier and funnier as we made various wimpy attempts to ethically remove them out the toilet and toilet bowl. In case anyone was curious, we recruited another classmate and were finally successful (Thanks Nate!).
This story is one of thousands that I’ve had the pleasure to help create this semester. As I reflect back on my experiences and write this, I keep thinking of more instances in which laughter got the better of me or instances in which my comfort zone was stretched in strange or mysterious ways. I cannot wait until the next blog-title worthy moment presents itself and I hope you look forward to reading (and hopefully giggling) it as well.