From Travel

Surprises of India: Part 1 of 3

Dear Reader:

Bob and I traveled to India in November of 2019. I’ve been working on this post ever since. 

The world has changed drastically since that visit and I hope you read the posts in the context of the “World before the Coronavirus.”

I wish you all good health and, for India, I pray for safe passage through the difficult months ahead. 

Marge

India Planning

India travel opinions

Carry On with supplies

Monkeys in IndiaMonkeys hotel terrace IndiaLoose Animals India Surprise 2 India: Obsession with Fair Skin Selfies Fair Skin India

Tomorrow: Two More Surprises of India!

Hype, Hope and Hamilton

Last November, my friends, Anita and Ken, and Bob and I started to plan a trip to New York to celebrate Anita’s birthday in late 2016.

She had become intrigued with reports about a new musical, Hamilton, that had just opened on Broadway and wanted to see it while we were there. It was about Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton, and incorporated rap style story telling as well as more traditional musical production numbers. We easily found tickets on Ticketmaster for August of 2016.

As the months passed, hype about Hamilton grew along with stories of skyrocketing ticket prices.

 

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August arrived and Anita and Ken drove in from Wisconsin to stay with me the night before we left for New York. We discussed the Hamilton mania over dinner.

 

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We agreed to see what riches our tickets would fetch on the resale market. The first thing I did when we returned home was call Bob. I knew he’d be on board.

 

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Bob hung up to work his connections while I checked options on Ticketmaster and Stub Hub. Much to our surprise, resale tickets were readily available for less than $50 over what we paid for them. In fact, after the ticket broker’s fee we would have actually lost money on the sale.

Our hopes of windfall profits dashed, we headed to New York to keep our date with Hamilton.

Was Hamilton worth the wait and all the hype? Well, it may not have been “two inches of compacted limestone screenings” great, but it was very, very good.

 

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And it was refreshing to see the young crowd that it attracted. It made for a different theater going experience.

 

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We enjoyed discussing the play for the rest of the evening and were still talking about it the next morning. Anita and Ken were inspired to add a visit to Hamilton’s grave to their itinerary in lower Manhattan. While there, they observed a guide perpetuating the Hamilton Ticket Urban Myth to a group of unsuspecting tourists.

 

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That’s Hamilton!

Cambodia Travel Journal: Part 1 of 4

I recently returned from Cambodia where Bob has been involved with philanthropic projects for over 10 years. In addition to wanting to see his work there, I was curious about life in southeast Asia and what better time to head for the tropics than when it’s February in Chicago?

Of course, getting out of Chicago in February was easier said than done.

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So he did, and after a minor delay, the plane took off. 24+ hours later (with Bob having joined me when I changed planes in Seoul), we arrived in Phnom Penh in the middle of a dark and balmy night.

I woke up the next morning, eager for Bob to show me around the city. We hired a tuk-tuk and set out.

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This was my introduction to the chaos that is traffic all over Cambodia. Traffic lights are rare and cars, trucks, motos (motorcycles), tuk-tuks, bicycles and pedestrians just get on the road and go. There is a wide range of acceptable road behavior and if you navigate in the customary way, you seem to do okay.

A pedestrian’s lot is dicier. There are sidewalks, but they are not for pedestrians.

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Pedestrians are forced into the street to walk alongside traffic. Crossing the street is a more terrifying leap of faith.

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Eventually you get the hang of it, but you are constantly aware of the risk.

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Like all the other new aspects of this culture, I thought I was starting to adjust.

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Cambodia Travel Journal: Part 2 of 4

After a couple of days in Phnom Penh visiting hospitals, NGOs (Non Governmental Organizations) and doing a little touring, it was time to meet up with Rith, Bob’s interpreter and point man in Cambodia and head out to the villages. Bob provides moto rides to the health center for sick villagers in three villages in Kampong Thom province. Our plan was to visit the villages over two days with an overnight stay in Kampong Thom city.

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I quickly booked “Sambor Village, #1 of 4 hotels in Kampong Thom!” When the best hotel in town is $55 per night, there is no sense confirming your worst suspicions by reading the negative reviews. I was already concerned about bugs of the tropical variety and was determined not to go “looking for trouble.”

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Bob and I regrouped in the parking lot and started to walk the line of vendors. I understand that bugs are part of the diet in many cultures and have seen street vendors selling them around the world. This lineup, however, seemed gratuitous. The bugs were revolting and the tourists squealing and sampling the things felt like being forced to watch a rerun of “Fear Factor”.

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Part 2 Row 4Part 2 Row 5Off we went to Lvea Chum. The villagers gather for a meeting whenever Bob visits. Through Rith, Bob asks how the moto drivers are doing, how the health of the village is and other questions about life in the village.

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Part 2 Row 7The people love the moto drivers, men who live in the village and whom they elect to the job of being on demand to take them to the health center. They are very grateful to Bob for this program. In addition to sparing a sick villager a several mile walk to seek treatment, the easier access allows people to get help before their conditions worsen. Pregnant women go for regular prenatal check-ups and more babies are born at facilities where they can get immediate attention if they are struggling.

The meeting ended with K-Ron, the village chief, thanking Bob and the villagers applauding. Afterwards, K-Ron invited us to check out his crops and the irrigation pond Bob donated in a field several kilometers away.

The moto drivers were ready.

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I could feel how careful the moto driver was being. He avoided potholes and sought out the smoothest path. He didn’t speed. Riding with him down the dusty, orange village road was a joy. And, best of all, he didn’t say a word.

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