I guess some things can be seen best through close inspection, whereas other things are more aptly held in the corner of your eye.

The things happening lately are part of that latter category. I started a new blog which isn't, and yet really is, all about it. (You can email me if you want to know where it is. You may even see a reflection of this old place in the title.)

It helps to write, sometimes anonymously, sometimes indirectly. So I am writing again. But not here.

My sister did a lot better with my parents. ("How did she manage to get the information out of them?" The Earl asked. "By being my sister?" I guessed. My father-in-law once commented collectively that my sisters and I were a determined bunch, but his comment was triggered by a thing this particular sister had done.)

So my mother does indeed have breast cancer. Again. A carcinoma, to be more exact. It was detected at her twenty-year checkup and is still very small, for what that's worth. They think it's unrelated to the last episode - an entirely new growth - and although they haven't finished hunting for signs of metastasis they haven't found anything yet. There is a meeting with the surgeon next week, and they will learn more about what sort of things they're planning to cut off and how and why. At some point we will also figure out if there's to be any followup treatment, such as chemotherapy - that plan is still in the process of being formulated. Meanwhile, my mother is reconsidering her position on genetic testing. If she decides to go ahead, and turns out to be positive for any of the known genes, I may have some decisions to make on that front as well.

I feel calmer - actually everyone feels calmer - having put that level of information together. My mother even deigned to talk to me briefly on the phone this morning. My father has instructed me to continue planning the 2014 big family holiday we'd been talking about.

I think we will do better this time. We are all older, and wiser. My sister has obviously gained the knack of putting her foot down and insisting on being informed, as opposed to disintegrating into a blithering mess. My father has learnt a trick or two. (A friend asked him if she should come over to visit my mum and give her comfort. "She's not accepting visitors," he replied, "but don't you need me to have a look at a problem with your laptop or something? We'll both be home Saturday morning and I can check out your machine for a few hours, just make sure it's free of viruses and everything, and maybe you can wait for me in the kitchen with my wife and have a cup of tea, if she feels up to it?") And I, well. I have a couple more tools than I did when I was a teenager, too.

So this is just how it is and we'll just have to do our best and see how it goes.

Maybe I'll go ahead and change my hair colour after all. Why not?

I thought I'd be writing one of at least two different posts today. In my head, I'd half-composed something about the fact that I was finally asked if we'd had Young Master assessed for some sort of behavioural disorder. Then Mel wrote this intriguing post about communal parenting, and I was going to muse on the subject in a cross-cultural context. But actually what I'm going to write about today is how I've decided to not change my hair colour. Well, it is and it isn't about changing my hair colour. You'll see what I mean.

The first time I met my current hairdresser he asked me, in incredulous tones, how long it had been since I'd last had a haircut, and why. I opened my mouth to explain it to him - some people do with their hairdressers - and closed it again because it was all too hard. I'm not sure I could have conveyed - in fact, I'm not sure I can now - the tortuous year of failed FETs from that first cycle; how in the end we lost Jester and had our recurrent pregnancy loss workup; how something changed, somewhere inside me; how I made the decision to shelve our remaining embryos in order to move ahead with a fresh cycle, a fetching swept fringe and some highlights.

The last time I saw him he asked me, in incredulous tones, who'd cut my hair most recently. I admitted I'd had it done by someone else whilst on holidays - again. The story of my hair is a story of getting bad haircuts on holidays. "For the longest time I told myself it was because I never got time time during a normal week," I told him, "but I've realised that's not it at all. It's actually harder to make time when you're away. And it takes longer, because you first have to find a hairdresser. No - the reason I always get my hair cut when I'm away is because I like the surprise of not quite knowing what I'll end up with. It's a little travel game, like ordering "a coffee" or "a tea" just to find out what comes and in what ways it's different to the stuff you'd get at home."

"But with a tea or coffee, if it's bad, you can't always just stop drinking it," my hairdresser responded, still incredulous. "With a haircut you have to walk around like that for as long as it takes." I shrugged and observed that eventually it grows. Then I explained that since I had no holidays coming up, I was thinking of booking in for a new colour instead. Something other than boring old mouse. I thought about discussing how this related to my life's increasing stability and my aims to start progressing again with my career, but I skipped it because we obviously have different philosophies on hair.

This morning I found myself standing in front of the mirror with my hair brush for a very long time. Young Miss and Master were outside "planting flowers" in the box on the patio, which is code for "spreading dirt around everywhere and tracking mud through the house". I wasn't really paying attention. The forefront of my mind was occupied by the thought that I didn't want to change my hair colour after all. At some point, Young Master wanted help with something, and when he didn't get a good response he peered at me curiously.

"Are you crying?" he asked. And I confirmed that I was. "Why?" I muttered something about Grandma being very sick, maybe. Actually, I don't know what's going on - my parents have never been very good at transmitting this sort of information. I know there was some sort of problem with my mother's last mammogram which happened at some ill-defined point in the past, or perhaps it was an ultrasound, and that the GP is in the process of scheduling some sort of surgery, and that maybe there will be other treatment as well, or not. Is it a biopsy? Is it a mastectomy? They got a "confirming phone call" from the GP earlier in the week. Confirming what? It's like getting blood from a stone, and about as successful. My father assures me he will tell me more as he gets to know more, except he won't - I know I will be hard pressed to draw what he knows out of him, and there will be countless questions he simply won't have thought to ask. Is this a scare or is this the real thing? And if it's the real thing - I mean, it sounds like they've completed several steps of workup already - does that mean the cancer my mother battled twenty odd years ago is finally breaking out, never to be fully contained again? My mother is not speaking to anyone and won't come to the phone. My sisters don't know. I wouldn't either, if I hadn't rung this morning and asked if my mother could chat.

I've always felt that my mother's breast cancer was part of my infertility story, or perhaps it's more accurate to just say it's part of my story. I met The Earl during her initial battle. It informed my sense of timing and my decisions on treatment. I'm not really sure where to go with this paragraph. I don't actually know what's going on - at present, I am only imagining the worst. At least I hope it's only imagining. But it doesn't sound very much like previous scares. And I don't know what to do.

I had a lot more to say in my head. I was going to end with some profound metaphor on life, and hair, and how I like the thrill of not knowing quite knowing what they mean by "tea" in Cambodia and ordering it anyway and perhaps getting stuck with something unpalatable, and how I don't mind if I sometimes walk around looking like a bad eighties music video for a month or two at a time. But there are ways in which I also long for predictability and continuity, and times when the most I can do to achieve it is to fail to visit the hairdresser for a while. In any case, I think, for now, I'll stick with mouse. I don't have much else to conclude with.

I lose my temper every day.

Sometimes these things aren't apparent to a blog reader. In fact, sometimes they're not apparent to many outside the household at all - I tend to lose my temper towards the end of the day, just before The Earl arrives with his cavalry, by which time we are usually out of public scrutiny. So I am telling you all here, now, for the record, so that you know.

Recently, Young Master has started to get the hang of peer interactions. After years (wasn't it centuries?) of trying to explain to him how people get along, something suddenly clicked and he got it. I didn't realise how much of a mental burden it was to me that he hadn't got it yet until after he got it. All of a sudden I can relax when he is playing with other children: I don't feel the need to anxiously monitor his interactions and head off potential disasters, whilst at the same time trying to stay well enough back that I'm not interfering unless actually needed - all whilst running after an early toddler.

He has also figured out how to handle me. Yesterday, I was stressed and distracted, trying to deal with a bureaucratic issue (that has not yet been resolved), spending way more time than usual on the phone and computer. Towards the end of the day I was writing yet another email when The Young Master appeared beside me, saying something. I didn't hear him, and I told him in a frustrated tone that I was still trying to sort out "this whole mess" and needed to send another email, but when I raised my hands to the keyboard he took them gently and gave each of them a little kiss whilst speaking in a soft tone. Distractedly, I gave him a smile and a pat on the back and lifted my hands to the keyboard again, whereupon he repeated his act, and this time I heard him: "Mum," he said, "I wish you would use these two hands to come and play my game with me instead of using them to type another email."

I blinked for a moment. Where the fuck does he learn that? But of course it worked, because I kissed his hands back and, looking into his face, assured him that I would come and play games in exactly two minutes, whether I had finished sorting out "this mess" or not. And I did.

I do marvel at how he gets these things. Did I teach him that? I don't think I did. Probably I taught him to be shrewish and hysterical and the rest he worked out on his own, as if by magic. If I can take credit at all, maybe it's for choosing a school where someone else could teach him good lessons - even then, I chose it largely on convenience, so not much credit at all.

The cynic in me says I did teach him that in a sense, but what I have actually taught him is not love or kindness or some other lofty attribute, but how to manipulate me skillfully for his own ends. When I go mad at him he hugs me and tells me he loves me. Result: I quickly stop being mad. One day he looks up at me mid-hug and says, "Mum, whenever you get mad at me I always give you a hug and tell you I love you."

"I've noticed you doing that," I reply. "Out of interest, why do you do it?"

He nuzzles my stomach and squeezes me extra-tight. "I just don't want you to forget." Even if it's just a tool of manipulation, can I really be upset that he has decided to manipulate me by returning anger with affection? So many times I've preached that the best response to abuse is empathy. People, I have said, don't set out to be mean just because they want to hurt everyone. If they are being mean, it's because something, somewhere, has gone quite wrong. Solve the problem: starting with sympathy. I find it hard advice to follow, of course, but I should be glad that someone in our house seems to be fighting fire with water, whatever his motivation.

I lose my temper every day. Recently I lost my ring, too, or I thought I'd lost it, but really I'd just dropped it into an obscure corner of my purse. The Young Master found it whilst looking for something else, and when he held it up to me I gasped dramatically and he flinched. "Why did you just gasp?" he wanted to know.

"I'm surprised to see my ring!" I answered. "I've been looking for it for a whole week and I'd decided it was gone forever and I was very sad about that, because I've had it for such a long time and it was given to me by an old friend."

"Oh. So you're happy?" he asked.

And I bent down to him and cupped his face in my hands and looked into his eyes. "Do I get mad a lot?" I asked guiltily, searching for the answer in his expression as much as his words.

"No," he said. "A bit. Sometimes you get very angry. But I know we can always be friends again afterwards." And he smiles and hands me my ring.

One thing about raising children as an expat is that your local children's library doesn't have the same cultural filter as your children's library "back home". The differences can be subtle, and surprising. You see, where I come from, my local librarian was actively trying to create a culturally diverse set of reading material - a little Roald Dahl, some Zen Buddhism, and one or two folk tales from Africa. And the thing is, it's easy to list off the things you've read your kids that are also being read to children in Russia, Qatar, or Milwaulke. But how do you tune in to what you're not reading? Well, you could do a hit and run trip through your local children's library, like we did last week.

Here's a short list of recent stories:

  1. A book whose name I have already forgotten, so great was my haste to return it. The story revolves around a boy who is playing happily in his room one day when his friends drop by, unexpectedly. His grandfather comes up to the boy's room to ask him if he'd like to come down and play, and the boy declines. The grandfather advises him not to be grumpy, and he assures his grandfather that he is not grumpy, he's just not in the mood for unexpected visitors who are, after all, unexpected, and kind of just wants to finish off this thing he was right in the middle of doing before they dropped around unexpectedly. The grandfather, with a knowing smile, sits down on the bed and tells him an "allegorical" tale... about a fish who is playing happily in his anemone when ditto ditto ditto and ditto. In the end, the fish learns that he should "stop being grumpy" and play with his damned friends already. Moral of the story? It is not ok to be an introvert. (Secondary moral? Some people do not know how to write allegories and prefer to write bricks that will shortly hit you over the head thinly wrapped in what may technically be called an allegory.) 
  2.  Today, Maybe (Dominique Demers and Gabrielle Grimard). The story revolves around a girl who sits passively at home making tea and jam sandwiches and entertaining visitors and talking to her pet bird and basically guarding her chastity and honing her domestic skills whilst her One True Love travels all over the world looking for her (and probably developing a fulfilling career at the same time). In the end, he turns up, they lock eyes, and... I guess... we are supposed to believe that they just lived happily ever. Because they are destined for each other. What is that? That is a book which should be ceremonially burnt by anyone who believes in either a) gender equality or b) real-life relationships.  Because, honestly. Grudging points for making the One True Love a bear, and not a white Anglo-Saxon prince (although the bear is still male).
  3.  Why Cats Don't Wear Hats (Victoria Perez Escriva and Ester Garcia). The story is translated from Spanish, and the language retains a charming foreign air. Using a series of "logical" steps, the book explains that cats don't wear hats, because that would lead to a chain of events which would eventually necessitate the renouncing of the cat's essential "catness". To be a cat is easy, the book concludes, as long as you don't want to wear a hat. This is a delightful book about foresight, unintended consequences, the true weight of material objects, and the way one desire can lead to another, transforming you as you follow each call. Its subtlety begs discussion and allows the reader the freedom to frame the moral within his or her own set of values. (Reading the back cover, for example, gives the impression that the authors think they have written a book about the importance of being yourself.)
  4.  John Brown, Rose and the Midnight Cat (Jenny Wagner). A true classic. A dog and an old woman live happily together, until a black cat tries to join their household, invoking jealousy on the part of the dog. When the dog sends the cat away, however, the woman becomes sad and ill, leading the dog to relent in order to make her happy. The reader has the opportunity to learn not only that an extra friend doesn't lessen the original friendship, but that sometimes loving someone means putting their wants before your own. Again, the story is subtle enough to invite thought and is open to individual interpretation.
  5.  Green Eggs And Ham (Dr Seuss)*. Another classic - the story needs no summary. Again, one of its strengths is its subtlety - the messages are there, but they are not explicitly spelled out. This also allows the book to grow with the child. The more obvious moral - that you can't decide if you like something or not without trying it - suits younger children. The less obvious moral - that just because someone annoys you doesn't mean you will dislike everything they have to offer - can come later on.
  6.  MOM (Mom Operating Manual) (Doreen Cronin and Laura Cornell). This is a genuinely funny book, even if they did miss the opportunity to create a title joke by using a meaningful acronym (Mum Upkeep Manual?). Unlike another book which I also hastily returned and cannot now name, it does not employ sarcastic humour of the kind that its readership is unlikely to appreciate. (The other book contained advice such as: "Be sure to wake your parents up super-early so they'll have time to stop being tired before work." This book employs the type of humour which is not only funnier but less dangerous: "Your mum is likely not getting enough sleep if: 1) She has packed you a lunch of unsweetened cocoa and a raw egg." I know which I'd rather read to my preschoolers.) The inescapable message is that your mother has needs and will not function well if those needs aren't sufficiently met. Of course, realising that other people have needs and that harmonious relationships will result from having everyone's needs acknowledged and addressed is an important lesson which goes well beyond the home hearth.

Mel's recent post made me think about what our kids learn from the stories we tell them. Fiction is a powerful tool, because of its ability to engage a reader's interest and dispense with the bounds of reality. It can teach in ways - and on topics - that non-fiction cannot. I have this wild** idea that we should form an online picture-book club, to over-analyse what we are saying to our kids through fiction and make use of the internet to help set aside our cultural filters. It would be like any other book club, but less time consuming. If you want to join, please review a book you've read to or with a child (depending on their agegroup - it doesn't have to be a picture book if the kids are past that stage, neither does it have to be your own child - it could be a niece or the pupils in your class) on your own blog, provide a link back to this post, and leave me a comment asking me to add you to the list. I'd like to be mindful of the lessons I'm teaching.

Picture Book Club List:

  • Be first!

*The Dr Seuss is part of our own collection, but seems to be a favourite at the moment.

**Obviously my definition of "wild" has changed since my teens and twenties.

Apologies for the delay. I wrote the last post shortly before the Connecticut shootings (I think it posted just after - I wrote it at the same time as the first), and for some reason I didn't feel like writing more about our wonderful holiday over that particular weekend. I'm sure those directly involved aren't ready to be back to normal yet, but the spirit of Christmas and the freshness of the new year calls me to turn over a leaf and resume what I started. Without further ado:

Is Cambodia a good destination to travel to with kids? Yes, yes it is. First of all, people are generally welcoming of children. A lot of people speak English, and well, which makes things a little more comfortable for the monolinguistic four-year-old. It's easy to organise private transport and tours at an affordable cost, allowing you to tailor the journey to your needs, and there are blessedly few things to try your patience other than your own toddler. But there's more! Here is a range of observations and advice on taking your young kids to Cambodia, according to our experiences. I'm going to cover strollers, car seats, sleeping, eating, nappies, sightseeing, poverty, touting and begging, and health and hygiene.


They should be left at home, if you can possibly help it. If you can't, take the lightest, most foldable umbrella stroller you can find, or see if anyone's still making those ones that convert into a backpack carrier. We saw a total of two strollers the whole time we were in Cambodia. One was being pushed along the riverside by a rather well-to-do local woman in Battambang, who had three extremely well-dressed children with her. I don't know how many places she gets to use it, apart from along the river. The other was being pushed by a tourist in Siem Reap. The woman looked like she was getting pretty fed up with it.

It's not just that the streets aren't stroller-friendly (around the temples of Angkor, for example, you can pretty much forget it) - it's also that tuk tuks are a chief form of transport so you won't always have a boot to throw it into (a small umbrella stroller would be ok, though, as long as you're not taking motos). And if you're expecting ramps or lifts everywhere you go, you may have to reset your expectations. Many shops and markets are of the crowded type with narrow aisles and passageways. In addition, you won't necessarily need the stroller like you do at home - those tuk tuks and motos drop you pretty much at the door to where you're going, and there are usually plenty around, looking for work. The amount of walking we actually needed to do was very small.

We took our ergo, which (and they're not paying me to say this) is one of the best baby/toddler products we ever bought. With two adults and plenty of areas safe enough to let Miss explore on her own at a distance of a couple of metres (around the temples, for example, we barely carried her - she mostly either walked by herself or rode in the tuk tuk), it wasn't a hassle.

Car Seats

We brought The Young Miss's car seat with us. It's a Combi Corocco, which is lightweight and compact, so it fits easily in any vehicle with a seatbelt. We found the taxis we took all had good seatbelts, although the mini bus only had one - which we used for the car seat. I'm not sure I would rely on getting a car seat in Cambodia. The local kids travel in arms on motorbikes, or in hammocks made by tying sling carriers between the handlebars of bicycles, so I'm pretty sure they thought we were freaks for restraining our toddler like that. We only used the seat three times - from the airport in Phnom Penh, for the road trip from Phnom Penh to Battambang, and from Battambang to Siem Reap. The rest of the time we used tuk tuks (except for the one occasion where we used motos). The traffic, as previously described, isn't exactly screaming along, but we thought it was both safer and more practical for the longer trips and it was a small thing to pack it in for those rides.

For The Master, who is four, we brought along our Boostapak. Trunki are not paying me to say this either (although I wouldn't say no to a pink version to match our green one... Trunki?) but they are deadset geniuses. It is a backpack - a useable backpack you can put things inside - with a hard case and foldout bits to guide the seatbelt through. We used it on both our taxi rides, but not the minibus trip, as there was no seatbelt anyway. We also used it as a day pack around town most days, and as a booster seat at restaurants for the Young Miss (see under "eating").

If I have one criticism of the Boostapak (and I do) it's that the child tends to slump in it when they are of a certain, specific height. We've had ours for over a year now. At first, The Master's legs stuck straight out, so it was fine (he was technically under age for it at that point - we have no car and I can only lug one car seat around at a time, so I opted for the baby's capsule - but he was already bigger than the average 4yo when we started using it). Then he grew taller and his hip-knee length got to this awkward stage, where his feet dangled from the calf and he slumped in order to try and get them dangling more comfortably from the knee instead. Then he grew again and now sits straight and comfortable once more. I would have liked some sort of anti-submarine clip between the legs for that awkward stage, but I admit I can't think of how to add one off-hand. In any case, except for that 3-4 month period it has been an excellent product and it's certainly a good one for those travelling with young kids.


I heard reports that cots were available on request at some hotels, but since Miss hasn't slept in one for over a year, I couldn't really tell you. The beds we did have were generously-sized, particularly as regards their width, such that (in Battambang) three singles were adequate for our family (I slept with Miss). In the other hotels, we had even more bedspace. Usually, we either slept the kids together on a double bed, or pushed two singles together. The reason for this was so we could set them up under a mosquito tent - we'd brought the tent poles from our 2-person tent and the largest box-shaped mosquito net we could find, and assembled it over them. This served a double-purpose: keeping the mosquitoes away (obviously), and a firm tuck also provided some protection against rolling off the bed (for the toddler).

We were able to get family rooms in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, which were large. We also had a pool and restaurant in both these places, as well as in-room wifi, which allowed the kids to excitedly skype their grandparents with updates each day.

 Eating - Cuisines, High Chairs, Room Service and Breastfeeding

The Master is generally a good eater, but he got quite unadventurous the moment he hit foreign ground - although Miss continued to be happy browsing from anybody's plate. We were expecting this, and had no desire to push it. It meant we ended up eating at tourist-orientated restaurants which served both western and local food, of which there are plenty (French and Italian food was the most common that I saw). Korean food, if your family is so inclined, is also very big, and we saw Indian and vegetarian restaurants in all our destinations, too. This is, of course, not an exhaustive list - it's just what I happened to notice and remember. I would advise a little extra forward-planning when it comes to meals with kids, keeping in mind that the pace of service tends to be slower than what you might be used to at home.

No restaurant we saw owned any high chairs. The Earl actually asked at one place and ended up having to pretty much draw a diagram, before they gave him a bemused and baffled, "Sorry, but no." We were half-expecting this, and the trunki boostapak on a chair (plus or minus the shoulder-harness we'd also packed) is a good alternative, but mostly we just opted to let her sit on our alternate laps instead.

Room service. Whenever that debate crops up about kids in restaurants, someone always gives this indignant comment about how, in their house, children are/were taught proper table manners at dinner time each night and they therefore have/had no behavioural problems when dining out. This always gives me a chortle, because these people either a) have poor memories or b) have the kinds of families where mum and dad are both home at 5:30pm with easy-going kids who are in pleasant moods after 3-hour-long afternoon naps. I'm sorry, but my kids don't do anything well at dinnertime, much less sit in a restaurant, and it's not because I'm too lazy to teach them table manners. (Truth be told, I'm talking here about one of my kids, but it only takes one to set the whole situation awry - especially when I am always wrestling them single-handedly at dinner.) I will happily take them - together, single-handedly - to any five-star restaurant, anywhere in the world, for brunch*, but by the end of the day (and especially when travelling) it is just time to fall back on room service and that is that.

I don't know how many hotels officially offer room service in Cambodia (none of ours did), but the hotel in Siem Reap was happy to let us order at the restaurant, take the plates to our room, and then return them at some unspecified future time (we returned them later that night, after the kids were asleep). The waitress actually went to the trouble of helping my husband bring the plates down. In other places (with one exception where we did manage to eat out), we easily found ourselves a hearty lunch no matter where we'd got ourselves by lunch time, and let dinner be something light from a bakery (mine don't tend to be that hungry by dinner under normal circumstances anyway - which probably exacerbates our dinner table troubles. They're like me - starving at breakfast, morning tea, and lunch, and then petering out).

As far as breastfeeding was concerned, nobody batted an eyelid and I was able to get on with it anywhere, including the back of the tuk tuk as we were going along (just watch for those potholes...).


We brought a pack and it lasted the whole week, but I am told (and believe) you can get disposables at all three of our destinations. We only saw one set of nappy changing facilities, however. It was a drop-down table in the ladies toilet at Phnom Penh airport, and I had to get the cleaner to unlock it so it could be dropped down. Otherwise, we changed our nappies wherever we could find a spot - most commonly on the back seat of the tuk tuk (or on the bed in our hotel room). Nobody was bothered.

Sights to See

There are enough family-friendly sights in Cambodia to fill the usual holiday, and that's without hitting the beaches (I'm told they're worth the trip, but I have no personal experience). Be aware that at least one young child (mine) considers the temples to be spooky, and a child's attention span with them may wane quickly unless they have a special interest (we spent only one day, compared to the three days we spent when there was just the two of us), but the grounds are still a terrific run-around area.

The fishing village trip we did (to Kampung Phluk) isn't awfully suitable for kids in the early stages of mobility (and corresponding impulsiveness), although the locals obviously get along, so it can be done. (Personally, I'm not sure that myself or either of my kids would do well at the under-three-year old stage if confined to a small boat all day. You should ask yourself how it would go down in your family.)

The standard tour around Battambang can be enjoyed by all ages, largely because it contains a pretty good amount of variety and the amount of time spent at each location is entirely up to you.

Poverty, Begging and Touting

Cambodia is not a rich country yet, though it has recovered substantially since its days under the Khmer Rouge. The villages certainly aren't full of luxury residences, but the simple pole-houses seemed full of happy, well-fed kids, even if they were dusty (our kids were at least as dusty - it's unavoidable) or sometimes naked. Touts were generally relaxed and friendly (there was a bit of a crowd, including some rather persistent kids, outside Ta Prohm temple at Angkor - but part of that was because I bought souvenirs and drinks straight out of the tuk tuk without even pretending to bargain) and we didn't experience the relentless "hard sell" tactics you have to get used to in other places. We saw only three beggars during our whole trip (which always makes me suspicious about what happened to all the other beggars... but let's assume they were being taken care of by the numerous NGOs) which is less than what you might see on a stroll through Brisbane, though more than what you'd encounter in Singapore (which is the place that really does make me suspicious).

In short, if you're worried your kids are going to be overwhelmed by the contrast between their privileged existences and the way the other half lives, Cambodia - at least the parts we visited - makes a very good starting point for your travels. There are certainly differences to discuss, but it will be a gentle introduction.

Health and Hygiene - Pills and Vaccinations, Toilets and Showers, Tummy Upsets

Obviously, this doesn't replace the up-to-date advice of your doctor, and is only our experience based on when and where we went, who we took, and the decisions we made. Hopefully, it will give you something to get started. We were advised by our doctor that malaria preventatives need not be taken in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, and decided that, given the time of year and our very short length of stay outside those places, we would just use mosquito nets and repellents for the trip. One child got bitten by one mosquito - in Siem Reap. Antimalarials are available for young children, however, if you are staying longer outside those those two centres or want to err towards a different analysis of risk. Hepatitis A vaccinations are standard in the Singaporean schedule, so we were already covered there, although this would not have been the case if we were following the Australian schedule, so you need to check. Typhoid vaccination was also recommended, but the age-group-appropriate version we needed was out of stock across the whole of Singapore in the period leading up to our trip, so we had to fall back on standard food and water hygiene measures. We drank bottled water (some hotels have water coolers to reduce plastic waste) and freshly-cooked food, and tried to get everyone to wash their hands properly. We discouraged the patting or feeding of animals, as rabies is endemic, although all three of the places we visited could have provided post-exposure shots if necessary.

The toilets we used were all western-style toilets with seats, although not all of them could take toilet paper. We managed to get Master to use the hand-held bidet with some encouragement, but were glad we'd brought toilet paper and nappy wipes as backup. (On these occasions, we made sure he threw the paper or wipes into a bin next to the toilet instead of into the toilet itself.) Most of the toilets were pretty clean, by public toilet standards (the hotel toilets were all fine) and absolutely none of them - to Master's delight - had the hated automatic flushers he gets so scared about in Singapore. In fact, one of the toilets had a trough and bucket instead of a flusher, which Master found absolutely intriguing.

There were hot showers at all the hotels. Unfortunately for the kids, none of our hotels had baths.

More unfortunately, The Young Master did come down with a nasty tummy bug within twenty-four hours of our return - undoubtedly something he picked up from the trip. He recovered after 36 hours or so, and the doctor didn't find anything alarming on examination or via a stool sample. His little sister simultaneously had an extremely mild bout of runny stools with no fever or loss of appetite, and the adults were fine. So yes - it's definitely worth being vigilant, but no real harm done. I am blaming it on the home-made icecream he ate for afternoon tea on our last day, firstly because it's the only thing he had that nobody else ate, except his sister who had a grudgingly small spoonful, and secondly in the hope that I might be able to keep all the icecream to myself in future.

*The other day we stopped at the cafe near the supermarket and the kids shared a fresh coconut. They'd drunk the juice and were on to the flesh. The Young Miss was saying, "Peas, [Master], nunner piece?" and The Young Master was replying - and I quote - "Why, certainly, [Miss], I can get you another piece in no time!" And then he was carefully scooping her out a piece and feeding it to her with the spoon, whilst they both sat politely on their own chairs and I sipped a cup of tea. And if you'd seen me then you would have said I was the Best Parent Ever.

Fast forward two/three hours, and - well, we were having our typical dinner time scene, let's just say. I won't describe it for you. I will just ask you not to judge parents whose kids lose their ability to be civilised human beings at around 5pm. People only have so much power over whether or not to take their children places, and I am actually luckier in a sense than some with better-behaved children in that at least mine are very predictable.

Powered by Blogger.