Shortly after arriving in Cambodia, I was in a hostel in Phnom Penh talking with PCV who is currently serving here. We talked about our experiences in Peace Corps and life. I asked the Cambodia PCV for recommendations on things to do while here. He spoke very highly of the Mondulkiri Project in northeast Cambodia. The project has an elephant sanctuary for rescued elephants, and offers jungle trekking in addition to visits to the sanctuary to feed and bathe the elephants.
My interest was piqued. I read more about the project, and knew that I wanted to go. The project is home to five elephants. At least one was formerly used for elephant rides in Angkor Wat. Another was used for hauling logs from the jungle. Another was abused by her caretaker. The project also employs Bunong people, who live in the local community where the jungles and forests are.
The 18 kilometer trek started at the tour guide’s homestead just before 9 am. The views from the trek were quite awesome. Apparently, it’s the end of rainy season so the mosquitoes were minimal, but jungle floor was very slippery. This was especially true on inclines and declines. I lost my footing a few times and was invited to promptly sit down on the jungle floor. The trek included swimming in a river at a waterfall right before lunch. During the after lunch trekking, the rain started. Although it started as a light drizzle, it progressed into heavier rain. The jungle floor became even more slippery. We finally reached our destination: the Jungle Lodge. They had hammocks with blankets set up for us. They also served dinner, which included bamboo soup (made in real bamboo), breakfast, and lunch the next day.
The second day was all about the elephants in the sanctuary. We went down to the sanctuary with many bananas. We were able to feed the elephants in the jungle sanctuary. Once the elephants saw that we had the bananas, the gentle giants approached and took the fruit from our respective hands. Some elephants allowed us to remain close while others walked away to munch on some young bamboo. In the afternoon, we were able to swim with and bathe the elephants in the river. After a full two days of activity, I was tired and sore. I’m super thankful for the hot shower and delicious food I had back in town. The above picture is of me admiring the view at the beginning of the trek, when I was still dirt-free.
Be kind to yourself.
P.S. – Here go two more really cool pictures. The first is of a leaf that apparently ran out of chlorophyll. The second is of an elephant munching
So far in India, I’ve been to two places: Mumbai and Goa. While Mumbai is in the state of Maharashtra, Goa is a state on its own comprised of several small cities and villages. While moving around Goa can be done by bicycle, motor bike, or taxi among other modes, moving around Mumbai presents several options. In addition to trains, buses, and taxis, there’s the auto rickshaw.
I should note that auto rickshaws are present in Goa as well, at least in Mapusa and Panaji. They just aren’t as popular as they are in Mumbai. When I needed to find one in Mumbai, I could (after going to different ones to find one to take me). The auto rickshaws in Mumbai are metered, starting at a base fare of 18 rupees and increase accordingly for distance and time spent waiting in traffic (which there is an abundance of). I was told that there is a night surcharge, which starts at a base fare of 24 rupees. I’m not sure what time the night surcharge starts. I travelled a few nights after 11 PM, and was not charged a night rate. For a ride of five kilometers, I paid around 75 rupees (just over $1 USD). In the south Mumbai region, auto rickshaws are not allowed so options are limited to trains, buses, taxis and walking.
To contrast Mumbai’s auto rickshaws, the same transport in Mapusa and the rest of Goa do not use meters. Prices are “negotiated” before riding. For a ride of ten kilometers, I paid around 220 rupees (which was negotiated down from 300 rupees). The picture above was taken from a bus window while sitting in Mumbai traffic.
Be kind to yourself.
I love thrift stores. There’s some magical about spending copious amounts of time looking through any and everything. My mother said that I get this trait from my grandmother, who also loved thrifting. Shortly after arriving in eSwatini, I found Thelma who owned a small thrift store in Manzini, eSwatini’s biggest city. Thelma spruced up my wardrobe with a few items. Due to rising business costs, Thelma had to close her store.
Some PCVs in the prior groups told me about a wonderful swap meet known as Bend and Pick. Every Wednesday and Thursday (excluding some Swazi public holidays), vendors from eSwatini and the rest of southern Africa converge on the Manzini bus rank with their wares. Bend and Pick is the largest regular flea market, that I know of, in eSwatini. If it can be worn, you’ll probably find it there. I’ve found several gems there including my super useful fanny pack. The prices are reasonable, even on a PCV budget. I’ve found that prices tend to be better the deeper you go into the market. Unlike most places in eSwatini, you can negotiate at Bend and Pick. Like thrift stores, Bend and Pick is not for folks who are in a rush or impatient. I’ve also found that as a man of size, Bend and Pick tends to be better for finding clothes that fit me. The picture above is from Bend and Pick a few weeks ago.
Be kind to yourself.
There is no shortage of instagram imagery to keep us busy. Some R/PCVs and friends joined in on the fun. The following is a list of Instagram accounts featuring various aspects of Peace Corps life. None of these accounts are representative of or affiliated with the United States government, any host country government, or the United States Peace Corps. Be sure to follow, like, and interact with these folks. And if you’re inspired to undertake your own project (or if I’ve missed any), be sure to comment so that I can add the account. Accounts are listed in alphabetical order.
– Beards of Peace Corps (@beardsofpeacecorps) – R/PCVs show off their beards and mustaches
– Black PCV (@blackpcv) – folks from across the diaspora currently serving (and who have served)
– Hey PCV Boy (@hey_pcv_boy) – jokes and memes because you deserve a laugh
– Hey PCV Boy (@heypcvboy) – not sure if this account is related to the above account, but more jokes and memes because you deserve a laugh
– Hey PCV Girl (@heypcvgirl) – jokes and memes because you deserve a laugh
– How a PCV puts it gently (@howapcvputsitgently) – gifs that R/PCVs can relate to
– Jaded Corps (@jadedcorps) – taking PCV pictures and making amazing memes, also because you deserve a laugh
– Melanin of Peace Corps (@melanin_of_peace_corps) – a showcase of melanated R/PCVs and their work
– My Peace Corps Story (@mypeacecorpsstory) – an RPCV decided to do a podcast. This is the accompanying instagram.
– Overheard PCV (@overheardpcv) – bits and pieces of conversations overheard by PCVs
– Peace Corps Eats (@pcv_eats) – the food PCVs eat
– Peace Corps Eats (@pcveats) – not sure if this is affiliated with the above account, but more of the food PCVs eat
– Peace Corps Transportation (@pcvtransportation) – taking a look at how PCVs get around
– Peace Cats (@peace_cats1) – the cats of Peace Corps
– Peace Corps Cats (@peacecorpscats) – not sure if this is affiliated with the above account, but more cats of Peace Corps
– Peace Corps Food (@peacecorpsfood) – a foodie journey through Peace Corps
– Peace Corps Life (@peacecorpslife) – a look at life in Peace Corps
– Peace Corps Noire (@peacecorpsnoire) – Black/African American PCVs living their best lives
– Peace Corps Potential (@peacecorpspotential) – pictures that could possibly be from someone’s service
– Peace Corps Problems (@peacecorpsproblems) – commiserate together with you fellow R/PCV family
– Peace Corps Style (@peacecorpsstyle) – the PCV fashion
– Peace Corps Travels (@peacecorpstravels) – images from the vast travels of R/PCVs
– Peace Corps True Life (@peacecorpstruelife) – capturing the
struggle essence of PCV life
– Peace Corps Whole 30 (@peacecorpswhole30) – a PCV does the whole 30 diet
– Peace Doors (@peacedoors) – based in Guatemala, a PCV set out to photograph doors
– Peaceful Curls of Peace Corps (@peacefulcurlsofpeacecorps) – PCVs share hair care tips and tricks
– Peas Corps (@peascorps) – healthy food and ideas for PCVs
– Woah Insecto (@woahinsecto) – highlighting some of the cool bugs and critters PCVs see during service
Be kind to yourself.
Some months back, a fellow PCV began planning a commemoration event called Walk The Nation. In 2008, a PCV in eSwatini organized a 200 kilometre walk to bring attention to the high HIV incidence in the country. The commemoration event was designed to look at how far the fight has come, and how much more needs to be done. Several PCVs participated in the commemoration of Walk The Nation by having events in their respective communities. Some volunteers showed documentaries while other marched and had discussions about where we go from here. Some volunteers were given paint to complete mural projects. Luckily, my community was given paint and associated supplies.
At my local high school, I spoke with students about HIV incidence and how far eSwatini has come. When I introduced the mural possibility, several students were excited and began working on concepts and drawings. Last week, our students (and a few recent alumni) completed the mural project. My hope is that as the student body sees this image, they will remember that education can lead them to any and all places.
Be kind to yourself.