September 2008

Trekking in Cambodia with Iris Willow

By Art Goodtimes

LIVING IN LAOS … With my eldest daughter teaching in Vietiane at an English-language school, Iris is getting the opportunity to travel around Asia. Here’s an edited account of her recent trip to Cambodia. The “we” refers to her computer wizard boyfriend, Bert Fan. GREETINGS … I just returned from an amazing 13-day trip around Cambodia. After my first 10-week term teaching English in Vientiane, I was delighted to have a two-week holiday, both as a break from my current sixday teaching week and as an opportunity to leave Vientiane and explore a new country. We flew into the lively Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh and headed straight for the beach for some R&R. We took a half-day-long bus to Sihanoukville, stopping once where we were bombarded by tiny children trying to sell fried bananas and coconut-filled pastries — it is a sad fact throughout Cambodia that poor children are often forced to sell food and knickknacks to tourists instead of going to school, a fact that might drive you crazy, constantly being hounded by these adorable salespeople who know all the right tricks … In Sihanoukville, we headed straight for Serendipity beach, where we spent a couple nights in a bungalow on a hill overlooking the sea, appropriately named Cloud 9. The beach was nice, but filled with tourists. So on the second day we boarded a tiny boat taking us on a turbulent sea where we were continually splashed with water on the one-hour ride to Bamboo Island. The tiny secluded isle was perfect, we found a rustic, but functional little bungalow right on the beach. The island has a local population of around 30 and then a scattering of bungalows and their workers. There are two beaches on the island, one where the boats dock and most of the locals live. This is the side we stayed on. The other beach is on the other side of the island, a 10- minute walk through the forested interior, emerging on a nearly deserted beach with a giant swing hanging out over the beach. After three days on the island, relaxing, swimming, wave jumping, and watching a rescue mission of five people who ended up stuck on or inbetween our island and another island as a storm began to brew (all of them survived), we were ready to make another wet and wild ride back to Sihanoukville and from there back to Phnom Penh … In Phnom Penh, we stayed in a beautiful little boutique guest house with an adorable garden restaurant across the street from Toul Sleng, the former Khmer Rouge prison, now a genocide museum exposing the many atrocities committed by the former communist Khmer Rouge regime from 1975- 79. The museum is extremely disturbing, filled with row upon row of photos taken by the Khmer Rouge of the numerous prisoners (men, women and children, some just babies) who were brought to the prison, to be tortured for information and then killed. Not one attempted escape was successful and the total death count at the prison was around 17,000. There were also photos of the prison guards, many just teenagers, black-and-white photos with icy eyes eerily staring you down. Most of whom were also killed by the Khmer Rouge, who often cleansed their party by killing people from within. There were big photographs in some cells of the dead prisoners as they were found in the very cells you are standing in when the Vietnamese arrived. Needless to say Cambodia is still recovering from this traumatic period in their history. But in Phnom Penh development and consumerism are everywhere. The capital is crowded, filled with frenetic traffic which swarms in every direction. There are two big markets with many shopping delights, including Cambodian silk scarves, made-in- Cambodia clothes (many of the American brands have factories here), marionettes and much more. I had leather sandals and boots made to fit my feet. And the Khmer food was delicious. The Amock, fish cooked in coconut milk and Lok Lak, beef in a tasty tomato lemon sauce served over fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and onions, were my favorites. After a trip to the palace and the silver pagoda, we took a bus heading north to Siem Reap, home of Angkor Wat.

NACO PUBLIC LANDS … I was honored to have been re-elected Aug. 1 to a seat on the National Association of Counties Public Lands Steering Committee by my fellow commissioners at Colorado Counties, Inc. (I attended by phone as I was still in California) … I was one of six candidates selected out of a field of 10 or so. It means CCI will pay expenses to send me to


The Great Mystery

Great the honor
accompanying my Dad
into that strange mystery.

No breath deep enough
to keep his eyes shut.
I listen as his lungs cease.

And that moment
carried back to life where
each breath becomes world

We’re not here
to accumulate trophies & treasures.
We are here to die.

NACo annual and legislative meetings as well as the Western Interstate meetings – gatherings of commissioners on the national and regional level that offer the opportunity to represent Southwest Colorado in larger venues and work on issues like Payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILT), OHV licensing and fire plans. This year PILT payments, always in jeopardy of being cut and requiring lots of lobbying by NACo and CCI, will bring over $300,000 into San Miguel County coffers … Being a commissioner involves so much more than just being on top of local issues. One needs to have a hand in regional, state and national pies so that we can keep abreast of threats coming our way (like the Programmatic EIS West-wide Utility Corridor that we got involved in just in time to change the final route recommendation) and opportunities to save our taxpayers money (like PILT and our prescription-drug benefit program).

CHOCOLATE … I’ve become a bit of a connoisseur of cacao since visiting California. It started with a random web search, prompted by the variety of the Golden State’s chocolate choices, that found me a book by occasional Tellurider Mort Rosenblum, “Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light” (2004). That led to Maricel Presilla’s “A New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes” (2001). I found that the Bay Area had two artisan chocolate companies, Burlingame’s E. Guittard and Berkeley’s Scharffen Berger … But even better, we have our own artisan gourmet product available locally, Silverton Chocolate. Check out worldclass cocoa flavors created right here in Colorado from the best of the world’s cacao beans <www.silvertonchocolates. com> … Tonight I’m munching SC’s 80 percent Chocolate Noir with Organic Madagascar Nibs – strong tealike bitter notes, the slight creaminess of roasted almond, and a fruity aroma of tropical mango.

Art Goodtimes is a San Miguel County commissioner.