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52 Blog Entries
51 Trips
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South-Africa / Cape Town
VSO experience in Cambodia
Third day in Phnom Phen
first entry from Cambodia/ PP
4.th day
Monday, the 11th of May
Wednesday until Friday (13-15.05.2009)
last day in PP
finally arrived in Stung Treng
Stung Treng 2, Thursday
Stung Treng 3, the weekend
katja-horsch's Travel Blog
ST 25.05.- 31.05.2009
1.6.- 7.6.09
being here my second month now
Ratana kiri and Kampong Thom
ST end of June
a new year, a new
...and that's it!
August 2009
my trip to the beach
end of August, beginning of September 09
ICT- In Country Training
visitors from Germany
My 30th Birthday in Cambodia
what happend in Jan & Feb 2010
My 29th Birthday
Thailand in April
Mekong River Swim and vegetarian delights
March/April 2010
Happy Khmei New year!
I have been to Laos!
why I am here
Nov/Dec 09
Weddings in Stung Treng
Weddings in Stung Treng 2011
Back in Vietnam
my new house and other desasters
Ho Chi Minh City and the end of my VSO placement in Stung Treng
Holiday in the first world
Welcome to a good world!
16 months here
Unbelievable but true, Dave made it to Cambodia!
Halloween, Boatrace and more kittens!
a volunteers life...

Shorthand link:


... and that's it!

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

So after a proper break in Europe, I had another 7 weeks in Cambodia in the rural wild west in Oli village or also called: Thmar Pouk.
At the first hospital meeting shortly after my arrival the staff made clear that they would like me to help implementing the Ministry of Helth Infection Control guidelines and to work with the staff on the new pediatric ward.

Together with Oli’s support we managed to do some good workshops for the cleaners and staff about general cleaning and handwashing. We developed posters for all sinks to give easy guidance and we even went on a long trip to Phnom Penh to get dispensers with alcohol gel, affordable through donated money from Oli’s friends and family. It was a very satisfying moment seeing all dispensers fixed to the walls and being used (of course not as often as we would like) by staff, patients and visitors to clean their hands. After 6 weeks we had a round of refilling the dispensers already. The alcohol gel is now bought by the hospital and refilled by the pharmacy.

Oli also sprayed bins to indicate the different use.

On the childrens ward I worked closely together with a helpful nurse and together we run the ward at the end on our own. While working with her I could give her tips and advise on how to do things better. We had our up’s and down’s but in general I was very grateful to have this experience after working for 2 years in a nursing school.
The children on the ward had mostly Dengue Fever, Diarrhea or Bronchitis. Severe cases could not be treated and were sent to Siem Riep by taxi. One time I got really worried when a staff nurse turned up very drunk for work. I just about could avoid him do harm to a baby by injecting something directly into a babies arm. I never found out what happened to him but I heard that this is nothing unusual and I’ve seen the staff playing cards and drinking under the tree or playing volleyball instead of being on the ward. It’s just a normal thing.

We also had visitors, one of them was Kath who came up from Phnom Penh to do some workshops for the midwifes.

On the maternity ward I got insights of laboring women and freshly newborn babies which is always exiting and heart warming. Unfortunately during my time here we also had still births and maternal deaths, usually due to eclampsia.

We also raised seedlings from little seeds of the magic 'Olifera' tree and gave them to the hospital kitchen to use the nutritous leaves for the patients in future.

Mary (an education VSO volunteer) introduced us to the prison in Sissaphon where I facilitated three health sessions covering relationships, sexually transmitted infections, contraceptions and condom use, for male and female prisoners and I educated about smoking. Especially the woman prison was poorly to see. Inside the prison the 120 female inmates who have done from stealing to killing are crammed into 6 cells. Some are pregnant, some have children and those 18 children run free around the prison complex without education or other stimulation. Nobody takes care of them.
Fortunately Mary and a handful of other dedicated NGO’s try now to improve things there for the prisoners.

I had the great opportunity, to also learn more about Thmar Pouk and to see more beautiful and real rural Cambodia.

I also made some new friends, this is Sophat whom I worked with on the pediatric ward.

She invited us one afternoon to eat my favourite Cambodian food, Ban Sum.

After 4 weeks being in Thmar Pouk, I also went up to Stung Treng to see my friends and family again for the last time.

While Oli was up in Anlong Veng to do some work whith Wendy, we decided to take the opportunity to visit Preah Vihear Temple, the one that had be fought over by the Thai. I can confirm that the fighting has stopped and that it is definetely of Cambodian ownership.
The temple is on a mountain and they are just in the process of building a new road to get up there more easily.
We also had a big cloud sitting on the temple all morning which gave the whole szenery a kind of mystic touch. The funniest thing was that as soon as we arrived, the bored soldiers came up to us and one took Oli by his hand and took him around. As if I wouldn't exist!

Last time we were in Siem Riep, Oli dragged me to cycle to the Butterfly farm with him. It was a hot day and it took nearly 3 hours each way, but it was really worth it.

We went through the Angkor Wat compound because that is where the farm is. So it was also my very last time to see the great temples...

Saying goodbye wasn't easy...

On my last weekend in Phnom Penh, we went to the Bear Sanctury in the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Park and Rescue Centre.
Oli and I were volunteers for the whole day and had the chance to find out more about these absolutely adorable sun-, moon- and asian-bears. We were even preparing little snacks that we then hid for the bears to find. It was wonderful.

Ingran has also finished his VSO placement, so we had another little goodbye do in Phnom Penh.

We stayed with lovely Alison and Paul.

On my way back to the UK, I popped to Switzerland, Lausanne, where Antje and John live now. It was absolutely stunning there. We also went camping for a few days.

Now back in Oxford, live goes on.

permalink written by  katja-horsch on August 24, 2011 from Phnom Penh, Cambodia
from the travel blog: ...and that's it!
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Holiday in the first world

London, United Kingdom

2 years ago I landed in Cambodia to share my skills and to change lives. The time in Cambodia has certainly changed my life miraculously and I think I have gained new life long experiences and friends. I completed my work placement with VSO before I went.

Our holiday to the UK after those 2 years was to join 2 family weddings we were invited to and to see how it feels again to be in the 1st world.

We started from Phnom Penh and flew via Bangkok to London where we stayed with Oli's good friends Alison and Ben for a couple of nights.

We had a lovely time. Then we went back to central London and dumped our luggage at Oli's brothers house to travel with lighter luggage up to Scotland the next day.

After we arrived in Edinbourgh by train, we stayed at Oli's friend Elsbeth for a few days. Meanwhile we explored Oli's old hometown.

Then we went with Oli's parents up to Glasgow to Loch Lohmond. Oli's cousin Bryony got married the next day. It was the most perfect day for a wedding and the most beautiful location.

The next day we drove down with Oli's parents towards his proper hometown Delph.

After a few days in beautiful Yorkshire, we went back to London where Oli arranged for some friends to see us at his brothers house.

The next day I arrived in Oxford. It was lovely coming back!

There Í had time to sort out my new living space and I started the process on my midwifery training at Brookes University.

The next day, we all flew to Germany to the next wedding.

It was Mathias and Andreas wedding in beautiful Lueneburg. We had such a wonderful time!

After the wedding we drove back towards my hometown but on the way we stayed in Neu Sammit and camped with my friends for a few days. We had such a lovely time and unfortunately I left my camera in the car so I don't have any pictures.

Back in my hometown Guestrow, I showed Oli where I was from.

We also met up with Doerti and Marcus.

After a few days in Guestrow, we took the ferry and spend the weekend with Oli's friends in Copenhagen, Danmark.

Back in Guestrow, we picked up the girls a few days later and flew back to England.

We had a fantastic 4 weeks in Europe but it was also really nice coming home. You can read here why: (a short article for the NSJ magazine)

Going home… to Cambodia

Returning to Europe in June after 2 years volunteering in Cambodia was a big deal.

Leaving work was not so sad because I felt ready to go. But saying goodbye to beloved volunteer friends who had become so close was really tough.

Even harder was leaving Cambodian friends and family, knowing that they will probably never leave their surroundings because they are too poor – or maybe just too fearful. I always feel guilty that I am from one of the richest countries in the world. In their eyes I am rich and I agree.

Having taken the final tuktuk ride to Phnom Penh airport I was soon transported to another world – by watching 5 films back to back on the plane!

Suddenly we had landed in London. At first it didn’t seem so different – just another airport – but then we stepped out into Marks & Spencers and Costas. And all those white people – all dressed in suits like they’re going to a wedding! And the cold…

Our first coach ride was to Luton, to be picked up by a friend. The uniformed driver introduced himself before carefully stowing our luggage. We sat in a velvety seat with acres of legroom! Just as we set off (bang on time) the driver said “Please fasten your seatbelts”, which had us in fits of giggles. Driving into the dusk, it felt so smooth and safe like still being on a plane and it was lovely and quiet, so relaxing…

The landscape was so different. Of course no palm trees or rice fields, no cows or dogs on the road. Instead, motorway and big electricity masts covered the grass fields we passed.

And it was like this throughout the whole trip: relaxing and smooth, but cold and expensive – suddenly I was definitely not rich anymore! In Scotland everyone else enjoyed the summer whilst we headed to the nearest charity shop to snap up their gloves, hats and scarves! We did have great fun speaking our ‘secret language’ though.

But I had this constant rice craving. Every time we saw a Thai restaurant, my heart bet faster and we had to go in. I sometimes cooked rice myself but it didn’t taste the same – it wasn’t the slightly sticky rice that you can eat in Cambodia.

Instead I had to eat bread, cheese and cake and of course we were especially spoiled in Yorkshire with pies and in Denmark with smoerebroed. My stomach didn’t like it and I suffered. Plus everything tasted very bland and boring. And my stepfather pointed out how bad my table manners had become!

After a few weeks in Europe I was also really missing the colours of Cambodia. And the people, the landscape, the heat. We had a great time with all our friends and family, but it was so good to know that I could return one more time to Cambodia.

On the plane back I promised myself I would really enjoy every moment that I have left here. I felt happy and relaxed – I was coming home!

permalink written by  katja-horsch on July 10, 2011 from London, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: Holiday in the first world
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Ho Chi Minh City and the end of my VSO placement in Stung Treng

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

As my last weeks as a VSO volunteer passed by, I lived and enjoyed life intensively in Stung Treng and elsewhere.

Oli was very keen to visit the South of Vietnam and especially the capital - Ho Chi Minh City or as they call it unofficially: Saigon.

We decided to travel by boat this time and it was a pleasant change to a sweaty and noisy bus trip.

We did all the passport business on the River and stayed in a beautiful little village called Chau Dok in a "floating hotel" for one night.

The next day we visited an ancient temple on the way to Saigon.

In Ho Chi Minh City, we stayed for 2 nights and did sightseeing mainly by walking.

The next day, we visited the 'famous' Cu Chi Tunnels, a 75-mile-long underground maze where thousands of fighters and villagers could hide during the Vietnamese war in 1968.

The tunnels were used by Viet Cong guerrillas as hiding spots during combat, as well as serving as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous guerrilla fighters. The tunnel systems were of great importance to the Viet Cong in their resistance to American forces, through which they secured American withdrawal from Vietnam and ultimate military success.

We've also seen all sorts of horrible gadgets to trap the Americans.

I had a panic attack while crawling through the deep down tight tunnels and had to exit sooner. Oli managed to crawl through the darkness the full 100 meters.

We also visited the very interesting war museum.

When we were walking around the city, the fact that I suddenly commented that it looks really nice in Bangkok made me realize that we were traveling a lot recently and that everything became to look the same.

After our visit I have certainly learned a lot about the historical drama that happend also especially in South Vietnam and I have a lot of respect towards the Vietnamese people.

Back in Phnom Penh, I met with my lovely friend Sareth and we had lunch together. She is a qualified nurse now (training in Stung Treng RTC) and studies Midwifery now in PP. I am very happy about this and can only encourage and support her.

Back in Stung Treng, I finished my work in the Regional Training Centre and did one last event with the help of Angela and Carol, we gave some training on donated equipment to the Midwife teachers. We found this material last year sitting in their boxes in this dirty,dusty room and asked why it was not used. I am sure this happens all over Cambodia. The answer was that the teachers didn't know how to use it. A questionable answer. If we wouldn't have come back to it the equipment would still be unused today. So we cleaned the room, took out expensive modern equipment and put it on shelves (which was another act to get some) and got familiar with it to provide training for the teachers. It all worked out very well and I was satisfied when I left.

It felt very weird leaving the RTC but it was also a relief. After all, I've spent two years there but all didn't work out as I planned it without being my fault of course : )

Another highlight before I moved away was our dressing up morning.
All Stung Treng volunteers met to have heavy make up and glitzy dresses.

I will miss you Stung Treng, my trusted volunteer friends and family. I couldn't have done it all without you: Helen who let me stay with her at the beginning in 2009 when I first arrived and who gently introduced me into the Khmer world, Holli who I could talk to about everything and who I became so close with, Evic who gave me this huge teddy bear when I felt so homesick 2 years ago, Delia who gave me great comfort and confidence, Louisa, Carol my great friend, sister and mother, Linda who gave me a lot of love and challenged me too, Maria and Ferdi who both made me love the Philippines again, Ingran who became a great friend, Rachel and Anthony who are an incredible couple and lovely people, Jan and Thea who I admire for their strong will and passion, Angela and Chris who enjoy the Khmer way as much as I do and Wendy who I could rely on. Thank you all for being there for me. I will miss you! I hope very much we all keep in touch!!!

My leaving do was at my house but I felt rather sad so it didn't develop into a huge party. I asked everyone to bring some food and I prepared a slide show with lots of pictures which I then showed on sheet hanging on the wall via LCD. It was lovely though.

Not enough party. As part of VolCom (Volunteer Committee for Cambodia) I was one of the organizers for a volunteer party in order to celebrate 20 years of VSO in Cambodia. My favourite job. So Ingran, Eileen and myself organized a VSO party on a boat in Phnom Penh on the Mekong river. A 4 hour party with free beer and snacks. Of course it had an entry fee. This evening was also the last one for me and Oli before we flew the next day to the UK.
We all had a ball!

Yes and this was my last time as an official VSO volunteer. I'm out now. Had an exit interview and have been 'discharged'.
After our holiday in Europe I will back and work as a 'non-VSO'- volunteer
in rural Thmar Pouk in Olis hospital for another 7 weeks. Looking forward to that.

The next blog will be all about England, Scotland, Germany and Denmark. See you soon! Your Katja.

permalink written by  katja-horsch on July 3, 2011 from Phnom Penh, Cambodia
from the travel blog: Ho Chi Minh City and the end of my VSO placement in Stung Treng
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Weddings in Stung Treng 2011 and some good news!

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

On the 29th was the Royal Wedding in the UK and although I don't have a telly, I heard all about it from the other volunteers because it was in the media non stop for weeks.
The Phnom Penh VSO volunteers sent an e-mail around to invite to a Royal Wedding party and it said they even invited the British Ambassador (which was a joke I found out later).
Us in Stung Treng then thought, we also should have a Royal Wedding party as it is such a big event! So Linda prepared her House, Anthony prepared a special Royal Wedding Pup Quiz and I provided the prize. Everyone brought snacks and beer and then we dressed all up for the special occasion and hung in front of the telly, admiring the brides dress and getting an English atmosphere here in Stung Treng.
I heard that all the other provinces also did Royal Wedding parties.

The other good news is, that I had a successful Skype-interview with Oxford Brookes University and they accepted me for doing the short midwifery course starting in September. I was overwhelmed with joy! I am going to become a midwife!!!

At the same weekend, Abi asked me to come to Kratie to help her to take pictures of the 'Kratie Dolphin Boys' as she was allocated to be the official Dolphin-Boy calendar 2012 photographer. Of course I didn't say no! What an opportunity! It was fantastic!
First of all I love to stay with Abi as she is a great friend of me and it's always like holiday being with her. Then she has Rock Lobster, who was born in my room in Stung Treng!

All the photos we took I can't show now and they will be released in the next years calender which will be available at the end of this year. But I can show some impressions from the great afternoon we had at Kampi with the very fit and hot Kratie Dolphin Boys.

And finally, on the 7th of May was the day, my Cambodian family had waited for a long long time for. It was the wedding day of my oldest Cambodian sister Peach.

It was an arranged wedding and the deal was made shortly after her birth. She was going to marry Andy, a man her same age (21), who grew up in America after his parents managed to flew from Cambodia before the Pol Pot invasion in 1975.
He can hardly speak any Cambodian and everything was very strange for him here. His family felt pity with my family but somehow on the actual wedding day everybody was very happy.

Everything started very early of course, that is the annoying thing about Cambodian weddings. At 4 am the monks start chanting through loudspeakers so that the whole town can hear it. The happy couple then gives promises back and forth over the microphone that everyone can hear it. Then everyone gets ready for the first ceremony outside.
Both families walking towards each other and they exchange flower necklaces.
They were wearing traditional costumes for each procedure. All day was into the clothes, out of them, in, out, in, out... Fascinating.
Then the first official photo shoot and the present exchanging with the parents.

Until we finally had BorBor (Rice soup) at around 9am.

Then we witnessed the haircutting ceremony where hair got cut off symbolically and then given to the good spirits.

Then came the procedure where the bride washes the feet of her husband.

Then something like a knife dance was performed.

And then the morning was finished and everyone had a rest. In the afternoon, we were all busy to get ready for the fun part of the wedding, the party in the evening!

And finally at around 7pm, my friends arrived and we all sat around one table and ate and drank and talked and danced as well.

After the food, the happy couple went to the fruit table to do one last ceremony - feeding each other and the parents fruit, before the party exploded!

Ich hoffe es geht Euch allen gut! Viele Kuesse und Umarmungen von Eurer Katja!

permalink written by  katja-horsch on May 7, 2011 from Phnom Penh, Cambodia
from the travel blog: Weddings in Stung Treng 2011
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Thailand in April

Bangkok, Thailand

OMG. Did I say in my last blog that we are going to Thailand to escape the madness from Cambodia over Khmer New Year? Well, we didn't really expect THIS for Thai New Year! Pure Madness!

We started our journey form Siem Riep where we then booked a bus to take us to the border in Poipet. There we walked over the border, along the huge casinos in no-mans-land.
Then it was a rather comfortable mini van ride to Bangkok. It took all day though and we arrived in Bangkok after sunset.
We booked us into a little Guest House (LampuHouse, recommendable), which is basically not far from the well known party street: Khor San Road.

Already when we arrived, there was no way of staying dry.
People, tourists and locals, were pouring buckets of water over every pedestrian or were involved in heavy water pistol fights. Gosh, everyone had a water pistol. And of course no small ones, no giant ones!
On our first stroll at night we not only got dripping wet, but also marked in our face, arms, clothes, everywhere, with a paste made of flour and water. I got really angry when they threw a bucket of ice cold water at Oli still with a can of beer in it which hit him hard on his back.

During the night I got sick. D+V for 24 hours, the worst I ever had. I suspect it came from something I ate at the border.
I ordered Oli to get me a course of Antibiotics and so after 3 days I was more or less fit again. So we did some sightseeing in Bangkok and what I saw was really impressive. I really liked Bangkok, apart from the water madness!

So we did travel on the river, rode the sky-train

visited the Royal Palace, ate delicious food and even met Tom Cruise!

After 3 days we took the bus to Pattaya. Of the party crowd had to follow us from the capital and it actually got worse. Whole trucks full of water drove along the streets with people on it, ready to give you the full blast with big water pipes.

Fortunately we booked ourselves into a lovely and quiet little bungalow resort and we could really relax once we were there.

But the actual reason we came to Pattaya was for me to do the bungee jump. So on Saturday afternoon we got picked up and brought to "Jungle Bungee jump".

I payed my 2000 Baht and then went to the jump teacher. He took my weight and then put really tight bandages around my lower legs. They were so tight that it really hurt!
It all went very fast and I mean it is not difficult to know what to do when you do Bungee jumping but I must say at this point I felt a little nervous.
Never the less, I got up and hoppled towards the lift.
The crane was 60 meter high and as soon as I realised that this is for real now, I was already on my way up.

Up there, it was quite windy. Nice view, looking down no problem. I could see Oli with the camera, taking a video of me.

But then it kicked in. Jumping down? Blimey, I felt a little trapped as I knew now there is no way back. The palms of my hands got really sweaty, my mouth got so dry! And the guy with me just said now I count until 3 and then you let yourself fall forward. Easy!
It took me another 3 minutes up there to overcome my fear but then I thought that Oli is waiting and the battery of the camera might run out soon and I thought that I have trust in this rope that is tied around my legs and nothing will happen. So I just let myself fall down.

It was a terrifying experience. I still can feel it when I am writing now about it. It doesn't take long though. But it is such a relief when the rope caught up and I started to bounce up and down. It really felt good.

Then after hanging for a little while upside down they got a long stick and I grabbed it and they pulled my down and onto a mattress. There I lay and couldn't stop laughing.

It really gave me a confidence boost. I feel like I can do everything now, because I was brave enough to do a bungee jump.

After all this adrenaline-high, we still hadn't got enough and threw ourselves in the evening into the never stopping party crowd at the well-known 'Walking-Street'.

There, we drank ice-cold vodka in a bar which was freezing and full of ice-blocks , we witnessed brutal Thai-Kick Boxing and afterwards some snake action that made me scream and I made Oli smoke Chicha and afterwards a Rodeo ride . The long evening faded out in a dodgy cocktail bar with some football on.

Pattaya also had a beach and some good ice-cream. Otherwise I hope to go to some nicer places once we are in Thailand again.

permalink written by  katja-horsch on April 29, 2011 from Bangkok, Thailand
from the travel blog: Thailand in April
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Mekong River Swim and vegetarian delights

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

(This text is written by Oliver Shipp)

The chocolaty Mekong oozes its way through Cambodia towards Phnom Penh, supporting riverside communities and picturesque boats. It is impressive, photogenic, even beautiful. But would you really want to bathe in it?

Daring VSO volunteers Katja, John and Adrian defied tradition, intuition (and medical wisdom) to successfully swim nearly a kilometre across the mighty, murky river.

Surprisingly, they weren’t alone in this questionable weekend pursuit. No less than 164 brave souls stripped off and plunged into the muddy depths as part of this year’s Mekong River Swim.

From the relative safety of the wobbly wooden Mekong Flower support boat, Ella and Oly were watching, wondering, and waving the VSO flag. Whatever nasties coated the swimmers, all that was on the spectators’ lips was one question: Why?

The event was too late to be an April fool. Hardy adventurers that they are, it seems the challenge of traversing one of the world’s great rivers was reason enough.

In fairness, the swim was also promoted by VolCom, as part of its ‘events’ role to bring together the volunteer community. Katja’s bright red VSO t-shirt also provided positive publicity, as well as a useful marker for the hovering rescue boats.

It was also a fun social event, mainly for the Phnom Penh ex-pat community, but with a sprinkling of local support too. And it was for a good cause – proceeds this year will help rebuild a school in Ofunato, Japan, destroyed by the recent tsunami. It is an interesting turn of events that funds are being raised in still-developing Cambodia to help one of the world’s richest countries. (There has been no confirmation of the rumour that next year proceeds will help Britain’s cash-strapped health service).

Happily all three brave volunteers made it across intact. Hopefully the chosen crossing point from Prek Leap Agricultural College was far enough upstream to avoid the worst of the city’s unregulated drainage – certainly at the time of writing their consumption of Mekong water has not been definitively linked with any subsequent hospitalizations.

Whilst the swimmers gagged and gurgled, conversation among the spectators turned to the future of the Mekong. It’s a challenge, as communities in no less than 5 countries depend on the river, as it flows from China, through Thailand and Laos into Cambodia, and finally out into the South China Sea from Vietnam.

Of particular concern are plans to build more dams upstream, which will change the river forever. Admittedly the developments could provide significant, lucrative and (crucially) clean and renewable hydro-electric power.

However, critics complain plans are being pushed through without consultation or assessment of the environmental impact. Ordinary river-dwellers are unlikely to see the benefits (reserved for government officials and foreign economies), yet will be greatly affected, being forced to change crop irrigation and their present fish-based diet.

Fortunately the organizers must be confident of the river’s future, in the short-term at least: the 16th annual Mekong River Swim is scheduled for early April 2012. Fancy a swim?

Afterwards, Oli had his first Cambodian shave on the street.

And we celebrated Danny's leaving do in Phnom Penh together with other volunteers.

Text written by me and published in our local VSO volunteer magazine:

What's love got to do with it?

I never thought I would write an article about food. But now I think about it every day!

I don’t want to lecture or sound like someone who knows it all. I just want to share my thoughts with you, and perhaps it will trigger something in you that will affect you for life.

When my sister gave up meat I remember making fun of her. When she was grumpy I said it was because she needed bratwurst! Now I feel ashamed of what I said, especially when I hear similarly ill-informed comments made by my family and even some of my friends.

Today I celebrate having been veggie for a year. This is largely thanks to Oly, who quit eating meat and fish as a rebellious teenager, and who finally helped me to do what I always wanted but didn’t know how.

So why have I chosen to quit eating meat and fish? You know why: for love!

Firstly, I love animals. I love the calm cows, the pink pigs, the fast chickens, the beautiful creatures who live in the Mekong and the sea. And I don’t kill things I love (or get someone else to kill them for me). And I try really hard not to cause pain to those I love and not causing pain is the biggest issue for me. Do those pig screams when they are slaughtered not make you feel something? We live in a Buddhist country, so we should be familiar with respect for animals, and I wish even more people would put such precious beliefs into practice (including the restaurant which just opened in front of my house, where they tether a young cow to a stake each morning, later to kill and roast him on a spit by the road – it breaks my heart every day).

Secondly, I love my life, and I feel far healthier as a veggie. As a health worker I am now very aware of the growing body of evidence connecting diet to health. Human beings don’t need to eat meat or fish. I am very happy to be avoiding meat, with its links to heart disease and cancers of the bowel and stomach. Interestingly, even the most recent issue of Medinews from MEDICAM Cambodia reported that meat and fish are linked to bowel disease. I am also pleased to have a lower risk of food poisoning and worms, improved digestion, and better breath! And I am delighted to be eating more healthy food, tasty tofu and nuts. I am now much more food-aware, and enjoy buying, sometimes cooking and eating delicious dishes. I live with a Cambodian family, and I’m thrilled to say that they started to cook and eat veggie food with me, with mouthwatering results!

Thirdly, I love the planet, and I am convinced that stopping meat-eating is the single most important thing most of us can do to reduce climate change. I understand that a veggie diet is hugely more energy efficient, a meaty one much more wasteful. I want my children to have children to have children to have children. If we don’t dramatically cut demand for meat we will destroy our future.

Over Christmas I was reading a moving and gripping book by Jonathan Safran Foer called Eating Animals. It is brilliantly written and full of great stories – but it is not fiction. If you are brave and honest enough to read it, it may well change your views and your life.

For example, do you think it is wrong to eat dogs? Foer explores this difficult issue, asking how it could be morally different from killing chickens or cows. He exposes the terrible cruelty which is inevitable in producing meat, but which most of us (me included) try to pretend doesn’t happen. And he concludes, like me, that for many many reasons the right thing to do is to go veggie.

Maybe I can compare giving up eating meat to giving up smoking. It is very hard at the beginning. The temptation to lapse back to the bad old habits, to give in to peer pressure. Sometimes people seemed almost scared to see me do the right thing in case it left them exposed. Often people want to find a reason to justify their habits, rather than having to change.

Here in Cambodia it’s actually quite easy to go veggie. There are good supplies of delicious fruit and veg, cereals and nuts, even in most rural areas. If you want to eat eggs they are everywhere, and you can often find milk or soya products like various tofu if you want.

And you won’t be alone! I have never met as many vegetarians as here in the VSO community in Cambodia. I love to go out to eat in lots of meat-free restaurants in Phnom Penh and Siem Riep. My friend from home also posts me trashy women’s mags and it’s reassuring to read that so many celebrities are role modeling by being veggie.

But as I say, I don’t want to preach, and I don’t have all the answers. For example, I love animals, most of all the gorgeous kittens I adopted. But cats, unlike us, can’t live happily without flesh. Yet if I feed them meat or fish, I will be part of killing another creature. It makes me sad and uncomfortable, but I don’t know what else I can do. This is an ongoing dilemma for me.

Fortunately, we humans don’t have that problem – we can choose what we do. And all of us make a choice, every day, even if we try to ignore it – either we eat meat, or we go veggie. For our love of other creatures, of ourselves, of our planet, it’s clear to me that I made the right choice. Why don’t you join me?

permalink written by  katja-horsch on April 28, 2011 from Phnom Penh, Cambodia
from the travel blog: Mekong River Swim and vegetarian delights
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My 30th Birthday in Cambodia

Kampot, Cambodia

Well, first of all we had a study tour from the RTC Stung Treng at the end of February. A few Clinical Instructors and Preceptors preferred to go to Kampot to see the Referral Hospital and Regional Training Centre there. So after some organisation and preperation off we went.
It was my first time in Kampot and the first time to do a study tour too.
Basically one day to travel there, one day to spend and exchange information one day travel back.
All in all it was interesting but not particularly brilliant as most of the study tour participants were more interested in going to the Zoo, buying lobster and crabs, enjoying the seaside and singing Karaoke then asking intelligent questions when they had the opportunity.
But apparently a study tour in Cambodia is a 'party tour'. Good that I know that now.

On the way back, of course we stopped in Kep and admired the Cambodian mermaid.

Back in Phnom Penh, Oli and I met and mostly he did some work while I was finishing my application forms for the UK. In the evening we had fun, here are some picutures when Ant was also in PP and really wanted to know it that night. We went to the Riverside dancing.

Then came my birthday weekend and Oli surprised me with a wonderful time. It was also in Kampot where we were going and it was called: Nataya - Round House Coral Reef Resort. I thought I've landed in paradise!

When I returned after this wonderful birthday weekend which Oli made so special for me, I discovered that our puppies at my house in Stung Treng grew again a little. Here they are, the cuties!

My Hugsy also is a proper kitten now, on the way to a fully grown big boy. Only a month ago I found out that Hugsy is a boy, not a girl as I initially thaught. That made me happy in terms of family planning.

I also didn't want to miss out on a proper birthday party so I invited everyone from Stung Treng into my box to have a good time. Chantra especially appriciated the punch I made. We had a great time and I think I had too much punch...

I am in Stung Treng now for nearly 4 weeks and after all that time, it really becomes all a blur after a while. Every day is the same. No stimulants here. My DVD player on my laptop stopped working finally (I can be thankful that my laptop works that well still anyway) so I have plenty of time to read books or to tidy my room or cook rice or change my nail colour or teach Reak-smey computer, but it is like boring. So I am so much looking forward to go into the big city this weekend, I can't wait! Partly because Oli will be there too and I am doing the Mekong River Swim on Sunday.
(Charity supported by the MRS 2011: this year The Swim Team has chosen to
donate all profits to supporting the rebuilding of a primary school in Rikuzentakata which is a town located in Iwate prefecture, Japan. Rikuzentakata was reported to have been “wiped off the map” by the tsunami following the Tohoku earthquake earlier this month. According to police, every building smaller than three stories high has been completely flooded. The town’s tsunami shelters were designed for a wave of 3-4m in height, but the tsunami of March 2011 created a wave 15m which inundated the designated safe locations. Local officials estimate that 20-40% of the town’s population is dead. Although the town was well prepared for earthquakes and tsunamis and had a 6.5m high seawall, it was not enough and more than 80% of the 80,000 houses were swept away.
Through links we are setting up between iCAN British International School and educators in Rikuzentakata, we will be fundraising to help rebuild one of the local primary schools. Any profits from the MRS 2011 will be donated to this cause. If any registered swimmers or spectators would like to donate additional funds on the Swim morning or after the event, then please contact The Swim Team at mekongriverswim@yahoo.com.)

If I wouldn't have my cats and my lovely family, I suppose I would get bonkers here on my own. But it is so good to have other volunteers here too. Although at the end of the day, everyone is on it's own here.

Soon we have Khmer New Year soon ( 14.-17.04) and that means Happy Happy and holiday for everyone. Oli and I have planned to go to Thailand to escape the madness here but there is no escaping as it will be Thai New Year as well. But for me it will be the first time and I have planned to do a bungee jump, to get it out of my system. More details about that in my next blog! Be exited!

Lots of love from your Katja!

permalink written by  katja-horsch on March 27, 2011 from Kampot, Cambodia
from the travel blog: My 30th Birthday in Cambodia
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visitors from Germany

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

The other very exiting thing that happend before Doerti and Ines arrived was: meeting the parents! Oli's parents came to visit him for about 3 weeks and they travelled around a lot.

They even helped Oli and Alison cleaning the hospital beds in Thmar Pouk hospital for an Infection Control assessment. It was lovely meeting them. We had a day together before the girls arrived and we visited the Royal Palace and we went to Toul Sleng. I am very much looking forward to see them again in Summer.

And then on the 30th of January in the evening, they finally arrived. Tired, in winter clothes, full of luggage. But very happy too. I couldn't believe it. They were there, here in Cambodia together with me! I was also so happy and in shock for a while as I just could not get it. We then went back to the Pavillion where we met the others for a drink and then we went to bed.

The next morning, we had breakfast together

and then we went to see the Royal Palace.

After lunch

we walked over to the National Museum.

On the next day, we got a cyclo to see first Toul Sleng and then the Russian Market.

In the evening we were able to pick up our " Khmer Princess" Photos!

And then, we took the minivan up to Stung Treng. We arrived early in the morning, so that we had time, to visit the orphanage in Thalla Borivat. Caro who also lives and works here in Stung Treng showed us around.

A bunch of German and Austrian people have moved recently to Stung Treng and support the orphange. The project is called Beebob. Doerti and Ines thought of the orphans and brought a lot of toys and sweets for them. The kids were very greatful.

Doerti did a birthday party for her 30th birthday and raised more then $300 for this orphanage. It was good for her to see it. Read more about it on: http://beebob-hilfe.de

In the afternoon, we visited the hospital and Doerti and Ines handed over the toys, they brought for the poor children there.

Then came the night. Both stayed in my house because they wanted to. I think for them it was the most horrible night. Doerti and me slept in my little bed together while Ines slept on the floor. I think the worst thing was the bathroom for them. But in the end they did it and can be proud of themselves. But no wonder that they agreed to move on the next day already to Kratie.

In the morning, I showed them first my RTC.

After a not so nice bus ride, we just about arrived for the spectacular Kratie sunset. With a little bit of luck, we also got a room in the "Balcony".

The next day, we went over by boat to the other side of the river where there is a desert like sandy beach, now that it's dry season.

It was a particularly hot day.

In the evening we moved from the balcony to Abi's house. She kindly offered us accommodation for one night as the balcony didn't have any more rooms for us.

In the afternoon, we did a trip to the rapids of Kampi and the dolphins. Because of Chinese New Year, the place was packed. It was like a Volksfest.

We then choose the sunset to look at the dolphins. It was absolutely beautiful.

And then, we went to Siem Riep. I was surprised about myself how good my Khmei was when I was arguing with a Khmer guy at a bus stop in the middle of nowhere where we had been dropped by our minivan half way through the journey. Anyway, we got there in the end, but again not in the most comfortable position.

We stayed one night in Smileys, where we met up with Oli.

In the evening, we went out for a drink and we hit the Karaoke place.

The next day, we checked in to the 'Terrasse des elephants' and went shopping!

We've been to the Temple Bar and seen the traditional Apsara dancing.

We've also participated in a cooking class which was very nice. The food we cooked was divine.

Ines made us get up in the dark to see the sunrise over Angkor Wat. It was at first very difficult to get up, but then like always, it was all worth it.

We had an amazing day at Angkor Wat and much more pictures where taken. I suppose for me it was also the last time to hang around there.

They were here and we had a fantastic time. I'd wish, they could come back next weekend!!!

permalink written by  katja-horsch on March 14, 2011 from Phnom Penh, Cambodia
from the travel blog: visitors from Germany
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a new year

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

It feels a long time now, beeing here in Cambodia. Not that I don't like it anymore, but I must admit, I feel ready for new adventures. And this year will be the year of big decisions and unpatiently as I am, I want everything to happen immediately!
My midwifery applications have been sent and now it is up to crossing fingers and hoping, that I will get a place.
I also completed my IELTS (international english language testing system) in Phnom Penh and got a 7.5, which is more then I ever dreamed of!
Now I enjoy the beauty of this country and try to finish my VSO placement successfully. I still have a few months to go though, until July.

The Wedding season is still in full blast and the other day, Linda, Carol, Rachel and myself gave everything and went especially to a beauty salon here in Stung Treng to get the full make up and hair do. I also wore my new dress which I bought the material for at the market. The tailor did a wonderful job for only 50.000 Riel!

So we were invited to go to Lindas Translators Brothers Wedding. And Oli came also as we had to celebrate our 1-year-together.

Also Touch, one of my "sisters", went to a wedding in typical ott khmei style.

My little Hugsy is getting bigger now and fortunately, after her cat mother abondened her, she found her new best friend in Rambo, who plays gently with her. Rambo and Tilda are big strong boys now who love to run around but also they like the company of humans.

I love them to bits, although I am trying to give them to other volunteers. But to my surprise, no one would like to look after a cat. Nearly all of them live in big houses all on their own but don't want a little animal they could have fun with.

When Oli was here, we spend a few days along the river near the Laos border at a place called: Bird sanctuary. We were at my home too, but given the circumstances that we are never really alone there, it was a nice change, having a bungalow to ourselves.

This month is also full of other celebrations, for example on the 7th of January we celebrated the Victory over the Genocide regime. In my local pagoda (Wat Luer) was disco and on our way from town, Oli and I got sucked in into a binge drinking party at this pagoda, with my "sisters" and friends from the restaurant where I live. We didn't want to be the fun-break, so we drank a little with them and I even danced for the first time in the crowd of mainly children infront of the big blasting speakers.

The next day, we had Ban Sum at the market for breakfast and then Oli had to leave again for the North- West.

Dani, Lindas Translator, got a scholarship to go to Korea. This is a fantastic achievement and most Khmer people only dream of this opportunity. But she made it. So we had a little goodbye party for her.

Soon Chinese New Year, Buddhas Birthday and Khmei New Year are coming up. More to celebrate and be happy. Most important, the meeting of the parents and the visit from Doerti and Ines in February. And my 30th in March! It is all very exiting.

I hope that all my friends at home are well. Take good care until I see you next at some point this year!!! x k

permalink written by  katja-horsch on January 25, 2011 from Phnom Penh, Cambodia
from the travel blog: a new year, a new
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South-Africa / Cape Town

Cape Town, South Africa

2 Weeks, my Oli and I spent in South Africa at the end of December. It was a family reunion with my sister and brother in law and my adorable two nieces as well as an interesting insight to Africas most popular tourist destination.
Cape Town (Afrikaans: Kaapstad) is the second-most populous city in South Africa, and the largest in land area, forming part of the City of Cape Town metropolitan municipality.

My first thoughts of going to Africa where, that I wanted to see it considering our future plans, to work there at some point. But what we saw and experienced was actually no poverty, no littered streets. It felt very cosmopolitan and nearly european.

Located on the shore of Table Bay, Cape Town was originally developed by the Dutch East India Company as a victualling (supply) station for Dutch ships sailing to Eastern Africa, India, and the Far East. Jan van Riebeeck's arrival on 6 April 1652 established the first permanent European settlement in South Africa. Cape Town quickly outgrew its original purpose as the first European outpost at the Castle of Good Hope, becoming the economic and cultural hub of the Cape Colony. Until the Witwatersrand Gold Rush and the development of Johannesburg, Cape Town was the largest city in South Africa.

We've stayed with Antje and John and the girls in John's grandmothers house which was absolutely beautiful and so relaxing.

That was ideal. It was based a little outside Cape Town City Centre, in Constantia, a suburban area. We had nearly all meals in that garden when the weather allowed it.

We had mostly warm sunny weather, but compared to Cambodian weather, it was changing every day. It was a nice change actually, although I still very much prefer the warmth.

Capetown is the provincial capital and primate city of the Western Cape, as well as the legislative capital of South Africa.
Today it is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, reflecting its role as a major destination for immigrants and expatriates to South Africa. As of 2007 the city had an estimated population of 3.5 million.

The city is famous for its harbour as well as its natural setting in the Cape floral kingdom, including such well-known landmarks as Table Mountain and Cape Point. It is hailed as one of the most beautiful cities in the world as officially recognised by Forbes. National Geographic has also listed Cape Town as one of the most iconic cities on the planet and "Places of a Lifetime".

And we've seen it all.

I think we must have visited all of Cape Town's beaches, which are popular with local residents. Due to the city's unique geography, it is possible to visit several different beaches in the same day, each with a different setting and atmosphere. Though the Cape's water ranges from cold to mild, the difference between the two sides of the city is dramatic. But still, the water on both sides was freezing!

Both coasts are equally popular, although the beaches in affluent Clifton and elsewhere on the Atlantic Coast are better developed with restaurants and cafés, with a particularly vibrant strip of restaurants and bars accessible to the beach at Camps Bay.

We were very active, no problem when you are with John, and they showed us the most amazing places.

After a lovely morning spending time walking and talking, they saluted us off from the waterfront to take the boat to Robben Island, which is 10-kilometeres from the city. Here, future President of South Africa and Nobel Laureate Nelson Mandela and future South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, alongside many other political prisoners, spent decades imprisoned during the apartheid era. Including current South African President Jacob Zuma who was imprisoned there for ten years.

In one of the most famous moments marking the end of apartheid, Nelson Mandela made his first public speech in decades on 11 February 1990 from the balcony of Cape Town City Hall hours after being released. His speech heralded the beginning of a new era for the country, and the first democratic election was held four years later, on 27 April 1994.

Oh we had lots of fun with the kids!

Of course South-Africa is also very famous for their wines!There are hundreds of different wines, all produced in different locations of the winelands. We visited two of them. One was Constantia and the other one was in Stellenbosch.

The day in Stellenbosch was very special,because one of Johns friend took us all and drove us around. First of all we went to a bird rescue centre where we also saw cheetahs.

Then we had a marvellous picknick at a river nearby one of the wine yards.

We had to do a wine tasting to compare with the wine from Constantia.

We had a fantastic day on the 24th of December, which is our german christmas. Firstly, we went to see the Cape Fur Seal colonies on Seal and Duiker Islands.

Then we picknicked for lunch
and then went on to see Cape Point.

Cape Point is recognised as the dramatic headland at the end of the Cape Peninsula. We drove along Chapman's Peak Drive, a narrow road that links Noordhoek with Hout Bay, for the views of the Atlantic Ocean and nearby mountains. It was beautiful. We stopped at another beach,

before we finally reached the Cape of Good Hope.

There, we enjoyed the sunset in beautiful surrounding.

Someone was paricularly keen on the Pringels...

English Christmas Day we spent with Johns family at Betsy's Bay.

It was a lovely relaxed slightly tipsy day.

Boulders Beach near Simon's Town is known for its colony of African penguins. I think going there was one of my defenite highlights.

Finally, Antji and me had also some time together and we spent it wisely.

Then we split up for the last 3 days. Antji and John wanted it more rural for New Years Eve while me and Oli stayed and discovered more in Cape Town City.

The city has several notable cultural attractions.

The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, built on top of part of the docks of the Port of Cape Town, is the city's most visited tourist attraction.

It is also one of the city's most popular shopping venues, with several hundred shops and the Two Oceans Aquarium.

Nobel Square in the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront features statues of South Africa's four Nobel Peace Prize winners - Albert Luthuli, Desmond Tutu, F. W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela.

Since 1994, the city has struggled with problems such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, a surge in violent drug-related crime and more recent xenophobic violence. At the same time, the economy has surged to unprecedented levels due to the boom in the tourism and the real estate industries.
In the 1948 national elections, the National Party won on a platform of apartheid (racial segregation) under the slogan of "swart gevaar". This led to the Group Areas Act, which classified all areas according to race. Formerly multi-racial suburbs of Cape Town were either purged of unlawful residents or demolished. The most infamous example of this in Cape Town was District Six. After it was declared a whites-only region in 1965, all housing there was demolished and over 60,000 residents were forcibly removed.
Many of these residents were relocated to the Cape Flats and Lavender Hill. Under apartheid, the Cape was considered a "Coloured labour preference area", to the exclusion of "Bantus", i.e. blacks. We visited the District Six museum, which was very interesting and very well done.

Cape Town is noted for its architectural heritage, with the highest density of Cape Dutch style buildings in the world. Cape Dutch style, which combines the architectural traditions of the Netherlands, Germany, France and Indonesia, is most visible in Constantia, the old government buildings in the Central Business District, and along Long Street.

We found an amazing Ethiopian Restaurant which was a great experience to eat there.

One day we even took the train into town which was exiting. Before that, we had breakfast at the lovely Olimpia Cafe at Kalk Bay.

I really wanted to see some Whales and do a bungee jump, but both were not possible at the time. Southern Right Whales and Humpback Whales are seen off the coast during the breeding season (August to November) and Bryde's Whales and Killer Whale can be seen any time of the year.
Heaviside's dolphins are endemic to the area and can be seen from the coast north of Cape Town; Dusky dolphins live along the same coast and can occasionally be seen from the ferry to Robben Island and I have seen them at least from the distance.

Oli and John climbed up Table Mountain and had a great view. We wanted to meet them on top but the Cable Car wasn't going because of strong winds. We tryed it another time but it was again too windy.

So I haven't made it up the Table Mountain, but I don't mind. I had a fantastic time and had amazing new experiences. And that was it. Happy New Year 2011!!!!!!

permalink written by  katja-horsch on January 4, 2011 from Cape Town, South Africa
from the travel blog: South-Africa / Cape Town
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