Saturday, May 15, 2010

Fail Day

Angkor Wat
Apsara on top level of Angkor Wat

Last Friday was one of our failure days. We were up and out of the guesthouse at 9am prepared for a full day of templing. First we biked just under four miles to the ticket booth/check point between Siem Reap and the main Angkor complex. This is where you buy your tickets, or if you already have a multi-day pass, you get it punched for that day. With freshly punched passes we continued on another 8.3 miles to Banteay Kdei. At all the major temples there are park employees to check your ticket again. As we approached the man at the entrance to the temple, I began searching desperately in my camera bag. No ticket.

Typically I keep my camera bag slung over one shoulder and fastened around my hips with another strap. The bag itself rides on my back like a fanny pack (it is, however, i would like to point out, in no way a fanny pack). On the part of the bag that is secured against my backside there is a pocket. The pocket doesn't have a zipper, which makes it easy for me to reach behind between my back and the bag and pull things out or tuck things in without having to swing the back around to the front or undo the hip strap to get to things inside the back. This is where I typically keep my ticket. Earlier that morning, as we approached the ticket booth, I had reached in and grabbed the ticket out. After it was punched, I reached behind and tucked it back in. At the time I did notice to myself that I had tucked the ticket back into the back long-ways, which I normally cannot do. Normally if the ticket is in long ways, it sticks out the top of the pocket too much. However, this time it seemed to fit and I thought nothing of it. I should have thought something of it.

We slowly biked the eight miles back to the ticket booth on the wrong side of the road keeping our eyes to the ground looking for the ticket. I knew that if it had fallen out along the way the likelihood of finding it was like nil. I had all my hopes on my having dropped it just after having it punched at the booth and someone picking it up there. When we finally got back to the booth we started to ask around about a lost ticket. No one seemed to have seen one. Everyone asked how many days for the ticket, when they told them it was a seven-day ticket, they were all like, "ooooohhhhh." You know, cause that is the expensive one. Granted we were on day three of our seven days, so it wasn't brand new, but it was still going to be a pain in the ass to buy a new one. They sell one-day, three-day and seven-day tickets. If Cale and I were to have the same number of days, I would have to buy a new seven-day ticket for $60. If I bought a three-day for $40, this would be one of my days and then I would only have two left, while Cale would have four more days left.

Thankfully, we were finally directed to a man that seemed particularly interested in my lost ticket. He wanted to know more about it. How many days, where did I lose it, what was the first day on the ticket, etc. Cale reached into his pocket and pulled out his ticket, "Like this one." The guy took Cale's ticket and then reached into his pocket and pulled out another ticket to compare. It was my ticket! The tickets have webcam pictures on them that are not so hot. So he couldn't really tell from the picture it was me, but he could see that they were issued on the same day at the same time and had the same number of punches on them. Hooray! After admonishing me to take better care of our tickets he sent us off jubilant.

We were less than a mile from the ticket booth on the way back to the temples when we discovered Cale had a flat tire. Thankfully, the roads in Siem Reap are littered with little stations that usually have gas in two-liter coke bottles and air compressors. I have only seen one actual gas station (as we define them) in Siem Reap. Heck, in Cambodia so far (but I have only been in Poipet, Siem Reap and the road in between). Usually you will have the coke bottles on the side of the road for gas. Occasionally, there will be oil drums of gas with these crazy hand-crank pump things on top that dispense gas too.

Anyway, we stopped at an air compressor on the side of the road being manned by a group three kids. I think the oldest looked about ten. He fiddled around with the tire and decided the thing that goes into the hole where you air up the tire was broken and grabbed one out of the bikes they had parked nearby and put it in Cale's bike so he could inflate the tire. It seemed to work and we started out again. Almost immediately, it was flat again. We didn't want it to be an entire waste of a day, so we decided to walk the bikes to Angkor Wat, which was closer than the temples we had originally attempted to see that morning. Our walking attracted the attention of a group of four French girls on bikes who seemed unusually concerned over our plight. They wanted to stop and help, though after some conversation we could think of no help they could offer and we were fine walking the bikes.

Not far from Angkor Wat a man on the side of the road near a row of little shops flagged us down to ask Cale about his bike. Did it need air? No we think it is more broken than that. He said he could fix it and walked us down a path into the woods just behind the shops where his house is. A surprising number of people life in the woods in the park. I am not 100% clear on its legality. He was obviously a little bit of an electronics repair man, what with all the disembowled TVs and other gadgets hanging (literally) around. He set right to work on Cale's tire. Took the tube out, found the leak, patched it up, charged us $3 and sent us on our way.

Getting the Bike Fixed

Getting the Bike Fixed

At this point, it was after noon and we hadn't seen any temples. We grabbed a bit to eat and then went to see them upper terrace of Angkor Wat, which we had not seen in our previous trips (though I already mentioned it in the blog post about Angkor Wat). After all the time we had spent with the bas-relief on a previous day, the upper terrace was a little bit of a let down.

Bayon
Bayon

Next we biked on to the Bayon. When we had seen it on our tour I had seen some excellent potential for photographs and it was already Cale's favorite temple, so we had always planned to return. It was close to 2 pm at this point and I discovered that the light was all wrong for the pictures. Also, lunch wasn't sitting too well with me. So we gave up and headed back the guesthouse.

We spent the rest of our failure day in the pool. Later we went to quiz night at a pub/guesthouse where I got into an argument with an English environmental scientist over the English and American marking systems. I am still not clear on how it is in England (and Ireland and Australia and other places) you can get a 40% in a course and that is passing. Whereas in the States it is 70%. It seems to me that if you demonstrate less than half of the required knowledge you shouldn't pass. However, they insisted that 1. the exams are just harder in England and 2. everyone knows that a 40% pass isn't a very good pass. I need to do more research on this subject because I know there has to be more to it. If you have objectives for a course, the information to meet those objectives is taught and then a reliable assessment to determine how well the students learned those objectives is administered, the in my mind to know only 40% of the objectives should not be passing. However, for them they say that it is virtually impossible to get above a 90% in a course because there is aways room for improvement. Her example was if she took a course in land-management and for the final grade wrote a land management plan, there would always be room for improvement in that plan. That someone who had worked in land management for 30 years could write a better plan. I agree with this statement, however, if I take an intro to physics course there is always room for me to master string theory, but that wasn't the objective of that course, the objective was basic physics. So why make it impossible to get the highest marks because there are things in physics the students don't know if those things are outside the scope of the course?

Anyway, I have started down the road of the argument again and this time I am only arguing with myself, so I should probably leave it be.

— Sara

PS. Pictures and links will have to come later, as the internet is slow now.

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