The toothbrush and the lady

Every day in Cambodia my fantastic guide Len brought me to visit something or someone out of the ordinary.

On this particular day during our stay in Mondulkiri, a province in the eastern part of the country, Len wanted me to meet some ladies of the Pnong ethnic minority. It was a very hot day.

We didn’t have to drive far from the province capital of Sen Monorom to reach their small village. It seemed totally empty except for some pigs, but a young girl emerged from around a corner and from her we learned that everyone was out working. She showed us the way down a path towards the rice fields and the first one we saw there was one of Len’s friends.

She stopped her hard work of digging up old rice plants from the dry and dusty paddy and greeted us warmly. I handed her a toothbrush and some toothpaste that I had brought, and she looked at me, a little worried: “But I don’t have anything to give to you“.

Soon the lady’s little daughter appeared from nowhere (accompanied by two very small dogs). We had brought some biscuits to be shared among the village children, and while her mother continued working, the girl tried hard to get into the difficult packaging.

She must have succeeded though because all of a sudden she had chocolate smeared around her mouth and now she was thirsty. Whether this was a result of the chocolate biscuits or the heat, or a combination of the two, I don’t know, but the water in the plastic bottle wasn’t enough, or maybe the bottle was empty in the first place.

In any case plastic bottles aren’t the best containers for water when it’s so hot. A gourd is much better, it keeps the water nice and cool – but it’s a little tricky to hold it when you have small hands 🙂

It was now time for the midday break, but before heading back to the village, perhaps a smoke?

But nobody had matches and little did it seem to matter. I don’t think she was a smoker at all.

Although we couldn’t communicate verbally I felt very much at ease in the company of this lady. My visit had interrupted her work, but she made me feel so welcome in her rice paddy.

It’s a friend whose name I don’t know.

 

The bird that won my heart

There were so many colourful birds in Uganda, sunbirds, orioles, bee eaters, kingfishers, one more beautiful than the other (see my blog post Birds, birds, birds), but for some reason none of these stunning little creatures became my favourite.

I fell for the speckled mousebird.

Just look at its punk hairdo! And its confident countenance! And notice the tail, sooo long it didn’t even fully fit in the photo 🙂 And it looks so chubby with its fluffy chest.

Wikipedia says that it is a dull-mousy brown bird, well, I suppose it is, but it certainly doesn’t sound like a compliment. Who wants to be called dull-mousy brown? Its poor voice is also mentioned in the article. Reading this quite negative description gave me even more reason to make it my favourite.

Have you ever seen a bird with a cooler expression, showing off its acrobatic skills to possible onlookers?

It is a very social bird, they like to be together, often very close together, as you can see.

The runner-up to become my favourite was one with a somewhat long and complicated name, Rüppell’s long-tailed starling. With its shimmering feathers it looks like a living gem. But it doesn’t at all have the charm of the speckled mousebird, in my opinion – beauty isn’t everything!

Birds, birds, birds

Let’s get it straight: normally I’m not a bird enthusiast, I never go birdwatching at home, although I’m very fond of the blackbirds and little tits that come to our garden. I just like birds without being overly excited or knowing anything much about them.

But when you are surrounded by the most gorgeous birds of different sizes almost all the time, then I admit that I turn into a bird lover (but I still wouldn’t qualify as an enthusiast).

This happened in Uganda.

And it started already on the very first morning, when we stopped by Lake Victoria in Entebbe before heading west. On the pier, having a quiet morning stroll and looking around, was a marabou stork. Not that it is exactly gorgeous (and I often wonder how come a Swedish chocolate manufacturer chose Marabou as its name and the stork as its logo), but it is an impressive creature nonetheless.

Just some examples of what we saw while on the road:

After my first gorilla tracking (see blog post The unexpected time keeper) I sat down on my very pleasant veranda in Mahogany Springs Lodge. Of course I had noticed the beautiful flowers just in front of my room, but now I saw that these flowers attracted lots of birds. I could just sit comfortably outside my room, enjoy the show and take photos. That’s what I call birding!

A few days later, on a small island in Lake Bunyonyi, lazy me was again lucky to be able to admire spectacular bird life from the comfort of a chair while having a cup of coffee.

Although I know the name of most of the birds here above, there are a few that I’m not sure of, so I prefer not to mention any at all so as not to make a fool of myself 🙂

So which was my favourite bird? Actually none of these! It is a secret I will keep for my next blog post.