Happy New Year 2012

If I've been absent from Journey Mercies lately, it's because I've been here....

Koh Mak, island beach in Thailand

Koh Mak, island beach in Thailand

Koh Mak, island beach in Thailand

Khmer New Year struck again, and we couldn't resist the call of the beach. Our trip this year was in complete opposite to last year's foray to Koh Chang. We skipped its beer-soaked beaches and went to another island called Koh Mak, only a short distance away from the big one - and much more chill.

Once again, I am thankful we live on the border with Thailand and less than 4 hours away from the beach. Khmer New Year is the biggest holiday in Cambodia, and people started celebrating days ahead, with temple music, weddings, and pumping rave-house-electronica-music at all hours, starting at 5 or 6 a.m. and going late into the night. Poipet is always noisy - people love to party here - and New Year is the epitome of die-hard partying in Cambodia.

Which is why being here was like being in heaven...

Koh Mak, island beach in Thailand
Note the long-sleeved-swimming-shirts to avoid last year's sunburn catastrophe.

Koh Mak seemed devoid of all party-ers, even at our beachside bungalows. We grabbed a kayak and spent hours out on the water, no other person in sight, no sound but the gently lapping of the waves against the side of the kayak - just us and the ocean. 

Koh Mak, island beach in Thailand

Andrew and I took turns snorkeling, the other person in the kayak relaxing under the sun, letting the boat drift off and occasionally paddling back to wherever the person snorkeling had floated under the waves. It occurred to me that God must have created the ocean out of pure love of beauty. It providesa  lot of practical things, like food and biodiversity, but it's just staggeringly gorgeous. It's a terribly powerful thing, and every time I slip into the water, I feel a ripple of excitement go down my spine. Although I could see clear down to the ocean floor, 10 feet below me, I still felt nervous, knowing that the ocean is a wild thing, full of creatures completely out of the control of man - as we found out in our first hour at the resort.

In true "adventures of A&W" fashion, we managed to get stung by a jellyfish our first excursion into the sea. And, I hope it never happens to one of you, because I can't imagine anything more painful, except maybe your whole body being on fire. 

As we were standing in the water, Andrew suddenly yelps, "My hand is burning!!!" He flicks off something that looks like a clear noodle. I thought he'd thrown it far away enough, but when I took a few steps, it felt like my ankle was on fire. I started screeching, and we limped back into shore, where I crawled to the front desk, begging for relief (almost literally). The staff said, Oh yes, no problem - like this was a regular occurrence. 

Koh Mak, island beach in Thailand - jellyfish sting
Please do not enlarge this on your screen too much. My toes are disgusting.

Apparently, vinegar and a concoction of Thai herbs is the cure - or at least, help - for jellyfish stings. It still hurt and swelled up. But the pain subsided, and my immediate fears of spending my vacation curled up in bed nursing my ankle did not come true. The staff asked me later, when they found I was a nurse, Don't you know how to take care of jellyfish stings if you are a nurse?!? Um, nope, sorry, I can honestly say we never covered that in nursing school, and in the States, I lived nowhere near the ocean. Missed that boat!

Our next few days on the island were incredibly relaxing - we didn't take our laptops, no one to call on the cell phone, no work or studying to do. I wish the trip home had been as easy. Our bus broke down for almost two hours, in the middle of nowhere, in 100+ degree weather. As I said before, just another typical adventure for us!

Bus breakdown in Thailand

But eventually, we made it home, back to lovely Poipet. And since then, I have been completely engrossed with finishing the semester off. In case I've not mentioned on here, I decided to bite the bullet and started studying for my bachelor's science in nursing degree online last semester. This semester has been challenging and time-consuming, and, I have to admit, I have loved it. But I'm going to love my month-long break - starting next week - even more.

So, once again - Happy New Year!