A Travellerspoint blog

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Y CAMBODIAN ADVENTURE - Habitat's project -Jan 24.

sunny

THURSDAY, January 24th

Today, it seems, is not remarkable, inasmuch that it is a wonderful day like many other teaching days I’ve enjoyed. I’ve relished in the teaching experience. I’ve also enjoyed meeting other volunteers and other teachers. One couple, from Montreal has been delightful. They are here with a group from Habitat for Humanity, and have been going for the last two weeks to install wells and latrines in a rural area. Their drive is apparently not all that far, but the terrible state of the roads has resulted in a 1 ½ hour drive each end of the day to work on their project. Jamie told me today of large potholes, adult pig in the middle of the road that had to be coaxed to move, and another day about a herd of cows. The driver decided to drive slowly through them. One cow took exception and kicked the door, breaking off the mirror. The poverty in the area makes this work particularly necessary and appreciated, she said. Though they have battled some cases of that terrible tummy trouble, and sweltering midday heat in which digging and making concrete is undertaken, their build has been a success.

I taught students for the morning, and then treated myself to a swim. I have not taught Jasmine for the last few days. Lunch time is busy for her, and I dearly love to get a break.

After classes today, I caught up on email, then I hung out in the hotel lobby with Khemera, and the owner, Sona. She had earlier told me about a show.” It is beautiful men dancing. They are gay – you know that word, gay? It is art. It is nice show. You go?” Well, Yes!!!! I would love to go. Kamra said in his usual enthusiastic voice: “Susan, you take me to show?” Of course!!!!! So, Sona is going to book for us for Monday night. Sonia returned to the hotel later, and she is keen to go. Jasmine would love to go too. I can’t wait: Monday night: more fun planned.
Sona, me and Pizey. Sona is the owner, but I think of her as "Aunty". She suggested that Khemera could go to the show too.

Sona, me and Pizey. Sona is the owner, but I think of her as "Aunty". She suggested that Khemera could go to the show too.

A few days later, Khemera is ready to join us for a night out on the town.

A few days later, Khemera is ready to join us for a night out on the town.

Posted by Sue McNicholas 14:31 Comments (0)

MY CAMBODIAN ADVENTURE - Starring the littlest kids.

sunny

FRIDAY, January 25th

My morning went smoothly and all classes were enjoyable. Lunch break was just so civilized: Time for a swim and to start reading a new book. I went back to the school a little early for the afternoon.
Veasna was busy talking to all the students: some new room arrangements in the dormitories. Also, arrangements about who would be going to the farm for the weekend – to leave tonight. There is excitement about going: rice to be harvested, fish to be caught and it seems lots of fun to be had. Once the arrangements were made and the groups broke up, I asked Veasna if it might be possible for Sonia and me to go just for one day. No problem: he will arrange a taxi at 7 a.m. on Sunday, which will cost us $5 or $10 each. We will come home with the kids in the truck in the evening.

My class started late, so we did an abbreviated class. My 2 slow readers needed help without singling them out. We went over sounds, ah, bh, kh, dh, eh etc –not the name of the letters Ayh, Bee, Cee. I called on each student, (the 2 needy ones, a bit more often) and pointed at a letter somewhere in the alphabet. They had to say its sound and give a word that started with that sound. I worked through all except for C (K sound or S sound), I (ih sound or Iy), Q (which is always with “u”: Qu, which sounds like kw) and X (which sounds like ks). I got them to write down those four and we worked on their sounds, and various words that included the sounds. I insisted that this would help with sounding out words. I believe it will.

I stayed on at 5:00, and sat for supper at a table where the 2 youngest boys were eating. I pantomimed eating and a tummy getting big. Panha, sitting on the table, copied me, and kept laughing about it. The other little boy, Komsot was a bit more shy, so he hid behind Panha while one of the nannies spooned supper into him.
Panha, being fed by one of the nannies.

Panha, being fed by one of the nannies.

Supper time. Everyone is happy!

Supper time. Everyone is happy!


Before long, supper had been finished, and I popped home for a quick shower and a change. When I returned, the van had been packed up and 22 of the older kids were waiting to get on board. They left for the farm before the dance performance started.

I was greeted by name by a couple who were visiting ACODO for the evening. They were Canadian and were thrilled to hear that a Canadian was volunteering. They had enjoyed their visit around the orphanage, and they settled into their front row seats for the show. I sat at the side, in the seats for the kids. Most of the remaining kids were backstage as they were in the performance. Panha and Komsot are both under 3, and they usually sit with one of the older girls or play on the ground near this seating area. I must have looked like a good cuddle to both of them, as these 2 little boys climbed onto my lap: cuddling in affectionately, but often hopping down and scampering around during the performance. The performance didn’t suffer from being left to mostly younger kids. Each dance was still done exquisitely, with beautiful dance steps and graceful hand gestures. The place feels quite different with so many of the older kids missing, but the younger ones had plenty to be proud of.
Tola, one of the little fish in the Monkey Dance.

Tola, one of the little fish in the Monkey Dance.

After the show is over- time for a few pics, and smiling faces.

After the show is over- time for a few pics, and smiling faces.

The Little Stars of tonight's dances: Tola, age 8, Sreidoeurn, age 7, and Suvut, age 4 and a half. Perhaps we tap dancers would have a chance if we had started so young!

The Little Stars of tonight's dances: Tola, age 8, Sreidoeurn, age 7, and Suvut, age 4 and a half. Perhaps we tap dancers would have a chance if we had started so young!

Posted by Sue McNicholas 14:32 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

MY CAMBODIAN ADVENTURE - Biking to Tonlesap

sunny

SATURDAY, January 26th

Today was a day to sleep in, but I awoke at 7:00, so I went to the terrace to have a leisurely coffee and to read. Relaxing in the hammock and then by the pool made for a peaceful lazy day. At 3:00, Jasmine and I planned to ride to Tonle Sap Lake, 30 minutes or so south of the town.

Soon after three, we got on our bicycles and took our lives in our hands and headed out. It was a wonderful ride, through small settlements and rural areas. I often stopped to look out over the expanse of rice fields – many different hues of yellow to green, indicating their stage of development. Dotted amongst the fields was what looked like square sails. A closer look revealed a small fluorescent light, a sheet of plastic and a pan of water below. This is how grasshoppers are caught and drowned, all to be fished out of the water in the morning.

The "white sails" attract the grasshoppers.

The "white sails" attract the grasshoppers.


Lush rice fields. Notice the "sails" dotted amongst the fields.

Lush rice fields. Notice the "sails" dotted amongst the fields.


Think how much work goes into growing that bag of rice that you buy in the supermarket.

Think how much work goes into growing that bag of rice that you buy in the supermarket.


The house of a local rice farmer.

The house of a local rice farmer.

Lotus plants grow in the areas near the rice fields.

Lotus plants grow in the areas near the rice fields.

Other lovely sights were large pools of lotus plants, with some white and some dark pink lotuses. We spent ah hour riding, as I often stopped to take photos. At the end of our ride, there was a long set of stairs, which we climbed to have an eagle’s eye view of the area. Beautiful, lush, fertile fields of rice. We stayed and admired for 30 minutes, then decided to head back. The ride back was a bit easier, perhaps there had been an incline on the outward journey. We arrived home at 6:15. There must still be time to plan something more!
Tonle Sap: The view from the top. Notice the rice fields in the distance.

Tonle Sap: The view from the top. Notice the rice fields in the distance.

Yes! There is that concert: Beatocello! Hmmmm…. Starts at 7:15. That left enough time to get a quick shower and hail a tuc-tuc, and arrive on time. The concert and the hospitals that it supports – all of the 5 children’s hospitals in Cambodia is truly inspirational. If you want to know any more about the man behind this story you can check the website: www.beatocello.com While at this concert I met a delightful couple from England: Colin and Tina. We rode to town together and visited Pub Street, where we enjoyed a few pints and good company. They invited me to meet them again the following night at “The Cambodian Kitchen” Home late – a full but wonderful day!
Me, Tina and Colin soaking in the atmosphere on Pub Street. They plan to be in the area for several months. (Eldon - we could do that too!)

Me, Tina and Colin soaking in the atmosphere on Pub Street. They plan to be in the area for several months. (Eldon - we could do that too!)

Posted by Sue McNicholas 15:26 Comments (0)

MY CAMBODIAN ADVENTURE - A day at the Farm -Jan 27

sunny 33 °C

SUNDAY, January 27th

An early start, as Sonia and I are being picked up at 7:00 to go to the farm. A quick breakfast and a shower, then bicycle to the orphanage for pick up. Our taxi was waiting, and soon we started our 2 hour run to the farm. ($7.50 each!). We were dropped at the path off the highway that led to the farm. 20 minutes walking, and 3 correctly chosen forks in the road and the farm came into view. We met Savon, who told us that the kids were working here and there. We all walked together until we saw a group of the boys, forking hay onto the top of a large farm truck. The hay is the chaff from the rice fields. We caught up with them and they enthusiastically greeted us. Soon the truck was piled high with straw plus 6 guys riding on its top. We watched as one of the boys drove it over the rough ground, the truck dumping a heap of hay each time it went over a bump. We could hear gales of laughter moving farther and farther away as the truck headed to the barn.
Forking hay can be fun if you are with half a dozen friends!

Forking hay can be fun if you are with half a dozen friends!

We continued our walk, past many of the rice fields. The pond teeming with small fish was pointed out as we passed one of the rice fields. Tiny fingerlings are introduced when a field is planted with rice. Three months later, when the rice is ready to be harvested, the fish have also grown to a usable size. The fish are then caught and brought to market and the rice is harvested.

In the distance we saw a group of girls. They had a hand-cart that was loaded with buckets. When we caught up, we were offered “cow pizza” which they later called African pizza. Cow patties are collected, to be used in the planting they had undertaken. Young mango trees were being planted at about 20 or 30 feet apart along the sides of the rice fields. Some of the girls dug and loosened the ground around the mango tree. Others shoveled in some chicken manure, plus a cow pizza or two. Straw was put on the surface for mulch and then a bucket or two of water was doused on the new sapling. In the hour with the girls, around 30 or more trees were planted, which makes for 100 trees planted in the 3 hours they worked.
Three hours of planting - I figure it was 100 mango and coconut saplings.

Three hours of planting - I figure it was 100 mango and coconut saplings.

Chunny does her part.

Chunny does her part.

Heading back for lunch.

Heading back for lunch.

They are good steady workers, and cheerful to boot. All trees were done by 11:00, so we all went back for lunch break: tiny fish and greens soup plus rice. The next few hours we walked around the farm, snoozed, talked, then it was time for everyone to pile in or on the van and we headed for ACODO, 2 hours away.
Heading back home: 22 kids in and on the van, plus me and Sonia!

Heading back home: 22 kids in and on the van, plus me and Sonia!

I came back for the performance, later, as my time is running short, and I love to spend the evening sitting with the kids as they watch their friends do an amazing performance. This evening’s performance was particularly fun. Bunling played the King Monkey. The older girls were nearly crying with laughter as he danced and hopped around, making his appeals to the princess of the river. They explained to me that he was being very funny. I think some of it is that he is 18 years old and very appealing.
The Monkey King is hoping to appeal to the Princess of the River.

The Monkey King is hoping to appeal to the Princess of the River.

Posted by Sue McNicholas 09:33 Comments (0)

MY CAMBODIAN ADVENTURE - Rosana Musical: The Beautiful Men

sunny

MONDAY, January 28th

Today… another day in Paradise. I rode my bicycle to ACODO this morning, knowing there are very few of these days left. I tried to take in this memory so I can relive it in the cold of winter when I get home. I turn right as I leave the hotel, checking to slot in between tuc-tucs, motor bikes and many bicycles also heading in that direction, plus a few going the other way on that side of the road. Today there are cattle: Bulls and water buffalo - I'll get behind rather than in front of them! I must avoid the red dusty clay – it brakes the bicycle. There is the sound of Cambodian music – chimes, soft gongs and singing: a wedding or honoring the dead- I still confuse the two. Once I pass the crocodile farm, there is the smell of roasting bananas and other breakfast food: local people sit at small metal tables beside my riding trail, and eat a simple breakfast before heading to their daily tasks. On the opposite side a backhoe grinds and scoops at the riverbed. The government has ta Mken to widening it to accommodate the devastating yearly flooding. Last year the orphanage and many other places in the area flooded for 4 months. I pass a beer packing plant, which means pulling out onto the road to pass 2 or 3 large trucks that men are loading with cases of beer. Then the blind T junction – I listen for the blaring horn of a car or bike, that announce, “Someone is coming through – Get out of the way!”

Traffic is slow this morning!

Traffic is slow this morning!

The river is being widened to prevent flooding again next year.

The river is being widened to prevent flooding again next year.


Approaching ACODO on the right, there is always a child or two at the gate watching to see who is arriving. “Hello, teacha!” “Good morning, teacha!” is heard many times over as I park my bicycle near the classroom. One small child pulls a plastic chair over to reach the buzzer and a loud electric buzzer announces that the first class is about to begin. My kindergarten class has forgiven me for my serious talk the other day. All stand and chime in, “Good morning, teacha. How are you today?..... And so starts another day.

The day goes smoothly- a joy to teach here! 2 classes, then breakfast at the lovely 2 star hotel (I give it 3 more stars for friendliness.) Back for another 1-hour class, then I bicycle into town- things to be done. I return for 2 more classes with the older students, but I will not be able to stay for the performance this evening.

“Auntie”, as Khemera says, asked me a few days ago: “Do you want to go to Rosana Musical. It is gay show. Many beautiful, beautiful men. Do you know what gay is?” Khemera is going, and Jasmine and the Aussie volunteer, Sonia, as well as another hotel employee, Thom. We get ready, then meet in the lobby. We pile into a tuc-tuc, in high spirits, ready for a fun evening. The venue is very grand. We are given a large glass of drink, and led to the VIP seats in the front of the theatre.
Sonia, Khemera and me - ready for a show.

Sonia, Khemera and me - ready for a show.

The theatre fills out a little then it is time for the show to begin. It is nonstop entertainment. We make big eyes at each other. Khamera hides behind me when a luschious brunette waltzes off the stage and approaches our group. He kisses my hand and then approaches a 30ish man behind me and asks him if he would like to go on a date. Much laughter as HE makes the man stand and then HE says. “I know you want to kiss me. Go ahead!” Some of the dances are very sophisticated; some sultry. So this is a guy!

So this is a guy!

Madam Someone-or-other.  You'd better watch out for her!

Madam Someone-or-other. You'd better watch out for her!

One number is the Marilyn Munroe classic “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend.” The stage goes dark. Then the spotlight is on a ‘man’ in a 60’s era suit. He does the first lines of: “You’re a One Man Woman, but I’m a Two Timing Man.” Spotlight out, then the voluptuous, blonde ‘woman’ in a pink knee-length dress appears in a spotlight, singing: “I’m a One Man Woman...” Spotlight on… spotlight off… We all crack up when we realize that the ‘woman’ and the ‘man’ are 2 sides of one person! Turning right, HE is dressed in the dated suit. Turning left, SHE is in the blonde wig and pink dress! The hilarious part comes when THEY do a steamy gripping and kissing scene, complete with his groping hand being fended off by her imploring hand, while he tosses her back for that loooooong deep kiss. Wow!

When we descend the long staicase, all the “girls” are there to greet and wave goodbye to the patrons. I am asked if I want my picture with a scary pink-cheeked plumpish dumpling of a ‘girl.’ “Of course!” The picture is taken, then I have to fish in my bag for a U.S. dollar for each. The rest of my group has deserted me! Our tuc-tuc driver has waited for us. We all tumble in and laugh till we cry as we recount the numbers! Home again. Home again. We all have to work early!Hey!  Where did my buddies go all of a sudden?

Hey! Where did my buddies go all of a sudden?

Posted by Sue McNicholas 09:52 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

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