Wednesday, July 24, 2013
07.24.2013 - 07.24.2013
Breakfast at 7:30 am at our hotel. I had a great sleep last night and it is the simple things in life such as a good night's sleep that one often appreciates. We arrived for breakfast in the hotel dining room and at the table to my left were two Asian men. One of them started to talk to me and asked me if I was Chinese. I told him I am and explained why I was in Cambodia and told him how much I was loving it but not the mosquitos. He responded that that's nature. He said he was from Cambodia originally and had lived in Los Angeles for 20 years but had moved back to Cambodia 13 years ago. He said that I should live here and I think Cambodia is a country I could seriously consider living in part of the time. As much as there is hardship and it can be hotter than hell at times, it is an amazing country and the people of Cambodia are truly amazing.
After breakfast Leah came with Sing and we all piled into the van for a short drive and arrived at the bamboo train. This was a surprise to us. It wasn't a train as we know it, but a wooden platform on which there was a rolled out mat. We climbed aboard and sat, mostly cross legged in rows of three. It is called the bamboo train because in the past they were made out of bamboo. Currently they are made of wood, what type I don't know but some type of rough and strong wood. I expect that the wood is salvaged from somewhere. The bamboo trains are called a "norry" or "nori" in Khmer and is from the French word "lorry". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norry
Leah told us that the train track that we were on stretches from Phnom Penh to the Thai border. It is a baffling distance. The train track has only one track and so when another train arrives coming from the other direction, the two drivers have to decide who must move. Soon enough another train arrived coming the other way piled high with logs. We were amazed at the ease with which our train was "moved". It was dismantled. The platform was removed and placed on the ground to the side of the track, ditto with the engine, and each wheel. The other train passed by and then our train was put back together again and off we went. I don't know what the speed was but it was at times at a pretty good clip, maybe as fast as 40 mph. Those sitting on the sides of the train had to watch for protruding branches as they could hurt as we whipped by. There was a lot of ducking and swerving so we wouldn't get hit or hit as badly.
The Cambodians are very clever and resourceful people. To me they are the Cubans of Southeast Asia as the Cubans have cars from the 50's for which they have no spare parts yet they are still on the road as they are so resourceful and use parts from other items to make engines work.
We stopped to visit a lady that had been provided with a well from HOPE. She told us that she had 10 children and 10 grandchildren. Three of her children had died. She explained how her life had been improved since getting the well from HOPE. They no longer had to travel far to get water to drink. She also had fruit trees on her property and dogs and chickens. From what we have seen, it seems like everyone owns dogs and raises chickens.
We got back on the bamboo train and rode further down the track. The driver stopped, then we walked a very short distance, took off our shoes and walked through some water to the other side and went to visit another home. This one was occupied by a family and the mother had a store. This family had also received a well from HOPE. The mother explained that she had had two microloans from HOPE. People can take out a loan and then it must be repaid within a year. She said she would take out a third loan once this second loan was paid off. The money helped her to improve her life. Her store did well and I bought five small bags of snacks and cookies. My total cost was $1,000 riel or 25 cents. We finished with our visit and got back on the bamboo train and headed back. It was a fairly hot day but didn't feel so bad as it was cooling to ride the bamboo train.
Back to the hotel for a lunch of salad rolls and a salad with a creamy sauce that contained cabbage, carrots, peppers that resembled banana peppers, cooked quarters of egg but I am not sure if there was yolk in it.
Like I have said earlier, people in Cambodia are very resourceful. Because they don't have a lot they make do with what they have. We have seen CD's/DVD's strung together in a row of three or more to act as reflective lights on the back of carts.
After lunch we went to rest until 1:30 pm and then it would be off to plant in the rice fields. We were all very excited to be doing this. We got another very nice surprise when we arrived at the rice field, both Tia and Pang were there. We didn't expect to ever see them again as we had last seen them in Prahos Kbal, the village in Pursat. Tia works with Piep for the dry rice project. Pang was volunteering. He had never planted rice before and had just learned to do it four months ago. As he does speak English but not a lot, when I asked him how old was he when he first started to plant rice, he told me four months old.
Well rice planting was most interesting. It was pretty warm out and I started out with my hat and soon turfed it as it got in the way. Of course you went in bare feet. You were bent over and walking backwards to plant the rice. New techniques had been implemented for rice planting and you planted less and obtained a better yield. I think it was called Intensive Rice Planting. We had a bundle of rice plants and we were just planting 2 to 3 stalks by making an indentation in the mud and then placing the stalks in it. The mud is sticky and mucky. The rice field is also uneven as you are walking backwards when you are planting and so when you make a footprint that part is obviously lower. There were also worms and other insects swimming around in the mud and surprisingly, we got used to it pretty fast. We didn't like it but we learned to ignore it mostly at least until Clark used a rice stalk and ran it along Linda's leg to mimic a worm.
I guess all the time spent with bugs, frogs, praying mantis, cockroaches, centipedes, fireflies and all varieties of lizards nothing was going to phase us now. I never did try a deep fried tarantula as we didn't actually come across any. I strongly considered trying it, whether I would have I am not certain. I may not have mentioned previously that there is a large amount of dragonflies as well. You would see maybe 30 to 50 flying together. It was a pretty special sight. Unfortunately we didn't see fireflies as often as I would have liked. We learned that when fireflies come out in the night when the air has more moistness.
We did this for about 2 hours and it was really hard work. I was happy to do it but it was not easy as my back, which never hurts was hurting. I was relieved when we were done. I just hope that I didn't mess up two much with my planting technique and that the crop wasn't hurt in any way by my inadequate rice planting skills.
We were washed off with water from a nearby creek after we all climbed out of the rice field. Back to the hotel for much needed showers and a change of clothes. We had a short rest before dinner.
We then went to a restaurant close to the HOPE office for dinner with Leah and Piep. It was a nice meal and we also had a cat under our table as well as a dog. They were hoping for table scraps. We were more concerned about them having a scrap and scratching us which would necessitate getting shots for rabies. Luckily they left after a while. The cat looked quite pissed off at us.
Then it was back to our hotel and bed as we were all tired.
Our hotel, like most provide a laundry service and we were most happy to pay for that. It was 25 cents for each piece of laundry. We would give them our pile and our room number. It was a crap shoot when it came back as it would sometimes be mixed up between the rooms but they did an amazing job getting the dirt and stains out of filthy dirty clothes. We were most grateful to not wash by hand which we had done at Prahos Kbal as we were in the village then. Many of us left dirty clothes with the hotel which they would wash and dry and then they would be donated to those that needed it. Leah would arrange for their pick up.