A Travellerspoint blog

Day 15 - Siem Reap to Prahos Kbal

Sunday, July 21, 2013

semi-overcast

Today, breakfast was at 8:00 am. I had a great sleep the night before and I fell asleep just after 11:00 pm and didn't wake up until shortly after 6:00 am. A real good rest.

After breakfast all that wanted to go would be heading to the Old Market and then a quick trip to the Night Market as I had a quick exchange on an item I hadn't sized quite right.

It was a very successful and happy shopping trip for me. I had been disciplined and hadn't shopped much for months prior to this trip.

I had learned a valuable bargaining tool from my Michael and it was to obtain more product for the same money. I was offered two magnets for $1.00 and I countered with five magnets for $2.00 and I got it. Sometimes it worked and I was able to score a free item. Sometimes you could add one item by upping the price by just $1.00. I also scored a free pair of pants for me so I was pretty happy. Not unreasonable as I did spend $50. Many times though you would get the morning price, or special price because of the volume being purchased. Yes I did shop a lot, as I have a lot of people I want to spoil. A few vendors got quite excited as I walked by as they quickly counted and calculated what I had already spent.

There were some interesting vendors including fish tanks where you can place your feet in and the fish will eat all the dead skin off your feet. Cost just $2 US. I saw another vendor who was crafting some artwork at his stall. The Night Market was quite a bit larger than I knew as I was mostly in a small area on the first night we went.

It was just before 11:00 am when we got our tuk tuk to head back to the hotel. Our driver got lost and what should have been a 5 minute trip took about 15 minutes. Check out time was 12 noon and our driver would be coming to pick us up then to start our long drive back to Prahos Kbal. We would first stop at the hotel in Pursat and drop off what we didn't need and then go to the village. For those that wanted, a sandwich had been ordered for lunch.

Since being in Cambodia we have all been conscious of drinking enough water, getting enough electrolytes and sleep. Sleep has been most difficult at times as we don't stay in one place long enough to get settled. Also sleeping on the ground at Prahos Kbal with seven others has been complicated by snoring (yup mine, Clark too!), the dogs that some nights don't stop howling and all the night sounds which sound very jungle like. Since arriving we have spent Sunday and Monday in Phnom Penh, Tuesday in Pursat, Wednesday to Friday in Prahos Kbal, Saturday in Pursat, Sunday back to Prahos Kbal through to Friday when we left for Siem Reap, Saturday in Siem Reap, Sunday and Monday in Prahos Kbal, Tuesday to today in Pursat. We will leave for Phnom Penh Friday morning. Some of us have had issues with our bathroom habits becoming quite irregular which is also due to, I believe so much travelling and not being in any one place for very long.

Some five and a half hours later with only one stop for the bathroom we arrived back at Prahos Kbal. The roads back were terrible though. A great deal of dirt mounds had been piled on various parts of the road and the driver had to steer the ran in a winding motion. I got really car sick. Sicker than I have been from motion sickness in a car since childhood I think. As soon as we got to the village I took two gravol and went straight to bed. No changing clothes just straight to bed. The only thing that would feel good would be laying down. It was around 6 pm I think and after just over 2 hours I woke up and felt almost back to normal. I quickly ate a baguette, two small bananas, peanut butter and headed back to bed shortly after that. Rainbow kept me company which was sweet. She has been amazing on this trip as our leader and has made it all that much more special.

Soon enough asleep for our second to last night in Prahos Kbal.

Posted by Sydney324 06:34 Archived in Cambodia Tagged cambodia roads prahos kbal Comments (0)

Day 13 - Prahos Kbal to Siem Reap

Friday, July 19, 2013

sunny 25 °C

Today Leah would come from Pursat to meet in Prahos Kbal and would be travelling with us to see a family whose lives have been changed by a well from HOPE. HOPE it turns out has supplied thousands of wells in Pursat. At $1,000 per well that is an astounding contribution to people's lives.

After visiting with the family, we would be stopping in Pursat at the hotel to pick up whatever items we needed and then onward to Siem Riep. A well deserved and exciting trip. We all couldn't wait to see Angkor Wat. I felt bad as I had no idea that Angkor Wat even existed. It is in the backdrop of my Cambodian Barbie box. I knew it was some sort of ruins but really had no idea about it. I am so very grateful that I will be lucky enough to see this amazing wonder of the world.

Currently it is planting season in the rice fields and the children are not in school as the teachers are also hard at work in the rice fields. All available hands are involved. Behind the school in the village where we are staying are rice fields and the workers start working some mornings around 4:00 am due to the heat. This of course is also the time that the dogs start to howl big time.

We went shortly after breakfast to meet a grandmother and her two granddaughters. The parents were both working. We were shown the family's crops of eggplant, beans, papaya and more. The grandmother explained that the entire family used to live in this one house which I think is now only occupied by her. Since they have the well from HOPE they no longer have to travel far to the river to get their water, people come to them to buy their excess vegetables, they have been able to buy a motorcycle as well as bicycle. They have another house built on the land and it is a basic simple thatched roof house. Leah explained that the family decides what to do with the profit that they have and that many choose not to improve the house but to invest that money in other things such as a motorcycle. Having transportation is very important as the villages are quite far from the city. I have since learned that the nearest medical clinic which is for just very basic care such as a cold or diarrhea from Prahos Kbal is a 40 minute motorcycle ride and that if something more urgent is needed, then it is 1 hour 20 minutes by car to Pursat.

After spending some time there we headed to Pursat where we would stop briefly to get what we needed from the hotel as well as pick up lunch and then start our long 5 and a half hour trip to Siem Reap. We would stop twice for bathroom breaks. There are quite a few gas stations here and also a lot of roadside stands where they sell gasoline in glass pop bottles. There is a chain of Bonjour gas stations and it was at one of those that we stopped. All the gas stations here seem to have a store attached like they do back home.

During our trip we travelled through many cities as well as Battambang http://wikitravel.org/en/Battambang which is the second largest city in Cambodia. We also saw in many cities large figures such as a Buddha, a large world with a bird (I am sure it was a seagull but couldn't get a picture as the angle wasn't right) with something, a fish I assume in it's beak. Awesome figures. All were quite large and some magnificient.

There is an expression "Same Same but Different" which is common here and in Thailand and Vietnam. This aptly describes the vendors at the markets as well as the stores that we see along the roadside. Some of the things that we have seen by the roadside are bamboo that is smoked and is filled with rice and other things and it is a sweet dessert. This was something that Kailey loved to eat in Thailand. Other shops sold very large cement Buddhas, some of the worship stands which look like a very ornate bird cage house on a stand. They are brightly painted and seem to be in the front yard of almost every home but sometimes not in the poorer homes.

During our trip we talked, sleep, snacked and slept some more. No one wears seatbelts here including the drivers. Not once have I seen a road accident here despite having logged a lot of mileage. While driving down the roads there is a lot of honking by the drivers. You are always aware of the vehicles behind, in front and on either side of you. It is a mix of vans, cars, dump trucks, other trucks, motorcycles and bicycles.

Finally we rolled into Siem Reap. We saw some very luxurious hotels. We had read in one of the guide books that Siem Reap is the poorest city in Cambodia despite the tourists. Some hotels go for as much as $1,000 US per night. It was pointed out to us as the hotel that Angelina Jolie stayed at. Luckily someone like her with her money and compassion has done so much good for Cambodia. There is such a disparity (check definition) between the poor and the rich.

Before we knew it we arrived at our hotel, Sonalong Boutique Village & Resort. It is absolutely gorgeous. Can you say "Eat, Pray, Love"? The place was absolutely beautiful. There was a bar, small swimming pool and lots of lounge chairs around the pool. The dining room was open air of course and decorated very nicely with orchids and other exotic flowers. They also had a little lovely bridge with a pond filled with koi fish and water lillies. There was a huge amount of beautiful trees, many of the trees were labelled to identify the types, such as jackfruit, coconut, betel nut trees and more. There was also a beautiful cement Ganesha and a Buddha without arms, at least I think it was a Buddha. It may have been the former King Jayavarman VII http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jayavarman_VII (who allowed both the Hindu and Buddist's religions to co-exist), as there were also wooden and cement forms of his head. True bliss for me as I love the Buddhist beliefs.

In The Essence of the Heart Sutra, His Holiness the Dalai Lama wrote,

"According to Buddhism, compassion is an aspiration, a state of mind, wanting others to be free from suffering. It's not passive -- it's not empathy alone -- but rather an empathetic altruism that actively strives to free others from suffering. Genuine compassion must have both wisdom and lovingkindness. That is to say, one must understand the nature of the suffering from which we wish to free others (this is wisdom), and one must experience deep intimacy and empathy with other sentient beings (this is lovingkindness)."

We checked into our rooms. I had a ground floor room to share with Lily. I booked a body massage for an hour for $7. Unbelievably cheap here. I had a quick shower as I was sticky and didn't want a massage until I showered. I had a lady named Rompan who spoke almost no English. She arrived on a motorcycle with two others.

It was like a Thai massage and it really helped to get the kinks out of me. If you opt for an oil massage it is $10 and has to be in your room as you would remove your clothes. My massage was with clothes on and poolside. Some massages were better for those of us that got them and some were terrible. Just luck of the draw I guess. Mine was quite good and she did what was expected.

After my massage I headed straight for the bar. I felt drunk I was so relaxed. My right side had been tight from sitting so long in the van. While getting my massage Lily and Clark came by to say hi and continued on to the bar. I heard Clark ordered a pina colada and decided I was going to get one too. We enjoyed our drink and as the rest of the group arrived we were seated at a table in the dining room for dinner. By the way the pina colada packed a punch and cost $5.

Food is very reasonable and quite cheap in Cambodia. A fried noodle dish with vegetables and your choice of chicken, pork or beef would run you $3.50 US. Mind you the noodles are just Mama instant noodles. Breakfast at the hotel in Pursat averaged about $4.00 US. After we finished our dinner the group except for Vi headed off to the Night Market. We walked over there as it wasn't too far from where we were staying.

This Night Market was surprising compared to the one in Phnom Penh. It was definitely to our benefit that it is the low season right now. I had expected it to be more expensive and that there would be less bargaining as it was in the big city. (There was also another market located close by which closed earlier so it was definitely good for us.) Less bargaining was needed and oftentimes the vendor would lower the price quite readily to get the sale.

Many of the vendors had very small spaces and limited inventory and I also learned that each had to pay for the electricity that they consumed. Because of that some of the spots were dimly lit and the light only brightened when necessary. I would say that 90% of the vendors are women.

After the market we took tuk tuks back to our hotel. We didn't go to bed right away. The adrenaline was flowing pretty fast in our veins and we decided to use the pool for a nighttime dip before bed. Spent some time playing in the water and then back to our rooms. I tried to make sense of who was going to get what from the items I scored from the market and got too tired with that and switched to blogging. Before I knew it the time was 1:00 am which was foolish as we were going to Angkor Wat tomorrow and I should have gone to sleep earlier but I was just took happy being in a hotel room where I had my first hot shower since leaving Vancouver. The showers at the other hotels never had really hot water. This was paradise. Even Cambodian Barbie was stoked.

Posted by Sydney324 06:16 Archived in Cambodia Tagged market shopping cambodia reap siem hope wells prahos kbal Comments (0)

Day 12 - Prahos Kbal - Wells from HOPE

Thursday, July 18, 2013

sunny

It was really rough getting up. Another bad sleep unfortunately. Good from the time I fell asleep to the time I woke up which was just before 3:00 am. I have been taking Melantonin in hopes of getting a decent sleep (thanks Lori for the bottle, so very appreciated as the others are taking it as well.) I am certain I fell asleep again but it wasn't too bad getting back to sleep. I dreamt vividly. My dreams since being in Cambodia are vivid and often times strange.

Woke up to someone pulling on my feet. I remember groaning and in my dream I was in a vehicle and someone was pulling on my feet for me to move over. I did get up when I realized it was Kailey waking me up to go for a walk. My eyes felt like they were glued shut and my eyes were sticky. No contact lenses for me today. Got dressed and went with Kailey to our usual walk path. We were just going to sit there, me taking photos and she writing in her journal. We were joined by one of the little girls, Rom's eldest daughter who is a very sweet and bright girl and speaks some English. It was a nice morning. Rainbow and Vivian came back from their usual morning run and we went back to the village for breakfast.

Also being in such heat we have had some issues with ants. Our peanut butter as well as the nutella jar lids were not sealed tight. Despite Vivian taking the initiative and double bagging both jars, ants still got in and were crawling all over both. Garbage. So sad. Fortunately they are so not attracted to hot sauce or our spicy nuts. The cookies that we buy, whenever we open a package, we always have to finish the bag as we don't want ants getting into them. Tough, but you can't leave cookies unattended.

After breakfast we started the same process as we did yesterday with the platform for the well. Except this time it was our well and it felt really good when it was done. Also someone on the team had purchased a new flag of Cambodia for the school, cost $3.00 and it was presented by a few team members to the teachers.

We were pretty tired after the well as we didn't get much sleep last night. Sometime around 4:30 am or earlier the dogs went crazy outside. The barking went on and on. The dogs, of which there are about 5 are a problem at night. They go crazy with barking and howling. There is not much affection shown here to the dogs. We of course, are not to touch them in case of rabies. The children do not pet the dogs and I have only seen one local play with a dog and it was not in the village. It was quite scary the first few nights going to the bathroom in the middle of the night as the dogs howl. On the other hand one night we left our door wide open and one of the dogs was guarding our room. He was still there in the morning when I woke up. We have also noticed that the dogs are very protective of the children. There are a lot of dogs in Cambodia (no not for food, at least I hope not, that's Korea).

We had lunch and after that a short lie down.

My very favorite little boy who reminds me very much of a young Andrew was walking around and I went to pick him up. He didn't cry and let me carry him. He is so very sweet. I gave him a picture book and he was really happy with it and walked around with it. His name is Biu. His big brother is never far from him and appears to be about 6 or so years old.

Another very cool thing that happened today was when I went to the bathroom, there was a bullfrog inside the bathroom and on a log just outside the bathroom was a praying mantis. I picked it up by it's back and carried it to the others. We took turns taking photos as the praying mantis didn't seem to want to escape from us. It was amazing that we got to hold a praying mantis and let it walk on our bodies. Definite highlight of today.

Then it was time to travel to a family's farm where we would assist with planting. We went by pick up truck but had to wait for a brief heavy rainstorm to pass. After we got to the farm we met the family. Husband and wife and 10 children. Five of the children were married and the younger children appeared to be somewhere from 7 or 8 to maybe 10 or so. Their home was surrounded by dogs, chickens and a very young black and white kitten. I was so very tempted to pet the kitten but didn't dare for fear of rabies. Their roof was a thatched roof with wood sides. It was the home of someone poor in resources for certain. They had on their property though, a well from HOPE and this made a difference in their lives. They could now farm. The well is shared with about 5 families in the rainy season and in the dry season double that. They were growing yams, papaya, and corn. These crops had already started growing and some were quite tall.

Our job today was planting pumpkins seeds and we helped to do about 4 rows of pumpkins. Then came the fun part in the blistering hot sun. At one point we were offered a ride to go back to our village as it appeared that a rainstorm was imminent. We declined and the rain never came. At least not until I was back in our village and in the shower. It was less than 5 minutes so no impact. Our new job was weeding around the yam plants. It took us a substantial amount of time, squatting or sitting on the ground while we pulled out the toughest grass weeds. Deeply rooted and tough grass. It was labour intensive. Personally, I preferred hauling buckets of cement or water.

Along the road I saw quite a few wells supplied by HOPE. At $1,000 each they cost a bit of money but they bring so much independence and self-sufficiency to the people of Pursat. HOPE has put in hundreds of wells. What a huge difference this has made for people's lives.

After we were done here we left to go back to the pick up truck and the village.

Shower time and waiting for dinner again.

Tomorrow will be our last day in Pursat until Monday.

Reading in bed is tough. I use my headlamp to read which works well but the light attracts tons of bugs. They fly in an erractic pattern. One night one crashed into the corner of my eye. Not so fun removing it from my eye. Up your nose, into your mouth, you get the picture. It was easier after a while to just turn off the light and go to sleep.

Posted by Sydney324 17:37 Archived in Cambodia Tagged cambodia well hope farming prahos kbal Comments (0)

Day 11 - Prahos Kbal and area

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

sunny

Today I slept in and didn't go for a walk with the others. A few of us stayed behind. Woke up around 6:30 am and headed to breakfast shortly after brushing my teeth.

We were leaving at 8:00 am to head to another village to build a platform for their well. We would be doing this at our school tomorrow. We headed out on the dirt road and didn't have to walk too far as we were lucky enough to hitch a ride on a motorcycle with Tia (Yes, Lily, my type of man, if he was single and living in Canada).

Rom, our cook was also riding a motorcycle and took two of the ladies with her as well. After getting dropped off at the school both Tia and Rom headed back to get the others who were walking.

New kids came to greet us, similiar yet different. It was a similar school, two of them, less toilets, only two and a well. These kids were quite different than our kids. They were much more physical in their play as there was punching, pushing and shoving. A shock to me as our kids are very gentle and when one child gets a ball and the other wants it they either share or the one who didn't get it shrugs it off. That was a very nice thing to see. The fighting and the aggressiveness amongst these kids was quite shocking.

We brought buckets of sand to the platform, hauled up bags of rocks (with great difficulty as there was nothing to grip on the bag except for one side and they were 50kg each). The bags of rocks were opened and spread amongst the sand, some water was poured on it, the surface was flattened after more sand was added and then it was time to mix the cement.]

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Buckets of sand and it wasn't so easy sometimes with the buckets as many were cracked, split and had bottoms that were falling out. Here nothing is wasted. You make do with what you have. Children wear clothes that have some tears in them, elastics that have seen better days and some are dirty but they all have million watt smiles and they are warm and welcoming. We are truly blessed to have met these children. I hope that our being here is something they will always remember with fondness as they grow up and that it inspires them to help others. I am certain this is the case as the sense of community is wonderful. Back home we had that, sometime in the 50's and 60's the most. It seems to be mostly gone which is truly sad. Now you get into an elevator or take the train and everyone is staring at their phones.

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Our group of volunteers are already different than the average person back home. We have taken time out of our lives to come to a far away place to work on average 6 hours a day. We are filthy dirty, showers are by bucket with unheated water, toilets are flushed by pouring buckets of water into the toilet. Fortunately, the last few days have not been as blisteringly hot. We are coated in sunscreen, bug spray and dirt. We are often carrying fairly heavy buckets of sand, cement and dirt. Not for wussies. We have given our money, time and our hearts. We want to make this world a better place for our fellow man. Those that have not had the same opportunities as us.

After the cement is mixed we lug buckets to the platform and the guys, Pang, Kom, Tia and others smooth out the cement. There is laughing and chatter amongst them. We don't have enough cement and we mix some more and before we know it we are done. We also have some green bananas for a snack a little earlier.

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We pile into the back of the HOPE pickup truck to head back to our village. It is a fun and cooling ride back. As soon as we arrive we look for our children but few are to be seen. Lunch time and after that I go for a short nap. At least I think it will be a short nap. Some hours later I wake up and see that it is 3:16 pm. I feel bad to have slept for so very long. I was obviously very tired. The last two nights were not the best sleeps. I woke up at 3:00 am to pee and couldn't get back to sleep. This am I awoke at 4:00 am and thought I got back to sleep but it probably wasn't the best.

I was quite groggy when I got up as I was really hot, sticky, and thirsty. Soon enough I got my bearings and assembled hockey nets for the kids to play with. They were bowling at first and then I went into the net and then they were hitting my ankles with the balls. After a bit I showed them how to kick the balls into the nets. They did this for a while, moving the nets to different places and eventually ended up in one of the classrooms. When they were done playing they put the nets in a neat stack along with the balls. The children always return the items we bring out for them to play with. It is never assumed that it is theirs.

We sat around chatting somemore when my surrogate son, Pierrin started doing some yoga. It was time...into the spare classroom where they had played soccer earlier. Clark got the children to line up in rows and I gave them a real yoga practice. Total bliss for me. It was awesome. Got Rainbow to finish off the class by showing them wheel, crow and some more advanced poses. More playing, going around in a line and kids following my moves.

Then Linda taught them an aerobics class and had them roaring with laughter. Before long it was Clark's turn and he went in to teach them YMCA and the macarena. Vivian helped him with the macarena.

Earlier in the day after lunch Clark was showing us some of his ballroom dancing moves, waltz, cha cha, and tango.

Shower time and soon it will be dinner and then we start all over again tomorrow.

We had dinner and contemplated playing a game but everyone was tired and we just shared stories and soon headed off to bed. Bedtime was generally about 7:30 pm. Early to rise and early to bed. That's life without electricity. We did actually have fans that were on all night as well as a single light bulb for a bit of light. They were all powered by car batteries. People in the village that happen to own tvs, which cost about $40 American and are black and white are also powered by car batteries.

Posted by Sydney324 17:11 Archived in Cambodia Tagged children cambodia school volunteer prahoskbal Comments (0)

Day 10 - Working in Prahos Kbal - Hitting a Wall

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

sunny

Went to bed nice and early last night and fell into a not too bad sleep. Somewhat restless and I remember turning from side to side to get comfortable. Woke up just after 3 am with an urgent need to go pee. Crap. Really didn't want to have to get up and go into the dark but I forced myself to do it. Came back and didn't sleep well for the next three hours. What felt like a short time after returning to my bed, I felt a hand on my foot, it was time to get up. I had told the others that I would always want to go for a walk in the am.

We left shortly after 6 am and the sun had now risen.

The walk was wonderful, lots of motorcycles with as many as three people riding. Bicycles, water buffalo and much to see. I walked further this time than last and saw a lot of homes and took many pictures. The entire team was up and out.

We walked for an hour and then returned to breakfast. Everyone was starting to feel quite warm. The temperature was beginning to rise.

After breakfast of baguettes, jam, peanut butter and scrambled eggs, I went to have a nap. I couldn't do it otherwise. I must have slept for over an hour and woke up to hearing the others talking. I thought they were in the room with me but they were outside painting.

Today we continued painting first coats and then second coats. Today was tougher to get into the painting. We were most fortunate to have a good 10 to 15 helpers. The children here are incredibly helpful. Also funny, silly and goofy. They were singing to songs taught to them by us as well as silly phrases. They would ask us our names and we would ask them for theirs, Aum, Panot, Rot and many others. I definitely had trouble remembering the names, although a few would stick.

Lunch couldn't come soon enough and we happily enjoyed that, had a short rest after and it was back to painting. Not my thing as we were literally at times watching paint dry. The paint smell didn't help the process but we continued. It felt like everyone in the team was hitting a bit of a wall today. Perhaps just re-adjusting to being back to the village, not sleeping as well, and the tediousness of painting.

We ended our painting fairly early. There were a lot of rest breaks, water breaks and bathroom breaks. Tougher today for sure.

I played volleyball with some of the children, along with Rainbow and Clark. Lily rode one of the kid's bikes. Clark had done so earlier in the day and was riding a bike again. Linda went off with the children for a bike ride down the road. They had a terrific time. We also gave the kids all the skipping ropes and they had a very fun time with those.

Sat on the swing and helped the children with trying to keep Clark up in the air on the teeter totter. Not an easy task when you are dealing with an engineer. He would angle his body so that he managed to hold his position. Me and three to four boys just couldn't do it.

Soon enough it was shower time. Huge relief for several of us who didn't get a chance to shower yesterday. After that it was dinner time and we playing a game of Celebrities and it was bed time again. There was a bit of a kuffufle as a centipede was found in with Kailey's bedding. I was so tired I didn't even go help. Definitely a wreck. Need sleep.

I read for a bit and then fell alsleep.

Posted by Sydney324 07:47 Archived in Cambodia Tagged school painting volunteer hope prahoskbal Comments (0)

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