A Travellerspoint blog

Day 9 - Pursat to Prahos Kbal

Monday, July 15, 2013


We met for breakfast extra early, 7 am in the dining room of the hotel in Pursat. After having breakfast we went upstairs to get our bags to head back to the village. Anything we didn't need to bring, we left there until we return in four days on Friday. This was also when I finally was sending my postcards out with Leah's kind assistance. She is the Director of HOPE in Pursat, Cambodia and Leah has made us most welcome and most comfortable since arriving in Cambodia. Her thoughtfulness and kindness are abundant.

After we loaded up the van I went with Leah and Kailey to a grocery/drugstore to purchase cookies as I wanted to bring cookies for the children in the village. If I could have, I would have baked for them, you know I would have. Baking 20 dozen or more cookies isn't a big stretch for me. I can do it in one evening and have done so previously. I bought a lot of oreos which come in the original flavour, strawberry and chocolate, also chocolate chip and wafer cookies. Durian flavour. I got talked out of that flavour but it was a thought, albeit brief. I bought 16 packages of cookies plus a tin of snacks and the cost was $53,700 in Khmer money which translated to about $13.45 Canadian. It would have cost double the money back in Vancouver, at least that. It was at this point that Leah bid us a cheery goodbye and that she would see us later.

Back to the van and then we were off on our 1 hour and 20 minute trip back to the village. Smooth flat roads soon led to the bumpy and windy rusty coloured dirt roads. Too hard to really sleep as the bumps were frequent. When we got back to the village we all just wanted to find our kids. Our kids, how is that, after just a short time, only a week in Cambodia and only four days spent in the village and we were all foreever changed by the amazing children here. I was told that the kids would be amazing and they have proved to be nothing but.

After we unloaded our things and got back to our room and put things away, it was back to our familiar routine. Sunscreen, bug spray, sunglasses and a hat. A swig of water and a bathroom break and it was time to get started painting. We were going to be painting all the shutters and doors today for the school. A high gloss enamel grey paint. It started out quite enjoyable as we were first at the back of the school enjoying the cool air and being in the shade. We painted for a few hours, backs and fronts of doors as well as the rebars that were installed in each window. The painting was quite enjoyable as there was a comaderie about it. Like sitting around the kitchen table over coffee and cookies. We all talked to each other about different topics. Often times the topics were serious and quite deep. There was a lot of laughter, joking and singing thanks to Kailey who was like having a personal radio. Name the tune and she could sing just about all of them.

Some of us had met in person at the end of March at the HOPE fundraiser held at the Trade and Convention Centre. Two of our team mates we only met in person the day we were flying out from Vancouver. After being together for a week now, there is an intimacy. We have all shared stories of our lives, the tough parts, the struggles, the joy and the happiness. Some pretty heavy conversation with people that we barely knew or had just met a short time ago. We will forever be bound together by this amazing experience. It was chance and fate that brought us all together and we have all learned from each other so far. To call us a team is appropriate as we have each others backs. When someone needs sunscreen there are offers from others, bug spray ditto, need a hair tye, nail clipper, saline solution or hydrocortisone cream, it's all available, and often in my suitcase. I like to travel prepared. You have to when you are out in the middle of nowhere. It's not like you can go to the corner store to get things.

Lunch break of a stir fry of shanghai bok choy, rice and a Vietnamese fish and vegetable soup. Dessert of longan and the most beautiful dragon fruit. The flesh was a bright fuschia. My kind of colours. Even sweeter than the regular dragon fruit. I so want to bring fruit back to Vancouver. Naturally the fruit tastes so much better here as it is just picked. Who knows how long the fruit that we receive in Canada has been in transit. Never the same.

After lunch we went right back to painting and this time at the front of the school. While we painted some of the other workers took down trees, turned over soil and worked on the grounds. Another job we will soon be doing is building a platform around their well (new to the village but not sure how new). A form would be built and then rocks will be added to the dirt and I expect sand before concrete is poured.

The concrete walkway that we had built around the school was completely dry of course as that was a few days ago. We had considered writing our names on it and then didn't. The dogs didn't have any problem with that and they had walked on the cement and so there were quite a few paw prints in different places.

A few hours after lunch I brought out three packages of cookies (the word "cookie" is "nOOm dot" in Khmer) and shared that with the children. Everytime you do something for someone in Cambodia they bow with their hands pressed together in a prayer position. Maybe that is part of why I have always been inextricably drawn to Cambodia. Having practiced yoga for 10 years now, I call it my religion. I do like all that prayer positions that are a part of yoga. It has a calming and peaceful effect on me.

Shortly after this we had a rainstorm and it poured steadily for about 40 minutes or so. Some of the children happily ran into the rain and enjoyed the coolness. After and during a rainstorm the temperature drops substantially and the cooling is most welcome.

We painted for several hours and called it quits around 4 pm. By this time the painting was not quite so much fun and we were tired. Fortunately our first day back in the village was a bearable one.

Us foreigners are called "barangs" by the Cambodians. Today we found out from Rainbow that the word for a turkey in Khmer is literally translated as a "foreign chicken". Funny.

One of the boys, who we later found out was 14 years old kept mimicing my yoga breathing pose where I raise both arms up the the sky, my hand meet above my head and I come down in prayer position. His name is Pierrin (phoenetic) and he kept laughing when he did this.

Later when I was happily trying to get some blogging done one of the little girls kept bringing me pictures that she had drawn of flowers and of women. I broke down, turned of the computer and went out to join them.

I showed the children the pictures I had brought with me. My sons and me at Andrew's birthday. Andrew and Steph, the four nieces, Grouse with Nancy and Tracey, Grouse with friends from the gym and a picture of Grouse which I just explained to the children was Canada. Learned some Khmer words such as sister, mountain, son, niece, aunty and wife. No Khmer word for girlfriend in the dictionary that I had.

Then it was yoga time. Just had to as Pierrin was still giggling and mimicing my yoga. We did several poses and at one point Pierrin laughed out loud and exclaimed "Oh My God". We burst out laughing as he obviously knew when to say this. Too funny.

One of the team brought up the starfish pose (not a pose we do in yoga) and we laughed and passed on that one.

After the yoga poses came some bootcamp, jumping jacks, burpees and aerobics courtesy of Linda.

When we got hot and sweaty enough we quit and soon enough it was dinner time. After a dinner of vegetables, fried chicken, rice and lots of fruit, chocolate chip cookies, it was time for bed. Another day is done.

Posted by Sydney324 10:52 Archived in Cambodia Tagged children cambodia volunteer hope pursat prahos kbal Comments (0)

Day 8 - Motorcycle Ride

Sunday, July 14, 2013

storm 27 °C

Today we were in Pursat. After we had our usual breakfast in the dining room, we went for a walk to the boat which is a park/playground about 10 minutes from our hotel. It was quiet there and a few people were sitting up on the stage playing cards while their tv was on. Everyone removed their shoes before coming onto the stage. I notice that this is not uncommon when you enter some businesses as well. I assume it is to help with the dirt as many of the roads are not paved. In the morning and evening aerobics classes are held on this stage. We did talk about having a yoga class there but we didn't get back there after lunch.

Took some fun pictures and part of the team went off to the other end of the boat to check out the playground. I stayed with Kailey on the stage. We had earlier attracted three girls of about 14 to 15 years old. They just sat with us and smiled and when we asked them a question they would respond. It ended up being an impromptu English class with Kailey asking the girls questions.

We then went to the market for an hour. I was able to score a couple of dresses and a beautiful piece of fabric. Lily had spotted the fabric which matches the dress that Cambodian Barbie is wearing. Dresses cost me $4.00 and $5.00 respectively. They were maxi dresses and totally nice for summer. The piece of fabric, which I believe is a Thai Silk Brocade was only $7.50 and likely a metre long. It could be used as a sarong or table cloth. The lady at the market kindly finished off the ends of the fabric based on my preference of either having it joined or finished at each end. Shopping was not as good at this market and vendors were less interested in bargaining. Less people shopping here but also less competition.

We took a lot of pictures of the vendors. Slabs of pork sitting on tables and one table had the whole pig's head. People were sleeping in hammocks hung up right in the middle of their stall. One stall was Revlon products and it could have been taken right out of a drug store or grocery store in North America. The only way you would even know that it was in the Orient was that there was a small shrine on the floor.

Many of the jewellry vendors had stacks of cash locked up in their jewellry cases. I guess this is safer than a cash register.

It was really hot out and we really felt it. Before going back to the hotel we all bought fresh coconuts and enjoyed the juice and later the flesh. Yuuum, I am now hooked on coconut. Never tried them in Hawaii or in Taiwan or any other hot country that I have been to.

We also bought some dragon fruit at the market to have for after lunch.

We had lunch and then after lunch we were going to go on a motorcycle ride arranged for us by Leah. I hadn't been on the back of a motorcycle since Taipei which was back in 1981/1982 when I rode the back of a scooter with Andrew's Dad.

Our motorcycle ride was delayed due to a rainstorm. It was quite the downpour and didn't end till nearly 3:45. Originally we were to go on a ride at 3 pm.

I went with Tia and I was just a bit nervous as it had been some 30 years since I had even sat on a motorcycle/scooter. I was scared and nervous but the ride was exhilarating. Lots of fun and even though I was chicken to do it, there was no way I was passing up doing this. I didn't ask him to stop once and barely talked to him. I wanted his eyes on the road and didn't want to distract him with questions.

The ride was probably 30 minutes or so in total with two stops. A sweet thing happened at our first stop. There was a home on the other side of a body of water and there was a narrow path to the road. Three dogs ran across this to check us out. No barking, just curious.

We went along quiet roads and it was really fun.

After our motorcycle ride it was back to our rooms, another lovely shower, a couple of hours of down time and then we went to the lobby for 7 pm.

We went for dinner with Leah and her husband Piep at the Magic Fish Restaurant in Pursat. Dinner was morning glory, deep fried fish balls, fried rice and french fries.

After dinner we headed back to our hotel pretty quick as we had an early morning as we were heading back to the village. Some talking to Linda, drafting and posting to the blog and by 10:30 pm I couldn't take it anymore and had to go to sleep.

Posted by Sydney324 10:47 Archived in Cambodia Tagged cambodia hope rainstorm pursat prahos kbal Comments (0)

Day 7 - Prahos Kbal to Pursat

Saturday, July 13, 2013


Today we were going to be putting in a full day before going to Pursat to a clean bed and running water with a flush toilet. How much we take these everyday comforts for granted.

After breakfast our work day began in earnest. There was more of a lightness in the air as we all knew that a hot shower was waiting for us before the day was over.

We continued mixing cement and then lugging buckets of cement to the front of the school to finish the walkway. This was a much heavier job as the heavy rainfall of yesterday made all the piles of sand wet and heavy. Mixing the sand, cement and water was tougher. Vivian was our champion as she did a lot of the heavy landscaping like jobs. She has the strength and fortitude of an Amazon woman.

At the back of the foundation slab which is located between the elementary school and the secondary school we lugged baskets of soil over to the five flower beds in the front of the school.

The secondary school is where we are sleeping and the total cost of it was donated by one woman from Canada. Around $35,000.00. Not bad for an entire school which has about 5 large rooms.

We then planted flowers in the flower beds. More like weeds with flowers. Also some impatiens.

We left for Pursat sometime in the late afternoon. It was a 1 hour and 20 minute ride that we were all looking forward to.

As soon as we go to the hotel we were greeted by Leah. (Check not sure) Had an amazing wonderful shower. No one wanted to leave the shower, it was so very good.

Dinner at the hotel. Spring rolls, fish and ginger and rice. Leah ordered the spring rolls in advance as the restaurant went to buy the supplies as it is not a regular item on their menu. We first commented that we couldn't possibly eat them all and in the end we couldn't get enough of them. They were so very good.

After dinner, it was more blogging, talking and off to bed and a wonderful sleep.

Posted by Sydney324 10:40 Archived in Cambodia Tagged hope pursat prahos kbal Comments (0)

Day 6 - Working in Prahos Kbal

Friday, July 12, 2013


We got up very early today. Just before 6 am and a few of us decided that we would go for a run. Rainbow, Kailey and I set off out of the village and down the road to a path for a morning run. It wasn't hot yet but the temperature felt like it was around 16 to 17 degrees. I ran for a bit but not very long. It felt stuffy and to be honest I didn't want to get chapped legs as I was running in shorts. It was so incredibly beautiful. Peaceful and serene. Water buffalo plowing fields, people riding bicycles as well as motorcycles going by.

Not sure how long we went for but it was a wonderful way to start the day. We went back to the village and joined the others for breakfast.

After breakfast it was time to get to work. We went to the back of the school were we continued to use the elephant feet and crushed more rocks and flattened them into the sand. This was part of the foundation for the walkway around the school. Eventually we were able to pack down the rocks and the sand enough in each section. Then we had to make the cement. We filled buckets with sand and brought the sand buckets and poured them on a foundation that was between the new school and the elementary school. For each pile of sand we needed 18 buckets and 3 bags of cement. After the sand was on the foundation we went to get the cement. At 110 pounds per bag, we needed four women to carry each bag. The bag was sitting in the basket with handles on each side and on the front. After we were done with the cement we had to get buckets of water. The children were so good. They just jumped in to help without being asked.

After lunch we didn't lay down for a nap which was probably a smart thing. Yesterday when we did that it took us so very long to get going afterwards. But we obviously had needed the rest. The heat and hard work takes a toll. You get pretty tired.

More sand and more foundation this time at the front of the school. Then more sand gotten ready for tomorrow.

We sat around talking for a while. Lots of stories, shared life experiences and laughing. I have laughed more on this trip than I have in a very long time, years. What does that say. I am truly happy doing this. Not always easy and sometimes a challenge but it is most rewarding. We are living with purpose here.

Rainbow brought out sidewalk chalk and Lily wrote the entire alphabet on the walkway. We then had a child stand at each alphabet and some of the group as well. Clark would call out a letter and the child would run from one letter to another. A good way for them to learn the alphabet.

A little boy who learned my name repeated it again today. His name is Panot and he then asked me to join his friends to play volleyball. It was really sweet and I played with them until it was my time to shower. Fortunately I was adept enough to keep the volleyball up the air more times than not.

We had quite the thunder storm and it was a very heavy downpour. Our first heavy rain since arriving.

Dinner was soon served and then it was back to our rooms to chit chat and we were in bed by 8 pm.

Tomorrow we would put in a day of work and then head back to Pursat to have two days of rest.

Posted by Sydney324 10:33 Archived in Cambodia Tagged cambodia hope pursat prahos kbal Comments (0)

Day 4 - Pursat to Prahos Kbal

sunny 30 °C

We had just spent a night at the hotel in Pursat and we would be meeting for breakfast at 8:00 am.

I had a bit of an unsual breakfast. Baguette, chinese sausage and pork aka bacon in Cambodian terms.

We then went to the HOPE office where I rearranged everything in my suitcase and left one of my suitcases there as I wouldn't be needing it for the village.

We left Pursat with Leah in an airconditioned van and we arrived in the village about 1 hour and 20 minutes later. It was a bumpy and windy trip to get here. I was really really tired and couldn't wait to get some sleep but I wasn't really able to sleep in the van.

We arrived in the village and we walked around checking out our school and saw where we would be sleeping, There was a row along one side of the wall with tarp, then woven mats on top of this and then thick pad like mattresses. On top of this I laid my MEC air mattress. Best and smartest investment ever. It really made a difference with sleep.

Lunch was brought in and it was noodles, rice and I think some type of vegetable. I can't remember anymore as it has been a week since I started this blog entry.

We played with the children and then had dinner.

Early to bed as we would have our first full day tomorrow.

Posted by Sydney324 10:29 Archived in Cambodia Tagged cambodia hope pursat prahos kbal Comments (0)

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