07.09.2013 - 07.09.2013 31 °C
A nightmare, but only in my sleep....a reality for too many.
It is now Tuesday evening around 5 pm and we have arrived in the village of Pursat, located in Pursat Province. Cambodia has 24 provinces in total.
We arrived from Phnom Penh after about a three hour ride in an air-conditioned van. Along the way we saw a great deal. A large truck piled high with goods of some sort. On the top of the canvas covered goods lay several men sleeping. They were not attached to the load in any way and it looked like a sudden lurch of the truck would send them flying off in all directions.
A van passed us with a few people sitting on the roof of the van while the van was filled with about 30 people, likely 4 times more than what is safe. The person in the driver's seat was not even driving. It was the man next to her doing the steering. Everybody was smiling and happy as they whipped down the road. There is constant honking in traffic as drivers make other drivers aware of their presence. The flow of traffic is quite something. Cars, trucks, cyclists and motorcycles weave in and out and what looks like near misses are just part of everyday life.
We saw numerous motorcycles ridden by a driver and most had at least one passenger. Quite a few carried a Buddhist monk dressed in bright orange. Others had a young child sitting in the front and parent behind them. Ironically I saw one father wearing a helmet yet his son in front of him had no helmet and no protection at all.
All around us was farmland, rice fields and interspersed where small towns. The road was bumpy and dusty. We saw a lot of farm animals. Many a time a cow or several cows would be crossing the road. Ducks, chickens, roosters and goats all dotted the many farms we saw.
School was letting out at one point and we saw many school children riding bicycles on their way home. Other children would be on the farm just walking around and some were playing. We have seen a lot of happy, laughing children which lightens our hearts. Water buffalo sit in the rice fields.
After arriving at our Pursat hotel we were given our rooms and our suitcases were brought to our rooms with amazing efficiency. The fully loaded van was emptied in minutes. Many hands belonging to slender and not very tall Cambodians moved with swift efficiency in helping us to get settled quickly.
Viola and I were to be roomies again. We were given room 102 and here, like in Havana, Cuba your key was inserted into a plate on the wall by the door. This activated the electricity in your room. Such a smart idea and really one that should be implemented in North America where lights in empty offices are left on throughout the night. What a waste.
Our room is very nice, far nicer than you would expect in a smaller town. Solid heavy wood beds, a LG tv, small fridge, bathtub and shower. This would be our last bit of luxury before moving on to the village where we would be working on the school.
We met with Lee, the director of the local HOPE organization in Pursat. HOPE operates in 20 villages in Pursat Province and they do not operate in any other Cambodian provinces. She is Cambodian and survived the Khmer Rouge by hiding in the jungle and outrunning the Khmer Rouge. Much of her and her husband's family fled as refugees to the United States and Canada.
After getting our things stowed away we went back to the lobby to get ready to go for a tuk tuk ride. As Pursat is not very big it would take the whole of 15 minutes. The tuk tuk ride was enjoyable. Another new experience. Roads were dusty and we saw the elementary school, secondary school and then high school. The secondary school here is like a middle school back in Canada. We passed the HOPE office, post office, government buildings as well as the local market.
As our tuk tuk was going down the road a large group of men and women held banners in English and Khmer. They were shouting in protest. Demanding human rights. A not uncommon occurrence in Cambodia is that people go into the jungle and take land. Someone had done this and the government put this person or persons in jail. The protesters were angry and very vocal in demanding the prisoner or prisoners be released. This was very scary. We had been told not to take pictures of any such protests. I forgot and started to take one and someone shouted and I quickly put my camera away. The protesters were walking on the road alongside of our tuk tuk and the protesters took up about 2 city blocks. Nothing like what we have around the Vancouver Art Gallery in Vancouver. Those protests have always been very civilized. This was an angry group that could explode at any moment.
After our ride we got back to our hotel and went to the restaurant to have a seat and Lee was going to talk to us. She told us to make sure we drink water, keep hydrated, use our bug spray liberally and to use sunscreen. We do not want to get Dengue Fever. The concern in her voice was real as she wants us to be safe. We were also told not to drink the square bottles of water as those bottled waters are less well known. She said to only drink water in round bottles as they are the well known companies. Who would have thought. She also reminded us that while we are here we are representatives of HOPE. Most importantly to stay away from the protestors. We also all put the HOPE office phone numbers in our wallets. Should we get lost we could get someone to call the office.
Then it was time for dinner. Simple and really tasty. Rice, of course, and no I didn't ask for brown rice. I think that might have been insulting to ask for. Ha ha. A very nice flavoured vegetable dish with ginger and basil, two of my very favourite spices and a pad thai noodle dish. We ate this all together and for dessert we had dragon fruit, pineapple, and mangosteen.
After dinner we went to our rooms pretty early as everyone was tired. I enjoyed a shower and hairwash as we would be leaving the comforts of our hotel to go to the village where bathing would be by bucket.
I fell asleep pretty quickly around 10:30 pm as I hadn't slept much the night before and today I really needed my sleep. Sometime in the night I had a nightmare. I am guessing it was around 4:00 am as that was when I awoke. I felt like I slept well.
In my dream I had a young male child with me and it wasn't a young Andrew or Jeremy but he was my child. We were riding in a wooden cart going somewhere. I also saw Spyder the cat eat what appeared to be a giant dragonfly that looked like it was made of origami. It was quite large and Spyder swallowed it in chunks.
I know that there was an explosion of a building that had a lot of people in it and I know in my dream that they died.
I am sure I had this dream as I had been thinking about the Killing Fields. I can still see in my mind's eye the stupa and I think about all those that died. I still remember listening to the audio tape and hearing what they said about how the babies were killed. I had to turn it off after hearing the first bit. It was simply too hard to bear. All I could think of were the victims and those that survived the Khmer Rouge. Truly hell on earth.