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Day 17 - Last Day in Prahos Kbal

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

sunny

Today was a very early start as we got up at 4:30 am. It wasn't a particularly good sleep for me and I had already been up since about 2 am and was dozing on and off. No one had a really good sleep as there was a lot on our minds.

It would be our last day in Prahos Kbal and we would have to say goodbye to all the people that had carved a place in our hearts. We all knew that in coming to Cambodia, living and working in a village, meeting families and playing with children, our hearts would inevitably become attached. We just didn't know to what degree. We didn't know how much we could come to care in just a short time, not just for the people of Cambodia but for each other, our team. We also knew deep down that chances are that we will never come back to this village again. The hope is that we do return one day, but life happens and you just never know.

It wouldn't be an easy day...but as Buddha says, life is always changing. Change isn't easy and the sooner one accepts that change is inevitable, the easier it is to deal with. I am still working on this and continue to struggle with change. I generally love change and thrive when the changes are my idea.

"Impermanence and Change

The seemingly fixed and solid world you see around you actually is in a state of flux. Our senses may not be able to detect moment-to-moment change, but everything is always changing. When we fully appreciate this, we can fully appreciate our experiences without clinging to them. We can also learn to let go of old fears, disappointments, regrets. Nothing is real but this moment.

Because nothing is permanent, everything is possible. Liberation is possible. Enlightenment is possible.

Thich Nhat Hanh wrote,

'We have to nourish our insight into impermanence every day. If we do, we will live more deeply, suffer less, and enjoy life much more. Living deeply, we will touch the foundation of reality, nirvana, the world of no-birth and no-death. Touching impermanence deeply, we touch the world beyond permanence and impermanence. We touch the ground of being and see that which we have called being and nonbeing are just notions. Nothing is ever lost. Nothing is ever gained. [The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching (Parallax Press 1998), p. 124]"

(Excerpt from http://buddhism.about.com/od/basicbuddhistteachings/a/Impermanence.htm)

We crawled out of bed, brushed teeth, and shook ourselves awake. We had to prepare for a lunch for the village. We were expecting about 250 guests. It was the Union team's parting gift to the village.

We sat at a table that Ron usually used and where the workers, Pang, Tia, Kom and others hung out. Here there were bags and bags of vegetables covering the table. We got to the task of peeling carrots, eggplants, potatoes, garlic, chopping up green beans and onions.

While we did this, each team member took a turn packing up all their belongings as we would be heading to Pursat sometime after lunch.

Clark, "I don't cook" was assigned the important task of roasting the peanuts in a wok. The peanuts were later crushed and added to the curry.

The guys, Pang, Tia and Kom were helping out as usual. Pang was helping out with the curry preparation, Tia went off to go pick up more supplies and Kom went to pick up two large cans which were used as bases for the two large metal bowls in which the curry was cooked.

And just in case you have the urge to cook for 250 people, here is the list of the Ingredients you will need:

35 chickens
16 kg (35 lbs) carrots
20 kg (44 lbs) potatoes
10 kg (22 lbs) eggplants
6 kg (13 lbs) green beans
35 coconuts
8 kg (17 lbs) onions
3 kg (6 lbs) garlic
3 kg (6 lbs) mixed spices
2 kg (4 lbs) shrimp paste
3 kg (6 lbs) palm sugar
3 litres oil
4 bottles fish sauce
1/4 Kg MSG

Instead of serving rice with the curry, 500 baguettes were purchased which meant 500 baguettes had to be cut up.

Before long, large numbers of children began to arrive. Children that we had not even seen before. They were everywhere. There must have been well over a hundred kids or more and lunch was still hours away.

All our food prep duties were done and now some of the women from the village would be arriving to help our cook Ron to prepare the curry.

We got to the tough task of packing up our room, our home at the village for the past three weeks. Down came the mosquito nets, bedding was rolled up, suitcases packed, garbage dumped, floors were swept and before long it looked almost like we had not ever been there.

We did our best to keep the children entertained. I handed out stickers and also got the children into one of the classrooms where we had a bit of school lesson with numbers. Pang and Tia helped to translate for me as my command of Khmer is limited. The children decided that they would sticker us as well as themselves. Managing that many children was kind of exhausting but it made them so happy.

Before lunch all the children were gathered in the playground neatly lined up in rows. The village heads were also in attendance along with a policeman and a few others. Leah read from our card to the village in which we all wrote something to them. We were also invited to say something more if we wanted to. Once again Leah translated. I got to let everyone know how it has been a dream of mine for over 15 years to come to Cambodia and that I am so grateful to have been able to come here. My memory is now so clouded by emotions that I no longer remember all of what I said. I did add that I really enjoyed teaching yoga to the children. That part of the trip will remain very special to me. Leah also translated everything the others had to say to us. We were thanked many times over for giving up our time and coming to help them.

One of the ladies that spoke was from another village. She wanted to thank us for coming.

We also learned that the children had never received toys before, they just didn't have them. So thanks again to my cousin Elaine for all the generous school supplies and toys...you really made a difference in the lives of these children. I was so glad I lugged an extra suitcase full of things for the children. Their smiles and genuine happiness were priceless.

Being in Cambodia meant so much because our coming made a real impact, we improved the lives of people here. How often can that be said back home. It is just not the same. Some of the team pitched in and bought a fishing net for a man for $30. Now he has a way to catch fish, eat, sell his excess and can be self sufficient. For $30, he has a chance. The net he was using was borrowed and was not very good. He wasn't catching fish.

$200 bought a sugar cane machine for Ron. The Union team did this for her. It would have taken her years to save up for it. This gave her and her family a future. She could have an income.

$50 got a young boy out of debt bondage. He is back with his family.

There are thousands of people that need help and it is not always possible to help every single one of them but to know that we have helped make a difference for some is a wonderful feeling. It is a start. It is something. You no longer feel so helpless.

Two of the classrooms had desks set up and this is where the children and adults would be having their lunch.

Later we found out that the children rarely if ever get to eat meat. Soft drinks had been purchased and I have no idea how many bottles but there was a lot. Pop is a once a year treat for children, generally only for New Years. One little boy kept saying thank you, thank you to me. It was written all over his face just how happy this one meal meant to him, a meal that children back home get all the time and take for granted.

We served all the children their lunches, the teachers and the workers were gathered in another room where they were enjoying their lunch and this is when we sat down to eat in our room.

After cleaning up after lunch we hung out with the children some more. A few more pictures and a few more hugs. Words whispered to the children, telling them how much we care for them. Handing out more cookies.

It was now just before noon and it was time to get going. Rainbow and I were with Tia and he was getting emotional. The van had been packed up with all our belongings. It was hard to believe that we were nearly at the end of our three weeks.

We started our goodbyes, our cook Ron was crying. I don't think any of us expected the always smiling Ron to cry. Her tears made us even more emotional. We had already spent much of the morning taking pictures, hugging and hanging out with the children especially the ones that really made a dent in our hearts.

It was so very hard to leave the children and the adults that we had all come to care for in the three weeks that we were here. Some of the children were clearly emotional. I was crying a lot and it was so very tough to go and to know that we will likely never see any of them ever again.

It was a tough ride back to Pursat. Everyone was feeling emotional, there were lots of hugs and then we just had to get out there. It was overwhelming.

Before long we arrived in Pursat at our hotel. This is the same hotel that we had stayed in previously and would be here for three nights and then head to Phnom Penh Friday am. I was again sharing a room with my surrogate daughter, Linda.

Later that evening when I had my two suitcases from the hotel, I was able to confirm my fear that I had really lost my other camera. The one Michael had bought for me. I should have been more careful as I was sure I had left it in the safe at the hotel in Siem Reap. I would need to get help to follow up with the hotel to see if it was in the safe where I thought I had left it.

This was definitely a tough day, not as tough as Day 19 but tough nevertheless or our day at the Killing Fields.

Posted by Sydney324 23:48 Archived in Cambodia Tagged children cambodia village hope pursat prahos kbal Comments (0)

Day 16 - Last Night in Prahos Kbal

Monday, July 22, 2013

semi-overcast

Just a bit tough getting up this am. Went to bathroom around 2:00 am and then had trouble to fall asleep. Had another strange dream. Dreamt I had to go to the RBC to meet with a bank lady. Not sure what for but I knew it was the main branch where a cousin works. After meeting with the lady I was told to feel free to go to the staff cafeteria and I could order a sandwich to go. I ordered a sandwich with five different types of mustard and was warned that it would be quite strong. I then went to one of the many beds that they had for staff to have a nap on. All the beds were king sized. I remember that there were other people in the bed sleeping next to me and on my right was someone that I knew was Cambodian but didn't recognize the face. I then woke up and my clothes were all missing. Strange dream. Methinks it could be side affect from the malaria pills. Also my clothes were not work clothes but a red dress that I wear to work. Sure hope it is related to medication. I am not the only one having vivid dreams. My only other explanation is paint fumes or Raid fumes.

I have also had quite the rash on my stomach and back and on my sides. Not really itchy and likely some sort of heat rash or reaction to all the Muskol, Off and other bug spray we have been using. Not related to food. There is also one from Cambodia which is Lemongrass Oil but I have been teased that it just attracts the bugs. The Lemongrass Oil does have a soothing effect when you have bites and are itchy. It stings right after you spray it on you and then it feels better. I have also used some citronella patches which I think help but am not certain. I have been eaten alive by mosquitos since arriving, I have also received a lot of ant bites, including red ants (They really really hurt and the ant that caused this pain, no longer causes pain for anyone.)

I felt much better today and went to have breakfast with the others. We were going to be painting the back of the school today. It was a deeper orange while wet that turned a pale peach when dry. We made great progress and the outside walls of the school were pretty much done by lunchtime.

We had already finished up with lunch and a few of us were still sitting in the dining room when we heard crying outside. Around here there is not much crying and mostly laughter which is a good thing. My favourite little boy, Biu who is about 3 years old was on the ground crying in the playground. I went over to get him and brushed the dirt off his back, face and little body. He let me carry him and I brought him into the dining room and wiped his nose and face off. I fed him some grapes which made him very happy. Who wouldn't be happy. I peeled of the skin, took out the seeds and put little pieces in his mouth. (Sorry Clark, but you aren't the only male here that I will feed. Ha ha.) Vi soon starting playing with him and he was happy and giggily. He doesn't speak a lot and doesn't seem to smile too often. Rainbow asked him in Khmer if he wanted more grapes and each time he answered so it was nice to hear his little voice. Clark helped to clean off his face again as well.

The children here get and stay very dirty. The playground is dirt. The rain compacts it for a bit and then the heat makes it all dusty again. All the roads are dirt. It is understandable how disease could get you easily. On the playground are children who generally wear flip flops or some type of sandal, they walk in the muddy water, drop their garbage wherever they are standing and chickens and dogs roam freely as do the cows and water buffalo. You can be looking at one short stretch of road and in that space are people, dogs, water buffalo, cows and chickens. Man and animals live together in unison. I can more than understand why I cannot donate blood for a year after this trip.

While we were with Biu in the dining room, Lily and Linda were tending to some of the children who had some open wounds on their legs. On one of the little girls Lily saw a worm come out of a wound on her leg. They reported this to Rainbow and later Ron took the little girl to the local clinic and a doctor treated the wound. Surprisingly the wound was not covered up when she returned. It is nothing short of a miracle that all these children have made it to the age that they are as many die before the age of 5 from disease.

We also found out today that our cook Ron's husband has been sick for a long time with stomach cancer and is at home and cannot work. Ron supports three daughters by selling snacks to the schoolchildren, cooking for us and other jobs. The youngest daughter is maybe around 4 years old. We have been most fortunate to have had her for a cook since we have been here as the food is really good. She does a great job with vegetables. Usually two vegetable dishes per meal with some meat mixed in and generally there has been variety. Also french fries sometimes and really dense potatoes which we dip in a mix of salt, pepper, msg and lime. Can you say yum. I have to admit that I have been getting tired of the same baguette and scrambled egg for breakfast. I do really appreciate that we have had peanut butter which is a treat. I have eaten more white bread in the past three weeks than I have in a two years. Don't get me wrong I do love bread but not this much and I am used to whole wheat and whole grain. Sprouted bread. Ditto for white rice as I eat brown rice except for sushi when I can't get it. Food in Pursat is good but not a lot of variety it seems. After almost three weeks I long for food back home. Haven't had much curry here which I thought we would get more of. Yogurt, salad, veggie juices, cottage cheese, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet potato, cereal, wraps, and most of all sushi.

After lunch we finished up and then were doing some painting in one of the classrooms. It was difficult to paint as the paint we were using was some type of white powder mixed with water. The powder may have been either plaster or chalk. It was quite thin and ended up looking very grey as it went onto the walls. It has yet to dry so we don't yet know the end result.

By the way I just got a whiff of myself and it's not pretty. Stinky is the norm around here. I don't think that we are at the point that we are stinky to each other fortunately. Another fortunate thing is no mirrors on the walls otherwise we might actually gasp a bit. Hair for the women is tied up in some sort of bun due to the heat and necessity when doing work. We all really enjoyed the luxury of showering at the hotel in Siem Reap on the weekend. Washed my hair twice while we were there. I am going to have a shower shortly. It has already started that one of our team is going in. I don't think anyone showered yesterday as we were feeling fresh from showers yesterday am from the hotel.

It was warm this am but not too hot. We had a rainshower for about 30 minutes or so early in the afternoon and that really helped to cool the temperature down. Some of the team enjoyed the rain and some of the children ran into the rain as well. It is refreshing and a relief when it happens.

Earlier today Piep arrived with Pang and they brought lots of supplies for tomorrow. Huge bottles of soda pop, plastic cups and styrofoam containers. Tomorrow we are having a large lunch for the village to say goodbye to them all. Another thing we are doing is all contributing to the purchase of a sugar cane press for Ron so that she can start a side business selling sugar cane juice. This is a dream of hers to be able to have this business. It might have taken her years to save up for the press. We wanted to be able to do something nice for her and the decision had been made a few days ago, well before we knew of her husband's cancer. We are all happy that we are doing this as we are all very fond of her three daughters and this helps to give them a better future.

How is it that some people are born into wealth or become so wealthy that they live a decadent lifestyle while others struggle in life so much to achieve just day to day survival? I am so fortunate to have the life I have even though I have had my struggles as a single parent. I have not forgotten what it was like when money was really tight and even then there was always food, shelter and clothing.

We have been hit by another rainstorm and it is pouring big time at just before 4 pm. The trees are blowing and it is windy out. You could believe that you are currently in Vancouver by looking outside right now. Everyone is still taking their showers despite the rain as we still need to get clean. Tomorrow will be our last day in the village and a non-working day. We will be helping to prepare lunch for all those in the village that can make it. It will be fun and just a bit sad I think.

We have dinner and then look at some of the photographs on my netbook (thanks for much Jer for lending it to me. It has been awesome!) that Linda and I have taken. It brings back so many memories of all that we have done and how we have all changed so much since our arrival.

We find out that we will be getting up at 5:00 am tomorrow as we have a lot of vegetables and other preparations for the lunch that the village has been invited to. We are expecting 200 guests.

We have a surprise as seven people from one family come to visit us. One of the daughters kindly teaches us some Khmer words as her English is more extensive than anyone we have met so far other than Piep or Leah. It's too bad we are only meeting them now. We spend time talking outside and getting to know each other. Viola gives each of us a glow in the dark bracelet which makes everyone happy and silly. They ask if anyone can sing and Kailey treats us to a few songs. Lily sings the chorus from a Fun song and Clark is coaxed into singing Leaving on a Jet Plane with a little help Iwith his new friends, us. Linda impresses all of us with her command of numbers in Khmer. How fine a CA will she be! Just for fun we sing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. The daughter that speaks English sings a lovely song in Khmer and later her mother and another sibling also sing a song.

Before we know it, it is time for bed as the dawn will be an early one.

Posted by Sydney324 16:34 Archived in Cambodia Tagged children cambodia village poverty prahos kbal Comments (0)

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)

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