Hi, hope you have all enjoyed your extra hour in bed today. I have already been on a 4 hr cycle ride, had breakfast, lunch and an afternnon nap! This morning was beautiful, but we have just had an hour's storm, so that has hopefully settled the dust again for a bit. We have had quite a lot of rain this week, fortunately most of it has been over night, but I have had two very wet cycles to Grace House. Whilst eating breakfast I have tried to decide whether cycling in the rain was sensible, but the thought of missing my ride always helps me make the choice. A vision of pink in a bright pink poncho cycling along feeling pleased that I have not wimped out, but doing as a local. However, I sweat so badly they are very uncomfortable and when the time comes to peel them off it is unpleasant. A change of clothes is necessary, despite the heat, the sweat and wetness makes me feel cold and then a little time is needed to be too hot aand sweaty again. It has been great seeing the effect the rain has on the fields and vegetation, and to see the river looking more like one again. Tonle Sap continues to expand and there is water now lying, consequently a lot more mosquitoes about! The bull frogs think the water is wonderful and their calling is often is louder than our teaching voices - I know some of you will find that difficult to believe!
There is growing excitement everywhere about the Water Festival, which celebrates the full moon and the reversal of the flow of the River Bassac. At night time many offerings will be made and sailed along the river with their candles glowing. Luckily, wind is not a problem here unless as a precursor to a storm and then it is short lived. Ladies are working frantically every day to keep the banks of the river tidy and the grass short for the occasion. On Friday I saw women standing on the banks cutting grass, but needing to swipe through the water each time, so their machete type instrument must have been blunt most of the time. The environment people do not own such things as grass cutters or strimmers as yet. Lights are being put up along the river and new concrete elephants are appearing as features. Power cuts have been a problem of late, so let's hope they don't happen during those days. The Governor of the province will certainly lose face if that does happen, and face here is a very important thing.
Wednesday was a public holiday, so I spent the day helping Jill, another volunteer, to ride a bike for the first time since she was twelve! Now the same age as me. She slowly gained her confidence and we were able to go for a ride, but she did push it through the busy bit of town. She thoroughly enjoyed seeing the countryside and parts you don't see unless out and about on one - it is too hot to get to these places by foot and too expensive and uncomfortable to use tuks. She and I ventured out yesterday afternoon again, and luckily managed to be near a bike repairer when she discovered a flat tyre. It required a new tyre and tube, but was quickly and cheaply sorted. We've been out much further afield today with Lou and seen and heard wonderful Cambodian sights and sounds. Wherever we go, we bump into Khmer people we know, so it's good to stop and chat, and their faces glow with pride when we say it is because we enjoy their country so much. Yesterday, I also cycled with the group, so my fitness level is improving, and hopefully the weight declining. It was the first time that I have really cycled through mud this year, so returned covered from head to toe in red mud, as was my bike. The staff here were horrified and thought that something dreadful had happened to me and were very concerned, I think they understood my explanation, but I think that they struggle to understand me!
On Thursday eveing I went to a tuk driver's son's 2nd birthday party. I have known Meas since my first visit here, he was then a non English speaking security guard at Globalteer. He has worked very hard to to speak and write English and is now reasonably proficient. He works hard and enjoys showing tourists about. Three Australians (I didn't know) and myself were collected at 6:30 pm in a raging storm with the most impressive thunder and lightning and taken to his home. I think 6 plastic chairs had either been bought or borrowed for our visit, and there was a circular table, nothing else in the room. However, we were treated to a feast - a Khmer cake - edible, and then a variety of very nicely cooked bowls of Khmer food. I particularly enjoyed the fried pork and chicken with mixed vegetables, then an enormous bowl of grapes was placed on the table. Sadly, although Meas and another man ate with us , the ladies sat on the floor and waited until we had finished. I tried to persuade them to eat with us, but they could not understand a word I said. Meas said that they weren't hungry, but I felt uncomfortable. Also I do think it is so sad that Meas feels that his son should celebrate ihis birthday in the western fashion. Unfortunately, Muni had fallen that day and bitten his lip, so was rather miserable and clung to his mother and ignored the presents we had taken him.
Next Wednesday is also a public holiday to remember Independence from France, so my aim is to cycle out and have a day at the temples, I think Jill will feel confident enough to join me, but the buses carrying the tourists can be threatening, so we will have go off the main route.
Although the rain has stopped thunder is rumbling around and the internet is too weak for me to upload a photo onto this, so until that happens I cannot publish it. Hopefully at some point today I'll manage it.
I need to go and buy some supplies, return my mountain bike and collect my town bike, have an early meal and then an early night, so that I'm ready for tomorrow's 5 lessons that I'm teaching. I must admit I do like the weeks that have a day off in them! The following week is only 2 days...I will enjoy! Also I have just realised my visa needs renewing so I must take that into a place for sending off to Phnom Penh.
We have been without power for most of the evening, luckily I slept through most of it, but woke to a stifling heat and to discover my one torch does not work. Fortunately, all is ok now and the internet is working wonderfully, so I have been able to Skype Dad too, but we were cut off after about 10 mins. If all goes well I should be able to post this and add some photos too befor I go to sleep again.
Have a good week everyone, if it is your half term have a rest and recharge your batteries. Take care and enjoy, love to all, J x