I cannot believe how quickly the weeks are passing, so much I still want to do, but time available is becoming less and less. Hope you have all had a good week, particularly if you were on half term, and that it wasn't continuous rain and wind. I think the rainy season is over here, we haven't had any rain for over a week, and the days have been beautifully sunny with wonderful blue skies. Unfortunately, that does mean very hot temps, ut I'm coping reasonably well, the overnight temps are the worst so sleep is very fitful.
It is another beautiful morning, but there does seem to be a light breeze blowing through the trees. This morning I need to write this blog, go and buy a few supplies, and cycle out to GH to meet with 25 students that I'm taking cycling as part of their training for the 30km bike ride. We are going to the West Baray, an ancient reservoir which is now a favourite haunt of Khmers at the weekend. Our ride will take just over an hour in each direction, which will then give the students about an hour to swim or play about. That part I will find very stressful as I have no idea who can swim and who can't, they'll go in fully clothed and cycle back on their tatty bikes dripping wet! They'll be aged between about 14 and 19, to do the ride this year we have said they must go to the Youth Club.
My ride yesterday was great, we managed to get further into the countryside, the going was rugged and very up and down through the ruts and water channels, and it was only when we were close to Tonle Sap that we had to turn around as the ground was still seriously flooded. After we had cycled around the bottom of Phnom Krom a young German decided we should cycle up it! I started, but poor brake usage caused the chain to come off. Although I tried hard to put it back on I didn't succeed, so had to wait for the others to return and help me. SAVED! I took someone 2 secs to replace it, I hadn't thought to turn the bike upside down. The wedding photo is one I took on my way home, I spotted the main wedding party at the pagoda near here having their pictures taken, so I stopped and managed a few. Khmer weddings usually last for three days and th main party have at least 7 different outfits to wear, and each outfit is photographed at an auspicious place. One lot are always taken at Angkor Wat.
My 4th time here and still I won't experience the Water Festival, it was announced on Friday that due to the severe flooding in the province all money will be needed to be spent on helping the people! If that were true I wouldn't object but it is outside agencies which help and bail out the stricken. I was quite horrified when I read about the damage, loss of crops, homes, livestock etc.Just because I haven't experienced flooding to any great extent this year I didn't realise how bad it was for others in this area. I rode with a yougish Dutch girl on yesterday's ride and she is here from an International Farming Organisation which goes out to help those in troubled times. She is based in Rome, but is now on her third visit here, apparently the way the organisation works has to be adapted for here - their people stay longer to help and if possible, the same worker returns, as the apport they have built up is necessary for progress to be made. Everything here takes so much longer than anywhere else, and progress is so slow, and fiancial problems so great. Sue and I have decided that we will go to Kep for a few days. I do wonder if the Water Festival will ever happen again, as political unrest is growing, although not a problem at all, and I think the governors and Prime Minister are wary of having large groups of people gathered together in case it turns into a demonstration. For Khmers the Water Festival is a major event in the year, one they look forward to and prepare for, for so long and such a disappointment when cancelled. Their river is the only one in the world that changes its direction of flow, so it is something magical worth celebrating.. The river flowing through here is down by about 2m from when I arrived, and out at GH it has gone down about three quarters of a metre, although still causing some problems.
Work wise has gone well, we are busy practising for our open day and 5th birthday on Thursday. I think I have been too ambitious in my choices of performance for the two classes I teach - one a dance drama to tell the story of the water cycle and drumming and singing for the other. The first one has 38 kids in it with no experience of 'taking part' reading, dancing and acting, so I dread Thursday, but I don't suppose the invited guests of Commune Chief, Village Elders and parents will mind too much - nobody will understand a word of English or have a clue what we're about! Again, the art lesson was ok - this week based on Picasso showing two faces in one picture, I did introduce the word Cubism, but a bit beyond them! I was amazed at the one Sreynith did, one at top of this blog, so original and carefully thought through - I imagine she has tremendous artistic ability, but probably will never have the chance to use it, such a shame. I'm really enjoying the converstion classes I am doing, it is such a privilege to learn about these people's lives, and learn how difficult they are. Everyone still washes their whole families clothes by hand in a bowl of cold water (people I know who earn a slightly better monthly wage) shop at the market for each meal, go to bed at at about 9pm at the latest and rise at 5am. My town bike has seized up this week, by Friday morning I could hardly push the pedals around, I had noticed all week that the journey was taking me longer and I was using much more energy that I felt that I should need to. By Friday afternoon Petra could not solve the problem, so I had to be given another bike - my journey back was over nearly before I started and it was so easy - exactly as I knew it should have been, so local cycling is a pleasure again.
Shopping done, bike hired, now 1 hr to spare before getting ready for ride. It is very hot, so plenty of sun screen to be applied, but hair will be soaked with sweat beneath the helmet. I am taking the lady who hires out bikes great customers, two guys I know have hired bikes from her fro 2$ a day, very cheap, I just hope they don't lose them because I'll my creditability with her. This year I have done something that I never dreamed I woukd do and that is ride my bike after dark with no lights!
Yesterday, was the fortnightly Made in Cambodia Craft Market - everything on sale must have been made by Khmer people, perhaps guided, taught or funded by westerners. It is held in the grounds of a very posh hotel and there are about thirty stalls at the moment, there is enyertainment and a very pleasant evening. I was working there from 4 - 9pm a long time in the heat, and unfortunately we were near the music being played/sung at a deafening noise level. I was there for the whole time trying to sell our wares, but by the end I was absolutely exhausted, so after my short ride home I was soon home and collapsed in bed. Our stall managed to sell about 75$ worth of stuff, I hope it pays for the renting of the stall.
Sue, who I went to stay in Berlin with arrived on Fri evening and will be working at GH for the next month too. It will be good to spend some time with her. She has ageed to join the cycle ride this afternoon, so it will be interest ing to see how she fares, as it will with Rith too, but he is happier as I've said I will hire and pay for him to have a Giant geared mountain bike like mine to make the ride easier! I will have one, so cannot complain when others want a better bike to help them on their way. Unfortunately the kids will be riding clapped out town bikes, so will not be able to go fast. Hopefully, there won't be too much maintenance required along the way.
It is now 19:30 and I'm recovering from the 40km cycle ride wih 25 students in a temp of nearly 40 degrees and without any shade along the way to the West Baray reservoir. We all had a break at the halfway point - some swam in their cycling clothes, some chatted, all ate - chillied snails, a sour mango we do not see, but it is eaten in salads or dipped into a chilli, sugar and salt mixture. I like it on its own, but it can be very dry. I didn't see the students buying fried cockroaches or another insect I couldn't identify, but there were plenty on sale. I was dressed in shorts and a sleeveless cycling top, the Khmers were covered from head to toe, and some of the girls wore socks and gloves too - all because they do want ttheir skin to get any darker. So you can understand how hard it must have been to cycle, at first on the return journey. three of the Khmer staff came too, but found it difficult, and of course all the planning and organisation was left to me, but it went well and 5 hours after leaving here I was back.
This week some interesting wild life has been found this week at GH. It started on Mon when someone in the office was searching in afiling cabinet and found a nest of 6 baby rats - thank goodness it wasn't me, I would have left the premises immediately. Then more baby rats were found in the library, I supposed they moved inside when everywhere was flooded. Then an enormous - 24 cm long 3 cm across millipede type thing was found, followed by two enormous scorpions and then the biggest leech I have ever seen. Luckily there haven't been any snakes about, but I have seen a few run over on the road. However, Bridget and Alan had a 12 foot one living under a shed type thing at their house, so they asked a Khmer to get it out and kill it - once that was done it rolled it up and took it home for dinner. A couple of weeks ago their black lab type dog, Middie completely shredded the seat and pulled it off their moto, they suspect the snake had been on it and the dog was trying to get it, as she had never bothered with the moto before and hasn't since.
Although the water is lessening everyone is still frantically fishing in every bit of water with a wide variety of equipment, wherever you are, whatever time of day there is someone standing on the side with a rod or throwing an old mossie net in, hoping to catch a meal or ones to sell.
Bedtime now, although it is very hot, I hope I can swim, but think that may be doubtful.
Have a good week all, I hope the weather is kind to you, take care and enjoy.
Love to all, J x