Decided I must write this before I forgot! At my converstion class today I was asking Mom and Sopheah to tell me what they had done over the weekend. Sopheah, had badly burnt her hand on a cooking pot about 10 days ago and hadn't had any treatment for it until last Tues when she was ill, the hand very painful and the wounds infected. Immediately, GH paid for her to go to a clinic for treatment - the wounds were cleaned with alcohol, painted purple with something and then she was given antibiotics and vitamins pills to take. As the week progressed she began to feel better and the wounds were less painful, enabling her to sleep more during the night. She told us that yesterday (Sunday) she decided to go and see a spirit doctor in a neighbouring village. When asked what he did she told us he picked leaves off a mango tree, chewed them for 10 minutes and then spat everything from his mouth over the wound! Healthy or not I will let you decide. I then asked how much she had to pay for that - she had given him 5000 riels (about 75p) two candles (not sure what they were like) and 5 incense sticks. Although they want modern medicine they all seem to resort to the ancient at some point, just in case. Last weekend she had badly bruised her neck by dragging the back of a spoon down it, until the skin was covered in lines of bruises, and the skin broken, so sores likely to develop. That is a favourite treatment for sore throats, headaches and colds. Cupping is also used as a cure all, and it horrible to see the circular bruises left by that - usually on the face, forehead, chest or back.
I rode over two long, bright green snakes which had recently been killed by something driving over them - too badly damaged for someone to take home and eat I assume as they were still there.. However, as the week has progrssed I have seen about 10 dead ones, and I think two different species.
I cycled over two more dead snakes this morning, both long and a beautiful green with black stripes - pretty, but deadly poisonous. I don't know why so many seem to be about at the moment. As I cycled past the King's Residence another wedding party were having their peach coloured wedding outfit picures taken at the pagoda in beautiful sun and a very pleasant temp of about 28 degrees. Also this week I have seen the lemon and green photos of other couples being done at the same place. It is very much into the wedding season now. Unfortunately, itis a very expensive time for Khmers as they have to give a bigger monetary donation to each one they are invited to.
As of this week the monks have enlivened my ride by being out collecting their daily alms and giving out blessings. They haven't been out doing this since Pchumn Benh, as they had to go into purdah for 15 days and survive on the offerings that had been given to them during that time. I have no idea how, or if there was sufficient, or how that managed to remain safe for them to eat. But it's possible that people have been taking them food to the pagodas daily.
The photograph shows the back breaking work which goes into the planting of the rice plants, although everyone seemed to be working very hard I could hear their laughter and chatter.
Mid afternoon today we had a torrenial storm which lasted for a long time, as I had given up on carrying my poncho I had to spend tomorrow's coffee money on a new one - bright pink this time. As I was cycling I could hear 'cher, cher' but as noone seemed to be around I ignored it, until a breathless 17/18 yr old caught up with me and wanted to talk. Unfortunately, I didn't recognise him, and he was very put out that I didn't know that he was a student at GH from 3 - 4 each day, but had only started there for English lessons two weeks ago. I didn't feel too bad then about not recognising him then. He told me his dream is to study Botany at university, but he doesn't think it will be possible. I then turned off and he continued his journey. Since this morning, a wedding has started up somewhere close to GH and the music has drifted loudly across, and a funeral has been set up nearer here, the monks were chanting as I passed. Although such beautiful rural sights, it rarely seems to be peaceful, but I do not mean that in a negative sense at all. I arrived back like a drowned rat, every piece of clothing could be wrung out, but luckily did not feel cold.
The heavy rain has continued into this evening, and apparaently is supposed to continue for another few days as a major storm/typhoon is on its way. Hopefully it won't be too serious.
Sue and I have booked to go to Kep next week for a few days, as the Water Festival has been cancelled and we have three days off school. To avoid the horrific 15 hour+ bus journeys there and back we have bought plane tickets and are flying to Sihanoukville and getting local transport from there - only an hour journey we have been told! I hope it was a good decision, as it was not cheap, is on CAMBODIAN AIRLINES, and Sihanoukville only has one of flight a day!
I was really amused one morning by Petra, the manager of Alan's electrical and odd job boys - Alan has trained them all to western standard electricians, and they are very much in demand for their skills, but really dependant on him for direction - however, he is away for a few days and so Petra was in charge. On a very hot morning I foolishly pulled the cord on the classroom fan too hard and it came out. Immediately, I rushed to find Petra, told him my problem and said I wanted it fixed THEN, after he'd finally understood me he said, I'll send one of my boys to do it." I burst out laughing, it seemed such an English phrase to come out of his mouth, but I suppose he has heard Alan say it so many times he knew that this was an appropriate time to use it.
THURSDAY was Grace House's 5th birthday, a great day was had by all, and it is amazing that I have spent 4 of them there. It all began with each class presenting something to the rest of the students and to all the parents and guests who had chosen to come. The Nurery class started it off by singing 'Brother Jack' in English, which was an amazing achieement considering they have only been attending for 4 weeks and do not go to state school. The next class of little ones did 'If you're happy and you know it clap your hands' plus a Khmer song, then it was my classes turn - I had done something very complicated and alien to them - we told the water cycle through dance, words and movement - I found it very stressful as the children found it difficult to fit everything together, and it was a different venue to the one we had practised in. I think it went down ok and I'm pleased I introduced something new to them - this is a class of 38 so to utilise them all was problematical. After the older students performed we then had a presentation ceremony of certificates for achievement. Then the parents were invited to look at their children's work, classroom displays etc before we all had birthday cake and drinks followed by games. The same procedure was followed in the afternoon, but I choose to do something different with my class, as it was a much smaller one - for that we did drumming and then sang a song - question and response and the children used the drums too. We had a much grander presentation because it included the electricians receiving their qualifications, and the older students their level 3 English certificates which the Education Council has permitted GH to award. Some students returned for the award and it was great to see them again and hear about what they are doing. GH is now supporting 19 children through university and has fully trained 10 electricians. It was a very tiring day, I choose to wear my Khmer skirt, so that was well received, and it is unbelievable to see what Bridget and Alan have achieved for so many people in such a space of time. Without so many people's generous donations none of it would have been possible, but the lives of so many families has been improved and for some changed beyond imagination. One great example happened two weeks ago - a family who live in the middle of a rice paddy on a raised wooden platform covered in plastc needed help. The lady was pregnant, already had 5 children - one completely deaf and dumb who GH have managed to place in a residential school from `Mon to Fri and take him and collect him. One evening the husband arrived home drunk, proceeded to violently assault his 8 month pregnant wife, then destroyed the few clothes and pocessions they owned, and stole the few riel they had and fled. Dani and Sarenn have supported her, taken clothes and food for them and arranged for her to have the baby in hospital. Last week a daughter was born, she looks healthy and is now home. Last Monday GH employed Net, a builder whio is also a director of GH to build them a new home and toilet - it will be small, be built of wood - weather proof and they are hoping to be able to use a solar battery to enable her to have one light and a fan. We just hope the husband stays away and allows them to live in peace. G H has now decided to help her further by paying her closest neighbour a few riels each day to help her look after her young children each day and that will enable the son to continue at his residential school during the week.. Another priceless comment came out in my conversation class this week too. Sarann, a trainee male Khmer social worker is working hard with the family and visits them each morning to check that all is well. I asked him if the mother was tired and struggling to look after her children, he said no, she wasn't. I showed shock and amazement as his wife has a month old son and he is always telling me how tired she is after getting up four or five times a night to feed their son. I reminded him that women had newly born babies who needed regulare feeding, but he replied that it was very different because girls do not need as much food as a boy and looking after them was much easier. When he saw my reaction he told me that everyone in his commune, and people he respected had told him boys were much more tiring and he didn't realise how hard the other lady must be finding life. Dani told me that girls are still fed less than boys because people genuinely believe that their lives are not so important and that they do not work as hard as boys. I would have thought Cambodian women would have seen that this is not true, but as in many things ignorance and tradition still holds fast. Ironically, as in so many countries it is the women who seem to do so much of the work here too, manual labour too.
On Friday the children were very excited to see the photos and videos of the Birthday Day that I had uploaded on to here. Unfortunately, computers, cameras etc are signs of our wealth, and something that they aspire to - perhaps another way that NGO's can justify their work here - showing the students that they can have dreams, there is another life and that they can be supported on their way to something different.
Saturday and Sunday were both major cycling days - Sat with the group and a ride I led - everyone enjoyed it but there were complaints about its length and the very bumpy track that were on for quite a while. Luckily, Prei Monti, another Angkor ruin was a first for them all, so that was a Brownie point for me! Sunday was exactly the same ride but with the students from GH, Rattanak, Sue and Chas - the same comments about the ride too, and so complaints about sore bottoms for a few days were issued into my ear regularly. However, I have promised all that our last training ride will be to the West Baray again - they are all happy about that.
I have had major internet problems this week, so have not been able to send the blog and only able to do from Kep whilst we are eating at this crab shack (Sun 17 Nov). I will be in touch properly, I hope when I return to SR on Tues 19th Nov..
Take care everyone and have a good week. Build up strength as the Kep blog will be long, we are having a great time.
Love to all, J x