Have just finished my breakfast of hard boiled eggs, bread, slices of fresh pineapple and a pot of codffee at Bou Savy Guest House. I have had a fantastic welcome back here, everyone coming out to see me, even Madame, and her youngest son proudly presented me with the cafetierre I had put to be thrown away last year! Cambodians cannot and do not throw anything away, (like others I know), they had saved it for my return, little knowing that it was broken. So here I am this morning using it, trying to avoid the grounds which pass the filterage system prior to buying a new one. The next problem is how to get rid of this one without smashing the glass.
My journey was long, but uneventful, luckily on the long flight there was a spare seat between me and a very friendly and chatty New Zealand woman, so we could spread out a bit. I amazed myself by watching a film - Carey Mulligan in Far From the Madding Crowd - easy to watch, but not one I'd rush out to the cimema to see, and the rest of the time I played a Trivia game - trying to beat my previous score. I was able to claim 40 Singapore $ at the airport so was able to buy a drink and something to eat to while away fours there. The scond flight via Da Nang in Vietnam is OK, but by then all I wanted to do was arrive, and it is such an unnecessay nuisance having to disembark there for 40 mins - it is a very limited airport without aircon, so the lounge was very uncomfortable with the sun blasting through the glass wall. However, we eventually arrived here without the normal storm which greets me to enter the chaos of buying a Cambodian visa. The 15 men with their stern faces and uniforms glowered at us and pointed, as usual, but did nothing to help or direct the 400ish passengers who had just arrived on two large planes. Although the luggage collection carousels had moved and are better sited the rest was shambolic - strangers holding up people's precious passports for them to collect as the Khymer staff couldn't read or pronounce names clearly for people to hear and recognise - it was a case of laugh or cry, but for most the situation was resolved satisfactorily - I didn't hang about to find out if there problems for some. My tuk was awaiting me, and we left in the midst of many mini buses and small coaches - oh how times change! The airport is in the process of redevelopment and construction, I think it is so planes from countries further afield can land. Presently, only those from Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Laos, korea and S China fly in and out.
Thursday was a busy one, firstly I had to walk to the place where I hire a bike, but that was interesting, as I saw many faces that I recognised and people who recognised me, so short conversations ensued - neither of us knowing what the other was saying! The bike shop ladies were delighted to see me again and a bike was soon sorted, however, paperwork is now entering the country and she even asked for ID! After much hand talking she accepted I hadn't got any with me and that my past borrowing credability should suffice, quickly we agreed on 2$ a day and off I went into the traffic, riding here soon came back to me and was off to Grace House. I was shocked about how many new buildings and petrol stations there were - hotels and apartment buildings. When I first came in 2010 there were no petrol stations, only stalls selling it in 1l whisky and gin bottles, although they still exist for the tuk tuks, car/van, minibuses etc require higher quality fuel. Progress, but many people losing their small income. Also wherever you look there are plots of land for sale for building on, most of it, I have been told is poor land no good for cultivating, or is it for a quick buck? I still don't know who owns the land that is for sale. Once on the way to Grace House road there were many changes, the road is being rebuilt with a concrete surface, so that tourists can ride in comfort on their viisit to Tonle Sap Lake, howver, at the moment it is far from ready so difficult to ride over the roughness and stones. The positive side is that all the tourist vehicles are going a different route, one which takes them along a red local track, so they are disturbing the villagers by their frequency and the dust and noise they create. The main difference was the lack of huts on the river bank, they have been cleared, again so the poor visitors don't see such sights, and the people moved away from the river and their past life. I hope it is an improvement in living conditions for them, but as yet don't know. Apparently, most people have been able to find land in the village to build the new property the gov has given them money to purchase new materials in leiu of moving them. G H hasn't lost students through it, although I may find that untrue next week, once I am back into things.
A great welcome at GH, and was amazed to see the changes there, a new classroom, the weaving ladies moved to the front, so that a pre, pre school can open in their old room, and the extension of the Special Needs unit. This time I am working with a new member of staff, who I believe I need to try and train, so that should be fun. I met the afternnoon class and I had taught all of them last year. There is only one other teaching volunteer at the moment, Jill, whom I have spent time with the past two years, but she leaves soon. Otherwise, there is a S African vol helping with the special needs, and their Occupational /physio/speech therapy and their educational programme, an Irish Australian who is Vol coordinator and is writing a Kindergarden programme, a Dutch physio and an English Dr who is trying to work out how she can work and support within the villages with the local clinic, her partner, Lee is helping Alan run Sparkies. So all in all it is a very busy place, expanding and developing all the time.
I have just been talking to a group of doctorate students who are in Phnom Penh as part of their research on Human trafficking from Cambodia to Thailand, although I knew it was grim and a major problem I didn't realise it was on such a large scale and so much human misery caused. Unfortunately, the family I have supoorted for the last two years have fled to Thailand, so although their lot here was grim, they were supported in basic human needs and their kids were being educated, hopefully their lot will improve, but I have major doubts.
Everyone at G H is still reeling from the death of one of its 16/17 yr old students 2 weeks ago. Sophat was pillion on a moto which was involved in an accident in town here, unfortunately his family would not let the hospital amputate his leg and he died from blood poisoning/gangrene, however, the hospital has very poor and limited resources, so recovery there is unlikely.
Sat morning I joined the cycle group for a pleasant ride through the forest surrounding the temples, around temples along the outside wall of Angkor Thom. I coped well with it, and enjoyed being out in the countryside again.
I visited Lou's hotel yesterday, it is now so up market, peaceful, elegant and a great place, so different from the construction site I left last year. Although tourism is slow at the moment, she is fully booked for Nov, Dec and Jan, so I hope she can make a go of it, but the high season is so short compared to the off one.
Jill and I have pottered about, eaten in a few different places, but there is so much more exploring I need to do, so off on the bike I will go this afternoon.
First lot of washing was done yesterday in my newly purchased bucket and dried in my room window, luckily the mango trees are even more dense, so washing cannot be seen from down here.
Hopefully, I'm all set for next week's teaching, but to help ease me in there are only four days, as Thursday is a public holiday - birthday of the late king!
Everyone tells me it has been a an extemely dry wet season, so will all the rain come now, or is Cambodia going to be suffering from drought? We did have a shower on Friday afternoon, but everwhere is so dry and the river very low. I don't know what will happen to the Water Festival and its boat racing if the water depth doesn't increase, but perhaps there is something that the authorities and flood relief team can do to allow more water through?
Although I have seen many interesting sights I haven't taken any photos, so no new ones to show. I'm sure that will soon change.
Enjoy what's left of the weekend, and for those of you on half term have a great break.
Take care and love to all, J xx