I can't believe that another week has passed, again it has been a very busy one with lots of different and interesting things happening. It is now late Saturday afternoon, and I'm taking it easy after spending a morning at Grace House's Open Day to celebrate their seventh birthday. The celebrations began yesterday with parties for the children, and today we have had our first open day for families and any visitor who cared to join us. We had lots of different activities for the children to play - mainly free, but there was a tombola and face painting which one had to pay for, plus Mom and her ladies had spent hours cooking - Khmer vegetable curry, fish amok - the speciality dish of the area, banana fritters and Khmers salads - as usual, all was absolutely delicious and sold out. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and it was great to see students who had left GH, and had even completed their degrees this year - university fees funded by GH. One of the guys has studied Japanese, another Chinese, so that they can become tour guides around the temples. That is a highly regarded job here, and reputedly after tips, well paid. Another is studying IT, and the others English. Sac, a student I have cycled with many times has just started his Hotel Management and Hospitality course at Paul Debrule school of catering etc, a French establishment much respected for for what it does. So the week has ended successfully, and it is so rewarding to see the progress of both GH and the inhabitants of the three villages - I have now spent 6 birthday parties here. Bridget and Alan have so much to be proud of and their vision has achieved so much, for so many. The down side is that I have a cold coming, sore throat, runny nose and generally feeling miserable, but I hope a quiet weekend will sort it out.
I have just finished my breakfast of fresh fruit and yoghurt, but am stuck in the restaurant, as there is a torrential storm happening, the wind is blowing, it is dark and I am feeling cold. Since Wednesday we have had quite a few very heavy storms, and each evening there have been spectacular lightning shows accompanied by thunder, so the internet has been down, but fortunately, no power cuts. A group of young backpackers staying here had just got their bicycles organised for a tour of the temples, but have quickly changed their minds and are now waiting for tuk tuks to take them. According to the BBC Asia Pacific weather forecast there will be numerous of these storms today. Drought has been declared here, but I doubt that these rains will make any difference, however, I should cycle to the lake to see if that has come up any more after my visit last weekend. Today is going to be very lazy one - meeting some friends for lunch at Artillery at 1pm, and other than a bit of food shopping for the week, and lesson planning I intend to rest, before a very long day to a far temple tomorrow. Six of us have hired a minibus to take us the 250 km to a temple on the Thai border, Preah Vihear, leaving at 5:30 am. For many years Thailand and Cambodia have literally fought over its ownership, and so the British Foreign Office has advised against visiting it, but now, Thailand has conceded that it is Cambodia's, so the restriction has been lifted. My fingers and toes are rossed that it will be a safe and non frightening journey, but I have my doubts, hopefully the road is in fair condition, and as it's a public holiday there won't be too many unsafe vehicles on it - again unlikely! However, I am looking forward to seeing it, and apparently the views from the top of the plateau that it is sited on are magnificent over Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. The holiday is to celebrate Independence Day from France in 1953. It will be a short working week for me as Colin and Eileen arrive on Tues until Friday, so I am having Thursday off to spend with them and to show them GH and around. Just had to move as I was getting wet - the restaurant is open at the sides, the rain is coming down now in sheets, one drip will drench one!
The area is very much changing, whereever you look buildings are growing, roads being being improved and the number of vehicles on the road quadrupling - in Cambodian terms, and the array of machinery I have seen is breathtaking, after seeing none other than seeing 4 x 4's on previuos visits. Much work is being done on the waterways, I'm not sure whether it is part of the flood defence system, or to improve water systems for growing rice, or to improve the environment. Probably, it is none of these! They are trying hard to improve the red tracks to the villages close to town, and our road to Tonle Sap, but it is a tortuous ride whilst they are being done, lethal to tyres, and oh so dusty when it is dry. Unfortunately, Cambodians remain extremely untidy, there is refuse strewn everywherre, spread further by animals looking for food, and even worse most of it is plastic, so will not decompose. Although a refuse collection system was set up for the town about three years ago, it has not been particularly successful due to its unreliability and cost. Anlong Pi is where all the refuse is dumped and I have friends who are working with the families who scavenge from and live on it. Unfortunately, the villagers do not seem bothered about the rubbish everywhere, although on occasions you do see some being burnt. I was appalled after ours do's on Fri and Sat at how much people has just dropped on the floor , despite their being rubbish sacks tied up everywhere. We have regular rubbish pick ups by the children during every week at GH, they hate doing it, but still drop their litter everywhere, although it might be slightly better than it was. However, some students are extremely environmentally conscious and do their best and try to educate their peers.
As soon as I close this and post it I remember all the wonderful anicdotes that I wanted to include, so I'll finish now, but wpost it later in case I remember a few worth including.
Take care everyone, love to all, J x
PS Did hav a little disaster this afternoon, I had parked my bike in town whilst I had a wander round, but when I came to leave the key broke in the lock I put onto the bike. Fortunately, a few tuk drivers came to my rescue, and smashed it off using a machete they had borrowed from someone. Alas, in the process they had done something to the gears, but Pheatra, an electrician from Grace House, appeared as if by magic and fixed it that for me. So my only job was to was a few metres and buy a new lock and then cycle home via Angkor Market and buy some food. Immediately, I got back a ferocious storm started with thunder and lightning, but I was safe and dry. However, the internet has been down for a few hours, but is sort of working now. Hopefully, it will be strong enough to publish this for me.
Take care, and have a good week, J x