Didn't get much sleep last night - never do when I know a long flight is pending - so I really appreciated the strong coffee at the local cafe with Sak this morning!
Spent the morning teaching and then a couple of hours this afternoon with Theara, learning to cook more Khmer food. Sak had given me the use of his dirt bike again, so mid-afternoon I went for an hour's ride into the countryside around Battambang. I've been riding without a helmet (although I have had one at my disposal) - you may say stupid and yes I would agree - but it's very exhilerating! At least I know how to ride a motorbike, which is something a lot of the people here don't (I have seen so many accidents), and with 8 years biking experience I would like to think I have a slightly better chance of foreseeing actions by other road users.
On the way back I stopped at the popular NGO restaurant in the centre of Battambang - The White Rose - and had one of their fantastic watermelon shakes (25p). Whilst sitting there I started to reflect on my time here. I can't put into words how I feel about Kampuchea and her people. My 6 weeks here have been incredible. Some sadness, a lot of happiness..... Whilst in my daydream state I suddenly noticed a young man, in ragged clothes, but a sweet smile, standing at the next table. I watched him as he pointed to the remnants of a meal the man sitting there had left. The man sitting at the table (a German) handed the plate very graciously to the young man, who sat on the floor and ate the food. Once finished, he smiled, and handed the plate back. As he started to pass me I glanced at him and felt overwhelming sadness. I don't usually give money but I handed him a 1000 Riel note, which will at least buy him a hot meal. He gently took the money, somphea'd, and walked away. I could feel myself starting to choke up, so I quickly paid my bill and rode away from the cafe with tears rolling down my face. I am very lucky in my Western life, with family, friends, a good job, a nice home, and plenty of food on my table. There are moments in life when you really have to stand back and see how very priviledged we are, and this was one such moment.
At 4pm Sak met me and we went for a ride along the Sangker River, where we stopped at a riverside cafe and had papaya salad (extremely hot - made with lots of chilli!). After a quick shower back at the hotel, I was picked up at 7pm (there were 10 of us in a 3 moto convoy) and we all went to the Asian Beer Restaurant, where I treated 'my family in Kampuchea' to a farewell meal (I had frog and snake . . . which both taste like chicken!). I took the above photo as we were leaving the restaurant. I told them they would have to keep having the photo taken if they didn't give me the beautiful Khmer smile. . . they smiled on the first shot!
I leave Battambang for Phnom Penh tomorrow around 1pm and my flight to Singapore is at 6.05pm, with the 13-hour connecting flight to London at 11.20pm. Craig has promised to meet me at Heathrow at 5.30am on Saturday morning with boots, a jumper, and a thick coat. I understand the weather is not like it is here!!!