Hope you've had a good week and that the weather hasn't caused you too many problems, I have followed most of it in the daily online papers and BBC World. We can compete, today's ride to and from school has been through water of about a foot in depth. Going with the flow this morning wasn't too bad, but it was certainly a good work out tonight cycling against it. Fortunately, it wasn't for the whole way, but if it continues in the same way there soon will be major probs. On Wed night we had the most ferocious storm that I have ever seen here, the wind which we don't normally have, was as so strong that trees were blown down and branches broken off. The rain was so heavy that you couldn't see through it and the lightning and thunder was overhead for a long time. The amazing thing was that the power didn't go off during the storm but waited until all was calm. We're having a couple of power cuts a day, but they are not causing us too much inconvenience. The overnight temps are about 30 and tolerable, the daytime ones vary between mid thirties and early 40's with virtually 100% humidity. The children are finding it very cold and are very tired, as they cannot sleep for the rain bashing on the galvanise roofs, otherwise palm leaf walls and roofs leaking.
In a morning people are waist deep cutting the ready rice, some I have seen being threshed, other is lying in small sheaves on the roadside drying out, but is now looking very sorry for itself. I had to stop on my way to school the other morning to watch the threshing and the guy with the buffalo cart, one in the photos.
Friday evening, Lauren, a S African volunteer and I won the Quiz Night, so we're feeling very pleased with ourselves. The other tables had a lot more people in their teams. Unfortunately, the prize was two jugs of beer, and by 10:30pm we were past drinking more, so had to give it away - others much appreciated it. If only you knew you were going to win it at the beginning and be given it then, save some money and enjoy it too!
After our FunDay at GH a week last Fri, four of our Aus vols jumped into a flooded river to clean up, and then preceded to dive in with some of the locals for a bit of fun. This week three of them have been very ill, two have required hospital treatment and one has been in for 3 nights. It may be coincidence, but we all think that highly unlikely. One high fever etc, other serious eye infection and Rachel an ear infection. So great care needs to be taken in our flood water. My sore is beginning to heal, but not as quickly as I would like or expect. It is in exactly the same place as last year's and appeared my being here three days, before any flood water.
Yesterday five of us from here went on a long ride to see the Roulos group of temples, floating village of Kompong Phluk and the Flooded Forest. It was the first time I have e er been out from here without Australians in tow, the group: S A, N Z, a Malay Brit, a Scot and me with a 40yr age span! Typically it was the youngest who had to bring her bike back on a tuk tuk for the last 8 miles! We left at 8am, hired our mountain bikes for 3$ and set off along Route 6 on the road to Phnom Penh, it is horrific, if one can cycle and survive that Boris's bikes in London will be a doddle. Limited road laws, overladen lorries, buses plus all other traffic passing an extremely busy, large local market - it is terrifying mayhem, but you just go for it and use all the sets of eyes you've got, plus driving attenae to help you along - the morning wasn't too bad as we were fresh and cool but the return leg in temp of about 40, the dust, noise and fatigue made it hard work. However, it was only so bad for about 5km until we left Siem Reap and then it was traffic racing past, blowing their horns to warn you until we turned off into the peace and beauty of the countryside. It was then wonderful, so calm and relaxing, admiring the scenery and saying a million hellos to the local children who appear from nowhere. Unfortunately, the living conditions are very poor, fishing traps were set everywhere in lying water and people were walking through it looking for snails to eat and sell. The good thing was that we saw schools in these isolated parts and kids leaving after morning school. How good they are is anyone's guess and whether they are bribe free is another issue. Anyway we cycled, saw three temples, but didn't go in as most of us hadn't got a temple pass, ventured along tracks that we hadn't a clue where we'd end up, sometimes wading through deep water and sticking in the thick clay mud and dragging or carrying our bikes. Only at one point did we say no and turn back, we were following a sign but nobody had been along since the original French explorers! We kept going and eventually with a little local help found the track that would take us to Tonle Sap, a different point to the one I have been visiting. As were cycling through one village blaring from a radio were the words, " i can be a freak, freak, I can I can be a freak any day of the week" by Estelle? The others knew the song, but no surprise I didn't! So incongruous! Once there we saw the tourist mini buses, tuks from the hotels etc and the boat guys trying to sell the boat trips out. We had no intention of going as the quoted price of 30$ was too expensive, but by hanging around having a drink we managed to negotiate 11$ each, I would have been happier with 10 but went with it. I have been on the lake quite a few times so wasn't too bothered and certainly didn't want to be ripped off. We set off for our 2 hr ride and I enjoyed it, we saw a few species of birds, some identifiable like egrets, swallows, sparrows and kingfishers the rest nameless fish eaters. It was great seeing that village, their homes on stilts of 10m or more, as yet they are still ok. The lake is nowhere near as high as last year or spread as wide, but it is certainly enabling everyone to fish and earn a living - people from the boats and local villages. I think we annoyed our boat driver as we refused to stop at a floating restaurant to eat, so he made it very clear that he wanted a tip of 1$ per person, we made sure that it was half that! When we got off the boat the cloud had cleared and it was very hot, so the return journey was tiring. I had sweat driving into my eyes so couldn't see through them as the salt made them sting too much, the dust was flying and our bottoms hurt so much from the bike seats. Eight hrs later we cycled back into the shop we hired our bikes from and then immediately, on our own bikes set off for Angkor Famous and a 50 cent beer. We looked such a disreputable group, but tired and pleased with ourselves. We soon realised that we wouldn't have the energy to go out again so then ordered food. With two beers I spent 3$, the place always give you free fruit salad at the end, so whilst we enjoyed our food, the heavens opened, so we cycled back in the rain, 10hrs later we were back here ready for a shower and sleep.
Sun am - didn't sleep brilliantly but feel fine this morning, up at 7 am later than normal but enjoying a my pot of coffee. Today is going to be a restful and relaxing one at a very posh hotel which offers swimming and eat all you want brunch for 16$ between 10:30 and 3 pm, sadly today is the last day of the offer as the tourist season should be cranking up soon. The manager of the place is very supportive of NGO's and has just bought 150 table mats from GH weaving ladies. The same as Meryl and I have, any orders, I'll find out prices and send you pictures! Will be able to carry some stuff back.
Have spent a very relaxing day at the Victoria Hotel, swimming in their beautiful pool and eating excellent food. However, after my month here my stomach found the food too richand I didn't eat as much as I would have expected too. It was the sweets and cakes that I just couldn't face! Also When I weighed myself on Fri I was delighted to discover that I had lost 4 kg. Hopefully that weightless will continue. With a few of the vols from ABC's and rice we practised a synchronised swimming routine, much to the delight of some of the tourists watching from their sunbeds, someone requested a performance and a lady videoed it! I was the weak link, but it was good fun. Unfortunately, the sun of yesterday failed to appear firstly there was heavy rain followed by cloud, but it is still plenty warm enough for the pool.
I talk enough about the sights of here but rarely mention the sounds and smells, they are as potent. Much of the night is punctuated by dogs barking, but when it is quiet the sound of frogs croaking very loudly takes over, and sometimes in our rooms we have geckos which frequently chat to each other, gecko, gecko, gecko. At G H the frogs call loudly all day. Cooking smells linger in the air all day, garlic, ginger, lemon grass (this grows wild everywhere) and there are stalls and mobile vendors always selling freshly cooked corn on the cob, boiled eggs, noodles and Cambodian style pancakes, rice wrapped in banana leaves, and rice stuffed with pork is another delicacy. Many mobile catering units on bikes have their own fire pot so cooking is happening all the time. Every little stall sells food and as I cycle to and from school people are buying and carrying away or sitting there eating. Most people on bikes or motos have a plastic bag on their handle bars with a cup of iced coffee in it. All this is mixed with splashes, sprays of dust or/fumes and everyday life.
The flood water has mostly gone from this road today, but unfortunately has taken the road surface with it, now there a deep potholes everywhere waiting for the unsuspecting bike or moto tyre to puncture. Before I could go out today I had to have my front wheel changed as the tyre was punctured, extremely to be here and not out and about. Although that isn't too serious a problem as every other place mends bikes and will put air in for you.
I must start planning my work for next week now, I am tired and it will soon be time for bed.
Have a good week everyone, take care and love to all, J x