Hi, Mon evening and still 34 degrees
Just returned home after school and a trip to Phsa Leu market to buy a piece of material, so that I can have a Khmer skirt made for the Monks' blessing of the new Khmer style social house and new classroom on Wednesday to be followed by Grace House's 4th birthday party. Pheyrom, my class teacher, has very kindly arranged for her mother, a tailor, to make the skirt and is taking me into the depth of a local market that I have never dared to venture in before to buy the fabric. It was great riding into it on the back of a moto, then watching as an attendant came and took the moto to park it for the grand sum of 500 riels - 6p. As we wound our way through the narrow aisles I didn't know where to look as so much was going on. I was shown a fabric stall with plenty of choice, so I immediately choose a piece of black with gold on, but quickly changed my mind, as black is not for here. Final piece was pink, purple and green stripes, a bit too bright for me, but more in keeping with here. A quick retrieval of the moto and off to her home to be measured! She employs a few machinists, and a couple of Khmer girls were there watching intently, everyone went ah when my t-shirt was lifted because they couldn't believe how white my skin was. All Cambodians aspire to have it. They then wanted to know my age, which again created shock waves. Measuring over, time to go home and await the finished article.
Whilst I was there Pheyrom's 4 yr old daughter appeared from sleeping, it was obvious that she was not well and suffering from a cold. Her grandmother had treated her in a traditional way, the poor child's back was purple from where she had been scored heavily by the back of a spoon. It must have really hurt her, and probably worse than her snuffles. The cold season is beginning here and so many people are seen with horrendous red stripes down their throat, from scoring that with a spoon. Cupping is another common choice for dealing with illness. Every day we so many people going about their daily business carrying thei IV drip with them on a long stick.
Sat lunchtime-sitting in Joe to Go eating hummus, crudites and very thin slices of lightly toasted baquette - and drinking iced coffee, heavenly. One cannot eat Khmer food all the time! This place is the cafe of a US NGO which works with older street kids, prostitutes etc.
Sun 6:45am, 34 degrees and a pot of coffee
Had a great night last night listening to and dancing to a classic Danish Rock Band who are touring SE Asia and performing to raise money for charity. Last night was for Grace House and about £300 made. At about 6pm we had a power cut, it was so hot and oppressive we all felt awful and dreaded the idea of going, but fortunately, an hour later light was returned, a shower had and off we tucked into town. A strange law says live music here has to cease at 11pm, so it wasn't a late night. However, recorded music can blast away all night, as is the case from Angkor Wat and Temple bars every night.
Yesterday afternoon I went and talked to a woman who makes shoes, she has some on display, but they are a bit old fashioned for us, poor Cambodians do not understand what shoes really are or like as they have little use for them. However, fashionable youngsters buy very high, heeled sandals westerners wouldn't wear. I took two pictures with me, one pair of ankle boots and the other a pair of wedged shoes. She sort of showed me what she could and the heels she would use, now for decisions. I choose the leather from a limited range. She quoted 70$ (£42) for both pairs - do I risk it or not? I've seen some men's shoes and they were very good.
Have slept reasonably, but as so hot cannot stay in my room, so am writing this sitting on the steps in front ofvGlobalteer House watching the early morning world go by. As I was getting dressed I noticed some beautiful bruises from yesterday's little mishaps and one of my ribs is sore from where the handlebars fell into them. I'm sure they'll be ok by this afternoon, as I am going out for another 30 - 40km ride with some students from GH. Need to go and hire a geared bike for the day again, as it makes the ride so much faster and easier than my plodding, old, town bike which I use every day.
Now covered in sweat and the flies are driving me insane, will have to move inside. Decamped to the roof, a bit of breeze here and a comfy seat, the first time I've been up here this time!
Wednesday, the Monks' blessing and birthday were interesting and enjoyable. For the first time I went by tuk to school, so that I wouldn't be too sweaty when I arrived. The skirt was awaiting me, so I quickly changed into my new, white M&S t-shirt and new Khmer skirt. I felt good in it despite it being too big at the waist. Everyone's reaction was amazing, nobody had ever seen me in anything other than a sweaty disheveled state wearing crop trousers and a t-shirt. The children were hanging off me saying "I was pretty", the non English speaking Khmers managed that too. All the ladies looked terrific, and the vols had made an effort. Elaine looked wonderful in her gold, long skirt, Cathie had bought a Khmer skirt in purple with rows of golden elephants going around it, and I was in my made one because I'm Tom-Tom and can't buy off a market stall. The occasion required the ladies to wear white tops, but for us that is easier said than done, but luckily I had decided to keep mine in case something special happened. The Khmer ladies were making all the necessary things for the blessing a new building, large candle like things cut from bamboo, leaves rolled and placed in and on things, lotus flowers on plates, incense sticks and offerings for the monks, which included cigarettes and money. Protocol was important, but none of us really managed it or understood it, but tried our best. Once in the house, we sat on the floor, toes pointing away from the monks - very difficult to maintain for long and hard work to change to the other side without creating a great commotion. Much chanting was done, some by the Khmers too, hands together and bending head and touching floor, sprinkling of water over us and at one point we had to touch each other, so that all the blessings would pass to each of us. A red flag (can't remember it's official name) is then placed somewhere in the roof to bring health, wealth etc to the building and those who use it. 45 mins later it was over and we were able to stand and go outside. Fortunately, the fans had kept the building a reasonable temp, so none of us felt faint.
The party began, the children enjoyed playing games, and cakes had been bought for each class, and on top of each we lit the four candles. Many of the children had never tasted cake before, of the type we had, neither had I! Cannot say what it was made from, but was edible. None was wasted. After break the music and dancing began, Khmers dance around a table, following each other, strange but fun, and everyone in Cambodia loves the Korean song that has hit the world. Other than the blessing the afternoon followed the same pattern, but I was the only one who managed to stay in their outfit, because the bottom is narrow, you struggle to walk, mine had a reasonably wide stride so I was ok. At the end of the school day all the adults decamped to the little stall outside GH and sat on the dusty, noisy roadside drinking beer, or soft drinks from cans. Great fun, but over too soon and the three of us were brought home on the back of motos - no helmet, but the breeze blowing through the air and cooling. It was Cathie's first time on the back of one, so she found it stressful, but the old hand I am enjoyed it.
Yesterday morning's cycle ride was a tough one - heat and the condition of the ground we cycled over. There were only three of us, and Khmer guy decided we could manage it. The road was fine, the very bumpy hard, red earth fine, the waterlogged holes, thick clay and mud fine, but I couldn't cope with the sand on the very narrow tracks where t here was a drop on one side. Consequently, I fell off a few times, mainly a psychological problem and the fact I was too rigid and holding on too tightly. Once the track widened, I coped better. I came home saturated in sweat, covered in oil and sand and looking my usual wreck of a self! However, I was really pleased that I was able to maintain a speed of 25km an hr for nearly an hour on the way back. It bodes sort of well for the 100km ride! Next week, I'm going on a trial 75km ride to Beng Melea with a Khmer cycle guide, and will be brought back by truck. It will be revealing! I hope I can do it! The ride is in three weeks time!
Mid morning I will go into town for brunch, £2:40 will buy me an excellent one, then I can cycle this pm and crash tonight. Luckily next week's work is planned.
Tomorrow, after school, I am going to be taken around two state schools to see how they are progressing after much input on teacher training from a US/Singapore charity. I met Megan, a couple of years ago when they were first starting their programmer, so it will be great too see what has happened, as they are two of the schools GH children go to. Goodness knows here Cambodia would be without so much external help.
I was disappointed to read yesterday that the Water Festival in Siem Reab has been cancelled too, as the river it takes place on flows past the royal palace where king stayed when he visited here, although the Prime Minister said it cold happen here the state leader decreed otherwise. Perhaps next year I will be lucky enough to experience it
Gosh, I've rambled on!
Have a great week everyone, take care and love to all from here, J x