17th July – Buses, rats and squeaky shoes
Today we were woken up at 7, a little early for some peoples liking, then had to pack away all our things before breakfast as it was time to say goodbye to Phnom Penh and the 11 happy backpackers. It was sad to leave such friendly staff and we soon realized although the rooms weren't amazing it would be some of the last luxuries we would have until we are back in more built up areas. So we said goodbye to toilets and hello to squatters.
After a mad rush to our first bus we all piled in, as we were driven to the coach which we would be cooped up in for 6 hours! We all found little things that annoyed us on the journey there like; squeaky toddler shoes, a man’s phone that received a text every two minutes and people shouting down the phone. Our first break came as a surprise as we all had a 15 minute lunch break which gave us the chance to stretch our legs and discover some of the strange food on offer. Sadly we didn't end up trying fried locusts and spiders. Before we got back on the coach Rhiannon got a last goodbye to sanitary living as she found a rat swimming in the pool of water in the squatters.
At our next stop, 4 hours later, we were all in a panic about which stop we actually had to get off at, as most of us thought that we must have gone past it! However we got back on coach and after some reassurance from our Project organizer we carried on our way with one more hour left to go. Typically when it was nearly time to get off the coach it started raining heavily causing a mad dash for cover with our rucksacks when the coach finally stopped. This caused a lot of confusion as we nearly went away with an extra rucksack. But our travelling wasn’t over yet! We now got into another bus to take us to the village; we all looked outside the windows anxiously anticipating what the village was going to be like.
After we arrived at Makak Village we were all shown our room in the homestay, which was hot but cute as we were all staying in one large room and they had given us fans as a welcome present. Unpacking and erecting the mosquito nets seemed to take up the majority of our time and before long it was time for dinner. We all sat down to a delicious meal of rice, chicken, eggs and vegetables which seemed to go down well after a lunch consisting of a nutella sandwich! We all then started to wind down preparing for bed, but before that as a group we conducted a team review, describing our best and worst thing so far. We all laughed listening to each other’s comments. Just before bed, trauma struck, above the door to the outside toilet was a giant spider causing lots of people to scream (Ed. Not me folks...you understand ;-)) and made them unable to enter alone!
We are now are going to sleep waiting to see what tomorrow will bring as we listen to dogs howling.
18th July - First day on site at the Project – Rice, Rice and Runs
Today we woke up at 7, after a long, and for some a disturbed sleep. Many were kept awake by the sound of dogs howling, Rhiannon sleep talking and Cliff snoring (ED I never heard a thing ;-)). As we got up we discovered we had an unwelcome visitor, a cat! However Miss Mac happily grabbed it by the neck and chucked it out the windows onto a metal roof, it was not happy.
We then came downstairs for a typical Cambodian breakfast; it was interesting to say the least. Rice porridge, with chicken, river fish, garlic and chives. Some took to the fast shovelling method whilst others gingerly nibbled bits of their spoons...... but for everyone (apart from Cliff) found it 'too rural too soon'. (Ed. ok so I had seconds !!!! lol)
After breakfast some people went for a run through the village whilst others took to another bucket shower. We then were met by Piseth (the project host) who took us around the village. We went to the school and discussed what had to be built over the few days we were at the village (a wall and a part of the building), and then went to look at the organic farm that is being built. Whilst walking around the village the atmosphere is nothing anyone has experienced before. Every child comes to greet you at the entrance of their homes, shouting and waving hello. They are always so happy to see you and always seem so happy, even though they have harsh living conditions. (Ed. The nearest electricity from the village is 12km away)
After our tour we headed back to our accommodation for some lunch, which again was rice! (Ed. get use to it ladies lol ). This time it was delicious with potatoes, more vegetables and curried chicken. After the little amount people ate at breakfast, we were grateful for such a yummy meal.
At 2 o’clock we headed back down to the village to start some of our project work. Some got stuck in with the building whereas others played games with the children. The language barrier was hard at first but with some dramatic actions and numerous demonstrations we played games of duck-duck goose, splat, under over and hide and seek. We also learnt some of their names and were shocked to discover one or two girls were older than some of the team, 17...They looked about 12!
We then left the school and came back to our rooms for the evening. We all had a much needed shower, some went for the bucket shower and some went for the outside tank, both were very cold and refreshing though! Our evening meal was yet again, more rice (we think it may become our staple diet for the next few days (Ed. yup!!!)) but with pork, beef and more vegetables, once again delicious and was a great meal after a great, yet tiring, day.
Friday 18 July - Rice, rice go away come back another day (or not)
This morning we had to wake up early (6.00 am) in order to get to school on time (7.30). For breakfast...yup you guessed it... it was rice again... with egg, hoorah! The addition of an egg cheered everyone up a lot. We all gathered our stuff and briskly walked down the track to school. Obviously news had spread that we were in the village as there were a lot more children at school today than yesterday even though there were no teachers there. Our large world challenge group dispersed into three groups of five or six people to do either teaching, sports or construction- building the school wall.
The lessons consisted of teaching the pupils to count and write numbers up to twelve (this proved difficult!). The construction team helped build the school wall by laying the foundations. The sports team were helping the children to learn new games and to throw and catch between each other. All these tasks made the groups feel as if they are making a real difference to the community, and the work men really appreciated the extra hands from the construction group.
At ten o’clock we all left the school as the children go home for lunch due to the heat. We arrived back shattered and very excited to finally have some communal snacks – crisps, fruit, nuts and biscuits.
Lunch was really good although it was rice and chicken again. For pudding we had sweet rice which is just rice, condensed milk and bananas on top. I’ve never eaten so much rice in my life. After lunch the sky clouded over and it looked like it was going to rain. People who had been doing construction in the morning had really sore shoulders so a few people made a massage circle to try and ease the pain.
At two O’clock six people went off to do some more construction while others chilled, chatted and did some cleaning. At the school the construction people continued to build the wall until we were surrounded by children who were desperate to play any games with us and all the toys we had brought to the school – balls, skipping ropes and rackets.
Then the rain hit! We were stood in the pouring rain loving the feeling of cooling down. We were all so relieved to have some rain so we bought our soap outside and showered in the rain. We all found this so refreshing...what an experience!
We then all anxiously awaited dinner hoping it was not going to be rice again. Guess what... it was rice and chicken this time with the addition of some pineapple...The food is actually really nice and they try hard to meet our western taste. We had a good bonding session where we all played Uno, until it got too competitive. Now we are all in the toilets brushing our teeth and keeping an eye out for the rat we previously found in the toilet.