Saturday, October 11, 2008

A trip to Kandal province

Today was the final day of photo school for the students from CCH and CDCC. In just 2 weeks time their exhibition will be launched at Gasolina.

I was struggling to find a fun and interesting place to take the students. I had a few ideas and suggested a few of these to them whilst shuttling from the classroom (my living room) to the Kitchen to make coffee for them. Then they came up with a far better idea.... Some of the children at CCCC and CCH have one or both parents. They could have ended up at the landfill in PP for all sorts of reasons. One of the students is lucky to have 2 parents who are alive and living with a brother and sister in the province called Kandal. She asked if we could make the hour journey there... why not.

We tried to go by share taxi (a mini bus) but by 8am they had all left for the day. However, our tuk tuk driver was willing to go the distance. So... with 9 of us in 1 tuk tuk: 1 sitting by the driver, 1 sitting on the floor, 6 sitting properly and 1 sitting on my lap, we were on our way. It took about 2 hours to get to our destination.

Monks crossing

We turned at a road I had seen before on my way to Wat Opot - the HIV hospice (see previous post). Once we turned off the national highway we made slow progress on a mud track - on either side were luch green rice fields and palm trees and then finally a massive lake full of water lilys and lotus flowers. We stopped here to pick some lotus flowers and to stretch our legs from the tuk tuk. A wat was being built in the distance. At the moment it is just a concrete shell but when it is complete with orange and yellow tiles on its roof it will complete a picture perfect scene of Cambodian countryside.

The student's 5 year old brother

We reached the student's home and met her mother and father who were surprised and very pleased to see her as they had no idea she was coming. By western standards they had nothing. A wooden house on concerete stilts with an area underneath with a space for eating and for animals with a single room above for sleeping. The family had a few chickens and cows and also have a field for growing potatoes.

We started by touring some of the houses in the neighbourhood. People were amazingly friendly. It was particularly nice to see old people - in Phnom Penh older people do not really have a presence. Many of the people had not seen a white face before - I particularly freaked out small children - I managed to make 3 children sob with fear! The younger children were also petrified of the cameras... The older children were enhanting anf screamed in delight at having their first picture ever taken. The student's brother was 5. He had never had his picture taken before. He laughed so much every time he saw his photo.

He is such a beautiful child and so happy and content. As we ate our luch, kindly prepared by the student's parents, I took more pictures and more and more children turned up to have their picture taken and to laugh at the results. I held various village babies and had my picture taken!#

me and babies - They stopped crying for a photo in the end!

After lunch we went for a walk in the potato field and then the rice paddies. We passed lots of local people... lots of advice for the barang (foriegner) - I shuld be wearing a hat... I must be hot (yes it was BAKING in what was probably 36 degree (or more) heat!) etc etc. It was great to see the chidlren running and jumping in the potato field... we then walked to the rice fields, meeting more people on the way. Then, we got to a stream. In the dry season the stream is probably a road but in the wet season it was a stream that reached my knees. Roll the trousers up, feet in the mud, walk across. The children were just chucking themselves in enjoying the break from the searing heat.

We made our way becak to the family house and came across a thing I had never seen before. A man who tours villages with a machine that makes rice cakes. These are not normal rice cakes but a long tube of rice cake. The rice goes in one end of the machine and out it spirals from the other end like an out of control hose pipe - into a sack. The woman buying it gave me some and it was delicious! - warm, fresh rice cake.

The children gave me so many wild grasses and flowers I ended up with a big bunch
We then started to make our way home. The sister and brother of One of the other students with me lived in a house on the way home. We stopped to see them too - just briefly. I made another child cry!!

Finally, we stopped at a school where all the kids ran about in excitement and all came out of their classrooms to say hello.

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