Saturday, January 15, 2011

Highlights of our second week...

Gordon’s knees have been giving him some grief, so after our trip to Battambang, we decided to take the rest of the week for some R&R before starting in on our full-time volunteering at Honour Village.  It’s amazing how busy we’ve been, and all the things we’ve seen and done since then.  So here are just a few of the highlights of the past week.

Last year while volunteering with the Ponheary Ly Foundation, we made friends with one of the other volunteers, Parin Kothari.  He was back in Siem Reap last week, and we got to spend some quality time with him before he returned home.   Although Parin works full time and is only in his early 30’s, he finds time and money to give generously to others.  He has founded Each Cent Counts, whose goal is to identify grass roots organizations in developing countries that use education as a medium for fostering long term sustainable development, and he works hard at it.

Spending some time with Parin
On Wednesday, we met up with Pheak, my young Cambodian friend, and bought him lunch.  Last year while I was teaching sewing classes, Pheak became my class helper.  As a thank you, Gordon and I bought him a bicycle, so he could get to lower secondary school, some distance away.  Pheak and his two sisters live in a very poor orphanage that currently houses 21 children.  They are barely surviving.  He says they do not have breakfast, and very little rice to eat.  Gordon and I gave him a couple of dollars to buy some breakfast at his school, and decided on the spot to buy some rice & take it to the orphanage.
Pheak and 'Teacher'
During lunch, I learned that his typical day is one that North American kids could never fathom, let alone endure.  Every morning at 5:30 he gets up before sunrise, and goes out to water the vegetable garden in the dark.  At 6:30, he rides his bicycle about 6 Km to attend lower secondary school (grade 7) from 7am to 11am, then cycles back 6Km to have lunch.  After lunch, he heads to Siem Reap (a one-hour bicycle ride) where he takes English classes at ACE school from 1:00 to 3:00 pm.  (Although government education is free, private schools are quite expensive, so he and his 2 sisters are very fortunate to have a Dutch sponsor paying for ACE).  He then cycles back one hour to a primary school near his orphanage to learn computers.   And he does this six days a week.
On Thursday, we took a tuk-tuk out to a cluster of artisans shops located right across from Preah Ko temple.  One shop is producing some beautiful ceramics, and gorgeous hand-woven, hand-dyed silk scarves.  We bought a lovely tea-light holder there last year, but I didn’t see anything that ‘called out’ to me this time.  Beside this shop is Little Angels orphanage, where young boys are being taught the art of leather curing, punching and tooling.  They produce beautiful works of art that are primarily representations of mythical figures found in the Angkor temples and the prices are amazingly affordable.  Twenty percent of the sale price goes directly to the young artisan, and the rest goes to purchase hides and pay for operating costs of the orphanage.  We bought two pieces to frame and hang in our home.

Young boy doing 'skin art carving'

My purchases held by the artists
Right next door is a large open area where you can purchase small wood carvings and any number of sizes of cement or plaster figurines and plaques.  The wizened old gentleman who hand-carved the molds was on hand to proudly tell us about his work.  Last year I bought a plaque with two Apsara dancers.  It was a heavy thing to have to cart back home in my luggage, so I should know better…..but I couldn’t resist, and bought another plaque, this time with four Apsaras!  And this time, it’s signed by the artist.
My purchase signed by the artist
We hadn’t purchased a temple pass, so were not able to wander round the ruins of Preah Ko, but I took a picture from across the road.  Next year, when Angie comes for a vacation here, we are definitely going to visit the Rolous group, three temples (Preah Ko, Bakong and Lolei) which are among the earliest examples in Cambodia.

Preah Ko Temple
 Yesterday, we went out to Honour Village to bring a few supplies, and finalize some plans for our volunteer goals there.  Although the children were still in school when we arrived, it was a flurry of activity, with construction still going full tilt on the latest building. 

Building one of the walls
Parging the Concrete pillars

Sand for the mortar
While we were there, a delivery of bricks arrived.  Cambodian bricks are hollow and much lighter, and it was fascinating to watch this group of workers unload the bricks eight at a time. 
Brick Delivery
Susan is just a wonder woman, juggling so many things with what seems to be such ease and finesse.  She makes everyone (even us) feel they have ownership in HVC by directly involving them in the activities and decisions at hand. 
Susan getting opinions on paint colour for the new building
The children arrived home from school and ate a hearty lunch, then settled in for a short nap while the adults sat down to eat.  I have never eaten winter melon before, but we had a delicious stew made with this delicious vegetable and carrots and pork, served on a hearty bed of rice.  We definitely have to find some seeds and try our hand at growing winter melon next year.  Their carrots are also fantastic – short and fat and sweet!  Yummmmm!
Luncheon Feast at Honour Village
After lunch, Gordon and Tee Tee tossed a volleyball around with a few of the boys. 
A great volley!
I had fun taking some photos of the kids waving and peeking out their second story windows.  
Waving from the second floor windows

One of the volunteers waving with the boys
We took a side trip to Chey School where we volunteered last year.  We were greeted warmly by the teachers, and I got to peek in on the grade 6 class, and get a glimpse of a few of the girls who were in my sewing class.  Gordon got to see his beautiful computer desks in place.  He was beaming with pride.
Computer desks that Gordon built last year
On our way home, Tee Tee invited us in to meet his family.  It was his nephew’s 5th birthday, and we were treated to a huge bowl of noodles & chicken in a delicious coconut curry sauce, washed down by a beer and followed by birthday cake.  Our second lunch of the day!!!!  But to refuse the meal would have been an insult to their hospitality, so we chowed down.  Boy, was I stuffed! 
Tee Tee’s nephew is a cutie, and smart as a whip.
You’d think all we do is eat! Pretty close to the truth.  I’m wondering how long before my clothes don’t fit.  Last night we met up for dinner with Jaz and Jess and Steve.  Jess & Steve ordered a pitcher of beer, and said ‘yes’ when asked if they wanted the big one.  Sometimes communication wires get crossed. 
The 'big' jug of beer
It was my first time eating at Mr. Grill which has a very extensive menu, everything from deep fried beef stomach to crispy pork.  I was longing for grilled chicken, but ‘no have’, so I settled on the grilled quail.  Pretty small birds, so there were two on the plate – heads & all….yum, yum. 

Can you see the head and beak?

Two heads are better than one!

No comments:

Post a Comment