Sunday, 28 August 2011

Trip along the road

Another youtube video - just to give you an idea of some of what I see on my trips out to the villages. This is along one of the main roads - it is a bit wobbly as I was in a tuk-tuk this time.

Passing a school, pagodas, houses all shapes and sizes, a few stalls.

Coffee breaks at work

Over the years coffee breaks at work have varied from place to place:
IKIP Yogya days was a ice black sweet tea

S&P Parker Sherborne days would involve an instant coffee on the bench outside of the office

Godsfield days would involve a cafeteria of fresh coffee to myself a couple of times a day(and I wondered why I wasn't sleeping properly!)

DBP days were either a strong black americano take out or a 'Winchester' tea (plain hot water for those not in the know)

But I think I have found the perfect one now - for here anyway:

Bring on the coconut!

From the Pagoda to the main road

I know these are a bit wobbly - but you try cycling with one hand, holding the iPod and then half way along realising that your flip flop has broken!

These are too big for my blog to cope with it seems so I have uploaded them to Youtube - here are the links:

The first is from the Pagoda where my office is in the complex of Wat Nokor to the main entrance to the temple complex.

Then this one is on the road leading away from the Temple joining us to the main busy road and this is where I stopped as if not I probably would have lost the flip flop...

IBEC & Student Associations

The government guidelines are that all Secondary & High schools should have a Student Association(SA) however it is not mandatory and so therefore it is not always encouraged. The SA’s are groups of students who are involved in the way that the school is run and they can, independently from the school, apply for grants for improvements to their schools – so they get the kids involved in their own education and build on their confidence but also they get an introduction to and familiarity with democratic systems and learn useful life skills.  
This school I went to visit – Lvea High School in the Prey Chlor District – was great. The Leader of the school(equilvlant to a Headmaster in the UK) was so good and inspirational – this is not always the case. He was so proud of his school but more importantly his students – he had over 800 students that attend the school from the age of around 12 years old. This school is lucky and gets aid from 3 different donors: USAID, KAPE and BSDA. 
Even though it is school holiday time I met with the Leader and 3 other teachers and also 5 of the students from the SA came in to meet me and show me around.  
Thanks to USAID they have a computer room with around 15 computers in – not many when you consider the amount of students but better than none at all. 
The students were also very proud of their library which was full of books to help them learn. The SA had also set up a system to monitor who use the library. They had tins by the door with each year name on it and 2 per year, 1 for male students and the other for female. Every time a student entered the library they were to pick a piece of gravel up from outside and place it in the relevant tin. The SA wanted to set this up so that they could encourage the students that weren’t using the library that much. 
BSDA, through NAMSA(Network of A ffliated Monks for Social Accountability) help the students with running their SA – they teach them about leadership, voting, school & government procedures etc  

Head teacher, students and 2 of the monks from BSDA
Greenhouse nursery
The Leader of the school wanted the children to learn all about the medicinal qualities of plants in Cambodia - a lot of this kind of knowledge that would normally pass down the generations has been lost due to the Khmer Rouge times. The same is with traditional dancing - this was disapproved of by the Khmer Rouge and so the knowledge of it disappeared, but many people are now trying to teach the younger generation the traditions of the past.

SA's Fish pond

This is the fish pond that the Student Association put in to help all the kids learn a skill to take home with them.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Chicken Rearing

This project has the same principals as the 'Fish Raising" project. IBEC provides training in rearing chickens and supplies a small initial grant to buy the first few chickens and feed, in order to rasie the family's livelihood. The training sessions are conducted by the school teachers which also gets the teachers and parents acquainted and increases the trust in the educational system and establishes a personal relationship between the teachers and the parents. This is really important over her as, due to the countries histor, there is an inbuilt distrust in institutions especially governmental ones - it is getting better but the more transparency and involvement there is the better.
I met the aunt, of the student who is being helped, she is the head of this family - the boy lost his mother when he was one and then his father at the age of 4 and moved in with her however they are really poor and couldn't afford to support him and this is where the project helps - by having the income and food from the chickens the child now goes off to school and can afford an education.
These 28 chicks are just 2 weeks old

Garden that they roam free in once old enough
 The plant hanging down from the terrace usually offers shelter for the animals when it is in bloom - also has very large cucumberesque vegetables hanging off them - haven't figured out what they are yet.
Good size house I think..

The chicks are kept in the cage for the first few weeks to protect them and so that they get use to their home and then they are allowed out to explore. This family have an amazingly large chicken coup/house built under theor house - it's the size of my room here at Smile!
Most of the houses here in this area are built on stilts and have an enclosed area above for sleeping and then underneath is the place for cooking, keeping animals, storage and resting during the day in the relative coolness that the shade offers. Also it is extremely good in this area as there is a lot of flooding that happens in the wet season due to the Mekong swelling in size.

This year especially the flooding of the Mekong has been huge - I am waiting with interest to see the actual size of the Mekong in the dry season as I have been told that outside Smile where I live it drops down so much that a patch of land appears where they play volley ball in the evenings - at the moment I cannot imagine it at all.

This is another family's coup that we visited
In this coup there was a very broody lady sitting on her eggs and being very protective.

Rain attire

Here you all go - you deserve a laugh for following my ramblings on this blog.
As you know it is rainy season out here at the mo and so I am having to judge the time of my cycle rides in between showers in the afternoon - sometimes I don't always judge it right - so I have succumbed and have brought the latest high tech rain gear - honestly everyone wears them!
What I have realised though is that they are made with short arms - so they only come down half way between my elbow and wrist and you literally steam away in them - maybe this could be the new way to loose weight however they do have a lovely little drawstring around the hood - which creates a very attractive look!

I could of brought a dotty one, but I think I look conspicuous enough as it is out here.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Time goes by...

So nearly a fortnight has gone past already, not sure what I am feeling – everything is so new still, however saying that I am getting into a daily routine now with work.
Up at 6am, have to be woken by my alarm as no natural light can get in my cell! Wait for a free time in the shower – sometimes this can be a minute or up to half an hour – if the later it puts me a little behind schedule and means I have to cycle slightly faster.
I leave Smile at 7.00 in order to get up to the office for around twenty past giving me 10 minutes to sit in front of the fan and cool down! Actually the morning cycle ride is the nicest one of the day as it is still relatively cool and also you see everyone out and about as life out here starts early and some people have been up and on the go since 5am, so I am a relatively late starter.

Office work has still to settle down – lots of presentations and meetings still – power point fantastic, think I might have to brush up on my Power point skills as I think I might be asked to produce some presentations at some point in the next year! At the moment, in between presentations and field trips, I am helping with writing fund raising proposals which is a new one to me. I am on a steep learn curve with all the NGO terminology and finding my feet with how to put them together as I don’t want to get it wrong and for BSDA to miss out on any funding as they do such great work over here.

Lunch time is from 12 – 1.30 – so it is on with the suncream and hat for my cycle ride back into town for lunch – I think when I have learnt a bit more of the language I will stay around Wat Nokor and eat at the market stalls up here – but my Khmer is not up to that standard yet – as the ride back at 1.30 is a killer in the heat and it is only going to get hotter but then also I should become more acclimatised too so we shall see.

Then home time is 5pm – This is a nice downhill cycle and also a good time to reflect on the day at work and take in everything around me – I am usually smiling all the way home.
Then it is shower & clothes washing time which is so looked forward to as even though the office is in a beautiful setting and the ceilings are inspirational the working conditions especially in the afternoon are pretty hardwork – we don’t have aircon (just a few fans)or anything fancy like that not even lights which is great as you can’t stay late! No glass in the windows which as I found out today is quite amusing if we have a big rain storm. I am by a window and was getting soaked so we have to pull the big shutters on the pagoda closed. Then all you see in the office are all the laptop screens lit up around the place. What is tricky is then negotiating your way around the place without bumping into one of the monks as women must not touch monks or their orange robes.

Then the evenings are quiet affairs - reading, skyping, logging on emails etc, grabbing something to eat here at Smile or one of the other cafes - just getting use to things here before I start eating at the market or river front stalls. I have met a couple of other expats who work at other NGOs in Kampong Cham and might meet up with them for food one eve a wk.

So everything is still early days - I am looking forward to when I am a bit more clued up about the work and know exactly what I am doing. Also looking forward to planning things to do at the wkends but first I must get down and learn the language.... 


Meetings are funny things - they take so many different formats around the world - the ones I have been to in Cambodia so far go something like this:
Always start very early in the morning 7.00am attendance role call is not unheard of....
People never turn off their mobile phones here and do not think it is rude at all to take a call in the middle of a presentation
Talking of presentations - I know where all the Powerpoint licences have been sold - it is amazing how much or how little you can present using powerpoint!
And then as the foreigner and not being able to understand a word of what has been said unless you are lucky enough to have a translator on hand(and they are actually translating not taking a call on their mobile!) you always get asked to give your opinion and to ask any questions - I have learnt to have some standard questions and very vague comments up my sleeves so that I am always ready for this....
And then finally you get the refreshments - always a handy little bottle of water along with something wrapped in a banana leaf, today we got Durian cake:

Now I know you that know durian will be thinking the smell but actually once you get over the slight durian aroma they were really tasty.

Photos taken from my ride out on the tuk-tuk

Quiz time:
It is time to guess how many packets of noodles & cake one can fit in a bus...

and what fruit is this?
Not a great picture but this was taken from a moving Tuk Tuk - on the other side of the Mekong from Kampong Cham the land is flooded for a few miles in land. This is one of the floating fishing rafts that they make and live on in the wet season - off the front they have these great big fishing nets that go in and catch all the fish - I will try and get some better pictures as they are amazing constructions.
View of Kampong Cham from the bridge - I live in the long white building to the right of the picture, just before the land drops back a bit. No high rises in Kampong Cham.

Typical roadside stall - shrine to the right of the photo - to ward off evil spirits and to bring good fortune to the place, coconuts for sale along with some other food which you can just take away in a banana leaf. In the background you can see the arches of the net from another fishing boat.

My evening view

Since the rain has been falling earlier in the day this week the sunsets have been getting better and better as the days go on

Insects and what they like to eat....

Now I was expecting Mosquitos, not looking forward to it but knew what was coming. Ants were on the list but I was hoping not but alas they are here and they like a little of me every so often but spiders biting me I was not expecting and don't like.....

Now I think this is really unfair - little buggers....

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Fish Raising

Today I went on my first trip out to the province and escaped the city, not that it feels like a city – the guide books are right it has a lovely town feel about does Kampong Cham.
Anyway I got taken out by a Tuk-Tuk 

to one the IBECP projects. IBECP stands for Improved Basic Education in Cambodia Project. The IBECP projects are run & co-ordinated by the Venerable Prom Dy, who is one of the founding members of BSDA but is funded through KAPE.
So we went out to Soung City to one of the families that is benefiting from this project and who are raising fish.
You might be asking yourselves how ‘fish raising’ is helping the education of the children, I know I did – works of 2 levels – firstly the poorest of the poor families tend to pull their children out of school if times are hard and they need a hand to make a living so in order to try and keep the children in school the project teaches the family a skill that could help feed them and also help create an income so that the children don’t get pulled out from school.
So ‘fish raising’ offers a practical life skill to the child and their family.
The family I visited today have been in the project for a year and are doing really well – they choose to buy some fish with their grant that only take about 3 months to mature – I am not sure what kind of fish they are but they looked a bit like big crayfish to me - sorry Alex M, I am not good on my fish identification!
They get told how to look after them and how to build a pond and feed them – and this family said  today that they have been breeding and have enough to feed their family as well as to sell and make some income – from which she has also brought a couple of pigs which they raise for selling at the market as well.
Small but affective

Other projects in IBECP are ‘Chicken raising’ which I a am visiting tomorrow, Multi-Cultural Life skills which includes teaching the children traditional Khmer dancing and Civic awareness life skills – informing them about drugs abuse, domestic violence etc and how to deal with these kind of issues.

Leaving Do's

Hamilton host & hostess

Tom checking the bottles were dry
I know this is a bit late in the day but I have just got round to sorting the few photos that I remembered to take out - thank you to all for the lovely leaving do's that I was given - great to see you all and especially thks to Espig/Hamiltons for a lovely Sunday gathering, Andie for the girlie night, Lizzie & Eamon for the lovely Spa day, Charlie & Barny for the BBQ and the Bunstead Gloyns for taking me to the airport

Great Banner that the Hamilton Kids made for me
Canute Road Gang at the Blackboy of course.
Winchester WAGs

Lizzie & I relaxing at the Spa

Hostess with the most - Charlie

Mr Tall and Mr Even Taller

A two Matt sandwich

Lovely Landless's

Me and my Washingtons

My favourite twins in the world - bless em
Lovely Family Gloyn of Bunstead at the airport

Let me introduce Billy the lizard....

Poor little Billy no mates and what looks like only half a tail - he is my new partner in crime in the bedroom! This little chap seems to of arrived in my room and can't seem to find his way out - that is what happens when you have no window!!
I am hoping he will grow not to be so afraid of me and in size throughout my year here and that we will become firm friends.
He, for the last few days, took residence in my rucksack however now he has decided he prefers it under my bed...
I will keep you posted on our blossoming friendship.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011


I wish I had a photo but unfortunately I don't - motos (motorbikes/scooters) are huge over here as in most Asian countries and the things you see on them are amazing as some of you will know.
Today was my first moto ride 'a trois' in Cambodia - all fine apart from the driver wandering why he wasn't going very fast - I didn't like to be rude and point out to him that firstly he had 3 people on his bike and secondly one of them was a big hefty westerner...
Some of the other things I have seen on the back of a moto are:
Family of four, around 40 chickens hanging by their feet and clucking away on the way to market, what looked like a three piece suite, 2 pigs and many other wonderful sights...
I was chatting to a lady I met today who works out here for another NGO and has been her for a year or so and she informed me that I was the only westerner who went around on a bike rather than a moto - well I always knew I liked to different and also I don't think anyone else would be safe on the roads even here if I was let loose on a moto!

Now this is what I call a tropical shower

Was meant to be going out tonight to meet some people however I think I am just going to stay home....

and it looks like it is stuck in for an hour or so!

Monday, 15 August 2011

Phnom Pros & Phnom Srei

Man Hill and Women Hill

These two hills or mountains! as they call them over here are part of a local legend.
Tale has it that as women use to ask men to marry them as was the way that the women had enough of this and decided that it should be the other way round. So a competition was devised and the winners would get their way. The competition was 'who could build the highest hill by dawn'
Now the women knew they wouldn't win as the men were stronger so they used their initiative and they built a fire as they built their hill and the flames went into the sky and the men though this was dawn so lay down their tools - however the women kept on building and managed to get a higher hill by the time dawn actually came - so hence the names and why Phnom Srei is the highest.
The legend has many variations to it but this is the one I have been told.
There is a bit of a park between the 2 hills with lots of statues and also monkeys (Mbak Rach - reminds me of Ubud)