The UK and Khmer Volunteers have now been with us for just over a week and have completed their in country orientation in Kampong Cham province. This means that after 4 months of being in Cambodia, we have finally moved to our rural communities.
Hello Prasat Sambour.
We have 7 host homes in Prasat Sambour. It was up to myself, Theavy and Santana to match each UK and Khmer volunteer with a counterpart from the other country, and to match them with their host homes. My and Theavy are in host home number 2 living with a mum, dad and their teenage son. The dad is a police officer, but usually works out of Prasat Sambour as it is a small quiet community here so there is more police work to be done outside of the community. The mum, who I call 'ming' has a stall outside her house selling children toys and clothes for extra income. She sells two toys for 5000 riel (approx $1.25 for 2). She gave me and Theavy a teddy bear to watch over us which is so cute. She is slowly getting the hang of my name, as in Khmer language they don't say the last letter of the word they kind of swallow it, so we've got as far as her calling me toni and I think I'll just go with that haha. We have quite a spacious room, upstairs and separate to that of the host family. The bed is a mattress on the floor, which I am surprisingly not too long for and the room has a wooden floor, wooden walls and wooden shutters for the windows. The first night I slept without a mosquito net because we couldn't put it up without any rope, so I had a few bugs pinging off me and landing in my face which I could have lived without but it was not as terrifying as expected and none were HUGE! After that we found some ties and have been able to put the net up each night so I've had some great uninterrupted sleeps. I've decided I don't mind the ridiculously loud insect sounds at night (mainly crickets), but the Cockerel sounding from 5.30am, letting us know every 5 minutes that its daylight every day is something I'll have to get used to...I say all this without having heard really creepy noises, like cockroaches shuffling around inside the room so I'm yet to be fully freaked out. But we keep our room swept and it's super clean so I feel a lot more comfortable than I expected. My host mum is fab, so kind and is asking me what I want to eat so I feel at ease letting her know what I do and do not want. Although, being in community has been extra warm and my appetite has gone a little so I hope I'm not offending her. What she has cooked has been so tasty I'm just not able to eat 2 or 3 portions haha. My appetite might come back if I ever acclimatise to this heat! Luckily I have Theavy to reassure her that I am really happy in her home. I gave her my gift from home, a tea towel with a painting of York, some Yorkshire lemon curd and some hobnobs and she loved it. She shared out her hobnobs with all her mates who were round this morning and they seemed to go down well! Did my first hand wash this morning because after 2 nights the host mum asked if I wanted to do any washing so I realised I must have do small amounts of washing regularly. I'm not sure how good I did so I will have to give them a quick smell when they are dry and see whether I did a good job. There is a laundrette down the road if they still smell or if I don't have time some weeks which is amazing! But I really want to hand wash when I can and feel like part of the family.
Prasat Sambour is beautiful. Green fields, lotus flowers, buffalo, cows, chickens and ducks roaming around everywhere you look. It is so nice to be somewhere where the air is fresh and doesn't feel like it sticks to your lungs like it does in the bigger towns and cities. It is very peaceful. We have a main road running past our house but generally there isn't much traffic and vehicles aren't disturbingly loud. We have a few farmers who wall their cows past our house, the bells round their necks letting us know they are there, not sure where they walk them to or from...we couldn't leave our drive yesterday as a heard of cows blocked the exit, reminds me of when the A64 got blocked because a sheep escaped a lorry and was on the run down the dual carriageway haha.
We occasionally get 'barang' shouted at us which means 'French or foreign person' but they then smile and wave at us so I think they are happy to have us in their community. I've found a good bakery which does good brioche bread and surprisingly good donuts (pictured below) that I think will be a good treat on a bad day and they are all freshly baked so I tell myself it's not too bad for me...
As I said the heat in community has been next level. I think it's because it hasn't rained here since we arrived 4 days ago but between about 10-3 it is just ridiculous. Me and Theavy actually came to the office 3 hours early yesterday because the fans are so cool in here. The volunteers have had most of their first 3 days in community off, to explore and get to know their counterparts and host families. Me and Theavy have had to meet with Santana to try and understand the team plan before we explain it to the volunteers and there is so much information. I've come to the office early today to work on it and get it all understood before the team arrive to give the office a big spring clean. Its a great office, open and pretty clean but we just to make it ours and get rid of all the clutter and rubbish and basically sort it out - which as some of you will know, I love to do, as long as there's nothing waiting to jump out at me like a scorpion or centipede!!
We have only been apart for 4 days but I miss the other team leaders like mad. It's so weird being around them for the best part of a month, day in day out and then all of a sudden to not be around them. Thank god for social media and group chats so we can keep up with what we're all getting up to! It will be amazing to have another week with them all in Phnom Penh at the end when we are doing all the paperwork! Can't wait for SK and Kheang to take us to do some karaoke!!
The official first day in the office starts tomorrow, at 8am. This is when the volunteers will find out what teams they will be in for the project. There are 3 teams - volunteering, employment and entrepreneurship and all play really important roles with the work we will do with the local youth. I am excited to see what ideas the volunteers have for the plan to be implemented and for us to start working with the communities and schools. They are a fab group and of the 4 placements we have in Cambodia, we are the biggest team so I think they will do some really good work in the next 10 weeks. I am also excited to explore the different places to eat lunch and see what we find. I'm hoping to have the energy to cycle to the market every lunch and get some fresh fruit but we will see how that turns out! Once we've got stuck into the project I will be able to talk more about what we are actually doing over here and how we are working alongside the community!!