Smiling, laughing, joking: This is Srah Srang. And so far this is Cambodia. Nothing touches them, even despite the neverending task and routine of selling to tourists, day in, day out.
Day 13 of rural Cambodian life and I find it hard to write 2 weeks worth of information so i'll have to revert back to the old random bullet points - or snippets - of life.
- Tom in Khymer (Cambodian language) means "big" so am known as "Mr. Big" in the village - endless amusement to my newly adopted brothers and sisters of Srah Srang.
- The shower and toilet were greeted with nervous laughter; the shower being a big pot with buckets and the toilet being a "well covered" hole in the middle of the village. I adapted to the shower routine after a day, it just became normal with the only thing standing out being the colour of my skin - but this soon faded as I became more and more known. The toilet however, upon my delivering of Livia's money, was rebuilt over the 2 weeks with bricks & cement and now stands tall with only the roof and a substansial door missing.
- I spend my days in the row of shops outside the temple by Srah Srang lake hanging out with the many people who own them - the family owns about 5 - and I've attempted selling, learnt the language - writing and speaking, played frisbie with the kids, taught some English, made bracelets and generally helped out where I can.
- Evenings are spent back at the house in the village, with dinner by lamp light and numerous games being played outside and downstairs. They only have electricity for 3 hours each night and they normally gather around the tv in the company of obscure (yet amazing) programmes.
- Food has been good. Every meal is a surprise but there's lots of meat, soups, rice, fresh fish and vegetables in one meal - like a mini buffet. I think the craziest thing i've eaten is ants and ant eggs - the big red kind. They fry them up and serve them in a soup which is a bit sour but I came to like them as a few foods were sour in taste. I only found out after (of course) that the first time people eat the ants - even Cambodians - they can have a "disagreement" with your stomach. Lets just say I spent to next day near a toilet... The first and last time I munch on ants.
- Everyone in the village are up by 5:00am (or before) and I think I can say they are the hardest working people - everyday, 7 days a week and 13 hour days, puts Western life in some sort of perspective. Moan we shall not.
- Common phrases you'll hear after my name: "you eat already?", "you want some water?", "more rice?", "you take shower?". The caring nag of a family, amplifide when it's someone elses.
- It's the Buddist new year over the course of 3 days (14th, 15th & 16th of April) - today being day number 2. It means it's much busier with all Cambodians returning to their home provinces for basically a 3 day bank holiday so Srah Srang has turned from selling to tourists, to selling to Cambodians aswell - a highlight in the year for the village. After the 3 days the family plan to have a party with lots of fun and games planned.
This is a rushed post and I know i've missed out so much. Just know that i've been in the company of an amazingly generous and happy family who have made the last 2 weeks fly by. Im staying here till the 19th and then im off to the Tonle Sap and onto Battambang, before heading South to the capital Phnom Penh (nom-pen). When the time comes, I will greatly miss Lan, Mang, Saly, Mao, Sarein, Lon, Lay, Bin and EVERYONE else who has made my stay so good. I feel they're a family I will have a lot of contact with when I return home and definitely follow their progress. X