February 3, 2013 § Leave a comment
After a day or so orientation in Phnom Penh, my posting was revealed and I (and my soon to be other half named Zoe) were sent out by bus to Pursat. Pursat is a mostly agricultural province in western Cambodia between Thailand and the Tonle Sap lake. Pursat (the town) is closer to the lake side and an hour or so south of Battambang. As a largely agricultural provence the town is small, though a couple of the roads are paved and there’s a central market and schools; however no tourist would really have cause to visit. Absolutely perfect. Serei from the Cambodian Volunteer Foundation (the on the ground NGO that IVHQ operates through in Cambodia – 100% locally operated and run by such passionate, fantastic people) escorted us to the town and after settling us in with our host family – the Leungs, he took us on a moto ride around town to get orientated. A bit of a fail but I enjoyed the ride. After a brief stop to visit the Orphanage we would be working at we were treated to the finest Pursat had to offer – Mini Club, the only club in town. Owned by the brother in law of Serei’s friend and our second moto driver, and home to the greatest dish I have ever tasted: Khmer Sweet and Sour Whole Fish. Freshly caught from the river, Zoe and I picked it clean.
This was our new home – absolutely luxurious by all standards, particularly Cambodians. Upstairs is the living area and includes a huge open tiled varandah which is the only place to be in the middle of the day – either lying in a hammock or straight on the tiles. Downstairs would usually be open and just a dirt floor with hammocks for the family to relax in and maybe a cooking area, however Mr Leung was a doctor (though he preferred the term nurse) and had his practice downstairs. There were always people staying there swinging in hammocks cradling their IV drips, if one person was sick then the entire family stayed sometimes for days and days. I saw him once help and elderly man walk shakily out to be taken home on the back of a scooter. His entire family were on the moto, wife and children. He sat of the very back while one of his daughters clutched the IV bottle.
Mrs Leung worked too, she and her helper sewed robes for the monks. There were bolts and bolts of different hued fabrics for all the different monks. The girl who came to help her was very sweet and though she spoke no english (*note: no one in Pursat speaks english) she was always smiley and friendly. Her mother had died a little while before we arrived and she had shaved off her hair as a sign of mourning. She was always sewing even before we got up at 7 with the fan and the radio playing. So plus Charlie the mysterious Peace Core guy who took us almost a week to meet, Zoe and I had our new family.
View from the Golden Ship (top photo) at sunset. This is where all the cool kids come to hang out. Everyone is here, partaking in the 5:30 aerobics, walking laps or playing the latest craze – I’m not sure of the exact name but it’s like playing hacky sac with a shuttlecock and it is ridiculously impressive. One thing I have noticed (all over the country) is that it is mostly those over 40s exercising and they aren’t slowing down. The secret to eternal youth – never stop moving.