February 6, 2013 § Leave a comment
It really didn’t take long for Zoe and I to get into routine – and revel in it. We became so comfortable we often thought it would be a challenge to go back. Our day began early, usually just before 7 – it was too hot to sleep any longer and we would hop up get dressed and sit at the breakfast table and plan our lesson. Breakfast was always small – usually a piece of fruit, such as the ever popular Dragonfruit (I will be happy never to eat one of those again), after a week we were riding to the servo to pick up yogurt as breakfast supplements, and then we were off on our bikes to the orphanage by 8:30. We were greeted by the 2 cuties and their friends every time we passed their houses (so 4 times a day) they’d run out screaming hello with flowers and leaves they’d pick as presents. Seeing a foreigner is such a novelty for everyone involved and so we’d often be constantly stared at but the families along this path were so friendly, though very poor, and always smile, wave and shout things to us that we didn’t understand. And never once were we asked for anything, it was pure kindness.
Our first class was a small class of only 3 or 4. Sometimes Yu Meng and his little brother Ly Hor would join from next door but not often. The first class ran for 2 and a half hours – till 11:00 so keeping everyone engaged was always a challenge but the intense one on one was a big pay off for the kids.
Like most Cambodians the biggest break happened during the middle of the day – when it was too hot to do anything else. So we’d peddle hard home for our 11:30 lunch absolutely ravenous. Mrs Leung was a great cook and we got a delicious insight into Khmer cooking that you can’t buy, but it was a fast lesson that there is no fussiness when it comes to food and you eat what’s in front of you and your grateful you have that much food. I’m not a fruit fan and Zoe doesn’t like her greens, suck it up. Meat was often in the form of gristle or bones, though looking at the livestock its no wonder and there was always mountains of rice. If you were hungry enough you’d eat it – and we did. I don’t recall ever being so hungry in my entire life despite the heat. And the vegetables were amazing, most of them I couldn’t identify but they were so fresh and flavourful. Mrs Leung made beautiful sauces, soups and curries, I could have eaten it for ever. Another notable thing about Cambodia – which they are very proud of, is that everything is organic. Many people have a plot of land that own or lease to grow some of their own food so as far as food waste and miles go – absolutely minimal. The non-organic produce is imported from Thailand or Vietnam.
We had a decent break and thank god because it was so hot. I love the heat but this was hot – as in 40+ degrees C and 70 – 80% humidity. I didn’t think I sweated that much, I didn’t till I came here, but you dealt with it like everyone else. Cambodians often have 3 showers a day.. often we just let ourselves air out. I know that sounds gross but just wait till your in the situation. We spent our time visiting the internet garage, grabbing a coconut, riding to the servo or in my case picking up an iced coffee. Straight out, Cambodian coffee is amazing. Very strong but almost caramel in taste. The best way to have it is poured over ice with a drizzle of sweet milk, and it is the only thing (trust me) that will cool you down. Every single time. There are coffee houses all in a row in Pursat, on the street we aptly named coffee st. Only thing is it is kinda a mens only club, they sit there drink coffee watch old Kung Fu movies and play draughts. All day every day. The only women are the 2 that serve and me everyday at 1:30. After the first 2 weeks people stopped taking photos of me on their phones and I was a genuine regular.
After our break ended at 2:30 it was back to class for our second lesson – usually a repeat of the first with around 10 – 12 kids. This class only went for an hour and a half before they were jumping around under buckets of water washing up for dinner. For the final hour we took Sister Borin and a few of the older kids for a more in depth session. Then it was on our bikes and home ready for dinner – starving again – at 5:30. It gets dark at exactly 6pm every night in Cambodia so we’d usually have a bit of light to write our diaries by before we were hopping under cold water and into bed at ashamedly around 8:30. Sometimes we stretched it to 9 but tiredness usually always won out.