Wednesday 11 April, 2018
Day 14 / Kampong Thom
[Missed Day 13? Read the previous post here]
I go for an early run by the riverside (I haven’t run in nearly two weeks). The weather is hot and humid, and I get chased down by what feels like every dog in town. I also get stared down by every person I run past and find out later it’s because locals aren’t used to seeing women wearing ‘revealing’ attire (ie. anything that doesn’t cover your knees and shoulders – I was wearing my running shorts and singlet). I manage to make it back to the guesthouse in one piece.
There are a lot of locals who cycle around town selling bread from their bike, and when I return to the hotel one of them just happens to be standing at the gate. I race to the room to get some cash and purchase some bread from her for breakfast.
We pack up and check out of the hotel, then cycle to the markets for a wander. On the way to Phum Asia we pick up some food supplies from the local bakery. Upon arriving at our home for the next few days, we check in and say our hellos. The students are curious and crowd us as we officially meet our host Chhim.
The place is cute and has traditional Cambodian lodgings. There are cashews drying out on the field and animals roaming about (dogs, cats, chickens and cows). We park the bikes under the stairs before being shown our room and are given the grand tour.
Chhim asks if we would like to have the students cook us dinner, which we gladly say yes to. We tell him we are vegetarian and he says it’s not a problem. After chilling out in the room for a bit we decide to head out for a walk into town to grab some water.
Less than 200m down the road, we pass a Cambodian Land and Energy office that has loud music pumping from the rear building. As we stop outside their gates to have a sticky beak, a man walks out of the main building and yells “Hello!” waving for us to come in. We go in and spend the next half hour dancing with a party of drunken Cambodian officials who are celebrating Khmer New Year.
They offer us beer and some drunken dancing while we laugh and snap selfies with the crowd. We even get a few dance lessons from them.
One of the guys asked us to join them for BBQ (there was a giant pig on a spit) but we tell them we are vegetarian. The music is so loud that when he first asked us to stay for the ‘meat BBQ’ I thought he wanted us to ‘Meet Bobby Q’ …who I thought might’ve been the big boss. Cheye gets offered a third beer but we tell them we need to be on our way and say our thank yous and goodbyes. We get the water we had originally set out for and head back to Phum Asia.
The room is super hot, even with the fan on, so we head outside where it’s much cooler. Outside the students are packing away cashews from the fields. They lay them out every day to dry in the sun, then pack them away in the afternoon. We’re told they are learning about the process from start to finish, teaching them processing and business skills.
After they are dried, they are sent off to have the outer shell removed, then sent back to have the inner shell removed before being roasted. It’s quite a long process and they tell us the nuts will be ready in August (about four months).
We watch them for a bit, allowing them space to work before offering to help with the heavy bags.
We have a chat to Chhim and Toni (the Japanese teacher from Yokohama) and also meet Toni’s dogs.
Whenever we go traveling, Cheye has a knack for attracting cute dogs. I, on the other hand, tend to attract vicious growlers like the ones from this mornings run.
Toni then invites us to witness the students in a Japanese lesson. They are learning about onomatopoeia through animal sounds. It’s funny how they translate some sounds into Japanese. In English, a dog is “woof woof” but in Japanese it’s “wan wan”. We know a frog to be “ribbit” but they say “kero kero”.
At 7pm we have rice, veggies, soybeans and soup for dinner, then mango for dessert. Dinner is cooked by the students. We chat with Toni and the Japanese intern Sally about Cambodian life and Japan. They give us tips for our upcoming Japan trip in June and we write down translations on how we can ask for vegetarian food.
The students are preparing for dance practise across the pond so we watch a few dances before showering and heading to sleep for the night. I make sure to pop the mosquito net over the bed and have the coil repellent ready so I don’t get eaten alive during the night.