Inspired Words

These are the experiences of our volunteers in Cambodia.

July 1: Day 2 of Work

Posted in Cambodia on July 1, 2014

We arrived at about the same time this morning and found our latrines still standing and the walls well set. The locals had done little or no additional work after we left the day before, but that was okay with us.

I started the day by pulling out a couple of foam rubber baseballs that we got from the Academy's Admissions Office as souvenirs and gave them to a few of the kids that had been hanging around us and watching. Needless to say, they were pretty pleased by their new toys. Dan was nice enough to take a few photos before we got started.

The morning consisted of Winston doing more digging--but first he had to bail the pit out because we arrived to find his pit completely filled with water (well, to about 12 inches of the edge) and since it didn't rain that much, it confirmed what I deduced the day before. The water table in most of Cambodia is only about 12 inches below the ground!

Anyway, he and another local bailed it all out while Dan, Annie, and our Cambodia expert, Jay (sp?), mixed a fresh batch of mortar on the ground with five, five gallon buckets of sand and one 50 kg bag of Portland Cement. After that, we got to it with the bricks and made good time until we got near the top of the door frame. At this point, day installed the concrete-poured vent window pieces. Things were getting a bit sporty with the height, too, and you can see in the photos that I was standing on the equivalent of two parallel 2x4s that were on top of the one meter circular cylinders (in full rolling formation) because they hadn't been installed yet. I managed to make it through the whole day without a fall, which is a very good thing considering my potential impact points. The other group, despite being in much better ground, was only slightly behind us ;-) and progressing well, too.

The morning was generally uneventful except for the fact that they constantly asked Winston to widen his pit to fit the concrete cylinders. We measured the pit an few times and thought that the cylinders would fit, but we had a few Lost in Translation moments getting that point across, so Winston continued to dig and scrape and bail.

We left for lunch at about 1130 and again arrived at the Vine ravenous with hunger. Everyone looked like they were going to fall asleep on the deck, but the food brought them back to life. We had about a 30 minute siesta next, though, which I used to walk around the gardens with my camera and to explore the peppercorn fields.

When we returned, the work got very busy. We worked hard to complete the walls of the latrine and we had a few more translation issues dealing with how high the walls would ultimately be. Finally, after a few replaced, then disassembled bricks, we settled on a height over the door frame that included a slope to the back for drainage from the corrugated steel roof that would be installed later.

We finally got clearance on the pit for Winston after a couple of locals helped us pull out some big rocks and also dislodge an unside down five gallon bucket that Winston had been using as a stable island in his inland sea of muck.

Note: the pig was gone from his/her sty this morning. In the trash, we saw a pig's tail. You can do the math on that one. The family looked happy and well-fed.

The installation of the pipes/cylinders that followed was tough work. Each of the cylinders easily weighed 100 kg and probably more--reinforced concrete one meter in diameter. They were slid into the pit on poles and then set by a combination of methods that included digging out a little more around them for balance, Winston and I jumping on the them to set them, and, when was slid in wrong, looping a rope through the side drainage hole and hoisting it up with the help of three people. It was funny that the barefoot kids watched our every step, each of them only inches away from falling into the muck.

Finally, though, the first two cylinders were set side-by-side, to the great relief of Winston. We spent the rest of the afternoon completing the brick laying and got to the last few bricks just before quitting time. We let Jay and Mr. Senh do the last few bricks so that they would get it right and meet their expectations. We'd realized early in this process that helping is good, but there are times when we just need to step back and let them do their thing the right way without our good intentions or interference. Vy was very helpful throughout this process as she interpreted for us.

The other team was at about the same point as we were by about 1600 and twenty minutes later we decided to call it a day. The roof is left, as is setting the pieces and running the drain lines from the latrine to the septic cylinders.

Good news about today was that we had very little rain and the ground was a little drier. We had probably our sunniest day of the trip, but the cadets were pretty diligent about their sunscreen even if I had to play "Dad" and remind them a few times.

We left just before 1630 and made our way back to the hotel, arriving just before 1700. Winston, Hansena, Annie, and Luke made a beeline for the beach and I loaded photos on the laptop for later processing. I joined them a few minutes later and enjoyed cooling off in the water, wading through the shallows, and taking a few more photos. The water certainly wasn't clear, but it was a little cooler than I expected, too. I used the opportunity to do a little more washing of my DWC shirt, but still came back and did shower laundry with my shorts.

During the break before dinner, I post-processed all of my RAW photos and got them backed up. We left for dinner at 1830 and went to a very nice restaurant (The Veranda) which had a stunning overlook of Kep Bay. We could see thunderstorms over the water while we enjoyed a very good dinner. The cadets went "western" and ordered pizza, steak, and pasta, while Dan and I had one of the national dishes of Cambodia, Cha Kreung. Winston was kind enough to treat the over 21ers to fruity happy hour cocktails, too. Luke saved half of his pizza for later and took it back to the hotel room to refrigerate until the US-Belgium World Cup game starts at 0300 local time. We'll see how productive the cadets are tomorrow as we (hopefully) finish our first two latrines--what a big day!
Here are today's shots

All the Best,

Marty France
USAFA Faculty Chaperone & DWC Volunteer
Kep, Cambodia: July 2014

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