Inspired Words

These are the experiences of our volunteers in Cambodia.

July 4: Fourth of July

Posted in Cambodia on July 4, 2014

Once again, I took a morning walk along the coastline, this time with Winston joining me. We were lucky enough to see a few fishing boats come into the shore and enjoyed seeing them unloading.  The rest of the walk was uneventful, though we had some great conversations on corruption, the future of Cambodia, etc.

Once the van picked us up, we stopped at a local beverage shop and bought four cases of drinks--two of beer and two of soft drinks--as well as some snacks and other goodies that we intended for later in the day when our work was complete.

When we arrived in the village, we started work right away. Mark, who joined us yesterday and is interning with Equitable Cambodia, joined Winston and Dan, along with our homeowner in bailing out the septic cylinder area and then adding the second cylinder so that they extended a few inches above the ground.  The evening before, pipe had been run from the latrine to the tanks, so they were also able to install the lids to the tanks with cement.

Meanwhile, Annie and I were still stuccoing the interior walls and sealing the cistern compartment with pure cement.  We worked non-stop through the morning and got quite a bit done, including some patching of bridge work that I screwed up from the day before.  Jay was very patient, though, and let me do more and more of the actual skilled work.

On the other side, Team 2 looked to be well ahead of us, but they had lots of interior work to do, too.  Dylan was their stucco-master, and the others did a lot of work in that area, too.  They had their roof on and were just concentrating on sealing and stuccoing as were we.

By 1130, we were ready for lunch having worked just about three hours in the sun without let-up.  Winston was constantly mixing and shuttling mortar to us and as Jay finished each wall we helped him with some spot patching.  Dan was entertaining the kids when he wasn't mixing mortar with Winston or working on installing the septic cylinder lids.

Lunch at the Vines was again excellent, this time with an egg, spinach, and winter squash soup along with another chicken stir-fry concoction.  The cadets only had about 20 minutes to nap again, but I passed the time by finally remembering to bring my tablet so I could read.

In the afternoon, our roof was installed and we finished stuccoing the internal walls.  The roof kept the temperature down just a little bit in the latrine, but the lack of a breeze made up for that.  Mr. Sing worked most of the afternoon prepping and then installing our combo sit/squat toilet.  The design is such that there is no flush tank.  Instead, the cistern area will hold water that can then be used with a shower head to rinse the toilet after use with all of the contents flowing down through the toilet through PVC pipe to the septic cylinders.  We were happy to be the first to have our toilet installed as that marked the essential end to our work.  Jay and I still patched and finished a little and there are remaining steps to complete the whole thing (pour the final main floor coat of concrete, install a tank in the cistern area, and (we heard) tile the floor and some of the lower internal walls.  I wouldn't liked to do some tiling as that is something I actually know--oh well.

With the completion, the family where team two was working brought out snack for all of us.  The grandmother had these wonderful dumplings stuffed with coconut, peanuts, rice flour, and palm sugar wrapped in banana leaves and cooked until steaming hot (and safe).  We each at two of them I think--they were delicious.

Dylan was the last one working, sealing their cistern area with cement, but we began to gather around team two' project area.  When Dylan finally finished, we started our little party by spreading out plastic tarps on the ground and bringing the coolers and snacks for everyone.  We took photos in front of each latrine and then, with the help of Vy, I said a few words to the families about our Independence Day and how much we'd enjoyed working and helping the village.

The grandfather (age 53) of the home where Dylan, Hansena, and Luke were working then said a few words, too, and was quite sincere and moving.  He said that the village had never had foreigners come in and help them before--that they were thankful for our hard work and how friendly and enthusiastic we were.  Vy's translation of his words was that this "was an historic event" for the village and they were very, very thankful to all of us.  We were all quite moved by his words.

After this, we pulled out the drinks.  I toasted Jay, my mentor, and gave him a pair of Air Force Academy sunglasses.  The kids were having fun because they were all drinking Fanta and Sprite getting all hopped up on sugars that they probably didn't see very often.  Dan was corrupting them by showing them how to say "Ahhhhhhh!" with a big wide open mouth when they had finished a slurp. He also put his GoPro camera on one of the boys and promised to post on Youtube what the world looks like through the eyes of a Cambodian 4-year-old.
We stayed for some time drinking and eating, talking to each other with Vy's assistance. The village leader was there as were members of the extended families, all excited about our work and anxious to catch a glimpse of the latrine.

We left at about 1700 and drove back to the hotel. I had just enough time to process my photos and get ready for dinner.  At 1830, we left for dinner at the Kep Sailing Club along with Vy and Mark.

The view at the atmosphere was wonderful at the Sailing Club.  The food was quite good, too, after we worked through a minor glitch--they said, when we were placing our orders, that the kitchen was closed (at 1900?).  With some cajoling, Vy managed to get them reopened as quickly as possible and they finally agreed.

Great seafood and some fancy mixed drinks were available at the Sailing Club along with good seafood and the usual drinks.  The ocean breeze was enjoyed by all and we didn't leave until after 2100.  We'd like to go back on another day when the sunset is at its peak and may do that Saturday or Sunday.

Tomorrow, we're going touring again since the work doesn't recommence until Monday.  Our driver will be taking us to Bokor Mountain National Park to see some old ruins as well as to hike on their many trails. From their, we'll go to Kampot for lunch and then look into some of the local caves before returning for dinner.
Here are the slides from the day--enjoy!

All the Best,

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

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