Schedule and party

Posted: January 5, 2011 in Cambodia, Cambodia 2011
Tags: , ,

In case you were wondering what our days are like here, we’ll share our program:

At 6.15 AM we wake up, get ready for work and have breakfast before the tuktuk picks us up at 7.30 AM. We then head over to the building site, where we work until it gets too hot, which is usually between 12.30 and 1 PM. Then it’s back to the guesthouse for much needed showers and lunch. We have the afternoons and evenings off, which at first seemed a bit weird to us, as we were expecting to be working a lot more. But after a few days of doing construction work in 35 degrees, we’ve come to realize that it does get way too hot in the afternoons for us to be productive. As we’ve been doing more work than planned (we just finished carving the wood today, which was supposed to be finished tomorrow) we have stopped feeling guilty, and started to enjoy our afternoons.


Today was quite an interesting day. As we drove up to the building site, we couldn’t help but notice that it was awfully quiet. The father of the family was waiting for us, but the usual hustle and bustle of people wasn’t. Normally the locals come out to see these weird, big, white people, plus the kids are always very curious to see what we are doing. But today everybody was gone. Also, we could hear quite loud music coming from somewhere.


Turns out there was a village party going on! Sorn (one of the local workmen working with us) at first told us it was a marriage, so I (Devie) decided to check it out, as it sounded like a great opportunity. I mean, how often do you get to see a real Khmer wedding? Unfortunately I forgot what I read in the guidebook, so when I got there and the people starting waving at me, I thought they wanted me to leave (turns out the ‘come here’-wave for Khmer people is the ‘go away’-wave in Holland), so I left.  Josh (our foreman who, luckily for us, is into psychobilly music, which means we’ve spent the day hammering away listening to his iPod) had understood it was a party to celebrate the birth of a new community member. Whatever it was, after a few hours of working, the mother of our family came back from the party. Apparently she had been told that I had been there, but left again, so now she and two of her daughters came to take me back. The Khmer women spent some time trying to teach me traditional dancing, while the kids had a blast laughing at my attempts. I wasn’t any good, but it was loads of fun!


In the meantime, work was being done to prepare the beams that will make the framework of the house. Because all the wood available here is far from straight everything needs to be measured, adapted, measured again, re-measured, checked and finally sawed and chiseled to size. Today, we spent the day making notches in the nine beams that will form the “stilts” that carry the house. Anywhere in the West this would be a “line ’em all up and pass the powersaw through them” job, but here every single notch is different from the last, making handwork the only option (plus, we don’t have any power tools, except for a cordless drill). Every beam has 8 notches, so you can imagine the work.


Usually it takes two to three days to do this for one house, but apparently having a party going on down the road sped our work up a little, and we managed to get it done in a day (and there was much rejoicing). This means that we’re ahead of schedule, which is a good thing as coming Friday is a national holiday and no-one will be working here.

On Thursday we’ll be placing the concrete feet the posts stand on and leveling them out, and hopefully on Monday we’ll be able to raise the basic framework of the house.


Yesterday we certainly did not think this was going to happen, as when we arrived at the site on Tuesday morning the soil that had not arrived on Monday had been brought -and dumped 5 meters from it’s target. This meant we had to shovel about 3 tons of soil in the blistering heat, level it out and stomp it down to make it solid. The reaction of our foreman was “welcome to Cambodia”. Many jokes were cracked about the chain-gang experience of the most diligent shovelers.

Luckily, everybody involved chips in when it comes to working: not only is the father of the household for whom the house is being built actively involved in the building process, his wife does water and ice (to cool the water) runs and the kids came out with spoons to help out when we were digging holes for our improvised workbench.


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