Back in Siem Reap

Posted: March 11, 2014 in Cambodia, Cambodia 2014
Tags: , , , ,

We’re back in the beautiful, and hot, Siem Reap.

The journey here was long and tiring, but we’re happy to be back. Though having pancakes for breakfast in Hong Kong is quite fun, 7 hours of waiting for your connection is ever so boring, no matter how many “exclusive” shops an airport has for you to gawk at. Aside from a few local products you quickly realize you’re seeing nothing new – we saw the a lot of the same stuff waiting for our flight at Schiphol.

When we arrived in Siem Reap last Saturday, the first thing that struck us was how much the city had changed. ‘Airport road’ (Yes, that is actually what the road is called) used to be a wasteland, now it is an unending strip of fancy hotels. Apparently, tourism has doubled over the past three years.

This does not mean that the local rural population has gotten any more wealthy, the incomes the big hotels generate does not trickle down to the poorer people here. Though more hotels does mean more job opportunities for English speaking Khmer in the cities, the rural people are still a long ways away for being eligible for them. Which is one of the reasons why VPO/Que Rico focuses on teaching English.

English class

English class

One of the other things that has changed is the location of the school. Since we were here last it has been moved to a bigger location closer to the village, and now consists of a nursery, three classrooms, a computer room and a library. The clinic that used to be part of the Atvea project has split off. Apparently it is still there and still functional, that’s all that matters as far as we’re concerned.

Book donations
Book donations

We started off our first day of work with a tour of the new school building so we could drop off the collection of books that had been donated (big thanks once again to all the little children who gave them to us!!!) and will be used in the school here.

After that it was time start working. Our first project is building an outhouse for a mother and two kids in the village. The husband/father of the family has run off, which left the mother and children in a run down shack with no source of income. Because she had no sanitary commodities at all, she and her kids were always in danger of contagious diseases. Previous volunteers have built the family a house, we’re building an outhouse that will hopefully alleviate that threat. With the rainy season starting at the end of the month, that is none too soon.



We arrived at the house just as the concrete structures were being delivered. After setting them in place it was time to start digging. Digging a hole in the ground for septic tanks is a hard chore under any circumstances, but in 35 degree heat it becomes excruciating. The hole fills up with sweat faster than you can shovel dirt out, by figure of speech. Add to that that we’re working in a cramped up space, inside the concrete structure of the septic tanks, and you can imagine a 4 hour workday is the maximum we can manage. Luckily, that goes for the Cambodians too, so we don’t make total asses of ourselves.

Laying Bricks

Laying Bricks

Today we’ve been keeping ourselves busy with building the foundation for the outhouse, which meant laying bricks around the tank structure. Once the mortar is dry the inside of the brick wall will be filled up with more concrete. If you’re wondering why the tanks and the foundation rise above the surrounding terrain: the top of the tank and the floor have to be above the highest level this piece of land ever flooded to, for obvious hygienic reasons.

  1. Riekje says:

    Good for you, guys, keep up the good work and don’t get stuck in the manhole… picture of J with spade gave new meaning to that word!

  2. Mam says:

    Hello hello!

    Marvellous to hear how life is going in the warmth and see and enjoy the wonderful photos!!! Wish it was warmer here and a bit cooler where you are. Miss you and hope to read more soon

    Love mam xxxxx

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