Published: November 11th 2007November 9th 2007
I actually became pretty fast and efficient at it.
A GLANCE AT "REAL" CAMBODIA
"DAY IN THE LIFE OF A RURAL FAMILY", was the main reason why I stayed at "The Villa at Siem Reap". Australian onwers Anthony and Fiona found an amazing way to give back to the community.They organize tours to very poor villages, where the tourist get to spend a day with a family, helping them with they daily work, food preaparation, etc, besides visitng other sites on the countryside. Of the $32 per tour, $25 goes to the village, and that's a lot in a country where the average salary is $30/month.
The 700 families of the village I visited have benefited greatly from the "project", receiving, among other things, 12 water filters, crucial for disease prevention and children's survival. But much more is needed, and tourists with a heart are greatly appreciated to contribute. Read on to see that the tour offered an unique experience but also a great time.
A couple from England and I travelled thru picturesque bucolic scenery of the countryside to an untouristed village. The guide was very knowledgable and friendly and soon after arriving at the village we were on the way to harvest rice with locals,
With Charlie & Matt after harvesting the whole field. Rewarding!
riding on a oxen-cart. Boy it was a bumppy ride! Once in the rice pattie, sylth in hand, feet in the muddy field, to work we went. As I grabbed and cut bunches of rice "grass", bounded and tied them up, sweat running down by back in the Cambodian heat I had a taste of how hard Cambodians have to work to eat. From seeding to harvesting of rice it takes 4 months.
Dirty, but happy with the experience, we rode back to the village where we helped to make traditional Prahoc. (See pic). I'd lie if I said it tasted good. It was truly horrible but the locals find it delicious and enjoyed the smelly fermented fish and LIVE ANTS I chopped, scooped with slices of green banana or green tamarind.
I learned that babies are breastfed only for a short time, usually 3 months, and get this: baby girls are breastfed even less because of the belief that if breastfed for long, they will turn out to be too sexy!!!! How sad, when breastfeeding can save lives.
We visited the 2-classroom SCHOOL, I donated a bunch of much needed pens and the guys donated notebooks.
Most kids were barefoot, dirty, but so playful and happy to have us visiting. Drop-out rate is huge, most kids, even in cities, not studying beyond 6 grade.
Next was some time spent at ACCB, an NGO funded by a German fellow. They are working hard with the community to save ENDANGERED SPECIES. An American from California showed us the endangered/rescued pangolins, slow loris, purcupine, gibbons, storks,etc. Many animals have great value on the illegal medicinal trade market, particularly being sold to China. The organs of many of these animals are thought to cure malaria, denge fever, etc.
On the way back we visited a small ORPHANAGE, where 52 orphans or extremely poor kids live. The very run down facility is only 1.5 year old, and it was unbilievable to see how happy the kids were. They danced and sang proudly, and had fun playing with the 3 of us. It was sad to say goodbye and I have never forgotten them.
I also visited the small LANDMINE Museum founded by Akira, an ex-Kahmer Rouge young soldier who has demined more than 5,000 landmines and is determined to free his country of the killer mines. Imagine 4-5
Orphan Pretty Girl
Only the bubbles made her smile
mines in 1 square meter, among houses and villages. The Khamer Rouge's homemade mines and the antipersonnel mines the US showered Cambodia with: They're cruel, not killing but injuring the enemies. INHUMANE WEAPON, still being produced by 12 countries, including the USA, Russia, Cuba, China and Asian countries. I saw so many umputated people due to mines, including many kids. Sad reality, mostly forgotten or ignored by the responsible inflictors.
On a diferent day I took a boat through the Chong Khneas Floating Village, on the edge of the Tonle Sap lake. Nice pictures covering "floating POVERTY".
I saw procession of devoted Buddhists. Genuine people, appear very happy, waving and greeting, but I saw the pain that lies deep inside, the suffering beneath the smiling surface, a culture of people struggling to survive.
DEEPER CAMBODIAN PERSPECTIVE:
One in 7 Cambodian children die before the age of 5, mainly due to water borne illnesses. For $45 any of us can donate a life-saving water filter. TO HELP, PLEASE CONTACT "TRAIL BLAZER FOUNDATION". YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE AND THE REWARD OF GIVING A LITTLE IS PRICELESS.
To visit a country, I believe you must learn at
A landmine victim ...
In place of his leg, a piece of wood, but there he was, cutting grass under the Cambodia heat.
least a little about it's people and history. Here are some CAMBODIAN FACTS worth mentioning:
- Very poor country of amazingly friendly people. Dark skin, beautiful black hair, big smile. They've captivated me.
- A nation of contradiction: Very long ago, there was the glory of the Angkor Empire. But it rose and fell. Than, there were invasions from neighbors and sadly, by the 1970's the brutal civil war and the genocidal rule of the Khmer Rouge devastated the country under the radical Pol Pot. Before, however, there was also the 1969 Vietnam conflict and the US carpet-bombing of Cambodia, invading it to combat the communists.
- During the Khmer Rouge years, hundreds of thousands of Cambodians were relocated to the countryside, starved, tortured or executed. 2 million died in 4 years.
- Peace signed in 1991, king in power again, 1998 Khmer Rouge ended.
- Today... The king has passed the throne to his son, a former ballet dancer, the Prime Minister has the final words, ... corruption, repression, poverty, lack of education, lack of health care, no clean water, .... work to be done...lots of it.
- Theravada Buddhism dominates, even after the murdering of most Cambodian
monks during the Khmer Rouge years. Most houses have a small shrine for prayer
I absolutely recommend a visit to Cambodia. You can eat well, be pumpered with great massage, visit amazing ruins, learn about history, and hopefully take a minute to give a little back to the needy Cambodians, who have suffered tremendously, particularly since the war.
Pictures will tell the rest.
There are more photos below