Have nearly been back in the country for a week already – time has gone so fast! This time last week I would have been back in Phnom Penh after a week in Siem Reap, ready to fly out for KL tomororw morning.
I didn’t update my blog while I was away as there just really was no time for it – especially in the first week when we were building. We were kept busy the entire time – having to get up at 5am in order to leave the hotel by 6am for the 1 hr 15min drive out to the building site. We would work all day and not get back to the hotel until around 7pm, then you would have a shower and have dinner and then just go to bed as you had to be up early the next day again!
Here are some photos from the first week. It was hard work, but all very satisfying in the end.
This is one of the many buildings in the grounds of the King’s palace in Phnom Penh. The architecture is incredible. We could go inside some of the buildings too, but unfortunately were not able to take photos.
This building is the Silver Pagoda. It is named so because the floor inside is covered with tiles made from silver. You may be able to see that some of the trees in the foreground of this picture are shaped into elephants.
A photo from the build site. We were building 21 houses in 5 days. The heat we were working in was absolutely incredible – especially on the first day. Thankfully on the second or third day a breeze decided to visit us which helped (a little bit…). Trying to build houses with people who don’t understand a word of English certainly was a bit of a challenge on some occassions, but after what felt like a week-long game of charades we somehow got there in the end! I loved how the Cambodian skilled workers on our house soon learned the thumbs up accompanied by the very kiwi saying of “all good!” I however concluded (after having to listen to many speeches translated back and forth between languages, plus looking at the multitude of vowels blends etc in the Lonely Planet book) that the Cambodia language is near impossible to learn, and that anything said in English takes about 3 times as long to say in Khmer.
Water. This was vital to ensure surviving working in the heat and humidity. About 6 people collapsed on the first day from the heat. I don’t think I have ever consumed as much water in the space of a week as I did during the build. It would be interesting to know how many bottles we got through all together. We were constantly being supplied with bottles of “Steve” water and conveniently right behind the particular house we were building was a large, frequently replenished chiller of bottles which we could help ourselves to.
We managed to successfully complete all the houses on time! I got the honour of handing over the keys of our house to the happy new home owners. There was a huge celebratory atmosphere in the little street of the new community on the Friday night – people dancing, clapping and singing – didn’t matter about language barriers or anything. Seems that smiling and clapping overcomes this anyway.
I took many, many more photos of this, but these just show a very brief glimpse of what I was up to in the first week. I feel that even if I uploaded all my photos it would not do it justice or be true to what it really felt like to be there. There are many stories or things to recount, but it is just too hard to know where to begin. Guess it is just one of those things you can only get a full understanding of by being there first hand.
Just know this much from me: it was hot, it was hard, it was great, it was rewarding, I’m glad I did it, it was an incredible experience and I would do it again. Oh and that trying to get into the habit of brushing your teeth with bottled water and not turning on the tap is harder than you think.
I will upload some photos from week 2 some time in the near future.