Thursday, 12 April 2012

Monks Motorcycles and More

My first house guests arrived to open arms on Saturday afternoon.  A neighbouring volunteer, only "1h45 away by taxi door to door", arrived with her brother and sister-in-law.  It was so great to see friendly faces, go to the market together, and cook in my kitchen...fresh coconut juice to start, followed by curried pumpkin, rice and boiled eggs, ending with fresh pineapple.  It was scrumptious. Thanks you guys!

Ellen in pink (volunteer) Stephen, and Tessa visiting from the Netherlands.

Easter KitKat hunt. 
With their stash!
Sadly, my very first guest were heading off on an early bus...would you believe 6:45 am much to Stephen's chagrin!  I think the 5:15 hunt was what really got him out of bed.  And, my guests were off to explore the wilds of Battambong and Siem Reap before heading back to the paradise of Stong Tren.   And I was left feeling, well, tired quite frankly, as well as first day off with no one around for about 2+ months.

Not to despair, I set about cleaning up the area outside my fence and burned my garbage.  It was fun seeing all the neighbours going by and smiling, chatting with me.  I sure wish I knew what they were saying but I think they were indicating that cleaning up garbage from the street is an endless job.  While out there, an Australian fellow and his friend stopped by and stayed for tea, then another volunteer from Uganda stopped by.  To quote Anna, how great is that to have breakfast with Dutch people and tea with Australians and a Ugandan in one day.  Ya guess it is pretty great.

I think the raining season is starting as most days we have heavy rains at about 4 pm.  I like just swinging in my hammock as the deluge comes down. At times I deceive myself and pretend I'm getting used to the heat.  After the rain, I actually thought I was chilly.  Turns out I just wasn't hot and sweaty! Sort of the same, right?
The rains as seen from my hammock
 Well, it is the K'mai New Year starting tomorrow and things are very busy.  People are off to families and temples and having their houses blessed.  We also had a blessing at the office.  It was lovely to see how revered the monks are and the hierarchy of respect.  First the monks arrive by car and everyone is very excited.  Then,the monks sit in the designated area on cushions with bowls of flower petals and candy and a lovely wrapped gift in front of each of them.  I was the only non-Cambodian there but everyone was very welcoming to me and motioned for me to join the women on the mats. Candles lit, incense burning, and the chanting begins.  I love the chanting and the devotion.
At the start of the ceremony the directors approached the monks . 

Chanting and praying
After the monks throw the flower petals and candies, they are presented with their gifts 

The following day, there was a big New Year's banquet at the Provincial Office of Education complete with the bigwigs in education for the province.  It was amazing to see how they are treated like royalty, really!  The fresh fish were taken from the pond, cooked on a fire, and so much food...noodles, soups, meats and greens, bread and yes, French wine!  As the big Poo bahs walked by and spotted us, we were motioned to the head table to eat with the royalty.  Quite a privilege apparently.  I must say, I am much more comfortable with the working stiffs.  However, the wine was good!

the fishing was quite the spectator sport

Catfish in the "bag"

Now they are really getting in the bag

These kids were giggling with glee every time the fish were netted

One of the spectators

Soon to be served to the masses

Just a glimpse of what was a huge amount of food

Yours truly and my Ugandan colleague eating at the head table between the fish ponds.  Within the first few minutes I dropped my water bottle in the nicely cleaned fish pond!

Well, I am now on about a week off for the New Year and really too pooped to go anywhere.  I am so tired of moving about living out of a suitcase, that I am enjoying just taking some time to get my thoughts organized not to mention my place. It has been very stressful trying to get used to a new life here, to learn the language, to live with people I just met, to understand not only the K'mai culture but the culture and ways of fellow volunteers, to find a place to live, and all hours of travel by bus from place to place.  I love the K'mai people, their smiles, there openness, and warmth.  We all have so much to learn.  Whenever I find I'm feeling at a loss, I get my motorcycle on the road and I am so busy trying to stay alive, I feel the excitement getting the better of me.

The chaos on the streets of Sisophon

Yup, that's me!! 

On my way into the chaos

Louise, your picture is on my fridge!  Love that smiling face.

I have had some people request a mailing address for me so I will include the two possibilities below.  The first is my local address but I have had word that the Canadian post office would only send mail to Phnom Penh.  Maybe that was only for parcels. Anyway, if you are so inclined, snail mail is a real treat.  No pressure though.  It could take months to get here although it is very unpredictable.

Andrea Vowell
P.O. Box 0120
Sisophon Town,
Banteay Meanchey Province


Andrea Vowell
c/o VSO Cambodia
#17, Street 234,
Sangkat Phsar Deumkor, Khan Tuol kork,
PO Box 912,
Phnom Penh,

Tel: 023 882 768/ 023 882 758

Hey Terry, maybe all the brain work to learn K'mai will help me in Scrabble!

Well, that's all folks.  I miss you all so much and am forever grateful to have so many truly lovely family and friends.  Lots of hugs, love, and, thoughts!!!


  1. Andrea love your blog and so lovely to hear of your adventures in Cambodia! I remember the expansive flat dirt roads all to well when I was travelling there last year. I know the joy of receiving mail all to well. Shall try to post something to you from Indonesia soon, hopefully it arrives in the next two years :)

  2. I absolutely love your view of the beautiful rain from your hammock!! It has been raining here in Kamloops all day today so far (a rarity, usually it pours for 30s secs and then the sun shines) and I went out foor a hike in it this morning and it was so refreshing :)
    I've loved catching up on your adventures through your blog, keep it up!!