After our three days of temple bashing (see earlier blog) it was time to settle into a routine in our new home town of Siem Reap. For Kirsty this meant going back to work and business as usual but for me this meant finding something to do. Siem Reap and the surrounding area were very much under the control of the Khmer Rouge during its evil reign and as a result it is still very poor and in need of assistance. This comes in the form of numerous charities and NGOs (non government organizations) that operate in all sorts of fields such as orphanages, schools, community work, mine clearing etc. Many are funded by overseas Governments and large organizations such as the UN and UNESCO but equally there are many more that rely on financial donations and people giving their time for free.
Part of the Siem Reap routine!
I chose an NGO called New Hope Cambodia (www.newhopecambodia.com) which is located about 3 kilometres from the centre of town. I was a little nervous about offering my services as I dont really have a skill as such to offer them. There is always a huge demand for teachers, nurses, doctors and builders but tour operators are way down the list. Any way I went along to meet Kerry, the Australian lady who runs New Hope and she must have taken a shine to me as she instantly offered me the position of Operations Manager. This sounds very grand but basically I spend my days problem solving, ensuring the classes start on time (punctuality is not a Khmer forte), dishing out petty cash, keeping an eye on the books and so on and so forth. I kind of have a routine; I get up at 7am and after breakfast I head out to the village on my nice bicycle
where I arrive around 8am. The first job is to sort out the queue of people waiting to see the doctor and ensure all the kids get into the classrooms ready for the 8.15 lesson. The rest of the morning goes pretty quickly and we break for lunch at 11am! Lunch lasts until 2pm (nice one) and then I spend my afternoons doing this and that and cycle back around 5pm.
Boys on bikes
So far I have taught one English lesson, been a builders mate, shown prospective donors around the village, purchased two printers delivered rice, helped out on a rice drop (*), organized a team for the Puppet Parade (which takes place at the end of February) and had two punctures on my bike. I even have a company mobile!
All in all I am enjoying myself but dont worry I am not going to bang on about how amazing it is to work for a charity; it is fun and it stops me going tropo (**) plus I get to meet some interesting people. Siem Reap is small and already we have a good social life. I aim to stay at New Hope until mid March, which is when Kirsty finishes as Bales. We then intend to come home for a couple of weeks to refuel (***) and then it is time for some serious travelling Tibet here we come !
New Hope rice drop
New Hope rice drop
(*) Rice drops are a big deal and the most important day of the month. Ours is on first Friday of every month and it is when each sponsored family gets its quota of rice, fish sauce and any US$ that have been allocated to them. Classes are suspended for the day and although it is busy in the centre, the whole event runs like clockwork and is interesting to observe.
(**) When I first heard the saying Tropo or Going tropical it made me laugh. An Australian guy used it when I asked him why he wanted to leave his nice posting in Fiji and head back to Australia and basically he replied saying there wasnt enough work for him to do in Fiji so he would spend much of his day in the bars talking with friends and drinking and was slowly going tropo.
(***) Message for the Mums; we would like pasties, fish and chips, roast dinners (at least two), take-away Indian curry, full English breakfast and I still havent been to TGI Fridays. Please keep this all in mind when preparing the menus!!