Wednesday we began work on the house for the mother with two children. One of the boys is on a BSDA scholarship that provides support with his education. Although schools are free, because the parents in this community are earning less than three dollars a day it is hard for them to give up a pair of hands that could help with the labour needed around the community. Rolling up on the bus, we were greeted by the smiling children. Our boys were surprised to see the pigs that slosh freely in the mud beside us. Once the boys had prepped themselves with sunscreen (not enough) and water, we began work. The trenches for the brick work were dug swiftly and as soon as a local Cambodian lady communicated to the boys (mostly sign language) to get in a line, the sand chain gang was sorted. The night before, while chatting to our tour leader, I discovered that there were no wheel barrows on site and that all the concrete would be mixed on in the dirt. To increase the efficiency Mr Thai managed to get two wheel barrows and this made mixing the concrete much easier and created less waste. He was extremely happy with the lads progress and there’s nothing quite like watching a group of young men come together and collaborate for the greater good of others.
After a long lunch, the boys moved a little more slowly and it’s hard getting back into it after cooling off and, for us staff, ceasing up. The heat was relentless but the gaps between the buildings offered a gentle breeze and some much needed shade. We cycled the chain gang through the line so that we each got some time in the ‘sweet spot’. From time to time we stopped to get more water and soak in the surroundings. The dense vegetation of the area and low lying waters provide some interesting smells and it hard to believe that in an area like this they would build a low set, brick house when most of the houses around us are high set. It must be just high enough that in an immense down poor this doesn’t get too wet. Considering this is the peak if the wet season this is most likely the case. The children are so happy and it’s not hard to get a train of laugher chugging through the group. We start to dance to the music that the boys have set up and the locals think it’s hilarious. I feel so much love for these people. Doing without, but living full and happy lives. Chris, one of the staff on the trip, mentioned that he saw a boy half finish a banana then offer the rest to his little sister. The spirit of giving is certainly a theme for this trip.
After our first day of work we headed to a nearby temple built 1000 years ago. It is only 40 or so years younger than Ankor Wat. We had ten minutes to ouselves and my brief meditation helped me process the enormity of my surroundings. Only once before have a felt such a spiritual connection to a place and that was at the Olgas in the Northern Territory. Here in Cambodia, just like The Olgas, the towering stones loom over the undergrowth and small gaps in the rocks shed beams of light down the well-trodden paths. Originally built by under Hindu faith, the Cambodians now practice Buddhism which still has a heavy Hindu influence.
Progress was great and today the frame goes up. All going well, we’ll have the whole house done in four days. What a thought! These boys are going to feel so gratified once the work is complete. I can’t wait to see the look on their faces.
That’s day 4.