So we mentioned in one of our first blog posts about our side project in addition to creating the mobile school... so here it is in more detail!!!
Banteay Oumpel Village is going to be the first village that we plan to have the mobile school service with free English classes. Why this village? Jimmy has had a relationship with the people of this village for many years and has helped them in every way he possibly can since 2010. Whenever there has been an opportunity for external donations or organisations to help this village - he has grasped at it. The village are extremely appreciative of Jimmy's gratitude and Jimmy has been keen to teach the children of this village for some time, as they show so much potential.
As mentioned earlier in our trip, the mobile school will not be able to reach the heart of this village, due to the road being too narrow, rough, and often flooded. The village area is quite large, therefore there are those who don't live in the secluded area, and those who are able to travel by bicycle or motorbike out to where the main roads are. These children, who attend khmer school on the outskirts of the village, who are able to travel out, will attend classes with the mobile English school, which will be set up close-by to the khmer school so the children can attend in class breaks. (In Cambodia, school hours are broken up with large breaks). For those who cannot travel out, to reach the mobile school, who are mostly the younger children or older children looking after their younger siblings whilst their parents are at work in the rice fields - a structure is needed, for classes to be offered in the heart of the village. For those who cannot leave. Due to the reasonable cost of constructing this shelter, as proposed to us by the village parents, Happy Kids Cambodia decided it was worthy of funding to ensure all the children in this village are able to access classes! So, over the past week, we have made 2 visits to Banteay Oumpel village - to bring the materials from town to create the structure - and to see the progress. Yesterday we visited to see the progress, and WOW what the villagers have constructed in just one day's work - is incredible. The villagers wanted to build this structure as a community, so we have stepped back and let them display their resourceful skills - and build the structure the best way they know. And what a magnificent job they have done. They have created - Banteay Oumpel village school. You can see below!
During our visit of just a few hours, they village men laid down bamboo poles as a foundation for a concrete floor. They then covered these with a mixture of cement and sand, and poured water onto the mixture by connecting lengths of pipe together from the village water well. It was so interesting to watch.
As with every visit to this village, the beautiful women put together a delicious lunch of local khmer food for all to enjoy together. On this day, the women not only cooked for us and the working men, but also all the children! They impressively cooked for what was easily over 50 people. On the way to visiting Banteay Oumpel, we always stop at a local market to buy fresh local vegetables for the ladies to cook. Yet the village produce their own rice - and it is as tasty and fresh as it gets! And so eye opening for us to see how the sustain themselves through local farming.
We took some photos of all the village men who contributed to building the village school, aswell as some other group photos, before we left. We plan to revisit Banteay Oumpel in a few days, and bring the finishing touches for the school - eg. a whiteboard!!!
Today we will continue to add some more features to the mobile school from local businesses. It's all coming together now!
Sorry it's been a few days!!! Time escapes us very easily over here!!!!
To recap on the last few days, here's a quick rundown.
The highlight of Sunday was that it was Adrian's 31st birthday :) We all celebrated by enjoying a meal together at Artillery in Wat Bo road, which made some delicious macro bowls!!! And disco fries. We then headed on to the Blue Pumpkin for Adrian's favourite treat in Siem Reap - coconut sorbet. On Friday last week, Jimmy and the JVS students surprised Adrian with a birthday cake and all the kids enjoyed a meal and then we all jumped up and had a dance with the kids. It was heaps of fun! And Adrian was so humbled from being spoilt. To top it off, we all were blessed to enjoy a delicious home cooked meal by Jimmy's mum which was incredibly nice. Family dinner!!!!
In terms of truck progress, we went on Sunday to pick up the truck from Than's workshop however it was not finished yet. They needed another day. But it was great to get an update on how the drawer for the chaibles was going and everything else!!!
Yesterday (Monday) we got to pick up Oun Sam Lung from the workshop :) We were so excited when we saw the finished job by Than and his staff!!! We now have a heavy duty drawer for the storage of the chaibles (which also accommodates for easy access to them!), a bookshelf inside the truck box and also an iron frame to support an awning which we hope to get measured up for tomorrow!!! The team at Than's workshop did such a good job, we are extremely impressed. Here's the finished product below:
Today we were on a mission to organise the vehicle registration (so we can finally get number plates!). Today was our third attempt to get it sorted by this office. And what a looonnnnngggg day it was!!!! Unfortunately, when we turned up in the morning, we were sent on a wild goose chase around Siem Reap to find a customs office to get a stamp on our paperwork that we later found out we didn't even need. We stopped for lunch, then headed back to the registration office and unfortunately had to wait HOURS for the paperwork to be sorted, as it was so incredibly busy!!! It was super hot today too, but we were saved by the rain which brought the temperature down dramatically, thank buddha!!!!!!! So YAY now we have the registration papers processed, we pick up the plates in 1 week. Phew. We also have a designer at 'Colour House Prints' creating some design options for the outside of the vehicle! Looking forward to seeing what they come up with.
I am naming this blog post "why did the rooster cross the road" because whilst we were at a Siem Reap timber yard this morning, pouring with sweat in the blistering heat, Danae came up to me very proud of herself for capturing a picture of this ol' mate near the road. Hahahaha!!!! So I told her then and there when we joked about why chickens cross roads - that she just gave me the name of today's blog post. Great story. U had to be there....lol.
So! Why were we at a timber yard this morning? Well. There are some very special people living in Banteay Oumpel village - the area where the mobile school will begin it's first classes - and Jimmy has initiated a new project between Happy Kids Cambodia and the village people on this trip. We will give more details in the coming days but we are all very excited to share this with you and also see the final outcome! So to begin this project, we had to organise the transport of timber and other materials to the rural village, and wow what a journey it was!!!!! We hired a trailer driver from Siem Reap to transport our purchased materials to the rural village, and started the >2hr journey out there with our convoy!!! We had the trailer driver with the materials, Jimmy driving his tuk tuk with Anna, baby Javi, Danae & Robyn inside, myself and Adrian on a motorbike and Marty also on a motorbike!!!
After driving to a certain point, we had to then transfer to what I call a tractor-trailer-thing, and Jimmy called it a "tuk tuk tuk tuk tuk tuk tuk" hahaha. Which is obviously named after the chugging motor noise it makes!!!!! This then took us through the very rough dirt, muddy and flooded track all the way into the heart of the village. At one point, the trailer with the wood and materials got bogged lol!!! See the video below to see the drama :) We picked up some vegetables from a local market on the way and the wonderful and kind village women cooked a delicious meal for everyone. We unloaded the materials in the village and also spent some time exploring the nearby ancient temple - which is always a beautiful highlight of visiting this village.
Sorry for the above photo spam, there was way too many good ones not to share!!! We were all very tired after a long day in the heat, however we enjoyed a relaxing journey home, witnessing sunset over rice fields, lush green vegetation through Siem Reap's outskirts, we even got to see a beautiful temple before it went dark. And then the heavens opened and Cambodia's clouds drenched us from head to toe with blessing water from the sky. The hail hit so hard, there was nothing left to do except laugh uncontrollably. Which is what me, Marty and Adrian did whilst riding around the outskirts of Angkor Wat, on our way home in the heaviest downfall you could imagine. What an adventure of a day!!! An experience enjoyed by all. These experiences are off the beaten track, and allow our organisation to extend our charity work to a wider community of Cambodian people. We hope we can help empower as many of these kind souls as we possibly can.
Goodnight, time for some aloe vera on the sunburn.
Apologies, this blog post will cover yesterday and today! Time escapes us quite often over here. Jimmy calls it "Cambodian time".... hahaha which usually he says when he is running late, lol.
Yesterday morning we all went as a group to get a full water blessing from a local monk - it was Marika's last day in Siem Reap before flying out so we thought it was a good time for the experience!!! This monk lives right next to a beautiful ancient temple, which you can only enter to explore with a ticket. It is part of the Apsara Authority - which is the Cambodian management authority which is responsible for protecting the Archeological Park of Angkor.
A few of us headed to the beautiful local "Peace Cafe" for lunch afterwards.... a gorgeous and tranquil cafe not far from our AirBnb.... it's a vegetarian restaurant, combined with an upstairs yoga studio and a fairtrade giftshop! Definetly right down our alley. We enjoyed a delicious meal before the heavens opened and the tropical rain began!!!!!
This morning, Jimmy, Adrian & I took Oun Sam Lung (the new mobile school truck) to the Motor Inspection Centre to get a roadworthy certificate before paying for new registration and getting some number plates!!! The roadworthy process was quite interesting and much different to Australia! But, Oun Sam Lung did well! She passed with (almost) flying colours.... they just found a small oil leak which they were happy if we got it fixed in the near future. So, we got the certificate (see Jimmy below!) and headed straight to the local mechanic workshop for a quote on the oil leak repair. Unfortunately we will have to postpone the registration until Monday because when we went there after the road worthy, they had a power out and the computer systems were down. Oh well! #Cambodia
The oil leak quote turned into an oil leak fix (after a few efficient hours!!)! Adrian was relieved to hear it wasn't coming from something like the head gasket which would have been expensive. The staff were very accomodating and efficient and even provided a receipt in English for us - winning :) We then went to visit the workshop where our customised chaible drawer is getting made, and they are making fabulous progress. We will be leaving the truck at the workshop tomorrow for the drawer to be fitted inside!!!
Jimmy spent a couple of hours with Danae's mum Robyn this afternoon who is a teacher in Perth, and brought with her an incredible amount of valuable teaching resources for Jimmy, in particular for an ESL curriculum. They went through some lesson books as well as vocabulary games and laminated resources. Jimmy found it all very helpful!!!!
At Jimmy's Village School this evening, the children surprised Adrian with a wonderful celebration and even a birthday cake (Adrian's birthday is this Sunday!). There was singing, dancing, food, laughing, and even some visits from some of the older past students of JVS. It was an amazing night and enjoyed by all!!! The night ended with us all sharing a meal, home cooked by Jimmy's mother - she cooked up an incredible spread of traditional dishes such as tek na thung, tofu and chive flower, ommlette, soup and traditional khmer porridge. It was throughly enjoyed by all!!! And our friend Brus also joined us, he had taken Anna, Marty & Javi to experience Angkor Wat today :)
Tomorrow we have quite a big and exciting day planned!!! But you'll have to wait for the next blog to find out more.
Have a great weekend everyone!
Last night the HKC team on the ground in Cambodia became relief teachers for the night! Jimmy made a last minute trip to Phnom Penh to finalise official paperwork for the truck purchase....an inconvenient and unfortunately long trip for such a simple process! So much to learn about the ways of Cambodia! So whilst Jimmy selflessly ventured back to Phnom Penh, Christine, Anna, Adrian & Marty taught the 2 evening classes at Jimmy's Village School.
Christine & Anna taught the first class, of the younger children. They discussed all the different "fruit shake" flavours the kids could list, everyone wrote them down in their notebooks then also wrote which flavour was their favourite. The kids even suggested a game in which the students came up the front in pairs and had to try and beat the other to point out the fruit that was yelled out from the crowd. The kids were laughing heaps and enjoyed! This was followed by another game involving a blindfold and the students practising their pronunciation and everyday phrases. The kids picked it up so quickly!!!
Adrian began the second class by explaining what it was like back in Australia in "a day in the life of Adrian". The children then had to follow suit and write a paragraph about "a day in the life of _______" themselves. Alot of the comments coming from the kids included doing chores early in the morning to help their parents before school - and this was a very common theme. These kids are so incredible! They study extremely hard AND are dedicated to helping their families. Marty then followed on with "a day in the life of Martin" and finished the class by teaching the children 1-10 in Spanish, Marty's family dialect. The kids seemed to enjoy that and picked it up super fast!!!!! Will be good to have Jimmy back tonight though, so the kids can get back on track with their curriculum :)
This morning we picked up HKC yoga events coordinator Danae and her lovely mother Robyn from Siem Reap airport! We now have a total of 5 HKC team members in Siem Reap at once! Robyn will be in a volunteer capacity for us, bringing with her many years of teaching experience and a suitcase full of resources to assist Jimmy in consolidating his teaching curriculum! How lucky we are to have her join us this trip. We headed to breakfast at Reak Smey restaurant on Sok San road, a small family restaurant we have become quite fond of. After a rest and gym visit, we all met for an afternoon lunch in a lovely restaurant next door to Jimmy's School; Dee Cafe. HKC supporter Marika also joined us following getting herself a Khmer tattoo!!! Pretty memorable way to spend her last day in Cambodia! She heads home to Melbourne tomorrow.
Night all XXX
We started off the day with getting another quote for a customised drawer for the chaibles from another local workshop - and this quote came in at $130 less than the previous!!! So we said YES. The workshop was run by a friendly man named Than. It will take 7 days to customise the drawer (which will be strong enough to hold 180kg of chaibles!) and we just bring the truck back to him when the job is 70% complete - then his staff will fit it inside the truck! We are happy with the plan and the materials they plan to use! And I may have asked for an obligatory cheesy handshake photo ;p
We then went to suss out the options for the design of the outside of the truck. We went to a local printing place that offered sticker printing at $10 per square metre - however the artwork is not guaranteed to withstand the harsh sun and usually only lasts 1yr before fading significantly.
We then went and checked out another business called Colourhouse Prints which offered full vehicle vinyl wrapping aswell as other sticker printing services. Their products are designed to last up to 3yrs in the weather conditions and they also offer a design service. Their prices were incredible reasonable compared to that of the same in Australia....we are talking a few hundred dollars here, as opposed to THOUSANDS of dollars in oz! Insane!!!! Now that we have some prices, we are going to take some time to work with Jimmy and work out exactly how we want the outside of the truck designed and what colours to use, etc. This truck will be seen on the streets of Siem Reap and will likely attract attention and hopefully future donations and support so we want it to look bangin!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Next up was a pit stop for some local lunch. Jimmy took Adrian & I to this humble roadside stall with 3 local cooks serving up an array of options from this tiny set-up: Cambodian porridge, fresh spring rolls, fried spring rolls, 3 different types of noodle dishes, deep fried bananas, deep fried potato, steamed local yellow and white potato, and some tasty coconut desserts that looked like poffertjes! I also got a yummy avocado and passionfruit fruit shake to accompany lunch :)
After lunch we took Jimmy for some more driving time outside of the city, then he drove us back into town thru a hectic busy market!!!!!!!!!!!! He did well, he is getting used to driving the car very quickly!!!!!!!!!!! After that we all headed home for a little rest, then Anna and I went to the gym and met Jimmy there. It was super busy, at 8pm!!!!! After gym Adrian, Marty and Javi picked us up on the scooters and we grabbed some local noodles and rice takeaway and headed home to chill and watch a movie.
This morning we headed out to an extremely local vehicle workshop where customised modifications can be made to cars/trucks. We were looking for a quote for storage options for the chaibles inside the van box! We are exploring the idea of a heavy duty drawer being able to be pulled out through the box side door so the chaibles can be easily unloaded.
Following this we moved on to get a quote for an awning to be attached to the side of the truck, to provide shelter from sun during mobile school classes. The awning installation only takes 1 day and was reasonably priced! We are spending some time just getting quotes at this stage then we will prioritise the essentials, as our cash situation is not as flourishing as we would like! So we are trying our best to be money smart :)
After this it was time for Javi to go home with mum & dad for a nap, so we took Jimmy out to an area outside of the main town where roads were quieter, and he spent some time driving the new truck and getting used to it!!!!!! He has not been able to practise driving since his lessons and exam earlier this year, so this is something we will spend time on whilst we are here so he feels 100% comfortable driving the mobile school! In saying that though, he drove very well. We just need to spend some time on reversing ;)
Night all! And Happy Mother's Day to all the beautiful mums out there!
Much love from the HKC team in Cambodia XXX
Before I get started, here is a photo of the vehicle we purchased for the mobile school!!!!!
Pretty good looking isn't she?! We think so :)
Today we started to plan out how we are going to customise the inside of the box part of the truck. We have nutted out what we think will be the best way to store the chaibles inside the box so as they won't get damaged from the bumpy roads! We are heading to a workshop tomorrow morning to suss out prices and ideas with some local engineers.
We also hung out outside our villa and played with the next door neighbour's little pug and young Javi played with Jimmy :) Jimmy brought us a beautiful meal of local Khmer fresh spring rolls, porridge (which tasted like a delicious curry!), and small coconut rice cakes for dessert. It was a beautiful treat!
Later in the afternoon, Marty & Anna hired a scooter so now we are all getting around like the locals and scooting around the streets!!!
Our #drivecambodiasfuture campaign is still LIVE as we still are in great need of donations to keep progressing with this project here in Cambodia!!! Otherwise we are afraid we will only be able to achieve the bare minimum before we leave. We ideally want to have the mobile school set up and test-run before we leave at the end of the month!!!
This day was our most epic adventure yet!!! We jumped on a bus at midnight Wednesday night with our truck searching crew: Christine, Adrian, Jimmy, Meng (mechanic) and Brus Lee (Jimmy's friend) - headed for Phnom Penh! We were on a sleeper bus (includes pillow + blanket!) which was a bonus as we were actually able to get some sleep! We arrived in Phnom Penh at 6am, met our local tuk tuk driver Sophea and set off to get some breakfast to start the day! Adrian & I rocked our Cambodian scarves to protect ourselves from the city's pollution - last time we were here in January, I got shocking asthma!
Sophea drove us to the outskirts of the city where there was a large handful of second-hand truck yards. We stopped at the first one, saw a few trucks that looked ideal. I nearly had a heart attack when we asked how much a pretty old bomb was, and was told $13,000 USD. Ummmmmmm......no. Either this guy was taking us for a ride (probably saw an opportunity to rip off some silly westerners) or the prices were higher than we anticipated and it wasn't looking good. We looked at a few more, asked if we could start the engine on one that had a more comfortable front cabin (as opposed to most trucks) and we were told they would put a battery in it and start it up if we were serious about buying it. Wow how different things are over here! Such a learning experience. We moved on to another yard.
The next one had a decent amount of trucks with the same kind of comfortable front cabin that we liked at the first yard. Navy blue seemed to be the theme, and we saw 3-4 of this type we liked, so we started popping the hoods and seeing how they looked mechanically.
In the second yard we visited, we found one (the newest of the bunch!) that looked in the best condition and seemed good mechanically (we got to start this one up, and a few others! This place was alot more accomodating!). So we started asking about price. This one was a 3 tonne truck with a tray, no box on the back. And we wanted an enclosed box on the back for the purposes of storing all the chaibles and also school supplies, protected from weather! So we went on to ask if we could have a box from another truck, added onto the truck we liked.........and the bargaining began! Adrian did all the negotiating as the truck yard owner happened to speak reasonable English. After bargaining as hard as possible... we weren't entirely happy with the seller's last price. So we thought we would try the ol' let's just walk away and see what happens trick. It didn't work, they didn't run after us hahahaha. So we went for lunch to go and discuss it further.
We returned, with the plan to make one last offer, $250 less than the seller's last price from earlier. He didn't budge. We then went on to explain what the truck was for, etc etc and he also went on to explain we had the newest model in the yard and it was in very good mechanical condition. After a bit more back and forth, Adrian and the seller agreed on a price we were all happy with. And we had a SALE!!!!!
This wasn't just any usual vehicle sale either. We were amazed that the final price included (after negotiations of course):
- the box from another truck that we liked the look of
- a full service prior to purchase
- the panel beating of a dint we found on the bonnett
- new back tyres (the ones on the vehicle already, had metal spikes in them - apparently this truck used to courier through snow in South Korea - most vehicles in Cambodia are imported)
And then we were told the yard staff could have it all done and ready to drive away by the end of the day. Talk about efficiency! We then sat and watched for the next 4hrs as these hardworking mechanics, panel beaters and spray painters turned our vehicle into a second hand truck with a full makeover! They took the tray off the original truck, cleaned, sanded and resprayed the whole chassis, put the new box on (they had a huge crane in the yard!), fixed the dint, replaced the drivers seat with a newer one, repaired some small rust spots, patched up paint, completed the service and cleaned and resprayed all the tyres! It was such an incredible team effort, we were blown away and stoked that we had the opportunity to watch the whole process. There will be video footage of this process up for you all to see in the coming days!!!!!! We completed all the paper work and payment with the car yard manager Ear, who was very lovely to deal with. Adrian also did a couple of runs to the local shops with our tuk tuk driver to shout the whole team some cold drinks and fresh fruit. They were very grateful. Jimmy told us they had never been treated like this by customers before. Well we thought it was the least we could do, for their impressive and efficient efforts, all whilst in Cambodia's heat!
Here is Christine with Ear and Jimmy after all the paperwork was finalised and official!
The plan now was for Jimmy, Brus & Meng to drive the truck back to Siem Reap overnight, whilst Adrian & I took a bus back. Our bus was due to leave Phnom Penh a little before all the work was finished on the truck so we snuck in a group photo of the entire team that was part of this amazing experience. Below is almost all the staff at the truck yard that worked on our vehicle, the boys who travelled to Phnom Penh with us and Jimmy :) oh and our truck is behind them!!!!!!!!!!!!
Following this photo, Adrian and I were driven through some hectic Phnom Penh peak hour traffic to the bus stop to jump on a bus back to Siem Reap. After rushing to grab some local food to take on board for dinner, we relaxed into our air conditioned recliner bus seats and reflected on what was a crazy, fun and amazingly successful day in this adventure of the #drivecambodiasfuture project!
But it doesn't end there.
On our way home, in the middle of the night, our bus broke down. In the middle of pouring rain!!!!! After approx. 2hrs of standing under shelters, standing in mud, puddles, trying to manually push the bus off the road, waiting for a tow truck, waiting for another bus to pick us up........ we finally squished our way onto a sleeper bus in order to get back to Siem Reap. This sleeper bus was full by the way, so we all had to sit in the aisle of the bus, on the floor, amongst some interesting smells....... ahhhh hahaha you have to laugh!!! All we wanted to do was get home to Siem Reap, have a shower after sweating all day and jump into bed! Which we finally got to, by 3:30am this morning (Friday).
What an adventure. #Cambodia.
P.S. Photos of the final finished truck are on their way!
This morning, we got up early and headed to the local gym - Angkor muscle gym - for a workout before the heat of the day! You can't go wrong at this place - $1 casual session for foreigners. Old school gym (Adrian loves it!) with heaps of equipment and you work out with the locals. We bumped into Jimmy there and you can tell how much of a community man he is, he ALWAYS sees someone there who knows him! Haha! Good, sweaty start to the day. On the way back to our airbnb (Melody Villa by the way, great!!!) we stopped at the local market to see if they had spinach for us to whip up a green smoothie. We found it immediately and scored 5 bunches for just over $1! We gave some to Jimmy's mum as we didn't have enough fridge space for that much spinach lol.
After breakfast, we headed to a beautiful pagoda to have a blessing from the monks, as today is considered like a holiday in Cambodia. There are only a few Buddhist days per year, and you see many families heading to their local pagodas to visit monks for special blessing ceremonies and to hear them chanting. We visited to lovely monks who we also visited on our last trip here, on new years eve 2016. They explained to us that from 6pm tonight, they will chant and pray all night until the early hours of the morning. Their dedication to buddhism is amazing. They blessed us and our families and our ancestors. They also blessed any sacred belongings of ours - I put my wedding & engagement rings down for blessing, Jimmy his ornaments from his personal shrine at home, and Marika placed a small gemstone buddha and her jewellery. We then proceeded to the main dining hall area of the pagoda and watched the monks chant before feasting on a lunch prepared by the local pagoda women. The chief monk sat on his own and was eating his rice by rolling it into small balls and blessing them before he ate them! Jimmy explained that this is how monks have done for many years, back from the ancient times. They truly keep tradition alive.
Tonight we are all going on a short adventure!!! Adrian & I, along with Jimmy, the local mechanic and Jimmy's close friend Brus Lee are jumping on a midnight bus to Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital, to search for our truck that will be the skeleton of the new mobile school!!! Also joining us will be Marika, who is heading to Phnom Penh for the next leg of her trip. We plan to spend the day in Phnom Penh and head back in the afternoon/evening tomorrow. So our next post will probably not be until Friday as I am anticipating we will be getting back into SR quite late tomorrow and will be exhausted!!! Below you can see the local mechanic (third from the right) and Brus (next to Adrian). Fingers crossed our next post includes photos of us successfully purchasing a truck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Until Friday - Christine X