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13 Oct 2010

A little update

We've quickly got back into the routine of Kampong Cham which, while it is quite comforting, is starting to get a little tedious. We wake up early every day and head off to our language classes. The classes are really good and I'm enjoying practising what we learn every day in the market or rice shops. People are generally very accomodating of our faltering K'mai but we do get a lot of laughs (though people tend to generally laugh at us a lot so it's hard to tell why they're laughing...).

Our classroom.

Our afternoons are spent 'resting' which generally takes the form of sleeping (in Sam's case) or reading and then my language group meets for tea and practise to help us remember what we've learned that morning. Sometimes if we have the energy or it's not raining (which it has done every day this week) we may venture out for some exploring.

However, we have had a few distractions to add some excitement to our week. Me, Sam and Paul cycled round a couple of villages in Kampong Cham along the river and saw some lovely colourful pagodas.

We went inside to wander round and saw lots of monks in white chanting inside the Wat.

This month we have witnessed our first Cambodian festival, P'Chum Ben, which is an extremely important Buddhist festival, unique to Cambodia. It is a time for people to remember their ancestors, particularly the ones who are in hell, (where apparently they are starving) who are allowed back to Earth for 15 days. During the 15 days people visit their families and the pagodas, taking food for their ancestors via the monks as well as spooning rice into bowls. Taking food for your ancestors means that you will have taken care of them and they won't 'bother' you during the year.

The bowls and plates for collecting offerings of rice and money to the ancestors.

People praying to Buddha.

On the 15th day which was last Friday, we were invited with Dara, our language teacher, to eat in the pagoda with the monks. We had a massive spread of curries, noodles, fruit, and a never ending pot of rice. The monks were very generous and welcoming and it was lovely to be made part of this special day. P'Chum Ben is also a time when the poor can come to the pagodas and get food so we all felt a little guilty being there and perhaps, although hopefully not, taking food away from those who really need it.

As if there wasn't already more than enough food to feed an army, the head monk insisted on bringing us more and more food and making us take fruit home!

We had Saturday and Sunday off this weekend and celebrated with a boat trip up the Mekong River.

There were lots of interesting sights to see along the way including children swimming, people fishing and lots of people washing their cows. Every few minutes we were greeted with shouts of 'hello' and lots of excited children waving as they jumped into the water.

We visited an island that holds 280 people but every year it gets covered by water during the rainy season and the villagers have to be moved to the mainland for 2-3 months. Then we headed off to another Wat on a hilltop which had a few hundred stairs to climb to get to the top.

The view from the top...
Dave, David, Gideon, our guide, Ingran and Paul

Me and Sam enjoying some quiet time together.

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