The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own. [ or hers :) ] ~Benjamin Disraeli ~

Monday, 25 April 2011

The Palace within

VSO booked a taxi to take me from Phnom Penh to Sisophon. There were two other passengers who were quite shy of travelling with a foreigner so the first part of the journey was very quiet but I enjoyed seeing how many words I could recognise on the radio news. The ice was broken after a toilet stop and the 3 men disappeared into the bushes. On their return there was some agitation – I gathered that the guy in the back with me could speak some English but was too shy. The driver finally said to me 'Urinal?' I was able to explain in khmer that I hadn't had much to drink and would be ok til lunch time.
We stopped for lunch in Battembang, the destination of the other passengers. At a local cafe I was the centre of attention, everyone wanting to know where I am from, what I'm doing etc. I took out my khmer book to help me with vocabulary and people were fascinated that I could read words that look to them like English yet were khmer! We use a romanised script instead of the Cambodian alphabet. My taxi driver  wanted to find more passengers  so I had a long time to practice my language skills. A lady selling bread adopted me as a friend and gave me snacks of sticky rice with mango (I think!) wrapped in banana leaf. Eventually, with 2 more passengers, we set off for the last leg of the journey. On reaching Sisophon, I impressed myself by being able to direct the driver right to my front door!!
And so I arrived...
Not a palace exactly, but better I'm sure than you imagined. Downstairs is the living room, a study and the kitchen. I was really pleased when I saw it. There was no sink in the kitchen when I looked round but the landlord kindly agreed to have one fitted. He also provided two gas rings, a fridge, beds, a wardrobe and a desk in addition to the furniture which includes a large Cambodian bed where families either sit to drink tea or lie down to sleep.
Upstairs there are 2 bedrooms with proper beds and a toilet/shower room. Another education volunteer, Mary, is going to come and live with me until December. For various reasons, she has been living in a guest house til now. It will be nice to have someone to share thoughts and ideas with – good company in the evenings too.
A Cambodian family with a house like this will often use the front room as a shop or cafe, living at the back.
My first job was to do some cleaning. I tried in vain to find some rubber gloves at the market but Mary was ahead of me and had already bought some. On opening the packet I found that the rubber had perished in the Cambodian heat so that put an end to all thoughts of protecting my hands! 
So... I'm very happy to have arrived and am looking forward to my first day at the College tomorrow

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