Saturday, March 29, 2008

Kampong Chhnang Province

On Sunday morning I headed out on a field trip to a small village about 2 hours outside Kampong Chhnang town. I went with 15 university students from Phnom Penh and 2 youth leaders. It started with a mini van…this thing had seen better days long ago. A total of 20 people crammed into this van, the back was roped down and the door was hanging by a thread. It was a surprisingly hilarious trip filled with Khmer singing, getting stuck in the sand roads and the bus breaking down. We finally made it to Ognchagn village. It turns out this village is facing many difficulties one of which being that the Government has sold the villagers land to a foreign company who have begun to deforest the area ready to replant the land to export goods. On top of this the village has virtually no infrastructure; no electricity, running water, sewerage system and poor roads. There is limited access to primary education and virtually no access to health care. The day we arrived we met the other young people in the village where I was introduced to all kinds of Khmer games and traditional dancing. On Monday we met with the village leader who talked about the main problems the people are facing at the moment. Afterwards we went out to interview some villagers. The majority of the people are farmers who rely on the rainy season so they are able to produce crops to survive for the year, support their family and send their children to school. Everyone we talked to was concerned about the sale of their land and the deforestation in the area both by the company and neighbouring villages. They also talked about not being able to send their children to high school and that healthcare was a major concern. Others did not have access to a well to obtain water, while others were worried that their wells would dry up soon. Everyone was so lovely, welcoming and keen to talk to us. That afternoon we attended a local wedding. It was so much fun! The ceremony lasted a total of 3 days and the whole village was invited. It was also another excuse to practice my dancing skills which are still in need of desperate improvement. Tuesday morning we headed out for a day long hike. It wasn’t long before we walked into a fire started by a neighbouring village. We passed through Kdol village which has a small market, primary school and unattended health post. We ended up at a small mountain where we held some workshops with both the Phnom Penh students and the local villagers sharing their ideas about how the problems could be tackled. Wednesday we helped the villagers dig a communal well before setting up then running a role play for the whole village that night. It started with more dancing then the leader asking me to make an impromptu speech to the village through a translator. At least I got a few laughs. I played the part of a foreign business woman and even though I couldn’t understand a word of the entire play it was the funniest performance ever and everyone really enjoyed it! Early Thursday morning we headed back to Phnom Penh…the trip back was easy and we didn’t even break down once. Overall it was a fantastic experience and I’m looking forward to the next trip soon.

Local market in Kampong Chhnang town
Stuck in the sand again on the way to the village
Traditional Khmer wedding in the village
Hiking with the locals
Putting out a fire started by a neighbouring village
Kdol village market
Lunch and workshops in the forest
Students and locals
Digging a village well
Educational role play


Anonymous said...

hey baby you are looking very good im glad you are having a good time my love and i caant wait to hold you tight in my arms and kiss you and let you now how much i love you and how you mean the world to me my love by the way my dad was asking who is that white bloke sitting next to you on the pizza day coz you looked to close to him lol hey do you now that i cant wait to see you lorna baby pants hope you still wearing my ring miss you love you like theres no tomorrow and ill see you soon message me when you get this ok my love yours alwasy frankie pants

Anonymous said...

Hi Lorna,
Off to a great start after just a few days to settle in, find a place to call your own for 12 months and focus on what sounds like a wonderful year ahead for you. The journey to Kampong Chhnang and back sounds like a taste of things to came, while there are many problems that concern the local villagers they seem to take it in their stride and find time to enjoy their lives regardless if the hardships. Good to hear that you are enjoying the local culture and custom and making many new friends along the way. The well
dig looks interesting, I hope you can get me in on one when I come to visit. We love your blog site and look forward to hearing more about your work and adventures. Take care,
love, Dad, Lynette and Jack xoxoxo