Thursday, January 24, 2008

Jungle Journeys and a Special Announcement

Saturday we headed north in 2 cars to see a school Aki Ra had built with the help of a Eugene and Mary from Brisbane, and bring some goods to a family who'd lost their home to a fire.

If you remember my story about travelling to Anlong Veng a couple of years ago you might remember the road conditions: unbelievably bad; pot holes, gullies, and washouts every mile. Not anymore.......

The government is paving the road to Anlong Veng now. While it's still not paved, it is graded. What took us 6 hours 2 years ago, took less than 2 hours Satruday morning.

Eugene and Mary are an Australian couple who've travelled to Cambodia in the past and wanted to do something to help, so they got with Aki Ra and built a school. The original one was build of grass and accomodated dozens of locals who ortherwise would have no school to attend. The new school is wood and infinitely nicer. They youngest kids still use the grass shack and the older kids use the new one. While it's not yet integrated into the Khmer school system it will be, and that's important so the kids can get that certificate allowing them to goon te secondary school.

It was a lot of fun. The kids all came out to greet us. They showed us around and couldn't wait to have their pictures taken. Then we headed to a real trajedy.

The family we visited live right off the main road to Anlong Veng. Someone flipped cigarette out a car window and the brush around their hut caught fire and burned down their home. They lost all they had, and folks, that wasn't much. Before we headed out Becky had purchased some pots and pans, some utensils and the Museum gave them a 50 pound bag of rice. When we got there the whole family, including the father who lost a leg to a landmine, were rebuilding their one-room house. They welcomed us and fed us with the food we brought.

Kind of puts things in perspective.

After spending some time with them, most of the group headed back to Siem Reap and home. Richard, Chris, Aki Ra and I had plans on spending the next couple of days in the area and had brought hammocks and food so we could camp out. Took us a bit longer to find a site than we had thought.

We headed north along the road and Aki Ra found a couple of paths going off into the jungle that he knew about from his days in the army, but every time he checked out the road he said, "no too many bad men around here". He was comfortable sleeping out there but he was reluctant to take three barangs back there.

We wound up heading back to the site of the fire. We drove about a kilometer up the road and hiked a few yards into the jungle, hung our hammocks and settled in for the night. Aki Ra headed back to the families hut and showed up a few minutes later with a big pot of rice. We doused it liberally with spicy canned mackeral and washed it down with water.

Aki Ra said later he would build a fire. He advised us not to wander off into the jungle and mumbled something about tigers and cobras. I thought I heard a giggle too. Nevertheless, even with a full moon, I wasn't wandering around the Cambodian jungle in the dark.

About midnight he did build that fire. Good thing too, it was cold. And when we got up in the morning you could see your breath. I was warned to bring to bring a sweater, but opted for a light jacket instead. I was warm enough.

We'd planned heading north that day and back home on Monday, but Aki Ra called Hourt and she had started having contractions and told him to get his butt home NOW. So we did.

And that brings me to the special announcement. Hourt had a baby girl this moring (Thursday 24 January). Baby and mother are fine. And Aki Ra has a daughter. That will certainly change things.

I head home tomorrow and will be back in March to fininsh up the work I started in January.



rjhintz said...

I appreciated the news that there is road improvement progress between Siem Reap and Anlong Veng. Now that the independent tourist overland route between Poipet and Siem Reap is becoming more and more expensive, overland to Siem Reap from the north is becoming more and more attractive.

Is the road to the north sealed much past Banteay Srei? I understand from your blog entry that the part that's not paved is graded. Is it your impression that the grading will extend past Anlong Veng to the border?

I was also interested to read about the school building efforts. Is it your impression that school and library construction efforts such as Room to Read's ( have been effective? I realize that this question may be too broad to answer.

Project Enlighten said...

Great update Bill!