We hadn’t been very far afield for the last few weeks but we had heard that the solar lights we installed in Lighting up a village are a big hit. In fact, they’ve been serving a dual purpose. They don’t just provide light but also attract insects. The women lay a cloth under the lights and catch the larger insects to fry up with garlic. Delicious (apparently) and an excellent source of protein.
This week we finally got to go back out to the village. It was wonderful to be riding along in the tuk tuk with the wind in our hair. It must be one of my very favourite forms of transport. Is there such a thing as an electric tuk tuk? That would be the perfect vehicle.
We stopped at the local market on the way and bought some take-away food for lunch at the village. Corn on the cob and crunchy potato rolls.
Next, we went to the district solar shop and negotiated to get the best deal we could with the budget we had – from the much appreciated contributions and my fledgling freelance career. I think we did quite well.
Then, it was lunch at the village and filling in time waiting for the solar system to be delivered. This time spent sharing food and trading stories about our different lives, customs and beliefs is so precious. It both reaffirms that people are essentially the same all over the world and provides new insights and perspectives from each other’s quirky differences.
During lunch, we talked about a brother who is getting married soon. According to tradition, it is the bridegroom’s family who are responsible for paying for the wedding. The family must buy enough beer and food, on credit, to cater for around 400 people at the wedding feast. At the wedding, the guests each make a donation that will (hopefully) be enough to pay the bill. After the wedding, the new husband will go to live with his new wife at her village. It seems this is the usual custom for a number of very good reasons. One is to avoid trouble between new daughters and their mother-in-law (very common apparently) and another is for the bride’s protection against her husband. If they live with her family, her father and brothers can make sure that her husband treats her right. Yet another reason is that the women are the caretakers of the family heritage – land is generally inherited by the daughters, rather than the sons. This is because the women traditionally care for the family and children, so they need the security of the land whereas men are more able to move around and get work outside the home.
The solar was taking a long time to be delivered and the day was getting hotter at a very humid 39 degrees. The grandmothers took us off to a cooler spot and provided a sleeping mat and some cushions. This made my heart feel all warm and glad and I had a lovely little nap. Meanwhile, the entire village was having a siesta in their hammocks. Even the dogs and chickens settled down to snooze in the shade. Sadly, many of these will probably end up in the cooking pot. I try not to think about that.
At last the solar arrived and there was much excitement all round.
We’re very pleased that it’s all come together and now there are ‘free from the sun’ lights, fans and a 1000 watt inverter with a charging station for phones and laptops (future proofing!). One possible solar deal included a TV but luckily nobody wanted one. Phew! That would have caused us a crisis of conscience if we’d had to make decisions about that.
Everywhere I look in Cambodia there are so many things to do that would make a big difference. Food security is a huge issue. So many people struggle to get enough to eat, including those with land. What’s mostly needed is expertise. There seems to be an awful lot of permaculture and organic farming organisations here and yet none of them seem to be able or willing to provide advice or training for local farmers. I’ve been searching since we arrived. I do understand that some are only focused on a specific location and others are still trying to get set up but there does seem to be quite a lot of groups advertising expensive permaculture camps for westerners. Why are they here?
I’m starting to get itchy feet now and I’m well and truly ready to leave lovely Siem Reap and set off for new places. An unorthodox but effective Turkish chiropractor has been visiting our apartment to treat JH every day and at last it seems his back is on the mend. Hooray! Fingers crossed he’ll be back to ‘normal’ very soon and we can be on our way.