At first I thought the boarding house was grim and prison like. Ok it still is sort of comparable to a prison, but now I feel at home.
We turned off the main highway and proceeded for about 3 km down a dustpan of a road. There were clouds of dust with rubbish everywhere, pot holes, jagged rocks and small piles of smoulding house hold trash lining the street. The road is almost constantly enclosed in a cloud of dust and smoke. The further we got down the street the less developed it became. Eventually we hit a smooth pad of concrete and turned left at an entrance guarded by two white elephants.
I would be living for the next month at the pagoda in a boarding house for volunteers. The pagoda is also the home of around 15 monks (some as young as 10), nuns that look after the monks, and other poor marginalized families that have the permission of the abbot (head monk of the pagoda) to live on the commune.
The boarding house has 6 simple bedrooms with iron bars connecting the walls to the ceiling with bars covering shutters. There is one sheet, one pillow, one mosquito net and one overhead fan (your own over head fan is considered an absolute luxury). One bathroom each for boys and girls with a cold shower. When the water runs out you wash yourself using a bucket of water and a saucepan (this happen frequently due to power cuts). I've been told the shower heads are recent improvements, as the monks felt we could make do with a bucket like they do.
The little monks are beautifully dressed in their vibrant orange robes. Each morning at 6am they rise to sweep pagoda of leaves from the previous day. It's a nice way to wake up.
One evening the young monks sheepishly walked into the boarding house to ask us a question. Although this is allowed, it wouldn't usually happen as often we will wear shorts and singlets inside which isn't appropriate for the conservative required for the pagoda, or in fact anywhere in Cambodia where respect should clearly be shown. Thinking they must have vital information we all paid close attention to their arrival...turns out they just needed a iPhone charger...teens are the same everywhere !
My favorite building on the pagoda, now used as the sewing room for the GEP project was once used by the Kymer Rouge for the torture and execution of local villagers. We were puzzled as to why there was nothing to commentate the many victims that died there. The response was that there are just so many sites like this, we can't do it for every building.
The heat is punishing. Although not the hottest climate I've been in (averaging around 40 degrees after midday) its incredibly dry and the heat takes the life out of you after lunch. All activity stops and you more or less can't function for at least an hour and half. If you're lucky the temperature might drop to 30 just in time for dinner, although by that stage you're falling asleep in your bowl of rice.
My little cell is now my haven. Each evening I look forward to crawling into my mosquito free zone and passing out before 8.30.
Here are the words
I take a few pictures too