Saturday was quite a useful day. Woke very early, around 5.45. It’s difficult to get back to sleep then as the sounds of the city are all around and the local prayer cryer starts before 5 on his crackly speaker. It’s louder and less musical than the muzzein’s call to prayer in an Islamic country. I hope it will only go on during the PChum Ban festival (this is a fifteen day period during which Khmer Buddhists (I think mainly the women) take food to at least 7 different pagodas, hoping to settle their ancestors by giving them some sustenance that will allow them to start their reincarnation cycle rather than being trapped spirits) – Friday of this week is the actual day, when I think all the family go to their village pagoda. Apparently PP is totally deserted as all city residents go back to their ancestral villages (at least Thursday to Sunday, but possibly Monday as well, as some people feel that since the third day of the festival is on a weekend, they should just take the Monday anyway). My close colleague at the Ministry, Mr Or Siem, has invited me to join his family on that day – a very generous gesture, so I no doubt will have more to say after next weekend!
Chris, Kath, Anna and I then went to the Russian market, where I learned a lot about bargaining and ended up with some more stuff for my kitchen and some sheets for the bed (no more sleeping bag now then!). Later I stocked the fridge up and had a reasonable chat on skype with Joan, catching up on this and that. It’s quite an undertaking to set up a house on a shoestring budget in a different country, within a week of moving in.. but I seem to have most things sorted now and reckon I’m going to be pretty comfy here! I finally got my water filter system from VSO. I’ve been drinking water that has just been boiled for a couple of minutes for the past week or so with no ill effects, but will now move on to filtered and boiled! Here’s a little photo of me on my verandah with my new teapot, jug and mugs (all in cost was around £10).
At 4.45, I set off on what turned out to be a long walk (about 1hr 30mins) from my house to the river and then up the riverside to the Post Office where I at last managed to buy some stamps…. now that I have the stamps I’ll maybe try to get some cards! 5.00 is a great time to go walking. A lot of local people also go out to walk at that time, so there were lots of families, young men playing football, people setting up the twilight line-dancing equipment!!.. and all the time the big river rushing past. I met up with some of the VSO ‘crowd’ for a jar and then some of us went to the Indonesian restaurant for a meal. When we were inside it rained very heavily but we hadn’t realised there was a real flood outside until we left. We had to wade through thigh-deep water before we eventually got to a tuktuk, which Richard and Nancy (his girlfriend) had called, on a drier stretch of road, ironically nearer to the river. It was just as well it was dark, as I have no idea what was floating on top of that flood, given that it was clearing everything that had been dropped onto the PP streets. In UK, the fire brigade would have been moving people out on rubber boats. Here they just shrugged their shoulders and waded into the flood. Just another day in the rainy season. By 10.00 this morning (Sunday), the streets were pretty well dry.
For those of you who read this and were concerned about my last post (thanks!), don’t be. I just didn’t want anyone to think everything over here was happyclappy. All things considered, I have a pretty cushy number and I am managing just fine. It will be a whole lot better once the work kicks in for real!