Halfway points often call for a moment or two of thought, reflecting on experiences had thus far. The halfway point in book may call for it to be put back on the shelf after a hard-fought endeavour to engage with it, in a long journey it calls for a stop to stretch your legs and be thankful that you are that much closer to your destination; such reflection was called for this week. There was sadness that the majority of our trip had passed already, fits of laughter from recounting our favourite moments so far and a near-tangible feeling of perplexity and unease at the mountain of patterned trousers that we had somehow acquired in our month long jaunt in Siem Reap. Whose were these trousers? Surely we hadn’t bought them all? Our collection of near forty pairs of pants stared us defiantly in the face and reminded us if the perils of living a 15-second stroll away from the night market. After a series of packing feats that contorted the trousers into the smallest of spaces, we were ready, donned in a veritable rainbow of leg-wear, to bid farewell to Siem Reap, moving via Phnom Penh to our second project phase in Sihanoukville.
Our efforts in the final week here saw the completion of the toilets we had begun, and a stockpile of market goods made in the Samrong Village. The women of the village taught us how to weave baskets and roll incense sticks. Hours of their work are bought at extremely low prices. The baskets which took us each three mornings to complete – which did not even include the collection and preparation of the materials for the baskets and the weaving of the basket base- were purchased by wholesalers for just two dollars. Even our champion incense stick maker, Georgie, couldn’t earn the twenty-five cents that buys 100 sticks in the two and a half hours that she tirelessly rolled. The local women made the mornings fly, bantering away the hours with grins that were only exacerbated at our enthusiastic-yet-extremely-amateur efforts to ply their trades.
In our final afternoons at the ELMA school and CDO, we were absolutely put to shame at blind man’s bluff and ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’. The children never tire, even in the 37 degree heat. We only managed to keep up by strictly kept water breaks every twenty or so minutes. The goodbyes here were harder; it took a concerted effort of will to get back on our minibuses.
We’re missing Siem Reap already, reminded everytime we glance down at our blindingly bright trousers of the days in happiness spent in our house, sweaty but so dear to our hearts. But despite the audible tone of sadness in this post,the group is still in high spirits, excited to move on to our new project and, as ever, well-hydrated.
Love to all those back home, you’ll be seeing us rather shortly now!