Up next: Kampong Chhnang, the pottery making province, but not before making a brief excursion to Kampong Cham to taste the delights of roadside snails, get pumped-up with some pavement aerobics, and to marvel at the Mekong.
We were warmly welcomed into Kampong Chhnang by Ruriko, the delightful friend of Mayu who has been working with the Japanese government to implement sports programs in schools. She kindly invited us to attend her school’s sports day the following day. Unbeknownst to us, we were to be the guests of honor. (Apparently just being a foreigner gets you this title).
The sports festival has an early start us to beat the heat of the day. Luckily for us the school’s cafeteria served sugary fried goodies and hot coffee. I can’t confirm what the students had for breakfast that morning but they were full of beans and raring to go in their school’s team colours. I had my money on the raucous red team, who were playing on their home soil, however after the first round of running-in-a-team-of-four-with-a-stick-between-your-legs was over, the quietly confident yellow team were in the lead. Not long after the red seized a win in the balancing-a-ball-on-a-board-race, and the scores stayed neck-and-neck throughout skipping, passing-a-ball-between-the-team’s-legs, and finally Cambodian line dancing.
There’s only one certified way to deal with a tie-break in Cambodia; tug of war. We were summoned to choose our side and to end the contest as winners, or as losers. Arvind and Lucy joined the yellow team; Bastien and Adrian took the red. After 10 seconds of heaving, of hoeing, and an almighty crash of people, the yellow team were crowned victorious. The team later returned to their own school piled high on their tractor chariot, driven by a 13 year old team member.
We left from the school to visit the idyllic Kampong Chhnang pottery village. Arriving at a small school nestled in the valley of the Phnom Krong Hills we were surprised to find that the school kids were on a lunch break… and that we were kind of hungry as well. Deciding that we needed kids and food we headed 100 meters down the road to what we thought was a restaurant but what turned out to be just some old lady’s house. However she was so excited to see us and the tuk tuk that Mayu was escorted off to the local market to get some ingredients so that, regardless of her status as a restaurateur she could cook lunch for us anyway. Meanwhile we backed up the tuk tuk into some shade and popped on some Donald Duck. It only took 5 minutes before we had a healthy crowd of spectators and a further 30 minutes before we had some home-made Cambodian cuisine. We swapped over to David Attenborough’s “Africa” which prompted a question from the old lady, “aren’t those lions dangerous to keep as pets?”
Parting with baby hugs, tugs on long beautiful noses and promises of returning again, we headed off on the last 100kms back to Pursat and home for a bit of R&R.
Our journey took us 10 days, in which time we covered nearly 1000kms all in the name of raising some funds and awareness of this amazing project, but more importantly having fun! We have shown that not only is this a viable project, but given the response and support from the local Khmer people and the look of joy on the kids faces at every arrival, that this is something that is necessary. We hope that through this blog series that we have inspired you people, our fans online, to contribute to our cause and get the instant gratification that can only come from a smile on an innocent face.
Why not make a difference in some of Cambodia’s poorest villages. Good karma for you, great excitement for the kids.